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Workstations For Poor 3D-artists 240

Peter writes: "Ace's hardware has written an 'article for the creative people, who are searching to build or buy an affordable number cruncher to run their favorite workstation application. Maybe you already have an Athlon Thunderbird/XP and you are wondering if a dual Thunderbird/Athlon XP workstation might make sense for you. Or you might be interested in an affordable dual Athlon MP 1800+ workstation.' Included are benchmarks based on almost all available 3D-animation packages."
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Workstations For Poor 3D-artists

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  • Macs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CmdrPaco ( 531189 )
    Ok, this isn't a troll... Many graphic artists uses Macs, as most of us already know. They learn how to use Macs and to use the Mac versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, Painter, etc. I don't see many graphic artists gravitating towards the iX86 platform. I think they would prefer to stick to Macs, even if it is a slower, more outdated machine, because it is what they are used to. Just like many M$ users stick to Winblows, because they are used to it, even though Linux or BSD would be better. Just my 2 cents.
    • Re:Macs (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This article is about 3D Graphics..
      Not many use Mac for that!
      i think the top 3 is like this:

      1- Windows
      2- SGI
      3- Linux

      So it makes sense..
    • As the AC above me said (and he's right), there are few major 3D animation programs made for the Macintosh.

      None of the programs they tested have Mac versions, though Maya and (I think) 3D Studio Max are developing Linux versions.

      Though now that MacOS X is out with all of the Unix-like functionality, we may see them ported.
    • I will agree with you on the mac debat, but do poor 3D artist by the latest and greatest hardware? I'm thinking the $300 Sgi Indy or $500 onyx workstations you can get on ebay. As far as software goes they already have it, you don't upgrade to main stream pro whatever just because its possiable. Unknown software companies pump out great 3D software. Go to the local compusa and see what they stock in the graphics isle. IANA3DA but my two roomates work at ILM across the street, poor as dirt too.
    • Re:Macs (Score:2, Interesting)

      by J05H ( 5625 )
      as a digital artist (3d, 2d and video), I used Macs and Amigas for years, both in school and then professionally. A few years ago, I jumped on the opportunity to switch to WindowsNT for my paying work, and also built a PC for home use. I will NEVER go back to relying on Macs for paying work, to unreliable, to hard to maintain, crash to much, and they are way slow compared to modern PC hardware.

      make mine... whatever goes fast and is stable...
    • and all of those apps you mentioned need no mpre power than a PIII850

      These workstations are designed for 3d rendering, something that takes a massive amount of nuber crunching, and the apps are based on using poser, renderman and the such.

      From what I remember the only adobe apps that use 2 or more processors is after effects and premiere.
  • 3D Artists? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @11:28AM (#2682067) Homepage Journal
    Cheap box for 3D artists?

    What about cheap software for 3D artists?

    (BTW - IANA3DA, but I'm pretty sure that all 3D software for modelling and such is mucho dinero)
    • Re:3D Artists? (Score:2, Informative)

      by MrDog ( 307202 )

      Try this 3D modelling and animation app. It's free, and remarkably full-featured. There are links on the site to some tutorials, as the UI is non-standard. To quickly see what can be done, browse the user gallery and webpages, also linked from the main page.
      • I tried out blender a couple years ago, when I was seriously shopping for a 3d package. It's interface is a real nightmare, even for a 3d app, and that says something. Further more, the rendering engine (at the time mind you) was primitive. I will admit it had alot of features that you only find in the higher end 3d packages, but overall, the learning curve is pretty steep.

        You will spend far more time trying to figure out what you just did, what happened to your view, and how to get it back, then you will modelling.

        The only way to figure out how to use it to cough up $199 for the manual (cannot find anything on the site right now).

        I admit it's been a couple of years since I checked it out, my info may be outdated, but in the end, I settled for Cinema 4D [cinema4d.com]. The interface is pretty clean, good animation and modelling tools, one of the fastest rendering engines out there, and the price is decent for a commercial app. Good thing too, because not only am I a poor artist, but I am a poor (read: crappy) 3D artist too ;)
        • It's interface is a real nightmare,

          I believe you can say exactly the same about vim. But I use Blender and vim without problems. How it is possible?

          You will spend far more time trying to figure out what you just did, what happened to your view, and how to get it back, then you will modelling.

          Yes. When I am writing letter I shouldn't use vim or latex, becouse I must see my fonts in Microsoft Word.

          The only way to figure out how to use it to cough up $199 for the manual (cannot find anything on the site right now).

          There is a lot of tutorials in the Net. Please look at blendermania ! [blendermania.com]
          • Note: I don't actually use Blender for anything

            You will spend far more time trying to figure out what you just did, what happened to your view, and how to get it back, then you will modelling.

