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$5000 budget for animation workstation

bcovalt

11 months ago

I’m moving away from my Apple iMac Pro and having a hard time deciding between AMD and Intel.

I mostly work in Adobe After Effects, but also C4D, Maya, ToonBoom Harmony, etc.

I’ve actually ordered the Threadripper 2990WX with an ASRock Professional Gamer motherboard, but since ordering I’ve been looking into how I’m going to connect my external Thunderbolt 2 drives into this new PC, and it’s not looking good. I’ve learned that Thunderbolt and AMD don’t play nice together, and so I’ve wondered if I should reconsider this Threadripper and go Intel.

I have a 1080 Ti Hybrid card that I plan on using in the new PC. I also have a few 1080 cards in the studio that I could drop in there if needed for heavy C4D renders (though I wonder if I’ll have problems mixing cards?... I guess that’s a different topic)

If I go Intel, what’s a compatible cpu? I’ve also read a few articles about the many cores being overkill and not many apps being able to use them, so would I be better with fewer cores and a higher clock speed? Again, I’m mostly interested in this computer running like a champ with Adobe After Effects.

I have a big 24TB G-Speed Studio R drive that only have Thunderbolt 2 connections on the back, and I’d like to continue using it if possible, so I’m wondering if I really should avoid AMD for now.

Thanks for any advice!

Comments

  • 11 months ago
  • 3 points

Adobe After Effects the i9 9900k would be the best. Source: https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/After-Effects-CC-2019-CPU-Roundup-Intel-vs-AMD-vs-Mac-1297/

Cinema 4D i9 9900k is the best. Source https://www.pugetsystems.com/recommended/Recommended-Systems-for-Cinema-4D-166/Hardware-Recommendations

Maya benefits from lots of cores so here Treadripper or skylake X will be the best. Source https://www.pugetsystems.com/recommended/Recommended-Systems-for-Autodesk-Maya-165/Hardware-Recommendations

So if you use adobe after effects the most i would recommend going for the i9 9900k and if you can return that threadtipper cpu. But if you intent to use more then 2 gpu's it would be better to go with skylake X. Skylake X has more pcie lanes so will allow for more gpu's to run at full bandwidth speed. Downside of skylake X will be that it will be a bit slower then the i9 9900k and also more expensive.

Need to make a choice ;)

  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

That’s super helpful, thanks for listing out those! I use C4D with Octane for rendering and could definitely use multiple GPU’s. Rarely use Maya for heavy rendering.
Again, rendering and RAM previewing in After Effects is where I spend 90% of my time, so maybe the i9 9900k makes the most sense. Why is it so much cheaper than other cpu’s? Because of the fewer threads?

And just so I’m clear, will I be limited to 1 GPU with this card?

  • 11 months ago
  • 2 points

i9 9900k has 16 threads and not necessarily cheaper infact prices of that cpu are a bit inflated because of the shortage and high demand.

You can use with the i9 9900k depending on the motherboard up to 4 gpus (just found this). Motherboard i would recommend if you want to use up to 3 gpu's is Gigabyte Z390 Designare https://pcpartpicker.com/product/ycL48d/gigabyte-z390-designare-atx-lga1151-motherboard-z390-designare . Also has thunderbolt 3.

For 4 gpu's you could go with https://pcpartpicker.com/product/m9YLrH/asus-ws-z390-pro-atx-lga1151-motherboard-ws-z390-pro but it has a thunderbolt 5 pin connector on the motherboard according to the specs.

Don't forget with Z390 you are limited to 64GB of RAM.

  • 11 months ago
  • 3 points

I use C4D with Octane for rendering and could definitely use multiple GPU’s. Rarely use Maya for heavy rendering. Again, rendering and RAM previewing in After Effects is where I spend 90% of my time, so maybe the i9 9900k makes the most sense.

If you use Octane render for most of your export rendering, the 2990WX is a pointless CPU for this build.

Combine that with the fact you want thunderbolt, and that a lot of your perceived workflow performance will be tied to viewport performance, an Intel build with fewer faster cores is likely more logical.

Octane doesn't need high bandwidth to the GPU's. In fact, there are many examples of people setting up GPU's in mining-like configurations providing only 1 lane of PCIE bandwidth per GPU for Octane render.


