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Adam Farnsworth

First Work Horse MacPro

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Hello, I've been designing on iMacs for the last four years, doing a mix of After Effects motion work, web and print work. Within the last year, I've transferred into more motion work and added C4D to my toolset. I'm also an independent filmmaker, and would be using the machine for video editing as well. I've been setting money aside and am ready to purchase my first workhorse MacPro, but I'd love some feedback from the community.

 

I have a budget of $5700 (not including tax), and I want to get the most powerful machine possible to last for as long as possible. I currently have a 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo iMac with 4 GB of RAM and the standard graphics card, so I'll still be able to use it for most After Effects work, small C4D jobs and the print work. I'm currently looking at a 12-core machine, but just the box is going to blow $5000 of it. I've been scouring the internet for comparison reviews of the ATI Radeon HD 5770 and 5870, but most are gaming related (eg: MacPro Application Performance). I found these two: REAL WORLD EXTREME APPS on various 2010 Mac Pros and EARLY BENCHMARKS: 2010 Mac Pro versus others, but beyond that, not much. I especially am interested in two 5770s versus one 5870. Any info here would be much appreciated. I'm also interested in how much RAM comes into play. On my iMac, I never tapped the full 4GB due to my processor and graphics card not keeping up. Is there a good formula or rule of thumb that helps understand what that balance should be? I don't want to get 12-cores and 32GB of RAM only to be held back by the 5870.

 

The final question I have regards displays. I'd love to go for a Cinema Display, but, within my budget it's just unrealistic (at least for now). I'm interested if anyone has a good recommendation for a decent, inexpensive monitor (or two) that hold their color well. I've seen plenty of posts saying that if you're not spending more than $5000 a monitor, get out of the game, but everyone has to start somewhere, and I'm starting here.

 

Please ask any questions I may not have answered, all help is appreciated. I've very much enjoyed the MoGraph.net community.

 

Thanks in advance,

Adam

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AE will not be fast unless you give it at least 2 - 3GB of ram PER THREAD. There is VERY LITTLE POINT buying a 12 core unless you do quite a lot of intensive 3D rendering OR you give it at least 28GB of RAM. It takes that much ram to actually use more than 7 cores (7 cores = 14 threads @ 2GB per thread = 28GB). And if you are not using more than 7 cores you might as well have an 8 core machine. For AE the GPU doesn't really make much of a difference - when you say your old card hasn't been keeping up, what do you mean exactly? In my experience the better cards like the 5870 and the new Quadro 4000 perform better in CAD, 3D etc. - you get poly's displaying quicker in your viewport and smoother scrubbing / texture previewing. I don't know why you'd want two 5770's but I'm a one monitor guy anyway. I'd go for the 5870 (will probably be replacing my GT120 with it soon)

 

Cinema 4D is another matter entirely and uses processors much better.

 

The 6 core Mac Pro only has 4 ram slots which equates to a max of 16GB unless you use 8GB sticks. 8GB Ram sticks cost a lot more than 4GB sticks by the way and you can't mix 8GB sticks with any other size.

 

A refurb 8 core, ideally the 2.66 or 2.93ghz, swap the GT120 for the 5870 and a shedload of RAM (20GB+) is the way to go for what you want.

 

Monitors - NEC, Samsung and Dell seemed to be the ones to look at but this market changes quick.

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It's a Mac. You don't really hyave options. Storage, memory, graphics card. That's it.

 

If you don't heavily use FCP or Smoke, you can get 2x the specs for half the money going PC.

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@kitkats Thank you! I've been trying to understand the resource use of After Effects, and your breakdown has been the most succinct. All of your advice is very helpful. Would you suggest I go for a rufurb 8-core, versus getting the 12-core and upgrading the RAM later? Also, thanks for the monitor suggestions.

 

@AromaKat I know, but I drank the Koolaid years ago. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool follower of Steve.

 

@beckmanvfx I totally agree, $5K is way too steep. I just can't seem to find any good list of decent monitors. I remember a few years ago there was a Dell 24" that was virtually identical to the Apple 24" Cinema display, but now, most reviews of Dell monitors seem to be poor. Have you had any luck with a specific make and model?