            Yes. When I am writing letter I shouldn't use vim or latex, becouse I must see my fonts in Microsoft Word.

            The point, which you so obstinately missed, is that using a clunky tool because it's free costs money in the form of wasted time. The reason people spend piles of cash of 3d tools is that they either enable new things or allow existing things to be done faster.

        • Re:3D Artists? (Score:3, Informative)

          by MrDog ( 307202 )
          My experience with Blender goes back only about a year or so, I don't know what it was like then. The interface actually is geared for speed. It took about a day or so before I had some idea where everything was. Now, I spend much more time modelling than pulling down menus (it has a really efficient hotkey + mouse combination). The rendering engine is scanline-based, not raytracing, but the results are pretty good. It also has the advantage of speed over a purely raytraced renderer. There are now plugins developed for export to external raytracing engines.

          The "official" manual is $35, and two really helpful tutorial books are $20 each. I've never seen any manual for $199, though.

          Recent improvements include a new "bones" animation system including weighted deformation values per vertex, C-C subdiv surfaces, and a python scripting interface for procedural modelling and animation.
        • Re: Blender (Score:2, Interesting)

          by aWalrus ( 239802 )
          Blender has matured A LOT in the past two years. I'm not a regular Blender user, but I introduced it to a friend and he became quite attached to the thing in less than a month. The interface is extremely weird, but it really shines once you get to understand it. Its main purpose, I think, is to keep you focused on the work at all times, and with one hand on the keyboard and the other on the mouse, kind of what Macintosh or Linux do with their CTRL/APPLE+Left click interfaces.

          One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the size of the program. It is hardly more than one Megabyte!!!!! and once you get to know how to use it, there's practically nothing you can't achieve with, say, 3dStudio that blender can't do one way or the other (considering 3dS's signature of around 300 megs, that's saying something).

          Finally, for those interested, it's a free download in here: Blender site [blender3d.com] (no, I'm in no way associated with the company that makes it, I just think it's one hell of a product). Plus, there are a lot of tutorials at their site you can check out to sort out that freaky interface. (oh, and it runs on linux quite well, too) ;-)
    • cheap software:

      Blender [blender.nl]

    • Re:3D Artists? (Score:5, Informative)

      by eric2hill ( 33085 ) <eric@ijaCOMMAck.net minus punct> on Monday December 10, 2001 @11:40AM (#2682122) Homepage
      Martin Hash has a product called Animation Master. It's spline based and cheap. Find it here [hash.com]. It's got a little bit of a learning curve, but it's quite full featured and comes with a nice book. "We make software even an artist can afford." It's $299 for a new copy, and $99 for an upgrade. They release a new version about every year or two. They have versions for both Windows and Mac.
      • $299 is not cheap. It's cheap compared to other 3d software sure. But it's still not cheap. I myself am not willing to pay more than 50$ for any single piece of software.
      • Animation master is also available for $199 at trade shows and conventions. I don't have their current schedule, but I do know they'll be presenting at Sakura Con [sakuracon.org] and selling the software at the discount rate.

        As another note on Hash, the guys who work on Animation Master are about the coolest I've ever met (it's not many offices you see where employees have parots on thier shoulders), and they're great people. Hash Inc owns the Columbia Arts Center [columbiaartscenter.com] and has done some amazing things to support art and culture in the Vancouver (Wa not BC) area.

    • these companies seriosuely need to release a licensed copy of their software for personal use, with explicit uses such as, you can mess around with it. a lot of them have student licenses, but not everyones a student. Id gladly pay $50 or so for a copy of 3dstudio max or lightwave. I cannot afford to spend more money on a single piece of software then my car is worth. I have old outdated versions of a lot of that, all non legal copies unfortunately, because the company is getting zero instead of atleast a nominal fee, which i always felt bad about
      • Unfortunately for those of us who only like to dabble with 3d artwork, this won't happen. The good folks who make lightwave are already making a mint off of major production houses, and could probably care less about the pirated copies floating around, since they're only used by people who just want a test drive. We're stuck with things like blender (which isn't actually that bad) or ripping a copy off of alt.binaries.warez. Incidentally, if you're not into making huge landscapes, and we're not still supposed to be boycotting Adobe, try out Dimensions - it's pretty nice for making small objects, and simple animations (which can be exported to flash as a movie sequence..)
      • I like companies that only charge for their current version and make previous versions available for free. I believe this is good for the consumer and it pushes companies to release upgrades that fix major problems and/or provide significant improvements. Why? Because they are competing with their own free software.
    • You'd do well to check out Comp.graphics.rendering.raytracing [google.com] Look in the FAQ [localhost.ruhr.de] for more info on cheep or free tools.
    • Re:3D Artists? (Score:3, Informative)

      by John_Booty ( 149925 )
      What about cheap software for 3D artists?