Here's a 9900K build with room for 3 GPU's (motherboard lays them out in such a way that there is a 1 slot gap between each, and case is tall enough (9 slots) to provide a slots width of breathing room below the bottom GPU), built in thunderbolt (you will need to buy a 3 to 2 adapter for your external drive), 9900K, 64GB RAM, NVME boot/software drive, NVME project space drive, etc, enjoy:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

Type Item Price
CPU Intel - Core i9-9900K 3.6 GHz 8-Core Processor $534.90 @ OutletPC
CPU Cooler Scythe - Mugen 5 Rev. B 51.17 CFM CPU Cooler $52.39 @ SuperBiiz
Motherboard Gigabyte - Z390 DESIGNARE ATX LGA1151 Motherboard $269.49 @ SuperBiiz
Memory Patriot - Viper Elite 16 GB (1 x 16 GB) DDR4-2666 Memory $99.99 @ Amazon
Memory Patriot - Viper Elite 16 GB (1 x 16 GB) DDR4-2666 Memory $99.99 @ Amazon
Memory Patriot - Viper Elite 16 GB (1 x 16 GB) DDR4-2666 Memory $99.99 @ Amazon
Memory Patriot - Viper Elite 16 GB (1 x 16 GB) DDR4-2666 Memory $99.99 @ Amazon
Storage Samsung - 970 Evo 500 GB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive $127.89 @ OutletPC
Storage Samsung - 970 Evo 2 TB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive $497.99 @ Newegg
Case Fractal Design - Define XL R2 (Black Pearl) ATX Full Tower Case $148.98 @ Newegg
Power Supply EVGA - SuperNOVA G2 1300 W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply $149.99 @ B&H
Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts
Total $2181.59
Generated by PCPartPicker 2019-01-01 16:01 EST-0500

  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks for the list! Much appreciated. Only a few questions:

• is there any option to get 128GB ram with the i9 9900K? (I'm probably okay with sticking to 64GB, but if I had the option to expand that'd be swell) • I need 10Gb ethernet. Is it better to just find a PCIe card, or look for a motherboard that will have this included? (I work off a QNAP NAS)

Thanks again!

  • 11 months ago
  • 3 points

is there any option to get 128GB ram with the i9 9900K?

Nope...

I need 10Gb ethernet. Is it better to just find a PCIe card, or look for a motherboard that will have this included?

Switch to GIGABYTE Z390 AORUS XTREME. It has both thudnerbolt and 10G ethernet. I don't like that it doesn't spread out the GPU slots as well.


If you want to get more serious about having room for a lot of RAM, room for a lot of GPU's, room for thunderbolt, room for 10G LAN, etc etc... it might be worth exploring a more enterprise rooted solution.....

ASUS WS C422 SAGE/10G, W series Xeon... Consider installing this in a PCIE breakout chassis (like a mining chassis or something) that can put the GPU's elsewhere's so they aren't all jammed up next to eachother.

  • 11 months ago
  • 3 points

Based on others comments this is a workstation setup/route you could take. Costs more for the integrated 10G ethernet and 128gb memory access. Chose the i7 skylake X for core speed, though loose ability to utilise full 44 pcie lanes just 28, but space for multiple GPUs running at lower bandwidth. Could up to the i9 7900x if pcie bandwidth require, but extra $400. Could also cut costs with 10G add in cards but will loose at least one expansion slot and smaller ATX boards are not as well setup with expansion width between pcie slots. The i9 9900k is a very capable CPU for your uses but alas loose 128gb ram option. Really depends how big of a need a multi GPU and 128gb set up is.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

Type Item Price
CPU Intel - Core i7-7820X 3.6 GHz 8-Core Processor $549.99 @ Amazon
CPU Cooler Noctua - NH-D15 82.5 CFM CPU Cooler $89.95 @ Amazon
Motherboard Asus - WS X299 SAGE/10G SSI CEB LGA2066 Motherboard $677.62 @ B&H
Memory Corsair - Vengeance LPX 128 GB (8 x 16 GB) DDR4-3000 Memory $1009.74 @ Newegg
Storage Samsung - 970 Evo 1 TB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive $249.99 @ Samsung
Storage Crucial - MX500 2 TB 2.5" Solid State Drive $279.99 @ Amazon
Case Silverstone - RV02B-EW-USB3.0 (Black) ATX Full Tower Case $192.95 @ B&H
Power Supply EVGA - SuperNOVA G2 1300 W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply $149.99 @ B&H
Other ASUS Accessory THUNDERBOLTEX 3 C SI 1xPort Thunderbolt 3 USB3.1 PCIE4 $106.27 @ Amazon
Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts
Total $3306.49
Generated by PCPartPicker 2019-01-02 04:15 EST-0500
  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

hey, thanks for your suggestions, very helpful to consider options.