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@kitkats Thank you! I've been trying to understand the resource use of After Effects, and your breakdown has been the most succinct. All of your advice is very helpful. Would you suggest I go for a rufurb 8-core, versus getting the 12-core and upgrading the RAM later? Also, thanks for the monitor suggestions.

 

@AromaKat I know, but I drank the Koolaid years ago. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool follower of Steve.

 

@beckmanvfx I totally agree, $5K is way too steep. I just can't seem to find any good list of decent monitors. I remember a few years ago there was a Dell 24" that was virtually identical to the Apple 24" Cinema display, but now, most reviews of Dell monitors seem to be poor. Have you had any luck with a specific make and model?

 

The 27" LED from Apple is nice. A Lot of people don't like the fact that it's a pretty reflective surface, but that doesn't bother me too much. It's got great contrast, which when new needs to be dialed down a bit....burn your retinas. I don't yet know how the LEDs hold up over time, but I have an older Sony 24" LCD which definitely shows signs of age @ about 4yrs old (greys are going pink, blacks and contrast suck).

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The 27" LED from Apple is nice. A Lot of people don't like the fact that it's a pretty reflective surface, but that doesn't bother me too much. It's got great contrast, which when new needs to be dialed down a bit....burn your retinas. I don't yet know how the LEDs hold up over time, but I have an older Sony 24" LCD which definitely shows signs of age @ about 4yrs old (greys are going pink, blacks and contrast suck).

 

Yeah I was a little miffed when Apple discontinued the matte finish. But four years on the Sony is pretty good.

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There are quite a few threads about monitors, I think one of them mentions a line of Dell LED's that use the same specs as the apple monitors. I'd look for those as they'll be cheaper AND have a matte finish.

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There are quite a few threads about monitors, I think one of them mentions a line of Dell LED's that use the same specs as the apple monitors. I'd look for those as they'll be cheaper AND have a matte finish.

 

This has a dual x5680(latest/bitchest xeon processor :).

 

I believe the early tests at 4ghz show a cinebench result around 27k/30k....compared with around 18k on MacPro.

 

I`m in the same boat, so a sticky to keep us with the latest big boys would be very welcomed ;)

 

[kinda liked the old way of"show your desktop" thread]

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There are quite a few threads about monitors, I think one of them mentions a line of Dell LED's that use the same specs as the apple monitors. I'd look for those as they'll be cheaper AND have a matte finish.

 

I've not seen anything recently about the Dell monitors. A couple years ago I saw them, but recently everything I've seen has been negative on the Dell monitors. Can you link to those positive comparisons?

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I highly recommend waiting for a refurb buy. As long as you get Apple Care with it, you will be in good shape and will save a ton of money. My last two mac pro's have been all refurbs and have not had a problem with any of them.

 

JC

Edited by suntoucher

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I just bought a new 8-core Mac with the 5870 and it runs c4d/ae great. Cinema reads the hyper threading which is awesome and if you looking into a refurbish look to see when they started the hyper threading on the 8-cores

 

coin

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I've not seen anything recently about the Dell monitors. A couple years ago I saw them, but recently everything I've seen has been negative on the Dell monitors. Can you link to those positive comparisons?

 

For monitor tests Prad.de and Tft Central has extensive reviews of monitors:

http://www.prad.de/en/monitore/reviews.html

http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/reviews.htm

 

They both aimed at higher quality monitors, however none of them tests Apple products.

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i dunno, if this applies to macs, but i find over all you get better performance for your buck if you buy cheaper systems more often. Because then you are always in the middle as far as performance goes, and even though you wont get a jump as significant on your first upgrade over the course of the next couple you will be better off.

 

if that makes sense. like buy a 6k computer now you will have a computer with power 2a ( let a= unit of power). If you spend 2k on a computer you will have a computer with the power of 1a right now. in 2 years you buy a new system for 2k, and get a computer with the power of 2a, and then in 4 years you buy another 2k computer and it will have the power of 3a. And you would've spent the same amount of money over all, but overall have more computing power.

 

i should draw a graph for this.

 

hope that helps.

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i dunno, if this applies to macs, but i find over all you get better performance for your buck if you buy cheaper systems more often. Because then you are always in the middle as far as performance goes, and even though you wont get a jump as significant on your first upgrade over the course of the next couple you will be better off.