      They pirate it. Seriously. Blender is nice and all but the 3D artists (and wanna-be's) I've known generally would rather find ways to pirate the high-end stuff than use freeware.

      Studios generally use big-name software packages. They want you to have experience in the software they use, such as 3DS, Maya, etc.
      • Re:3D Artists? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mati ( 114154 )
        I am a CS student, and my roommate is an art student. He's picked up 3D rendering skills quite fast and shows great potential, but the man cannot afford more than his K6-2 to do his rendering on (I guess he has too much pride to use some cpu time on my box). I'm not trying to justify warez here, but draw your own conclusions. The software must be learned somehow ;)

        Of course, another of my more well-off artist friends paid a grand for an educational-discounted version of 3DS MAX...
      • Re:3D Artists? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by stephanruby ( 542433 )
        They pirate it. Seriously. Blender is nice and all but the 3D artists (and wanna-be's) I've known generally would rather find ways to pirate the high-end stuff than use freeware.

        High-end software makers actually want you to pirate their stuff. That's how they maintain their marketshare without really discounting their product. They don't want your lunch money, they want your future employer's money.


    • Choices are getting slightly better with some free and/or inexpensive modeling tools.

      The top of my list has to be Blender Creator [blender.nl] which is a free (as in beer but not speech) and sports a very impressive features list.

      OpenGL Renderer
      Standard Polygon Primitive modeling (w/lattices etc)
      Bez Curves
      Multi texturing (up to 16 per object)
      Texture UV Mapping
      Environment Mapping
      Bump Mapping
      Spec Mapping
      Catmull Clark Surfaces for nicely subdivding meshes
      Bones and Armature system for character animation
      Particle Effects
      Global Illumination with radiosity capabilities
      Super fast renderer
      Very very low system requirements and compact size
      Python Plugin Interface for extending Blender
      Large and enthusiastic user base eager to answer questions
      ...and lots of other stuff I'm forgetting

      speed bumps for Blender are as follows:

      Absolutely bizarre (but incredibly efficient once you learn it) user interface
      Limited import and export capabilities (import/export of DXF and VRML) although I hear that improving this area is their 'top priority' to fix

      So if after trying a few of the tutorials you decide you like Blender do yourself a favor and pick up the Official Blender Guide. Chances are your local "mega mart type book store" has a copy and you'll save yourself tons of aggravation and time.

      Course if you're just into mods for quake type games etc then you should try Milkshape [swissquake.ch] ($20 last time I checked) but its windows only and I didn't particularly like the interface. One the bright side it can import/export just about any kind of format you can come up with.

      Discreet has some freebie as well called Gmax [discreet.com] which I've never tried mostly cos I despise 3DS' UI. Its supposedly a character designer / level editor for the mod community to play around with.
    • two words...



      100% free software for 3d artists.
      BMRT was used to renber the movie "bugs life" and contrary to some elitests views povray is very sutiable for 3d static or feature length animation.
      • Re:3D Artists? (Score:3, Informative)

        by skoda ( 211470 )
        That's not quite correct. BMRT was used in the creation of A Bug's Life (and other movies), but it was not the sole program for for creating and rendering. Here's my little odyssey searching for info on this :)

        An abstract from a paper suggesting a connection between BMRT and Pixar's RenderMan standard:
        BMRT: A Global Illumination Implementation of the RenderMan Standard [acm.org]

        But then here is a disclaimer that BMRT is not associated with Pixar and is not a replacement for Renderman:

        "BMRT uses some APIs that are very similar to those described in the published RenderMan Interface Specification. However, BMRT is not associated with Pixar, and no claims are made that BMRT is in any way a compatible replacement for RenderMan. Those who want a licensed implementaion of RenderMan should contact Pixar directly. Exluna.com Docs [exluna.com]

        But then got to the BMRT site, we find something which seems contradictory:

        "BMRT is a ray tracer that we distribute free of charge. BMRT has been used in the production of several feature films, including A Bug's Life, Stuart Little, The Cell, Hollow Man, and Woman on Top."
        BMRT FAQ [exluna.com]

        Finally, from the links section of the BMRT site:

        "Pixar's RenderMan Toolkit (a.k.a. PhotoRealistic RenderMan, a.k.a. PRMan), now in release 3.9, is the oldest RenderMan implementation. PRMan has been used to render effects for ... Toy Story (Classic and II), A Bug's Life.