I am most interested in the best speed/performance I can get with After Effects.
Multiple GPUs is a nice option if possible, but I wouldn’t want to sacrifice other benefits for it as I won’t need it most of the time. I’m in a studio environment, and when we get a project that requires C4D rendering, I thought it’d be nice to have extra cards in this PC for quicker rendering, but we can also just use the other machines in the studio as a render farm. I have 4x Nvidia 1080’s in Mac Pro towers (2010-2012 models), and they can all render independently. Again, I thought it’d be cool to make this PC a powerful beast and put those extra cards in it, but it’s not necessary.

I can’t find much info for how the i9 7900x compares in After Effects 2019 with the i9 9900k. What do you think? Similar speeds? 128GB ram is nice, but not crucial either; I think I’d probably be fine with 64GB of ram.. I think.

  • 11 months ago
  • 2 points

Regarding the i7 9900k Vs i9 7900x you can draw some parallels here

https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/After-Effects-CC-2018-CPU-Comparison-Intel-8th-Gen-vs-X-series-vs-Ryzen-vs-Threadripper-1123/

Since the i7 9900k is a higher clocked variant of the i7 8700k, plus more cores, you will likely see a 10-15% up lift in general AE performance using the 9900k.

If you have some capable GPU workstations, and if 64gb is enough the 9900k is king here. If you need the 128gb ram then something similar to above will meet your demands and you can retire an Apple Mac and add a gtx 1080ti and add a further 2/3 1080's. Though you'll maybe constrained by the tb3 card occupying a pcie slot to get 4 GPUs in there. So maybe better to focus on a 9900k build if you have systems that can already house 4 GPUs.

  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

thanks for your input. I am leaning towards building a workstation with the i9 9900k just to see how it excels in After Effects, since this is my primary use.

I have to ask though, no one has yet suggested going with the i9 9980XE. Yes it's expensive, but I think I'd still be within my $5k budget if I went with it.
Wouldn't it theoretically give me similar speed to the i9 9900k but with the ability to add more GPUs and more RAM?

In the studio we have 7 Mac Pro towers (2010 - 2012) which are able to use Nvidia cards so long as we don't update to Mojave. This year when we had a heavy C4D Octane job, we bought a lot of Nvidia 1080 cards to go in them for rendering. Each Mac Pro can only handle 1 card; if you try to add more, the power supply won't handle it unless you do some tricky rigging, which is beyond me. One C4D artist was telling me that the rendering would go a lot faster if we could put, say 4x 1080 cards in 1 PC, as opposed to 4x 1080 cards in 4x different computers.
That's why I was exploring the idea of building a PC with the option to have 4 GPUs; I wouldn't need that power in most cases, but occasionally if we were doing some heavy Octane rendering, it'd be helpful to have one hell of a powerful PC for those situations.

But the more I think about this new PC and get advice on here, it seems maybe I can't have the best of both worlds; either I go with the i9 9900k and enjoy the benefits in After Effects, or I go with and i7 variant that allows for more GPUs, and then I'd have a powerful machine for rendering in Octane, but not as much for AE.

Unless the i9 9980XE solves both scenarios?

  • 11 months ago
  • 2 points

The new i9 9980XE has no performance advantage over the i9 7900x, other than higher core counts. Its base frequency and all core boost is lower than the 7900x, though single/dual core boost is the same. Therefore, assuming you are not requiring a high core count, for general AE tasks they are unnecessary, then I would look no further than the i9 7900x. To be honest you may not need the difference the i9 9900k offers if moving from previous gen CPU, the i9 9900k just provides maximum performance for AE money can buy. Now you do keep erring towards high core count CPUs. Is there a reason for this? Do you foresee CPU demanding workloads such as CPU rendering or high multi task workloads?

