The Myth Of Faster Computers

November 4, 2010 - By 

There were quite a lot of comments yesterday about the cost of new machines and if it’s worth it. Here is another way to look at it. A faster machine isn’t just about speeding up your renders. It also allows you to make more beautiful work. How? Well, it’s not what you think. Being able to turn on more effects or turn up your anti aliasing isn’t what matters. Instead, it’s all about iteration. A faster render time allows you to see your changes in closer to real time. This allows for more experimentation and leads to more creative and beautiful solutions to problems. Of course, beautiful work was done on computers tens of years old, but it took years of trying different solutions and months on a render farm instead of just an afternoon of render tests with our current multi-core wonder machines.

Oh, and for everyone that asks, “What computer should I get for motion graphics?” I have an answer that will always be true even years from now.

Get the fastest machine with as much ram and the best video card you can afford.

Motion graphics, video and compositing is VERY computer intensive. Be sure to get the right tool for the job.

Posted In:  Ideas Video Visual Learning
  • I think you should give out Mac Pros to all your fans. Would be good for business. 🙂

    • I agree. With included shipping to México, please. No, really, you have a really good point: there are people that with ms paint makes really awesome things. We should focus more on learning than thinking “its not possible because I don’t have a PC/Mac with trillion cores and billions of ram”.

      Anything is possible with any ‘modern’ machine. Its not like we all still use machines from 1999.

  • Thanks BOSS!
    From Argentina..learning from you everyday. THANKS.

  • Nick’s absolutely right. Your computer is your tool or even more appropriate, your weapon. You should never go into battle unprepared! In regards to the PC/Mac, I think you should also buy what works best for you and your workflow. Both systems have advantages and disadvantages, not only internally but even when working with clients. Neither are perfect but all that matters is that you as an (editor, motion designer, 3D animators, etc) can do some kick ass work and hit deadlines.

    It’s crazy to think that I used to do all of my work on an Core 2 Duo laptop that had maybe 1GB of ram. Now I’m up to a i7 940 with 12GB of ram. The ability to “dick around” while you work to get that look just right and know you’ll have time to render and deliver on time is great. And beneficial as an artist.

  • There are 2 little big things in the air:

    1) Cloud render engines (IN your 3D software)
    2) Net render where more network computers/cpus work on the same image

    Can’t wait for these things!

  • I’ve got 12 gigs of RAM, and I still don’t think it’s nearly enough…

    • RAM Only helps so much, I went from 16gb to 32 gb and didn’t notice a big boost at all. I am able to multitask more but it wasn’t until I upgraded my video card from 1gb to 2gb that I really started to notice my renders speeding up.

  • If fast renders are what you want, check out Octane Render. I made this stupid but beautiful test video at 1080p on a cheap computer at 60 secs per frame.

    • Octane is great but to export a scene in Obj… I mean… what’s your experience in exporting a complicated Cinema project into it?

    • It definitely adds the complexity of having to tweak textures or re-texture completely when rendering. The hardest part for me is that I can’t easily use procedural textures anymore. But once you get the hang of it, it’s not so bad, and just compare the performance and results with C4D’s GI…

  • So true…My 8 core machine at work as opposed to my old comp at home, Allows me to experiment more…And you can’t over state the level of stress relief when working on a better machine…Your attitude remains better when you crash the machine less and You feel that freedom to really go for some heavy/intricate pieces….good post

  • And if you work in an agency or office with more computers, make sure you get NetRender installed in all of them!

    Once they are out of the office, that’s when magic begins!

  • I think people should stop caring about how fast their computer is, and just concentrate on doing the best work they can. I’ve worked on a wide spectrum of machines, started learning 3d on a 1 core laptop, and now work on a 3-4 year old 8 core, they aren’t the best machines, but at the end of the day it’s just a tool. And it’s nice to have shiny new tools, but a master craftsman can still make beautiful work with his 100 year old tools… No excuses people.

    And lets be honest, if you want to do better work and save time doing it, everybody knows that planning is your best friend. (I understand in experimental work this isn’t always possible, but in most projects you will save ALOT of time, planning things from the start)

  • At home I have C4d, laptop has 4gb ram and is basically useless now for c4d,

    At work I have quad core mac, 12gb ram, 2 x 512 pci-e cards, 4TB HDD space, but company doesn’t see the need for C4d.