        The Blue Moon Rendering Tools (BMRT) package ... has been used on several productions, including A Bug's Life"
        Links on Compatible Renderers [exluna.com]
    • I'll point people at this [metafilter.com] thread where much the same discussion was going on.

      For windows, there is the very cool (and GPL'd)OpenFX [openfx.org] that will server as a worthwhile inroduction to 3D. It has the added benefit of working with WINE. For Linux, the k-3d [k-3d.com] project appears to be moving along nicely (and despite the K in the name, it is a GTK+ app).

      But I agree with lots of people here, this is another area that open source has a ways to go.

      For non-Free(libre) software you can use Moray and POV-Ray for a nice cheap modeler / rendering combo. You can also pull down the BMRT tools from exluna, used properly they produce beautiful renderings, many people agree that they do a much better job than POV-Ray.

    • Cheap softs (Score:3, Informative)

      by hearingaid ( 216439 )

      If you've got a Mac...

      The Strata product is free. It has some disabled functions (for example: it only does single light sources), but it renders very nicely. POVRAY has a more difficult UI. RenderBoy is $25 shareware.

  • by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @11:29AM (#2682072) Homepage
    You probably haven't checked the price of those 3d tools lately ... the only one in my pricerange is povray ...

    We're not gonna copy those tools illegaly now are we ? ;-)

    And btw, 3D studio 4 (the dos version) has a lot of possibilities and renders nearly real-time on an athlon 700 ... ;-)
  • by (H)elix1 ( 231155 ) <slashdot.helix@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Monday December 10, 2001 @11:30AM (#2682073) Homepage Journal
    Life is about to get real interesting. The MPX chipsets - dual socket A support are rumored to hit the channel this week. While the tyan board had got a lot of positive press, I am really looking forward to having options from Abit, Asus, and a few others.

    The original MP board needed a special power supply (due to the vid card specs) - but sounds like all the new boards will use a standard ATX PS. More important, there is a real good chance the price for the non-scsi variant might drop from ~200 to something closer to ~180 or 150 (hoping here...)

    I know I have everything but the board, cpus, and heat sinks orded and waiting. Lets go!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I'm running on the new Tyan board, which has been rock-solid and does not require a special power supply like the earlier server style tyan board does. However, Asys and Abit boards will no doubt be more tweakable for the overclockers out there... I'm going to be keeping a close eye on the new releases too, for a new home system in the next year or so.
    • You can get find the Thunder K7 for $205 [pricewatch.com], it has integrated SCSI controller, 2 3com 10/100 NIC's and other onboard stuff (sound and crappy video). The ONLY thing that sucks about this board is that it needs a special power supply. That is the only thing that prevents me from buying it right now.

      These 760MPX boards will have to cost less than or equal to $150 to be worth it losing the extras the Thunder K7 has.

      • the board you talk about is the thunder not the tiger. The thunder board goes for $342 the cheapest you can find on pricewatch. The tiger loses the intergrated video,scsi, and dual nics. The tiger also uses a standard atx power supply, and goes for $205 on pricewatch.
  • Go figure. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @11:31AM (#2682081)
    Out of all of the 3D Animation packages they got their hands on, they forgot 2 of the most important ones out there.

    Softimage|3D and Softimage|XSI.

    Those two give Lightwave, Maya, and 3D Studio MAX a run for their money, considering they're the modeling environment used by most all major CG Effects studios out there (coupled with either Mental Ray or RenderMan).
    • Re:Go figure. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Quarters ( 18322 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @12:19PM (#2682321)
      SoftImage took too long to rev from 3D to XSI. Then, when XSI finally arrived it had a very non-standard and unintuitive interface. Couple that with the fact that there was no polygonal modeller in XSI (they included a free copy of SI:3D with every XSI purchase so you could have polygonal tools) and you get a recipe for disaster.

      SoftI was good at one point. It's been passed by both Maya and Max these days. SI has a lot of work to do to catch up.
  • Yikes. You might want to consider changing the title of that story. I jumped all over this story when I thought it was about poor-skilled 3d artists ;)
  • Man, that's nothing. A really good 3D Modeller can make a cheap PC using nothing more than $20 worth of clay and a few chisels.

    The best part? You can usually find free Cyrix chips in most PC Repair trash bins.
    • poor 3-D artist

      isn't that bit overboard? Poor people can't afford food, clothing or acceptable shelter. Times have been tough on the creative community with must grant money coming from tourism taxes. I don't think having a computer that can display 68 fps in Unreal while ripping and playing MP3's is not going to help. I know I may be on the verge of troll here but I got 50 karama to burn. Anyone have good ideas on helping our chroniclly out of work artist?
  • Animation Master?!? (Score:2, Informative)

    by MrAl ( 21859 )
    Where's Hash's Animation Master? This is an app that was written to be "3d for the masses" yet I don't see it highlighted in the article.

