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Recommended hardware for Rhino/3DSMax?
The_Psychonaut 
22/4/08 6:12:05 PM
Champion

Hey guys,

I'm a graphics designer working in the HVAC industry, and I've just been given the job of doing some very detailed 3d modeling for a new project at a local university. Basically I'll be creating a flash based interface for the building management system (Aircon/heating, lighting, security etc.), involving animated 3d models of the entire building and two 42" touch screen plasmas for inputs.

I've been given a rough budget of $2,500 to put together a decent rendering machine, and would appreciate any advice people could give me. It should be noted that price isn't too much of an issue given the 6 figure total budget for the project, but time definitely is. We've only got 6 weeks to get it all done with 2 people working on it, therefore I'm looking for hardware that will handle complex models with ease, and significantly reduce rendering times.

I was thinking of going with an Intel Quad Xeon E5420, Quadro FX3400, ASUS P5BV-C/4L Server MB, and 2GB of buffered ECC 667Mhz DD2 ram.

Is the Xeon/Quadro combo a bit of an overkill, or will it genuinely benefit performance? Also is there any advantage in using a striped RAID array for storage?

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Pretty_Boy 
22/4/08 6:24:36 PM
Overlord

it looks like a solid machine to me.
you would probly do better with a bit more than 2gb of RAM i would think. and as for the quadro there must be a performance gain or it wouldnt exist surely lol.

anyway good luck and i would be very keen to see the final piece.

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superfireydave 
22/4/08 6:59:42 PM
Titan

The CPU is fine, the GPU - I dunno.

It really depends on what you want it for, cause they're pretty fucking expensive. The main thing you'll notice in 3DSmax is the viewport updates better. That's it. Same render times and same render quality.

You'll have better driving support though.

Personally I'd grab a highend desktop motherboard which supports DDR3, one of the new xeons/9000 series quads, a 9800GTX and 4 gigs of generic DDR3.

Please don't RAID 0 an industrial or work computer. Please. There's no real benefit for you, and you stand to lose a lot if one of the drives fails.

If you feel the need to stripe, RAID 1 for redundancy, but it's pretty simple to keep a backup of the files you want on another HDD.

For that cost, I wouldn't really bother heading up the server path as it's pretty expensive (although does payout in terms of performance).


edit: Oh, and like PrettyBoy, I too do 3D design work and have a good understanding of hardware too =P


Edited by superfireydave: 22/4/2008 7:00:30 PM

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Mreow?

The_Psychonaut 
22/4/08 8:15:44 PM
Champion

Quote by superfireydave
The CPU is fine, the GPU - I dunno.

It really depends on what you want it for, cause they're pretty fucking expensive. The main thing you'll notice in 3DSmax is the viewport updates better. That's it. Same render times and same render quality.

You'll have better driving support though.

Personally I'd grab a highend desktop motherboard which supports DDR3, one of the new xeons/9000 series quads, a 9800GTX and 4 gigs of generic DDR3.

Please don't RAID 0 an industrial or work computer. Please. There's no real benefit for you, and you stand to lose a lot if one of the drives fails.



Definitely wouldn't be running RAID 0 for obvious reasons, was thinking of running RAID 3 (striped set with dedicated parity). I was thinking there's a potential to boost performance when saving animated renders, but wasn't really sure.

With regards to workstation hardware over retail/gaming stuff - I'll be working with very large, complicated outdoor models, so it's primarily to ensure a smooth workflow environment. As I said in the OP, cost is less of an issue compared to performance and reliability. Any idea what sort of performance difference I'd see between the two?

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superfireydave 
22/4/08 8:57:48 PM
Titan

Not much in terms of rendering, although you'd notice a smoother viewport with the Quaddro.

If you're doing large, complicated models, you're going to want a large amount of RAM. EG: 2 gigs is ridiculously small.

4GB would be standard, 8GB nice, 16GB awesome.

Infact, if you're really going all out, it wouldn't hurt to have some other render clients but that'd be happening down the line I guess.