I might say call it a day by placing an i9 7900x in the workstation above, providing max ram, pcie lanes overhead, 10g ethernet and tb3, then throwing in your gtx 1080ti and 2/3 gtx 1080's. I say 2/3 since the motherboard allows for 4 dual slot gpus, but with the tb3 add in card you maybe space constrained. Also, are the gtx 1080's blower style cards?though the case is spacious and well ventilated you will need to keep thermals in check running multi GPUs. Those cards will need to be well supplied with cool air to provide overhead to prevent throttling. You'll see a significant rendering performance upgrade with at least 3 cards running in tandem for GPU based rendering Vs 1. To offer expansion slot overhead, the case above is 7 slot, might be worth moving to the fractal design R2 XL black pearl case with its 9 slots. Pcpper does say it is not compatible but the motherboard will in deed fit it is smaller than an eatx motherboard and uses same ATX mounts. Pugetsystems use the same case for their 4 GPU workstations with the same Asus Sage/10G motherboard. Reference

https://www.pugetsystems.com/recommended/Recommended-Systems-for-Redshift-195/Buy_226

You basically are looking at a comparable system to Alan_M_Systems but with the X series CPU, with additional pcie lane and memory support but lower core speed.

  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

I think the reason I’m erring towards a high count CPU is only because of the limitations the i9 9900k has with ram and GPUs, otherwise I’d pull the trigger on that CPU immediately.

A good example of needing as much render power as possible is when we’re rendering a 4K comp from within After Effects that has lots of effects applied (noise reduction, then added noise/grain, looks, etc.) where a single frame can take a good minute and we’ve got a few hundred frames to render. In those scenarios we often turn on all the Mac Pros in the studio and render image sequences with “skip existing frames” enabled so that we can get through it faster. It’s at these times where I want the most powerful PC that will get through frames faster. Is it true that it really doesn’t matter what kind of GPU you have in the computer when AE is rendering? Is it only using the CPU, and not multiple cores at that?

If I were to get the i9 7900x and load it up with 128GB ram and 4 GPUs, does it matter that not all the GPUs are exactly the same? One is EVGA 1080ti Hybrid (liquid cooled I believe), and the other 3 are Nvidia 1080 cards. You asked if they are blower style cards - they don’t have fans attached to them except for the 1080ti if that’s what you’re asking. Just the card alone for the 3x 1080’s.

When I first started this path of building a PC, I originally went with a Threadripper, but then heard that it didn’t make sense for AE, and that I wouldn’t be able to use Thunderbolt, so I need to return that CPU to Amazon, along with the motherboard and ram.
However, I’m wondering if I can still keep and use the case I bought = Phantek Enthoo Primo Full ATX. It’s huge, and if I can get a mid-size case that holds all 4 cards and cools effectively that’d be nice, but if not, I can live with this massive case.

Oh, and will I need an additional card for Thunderbolt 3 or think I’ll be able to find a motherboard with Thunderbolt 3, 10Gbe, and work with the i9 7900x?

Thanks so much for all the advice and insight.

  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

I just re-read some of this thread and was reminded that the i9 9900k can accept multiple GPus (how many? 4?) If that’s the case, then the ONLY downside of the i9 9900k is not having 128GB ram and being limited to 64GB, right? As long as I’m not using apps that need the many cores, which for me we’re mostly talking about After Effects, C4D, Premiere.

Decisions decisions.

  • 11 months ago
  • 1 point

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

Type Item Price
CPU Intel - Core i9-9900K 3.6 GHz 8-Core Processor $534.90 @ OutletPC
CPU Cooler Noctua - NH-D15 82.5 CFM CPU Cooler $89.95 @ Amazon
Motherboard Gigabyte - Z390 AORUS XTREME EATX LGA1151 Motherboard $554.98 @ Newegg
Memory G.Skill - Trident Z RGB 64 GB (4 x 16 GB) DDR4-3000 Memory $454.99 @ Newegg
Storage HP - EX920 1 TB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive $174.99 @ Newegg
Case Fractal Design - Design Define R6 USB-C - TG ATX Mid Tower Case $168.61 @ Newegg
Power Supply Corsair - Professional 1200 W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply $189.97 @ Amazon
Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts
Total $2168.39
Generated by PCPartPicker 2019-01-02 23:20 EST-0500

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