    For shame - how could you look at animation for the low-end and not include A:M?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't the "poor" superfluous? Everyone I've ever met who fancies themself a 3D artist has been dirt-poor.
  • linux, windows, macOSX:
    user blender:

    My personal choice for MAC:

    lots of possibilities.

  • Dual Athlon XP? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by willmc ( 167287 )
    Hmm, maybe I just fell comatose for the press release, but as far as I know there are no dual Athlon XP boards out there. From what I understood, that was the whole point of the Athlon MP: multi-processing capabilities.
    • Right, there's no such thing as a "dual Athlon XP board", because there is no need. The XP seems to work just fine in a dual configuration using a board designed for the MP, although it is (as the article at Ace's pointed out) not certified or recommended by AMD in any way. They think you should use the MP for duals, since it's actually guaranteed to work. I'm not sure if running an XP on a dual board requires modifications to the CPU (like the "unlocking" needed before it can be overclocked), though. Anyone?
      • Re:Dual Athlon XP? (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        No mod is reqquired.

        There is literally NO difference between an MP and an XP of the same model number (ie 1800+ ect) other than the model string returned by the cpu.

        Also since the model strings are programable by the bios, the bios on a single cpu athlon board programs the cpu to return Athlon XP as its model string, regardless of weather the cpu is an MP or an XP.

        Conversly, the tyan duely board, programs the cpus to return Athlon MP as the model string, regardless of the cpus being stamped MP or XP on the outside.
    • I have a Tyan Tiger MP board with two 1.46 GHz Athlon XPs on it.

      The difference between XP and MP is that AMD guarantees that the MP versions will do SMP. If you install dual XPs you're doing it on your own. However, I've never had any problems with my setup and apparently very people do since the shop where I bought the board and CPUs builds, sells and guarantees working dual-XP versions (unless you specifically request an MP configuration).

    • Uhhm, XP and MP are exactly the same chip! Romour has it that in the future AMD will cripple XPs so that they no longer work in dual-CPU configuration. So far it's just a rumour.
  • 386/486/pentium (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jacek Poplawski ( 223457 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @12:02PM (#2682220)
    Povray can work on 386. Blender can work on Pentium. Why could poor artist need (dual) Athlon for modelling? Poor drivers should consider buying Ferrari?
    I love all that clever people who buy Pentium4 becouse they want to learn programming .
    • Re:386/486/pentium (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @12:20PM (#2682326) Homepage Journal
      My first experience with PoV (and dkbtrace) was on a 25MHz 386. Complex scenes (due to objects, textures, solids and such) could take an entire weekend to render, which now take a few minutes on a 933MHz PIII (at work, but can't be doing that here) I'd run thumbnails, which took 10-15 minutes until I was pretty sure of what I was getting then launch it on Friday evening before heading home, one scene finished about an hour after I got in on Monday morning (had to busy myself shuffling paper or something ;) Yeah, you could do this on a 386/486, but why would you want to, when people are throwing away Pentium 133 machines?
    • Hey, compiling:
      void main ()
      cout "Hello World!"
      return 0;
      Can take a hell of a long time!
    • I do a lot on POVRay rendering and though I won't be getting a dual Athlon anytime soon, my next box will be an Athlon mainly because the price is almost $250 cheaper than an equivalent P4 machine. I don't agree with your sentiment though:

      Do you remember the scene in "Crossroads" where the kid is trying to buy a guitar? He chooses a beat-up old model instead of a newer, fancier model because he feels that it somehow legitimizes the music. I see the same thing happening today -- a few of my acquaintances insist on using old, near-obsolete equipment because they feel that the art is somehow "better" if done on a shoestring budget...

      As you said, POVRay can run on a 386. For anything but thumbnails, however, be prepared to wait hours or days for a render. Forget about doing any animation. On a 1.2GhZ Athlon, some of my simplest animations can take a day to complete. Sure, I have a stable of older machines, and I do occasionally "distribute" the processing over several machines, but it's much more efficient to have a fast single machine than mess with clustering.

      Some notes I put together are
      here [digitalhermit.com].

      My "distributed" clustering is actually editing the pov .ini file so that each machine does a portion of the render. I've gotten their relative speeds accurate enough that when my script pushes them out to each box, they all finish at about the same time.