I'd personally grab the desktop setup, but that's because I like playing games as well, and it works out cheaper for comparable performance.


If cost is a minor concern though..... a server style setup *will* give you the best performance.

Basically, you want a decent amount of cache (8mb would be nice, anything better is also nice) and 4 logical CPU's (eg: a quadcore) at the least. You could do a dual CPU setup and have 8 cores, although I'm not sure which motherboards to recommend (I'm somewhat out of touch with what server hardware to recommend QQ).

Most serverboards will only run FB-DIMMS or ECC RAM and both are pretty expensive.

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Mreow?

The_Psychonaut 
22/4/08 9:35:57 PM
Champion

The only reason I haven't added more ram is because the system will be running XP Pro (unless someone suggests otherwise), and going on what I've read anything above ~3Gb has zero performance increase due to 32-bit addressing issues. Rhino is also limited to 32-bits, so even if I run XP-64 or Vista-64, it's (apparently) not going to produce any benefit (though with 3DSMax it might). I've only listed 2Gb because I'd like to maintain dual channel, and the usual retailer my company goes through doesn't stock 512mb modules of FB-DDR2. I suppose I could throw 4x1Gb sticks in there though....


Edited by The_Psychonaut: 22/4/2008 09:36:57 PM

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superfireydave 
22/4/08 11:37:07 PM
Titan

Or you could chuck 2x2 or 4x2 >_>
You'll notice the difference when doing anything big in 3DSmax. Rhino is a free program isn't it? I've never used it, and heard alrightish things about it.

If you're serious about going down the server path, there's no reason not to add more ram =\ especially if you go down the 64 bit road(and if you do, get 64bit Vista) which has additional performance benefits other then just allowing a higher amount of RAM to be addressed correctly.

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Mreow?

The_Psychonaut 
23/4/08 12:28:30 AM
Champion

Quote by superfireydave
Or you could chuck 2x2 or 4x2 >_>
You'll notice the difference when doing anything big in 3DSmax. Rhino is a free program isn't it? I've never used it, and heard alrightish things about it.



Prices on 2Gb sticks of FB-DDR2 ram are rather exorbitant (3 x the price for 2 x the capacity), which is why I've stuck to the better value 1Gb sticks. I guess I may as well throw 4Gb in there (4x 1Gb), it's nice spending company money :D

Rhino used to be free, but now that it's become popular they charge $995 USD per licence.

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superfireydave 
23/4/08 2:27:08 AM
Titan

That's the main reason I recommended the desktop board.
edit: that, and some of the new cpu's eliminate some of the difference between server/desktop architecture - look at the phenom for example)

You can manage to fit 8 gigs or 4 gigs of DDR2 and DDR3 a lot cheaper then with FB-DIMMS =P

There's a loss in performance for the different memory type sure, but I'm confident the fact you have more, or of a different type in the case of DDR3 should offset that fairly easily.

And any rendering program that doesn't make real use of more then 3 or so gigs is kinda lame >_<

But if the company is paying for it, and they're happy to add a little extra dosh, the server side with 4 gigs should be more then adequate at handling big and complex scenes.

I apologise if I've ranted a bit, I'm tired and strungout =P


Edited by superfireydave: 23/4/2008 02:31:09 AM

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Mreow?

spiritek 
23/4/08 1:28:58 PM
Overlord

Yeah more RAM is good, for rendering the faster the CPU is the major factor, as for RAID reliability should be the priority, if your CPU is spitting out frames so fast that you need to worry about the speed of the drives then you have one fruckin fast CPU :P

As for the Quadro it will help, you can use Gelato to render and speed things up a bit, i know you can do this with a desktop board but it is less reliable, check it out it is free and works nicely with 3D studio max (mostly) http://www.nvidia.com/page/gz_home.html
and also http://www.nvidia.com/object/maxtreme_workstation.html

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jennyb 
24/4/08 12:32:58 AM
Banned
For $2.5K I'd opt for a quad and an FX1700 seeing as it's performance specs rival the Fx3500 and besides you get DirectX10 and G80 firmware. If your running a 64 bit version of Max great, if not don't worry, it's not a significant performance hike. If you opt for Vista 64 remember you don't get OpenGL options even though the ever so reliable Direct3D drivers do a great job in my opionion despite being behind in the feature set. Alot of HP x4*** machines come on ebay with Quadro cards and QX6*** cpu's etc.