 

if that makes sense. like buy a 6k computer now you will have a computer with power 2a ( let a= unit of power). If you spend 2k on a computer you will have a computer with the power of 1a right now. in 2 years you buy a new system for 2k, and get a computer with the power of 2a, and then in 4 years you buy another 2k computer and it will have the power of 3a. And you would've spent the same amount of money over all, but overall have more computing power.

 

i should draw a graph for this.

 

hope that helps.

 

 

Yeah, graph it out. From my experience, my primary workstation has a life of about 2.5 year, maybe three, then it's upgrade time. So, $4.5-$5.5k every three years vs. Say, $1700 every year for a lesser machine, but one that is replenished each year. I'd love to see where the sweet spot is.

-mike

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It just depends on your priorities now. C4D uses the processors in exactly the way you'd expect, eg. (assuming same clock speed) a 12-core will be almost exactly 50% faster than an 8-core. But personally, given that you're not doing C4D ALL the time, I'd say that benefit is effectively reduced.

 

New 2.66Ghz 12-core = $5000

Refurb 2.66Ghz 8-core with upgraded 5770 = $3550 and you're saving $1450

Refurb 2.4Ghz 8-core = $2,970 and you're saving $2030

 

If it were me I'd go for the cheapest and put the money towards C4D v.13 or CS6 and other software upgrades, more RAM, the monitor, maybe a cintiq, the Quadro if I got really into C4D, invest it for 3 years and the next Mac Pro, personal projects, a Canon DSLR... There's always something else you need.

 

You'll only notice the speed difference when you do huge renders with GI, reflections etc etc. Get your workflow right and you can make sure that only your final render is really affected, and you do that overnight/weekend. Given what you've said about 'small' C4D jobs I really think you'd be crazy to blow $2030 on that C4D speed bump. And believe me you won't notice the difference anywhere else.

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forgot to mention, with my appraoch, you will also be building a small render farm. And the productivity boost of having a spare machine to work on while one is rendering is huge. Especially if you have more than one project going, or if you are just working on multiple shots.

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It just depends on your priorities now. C4D uses the processors in exactly the way you'd expect, eg. (assuming same clock speed) a 12-core will be almost exactly 50% faster than an 8-core. But personally, given that you're not doing C4D ALL the time, I'd say that benefit is effectively reduced.

 

New 2.66Ghz 12-core = $5000

Refurb 2.66Ghz 8-core with upgraded 5770 = $3550 and you're saving $1450

Refurb 2.4Ghz 8-core = $2,970 and you're saving $2030

 

If it were me I'd go for the cheapest and put the money towards C4D v.13 or CS6 and other software upgrades, more RAM, the monitor, maybe a cintiq, the Quadro if I got really into C4D, invest it for 3 years and the next Mac Pro, personal projects, a Canon DSLR... There's always something else you need.

 

You'll only notice the speed difference when you do huge renders with GI, reflections etc etc. Get your workflow right and you can make sure that only your final render is really affected, and you do that overnight/weekend. Given what you've said about 'small' C4D jobs I really think you'd be crazy to blow $2030 on that C4D speed bump. And believe me you won't notice the difference anywhere else.

 

That's definitely worth putting some thought into. I say small C4D projects now, but I'ld like to get into doing larger. With my iMac, larger projects are really out of the question. I'm also interested in putting this machine to use for more VFX projects for my independent films, but since they won't be what I make money off of, I don't want to build the machine specifically for it.

 

Thanks for everyone's time and energy, you have no idea how grateful I am for the resources of this community!

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forgot to mention, with my appraoch, you will also be building a small render farm. And the productivity boost of having a spare machine to work on while one is rendering is huge. Especially if you have more than one project going, or if you are just working on multiple shots.

 

Got it. Yeah, that does make sense. Thanks vozzz, I may lean that way. Even if I do go Mac, I'd be interested in any resources you have on setting up a PC render farm.

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Here's a link to a benchmarking site for C4D http://www.cbscores.com/

 

I agree with not buying the latest gear. I wait until the first price plunge happens (usually it's between 6-18 months). Overall you'll get around a %30 better bang for your buck.

 

As has been said After Effects performance is linked to having enough RAM to allow all your cores to work to their full potential. My company work computer has 8 Xeon cores and 3Gig of RAM. Feels like driving a V8 engine attached to a kids tricycle.

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