  • I'm serious (Score:3, Funny)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Monday December 10, 2001 @12:06PM (#2682239) Homepage
    When I first read "workstations for poor 3-d artists" I thought great, finally a computer that recognizes my artistic shortcomings...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Shouldn't they be more concerned with becoming 'Good' graphic artists instead of advertising the fact that they are 'Poor' graphic artists?
  • by schmaltz ( 70977 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @12:26PM (#2682364)
    I dunno, but decoding an MP3 while playing Unreal isn't exactly a punishing task for two 1.2GHz CPUs, and it certainly isn't one that offers numbers you can use to compare to other mobos.

    I keep an elderly PCI Pentium 100 box around as router and to play MP3s -top sez mpg123 usually has less than 10% of the CPU at all times.

    In fact, there's nothing in either Slashdot's article or Ace's that really helps poor 3D artists. This is what's keeping Slashdot's editors so busy, eh?

    What's up with that?
    • And run system services. Anyhow, encoding Divx and playing Divx at the same time would be a very nice use of this. Or encoding while gaming, or gaming, or anything that sucks CPU power as much as it can.
  • by Snowfox ( 34467 ) <snowfox@NoSPaM.snowfox.net> on Monday December 10, 2001 @12:43PM (#2682468) Homepage
    Visual C++ was the only compiler tested, which is a shame.

    Codewarrior benefits from SMP, as do typical "make -j " project builds under unices.

  • Programs... (Score:2, Interesting)

    Well, from a poor starving artist prospective, (and one who has had the terror/(privlidge?) of having to use numerous OS for graphics, the solution is quite simple.
    Use paper. Saves time, saves hassle and pencils are only a buck a piece if you are going for the most expensive in the market... and Pencils don't need to be upgraded.
    But seriously, I use a gig athlon machine with Debian installed, and I use the GIMP for most of my art stuff... and in all honesty, art takes patience... if you're modelling something and your machine is *that* slow, then go ahead, upgrade, but anything above 800 mhz is and 128 meg of ram can handle it... and the more ram the better. Maybe it isn't a processing problem afterall... ram helps too.
    Any athlon would be a expensive paperweight without ram to back it anyway. (And cooling fans.. lots of them)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10, 2001 @12:55PM (#2682533)
    It was nothing to do with affordable, cheap 3D workstations. It was about the latest and greatest x86 CPUs - and the latest and greatest, high-end software.

    There are better machines out there - SGI Indigo2s and Octanes with OpenGL (and more!) in the hardware, many decent Macs - all of which are more affordable 2nd hand than the wunderboxen on display here.

    And if you're looking for a career in 3D animation/design, are you going to use some x86 toy, or would experience with what the rest of the industry uses be a bit more helpful in your career?

    A vanishingly small amount of 3D work requires a fast CPU - it's about shoving large amounts of data around. It doesn't matter how many mhz your bus does - it's still a data bus, and it's inherently unsuited to this type of work.

    Look at the Octane's Crossbar. Look at the O2s UMA architecture.

    Apple continue to make the same mistake, and are going to cripple their G5 machines. Lovely fast processor, crap bus to the gfx, memory and disk.

    And I just loved the way this compares the Shake results to a 4 year old Octane. Nice. I notice we don't see any playback information at high resolution - what's the point of fast render speeds if you can't *view* what you've just created?

    Never mind that 4 year old Octane can be bought for a fraction of the price of the systems under discussion.

    This was a truly laughable article that, while demostrating an understanding of consumer x86 toys, showed a clear lack of clue about 3D graphics needs.

    That this article ever showed up on /. is a pretty sad statement about what has become of this once useful and interesting site.

    I'm surprised we haven't see the Linux kiddies moaning about how the tests were run on Windows 2k.
    • And if you're looking for a career in 3D animation/design, are you going to use some x86 toy, or would experience with what the rest of the industry uses be a bit more helpful in your career?

      The "industry" is moving towards Linux. There was an article about it a few weeks a go, btw.

      A vanishingly small amount of 3D work requires a fast CPU - it's about shoving large amounts of data around. It doesn't matter how many mhz your bus does - it's still a data bus, and it's inherently unsuited to this type of work.

      Bull shit. Ray tracing, for example, is purely CPU limited. On the other hand real-time animation is mostly limited by the graphics card.

      Never mind that 4 year old Octane can be bought for a fraction of the price of the systems under discussion.

      There is a reason for that. They are pathetically slow. Easily outperformed by a celeron with GeForce 2 MX. I know. I just took a graphics course at my university. Guess what? They will be replacing Octanes with Linux boxes soon.

      That this article ever showed up on /. is a pretty sad statement about what has become of this once useful and interesting site.