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IronHawk 
24/4/08 12:56:16 AM
Serf
Since your main concern is rendering go with the 64bit OS. It will boost your render times by a decent margin when running 64bit max. Sure you wont notice much in Rhino but i'm assuming your just cranking out your meshes there not rendering.

Viewport performance on those quadro's gets mixed reviews. There is a pretty good thread on this over at PC http://boards.polycount.net/showthread.php?t=53069

I would do a search over on an arch viz site as well before choosing. Since they deal with some really high poly scenes as well. The card will just improve viewport performance though not render times keep that in mind.

how many tris per scene are we talking about here?

Definitely get at least 4gb of ram well as long as you go 64bit for obvious reasons.

2 quads would be nice as well. That way you can budget out the cores and keep modeling while rendering.

my 2cent quick repy =)

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The_Psychonaut 
26/5/08 12:21:54 AM
Champion

Hey guys, bit of an update.

I ended up getting a system with dual Xeon 5420s, Intel server MB, 8gb of fb-ddr ram, 512mb Quadro 3500, and a 24" Samsung monitor (though it only has 6-bit panel which means I have to use a separate 15" 8-bit monitor to proof colours :/ ). Software wise I'm using Windows XP-64, rhino 4 and 3ds 8 with Vray. I originally started with 3ds 9, but found mental ray a bit confusing, and I'm on tight time constraints so I reverted back to what I'm familiar with. Thanks for all your advice, getting the extra ram and using a 64-bit OS was definitely worth it.

Render times are awesome (as expected), though I'm in the process of setting up a render farm to speed things up further when I get into the animation side. It's difficult to say whether the Quadro was worth it, the model I'm working on has ~650,000 polygons (and is only going to get more complicated) and it can be a bit slow to respond when moving things about. Once I've got everything done, I might try sticking a gaming card in there for comparison.

http://alkira.deviantart.com/art/Desk-86664567

^ That's the setup. On the left is my Macbook and connected 22" monitor which I use to model/work on other stuff while I'm waiting for things to render. In the centre are the 15" and 24" monitors connected to the render box, and to the right is one of the 42" touchscreens which turned out to be far more responsive then I was expecting them to be. In front of it is the Aopen barebones pc that will be running it, which I'm currently waiting on parts for.

http://alkira.deviantart.com/art/Draft-render-86664727

^ That's a draft render I've been working on with a few other people. Still a little underexposed as we're mucking around with the lighting, but it's starting to look fairly decent. I'll post some more once we've got things looking better/start doing internal scenes.


Edited by The_Psychonaut: 26/5/2008 12:49:50 AM

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Study hard - Be evil

superfireydave 
26/5/08 1:01:57 AM
Titan

Wow, that sounds ridiclous :|
but lol at spending so much on hardware and only running on a 6-bit panel.

The Quaddro's probably most worth it if you use Gelato, perhaps something to play around with after your current job is done.

In terms of the actual render: looks nice.

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The_Psychonaut 
26/5/08 1:18:24 AM
Champion

Quote by superfireydave
Wow, that sounds ridiclous :|
but lol at spending so much on hardware and only running on a 6-bit panel.



Yeah, it was a bit of a compromise because I ended up spending significantly more on the rest of the system. I should really set the 42" up to do it (which is 8-bit), but I haven't got round to colour calibrating it yet. I'll probably do it tomorrow when the parts for the mini-PCs come in.

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Knowledge is power, power corrupts.
Study hard - Be evil

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