      That this post showed up on /. (and even got moderated up by clueless moderators) is a pretty sad statement about what has becom of this once useful and interesting site. I guess people are really gullible when they swallow any post that has words "crossbar" and "UMA" inserted out of context, but contains no information.

  • fast cpu doesnt help it to be a fast workstation, without a pro graphics card, it is still a faster toy for animator.... but it could help rendering..........btw
    • If the modeling interface was pure OpenGL, I would agree with you.
      Unfortunately most animators work with complex riggings that ease the job they have to do but adds to the work of the CPU. I would say in most cases, the 3D card is not what is slowing down an animator. It is the processor.
      Using Maya as an example, the node system that they use needs a hefty CPU to go in and determine just where all the CVs are. This can cut the frame rate down to under a frame a second if the geometry is to high. If you aren't scrubbing the animation though, the frame rate will go through the roof. Try taking a scene with some complex geometry in some nasty deformation latices. Scrub. Now take the view port and spin arround. You will notice a major difference between the two.
      MHZ will always be needed for highend graphics tools. There is always a trade off done by the animator between geometry seen and realtime animation.
  • by CaseyB ( 1105 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @01:04PM (#2682588)
    A 3D artist only really needs enough power to run the 3D modelling applications. Now, these are pretty hefty applications in general, but they don't need the multi-cpu high-GHz machines needed for production rendering.

    A single P3, 512M RAM, with a GF2MX is plenty for running MAX or Maya fast enough for people not already employed by a high-end studio. You can model and animate to your heart's content, generating low-res, low-quality proofs as necessary. You don't *need* photorealistic, hi-res, 30fps proofs to get good work done. It's a luxury for the folks at Pixar.

    Don't confuse the needs of an animator with those of final production rendering.

    • Don't confuse the needs of an animator with those of final production rendering.

      Hear, hear. For final production rendering, there's services like NetRendered [netrendered.com] that can take care of it for you. You don't want to run that on your own desktop, unless you don't want to use your desktop for anything else for a few days (depending on the length and quality of the animation).
    • First I will start by saying that you obviously don't know what the fuck you are talking about, and I can't believe that you got moderated up.

      I realize that your newly pirated copy of Maya and 3DS max run great on your quake playin' computer, but if you tried to do anything complex you would know that interactivity is key, especially in animation, especially in complex animation.

      I would love to see a computer generate hi-res, 30 fps proofs of so much as a lambertian shaded sphere.

      Where do you think rendering is done, on another computer? When working, interactivity is key, and stills need to be rendered. Faster computers means more interativity, which means more complex things will happen easier.

      You need to read, and gain some experience before you will be at all qualified. On this subject I can tell you that nothing will ever be enough. Trust me, you will not live to see the day when a computer is overkill for 3D animation.
  • I've based a renderfarm on this little baby (Lightwave and 3DSmax), the only bad thing I can say about it is that with the new MP-X chipset around the block, it's kinda expensive (motherboard) compared to the price that competing products will probably have. Also the fact that you need to use ECC DDR SDRAM doesn't help the price tag when you multiply that by many nodes and trying to save every penny possible (for a single workstation it doesn't matter much though).

    For the power it gives, it's still "relatively" cheap (especially if you're looking for a more powerful intel solution) and *STABLE* (stable being one of the most required feature for a renderfarm, with power of course). The TigerMP is a mature product, we don't know how the MP-X will perform or how stable the implementation will be (we can assume it's going to be good tho). But to do the job TODAY, I didn't see anything touching the XP1700/1800 + TigerMP combo for the price/performance/stability.

    Still, the real power is going to be with the Hammer... that's a beast I can't wait for.
  • If you don't mind Unix, you might consider picking up a used SGI Octane. They're very fast, have multiple (4?) crossbars (instead of a bus), and very nice ones can be had for under $1500. For smooth animation, $1500 is very reasonable (and personally, I find SGI's and IRIX to be great machines).

    There are a few ongoing Linux MIPS ports (though nothing solid and fully supported yet), but IRIX is very nice, and has been the defacto standard for studio graphics and animation until recently.

    Just my $0.02
  • by acomj ( 20611 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @02:45PM (#2683134) Homepage
    This seems like a silly question, but do any 3d programs use the videocard as a render processor. It seems the 3d video cards have a dedicated 3d rendering processor built in.

    If you can get 90 + fps in quake /// but setting up the vidoe card to do 1 frame every minute at a very high quality setting and then doing a frame grab.......

    Maybe the cards can't handle this because there designed for games....
    • Most packages will support real-time hardware-accelerated rendering in the editor view, but there's a reason why the final renders are not usually going to be HW accelereted. It's for quality: When you use the vidcard to render, you're dependant on it: you can only render with features it has, to a level of precision it supports. Do any video cards support ray-tracing? I don't know if it could even be done in conjunction with a video card (but i am not a 3d programmer). What about correct shadows? Those stencil-buffer shadows are approximations, designed to run FAST, not WELL. That's why nvidia's professional line (the quadro) is NOT the same as their consumer/gamer line, the geforce. No, you do not want to render via video card.
  • I have done similar tests comparing SGI Linux boxes, HP Linux boxes, Octanes, Octane2s and my home built Linux box.
    All tests were done under Maya 3.0 doing animation scrubbing on some average scenes.
    The conclusion I came to was that the Octane2 was far faster than the Octane. This was a no brainer. The Octane 2 was a much needed improvement to both graphics speed and MHZ for the SGI line. The suprise was that the Intel based linux boxes were faster than the Octane 2.
    This was accounted for by the raw MHZ needed by todays graphics workstations. The graphics card was being under utalized because the CPU couldn't push polys to the card fast enough. This was not because of bus speed but because of the way the software is setup.
    Most animators want special controls over what they are animating. They almost never move a CV at a time, unless tweaking something. All of the CV positions are determined by a series of nodes of input. Each node needs to be computed. This takes lots and lots of MHZ.
    Because the tests show that the "work" speed of a system is locked into MHZ, it is easy to tell where to put your money when buying a system. A home built system can compare to a highend graphics system when it comes to CPU power. There will be cases where a better graphics card will make some difference.
    Also, not all animation software uses the second processor. Some will use it for rendering but not for the front end. If you plan on animating on the machine and rendering else where, you can again save some money. I prefer the second CPU because I have the habit of leaving Xemacs and Mozilla open when I am using Maya. A second CPU is a must for a render farm.
  • by donglekey ( 124433 ) on Monday December 10, 2001 @11:42PM (#2685500) Homepage
    I figure I will put this out there because it needs to be said. For anyone getting into 3D, this is the process that you need to take.

    You need a computer, make it a x86 PC running windows 2000 Professional, this is the best way to go right now. Linux, Mac, SGI, are not options for you in terms of money and ease of use. A PC will be low cost and dynamic. If you already have a computer, there is nothing wrong with using that, unless you can't put more than 128 MB of RAM in it.

    Put as much RAM in it as you can 128 will work, 256 will be comfortable and let you get into more complex projects, 512 will probably be more than you will use, but it isn't a bad thing.

    Your processor speed matters, but if it can run windows 2000 you will be fine. Renders may turn out to be slow on a slow computer, but with enough RAM they will be slow and steady, and still allow you to get work done. If you can get a fast processor, good, if not, don't sweat it.

    Get a good gaming graphics card. Go for a Geforce 2 MX or Radeon or a Geforce 3 if you can afford it. They will all work very very well. It will increase interactivity and minimize frustration.

    Get access to broadband and use morpheus to pirate all the goddamned software you can find. Look for Lightwave 6.5b or 7.0, 3DS Max R4, Maya 4, Softimage 3D (rare), Softimage XSI 1.5 (rare), or Houdini (super mega rare). - (The magic five, 95% of studios will own at least on of these programs) Finding good 3D software for the Mac is very difficult, Lightwave and Maya are the two programs you should be concerned with, and Maya for MacOSX was just recently released and will be extremely difficult to find, if not impossible.

    Look for Photoshop 6.0, After effects 5.0, and Painter (rare) to compliment your 3D software.

    Get Sound Forge 5.0 and Cool Edit to mess around with any sound you might want.

    Take the time to click every button in every program you have and figure out what it does. After you know the features pretty well start a project, if you are enthusiastic about 3D you will certainly have something you want to achieve.

    Try to make it look good, but don't get frustrated if it doesn't. Completing something is much better than keeping your standards so high, you freak out and don't progress.

    Reading is good, experience is better, make sure you have both read about animation and do as much as possible.

    While you are doing all this, save up to actually buy the educational, or full version of the software, it is worth it. I am not just saying this so I don't look like an ungrateful pirate, I truly mean it, all of that software is worth every penny.

    Don't believe any nay-sayers or egotists, this is the way to go. I know about Blender and other free projects, just avoid them, pirate, and save up for the real version of what you like best. The free projects won't be ready for at least 2.5 years, probably more. Blue Moon Rendering Tools is a very good renderer and is free, but works off of the Renderman standard, and it will be very difficult to get anything to interface with it.

    And lastly, remember, take it further, take it further, take it further!

    If you want to get into 3D, save this comment and make it a check list. Flame me if you like, but I know that this is the best path to take to enter the world of 3D and computer animation, it will take you where you want to go.

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.