    I just want more power at home so that I can learn C4d. I can barely even watch your tuts at home while using c4d.

    • There’s not a tutorial on this website that my 3gb ram laptop can’t handle.
      Sure the final render might take more than 1 hour but it’s still “ok”.
      People who are talking about 12gb ram minimum and hexacores are aleady people who needs it!
      When you’re learning you’re not going to need that much elements on your scene.
      Of course there is differents levels of learning…

    • I think people starting in this area (motion, compositing) are very sensitive about their computer power. You have to remember that incredible images are already made with computers a few times slower than your notebook. IMHO, I dont agree with gorilla. I prefer choose a better cost/performance than put a a lot of thousands on your machine every year. Yes, a faster computer helps get a more creative work, but improving your workflow, planning and pre-planning, best discussion with your client saves a lot, a lot of time too.

  • I have a slow machine, but I can say one good thing about it, you have more time to think what you will do in post in after effects after 3D render will be finished:)

    • True. I actually trying to make low as i can job on 3d program, cuz it’s really taking time becuz i’m not working for company and stuff.

  • thanks! that was clear enough
    i think ill going with the desktop first

    should be the best way to get most better results and produtivity of my bugdet can handle! at least for now.

  • I completely agree. Ive been doing motiongraphics/animation work for years and recently ive gained access to a very nice render farm. Now i can shoot tests off to a the render farm, continue to work, and have results in 5-10 minutes. Ive noticed the quality of my work has increased now that it is no big deal to tweak something here, or relight something there.

  • Hi…

    Cinema 4D Real Time Render.?
    My Graphic Card. (GForce 460GT)

    • whats your point?

      Gaming graphic cards are garbage for the usage of 3D Software like Cinema 4D.

      get a quadro/fire pro

    • @Tedris

      In Cinema 4D you have absolutely no advantage with quadro cards. I just tested it last week. Don’t talk about “garbage” if you can’t compare them.

  • How would anybody disagree with “Get the fastet hardware out there / you can afford?”

    Actually the prices today are a joke! Compare todays Cinema 4D and 12Core MacPro (Or any fst machine) ti what an SGI workstation did cost in the 90s! They where downright unafordable! Today you pay about 15.000$ for a top end machine with software – and you´re set to make almost everything!

  • Nick, why not bid your old Mac?
    I’m sure your fans will buy paying an awesome amount of money thinking they can work like you on it 😛

  • Great thing Nick! Very good thoughts.

    I just want to add, that not everyone needs a fast computer. There are a lot of people who doesn`t know what to do with that speed.

    My former colleague has 5 times more faster PC tnan i and she said to me: “I dont know if it is good or not… ” couse she never has a projects which can make that pc work for 100%.

    A lot of people try to buy a cool computer and when they did it, they perfoms the simpliest tutorials or projects which load their machine only for 10-20%.

    You must think as fast as MacPro 2010 and have very complex tasks or high demands to quality and only at that time you`d take your piggy bank from the shelf and break it.

  • I love the intensity of this post, you really get close to the camera and look really intense 🙂

    But great stuff, i’m actually looking on buying a new mac in the near future and this was actually great advice, so thx 😉

  • I use a slow machine at my 9-5, man its painful. My designs are much simpler, and I don’t play much with ideas.

    (processing not the other kind)

    : ) G

    • just wait a few more years and you will have more than enough:


      “In electronics, we’re always trying to increase the frequency,” Palacios says, in order to make “faster and faster computers” and cellphones that can send data at higher rates, for example. “It’s very difficult to generate high frequencies above 4 or 5 gigahertz,” he says, but the new graphene technology could lead to practical systems in the 500 to 1,000 gigahertz range.”


      “In February 2010, researchers at IBM reported that they have been able to create graphene transistors with an on and off rate of 100 gigahertz, far exceeding the rates of previous attempts, and exceeding the speed of silicon. The 240 nm graphene transistors made at IBM were made using extant silicon-manufacturing equipment, meaning that for the first time graphene transistors are a conceivable—though still fanciful—replacement for silicon”

      GI in realtime is coming sooner than you may thouhgt

  • Oi! Nick,

    Large but slow harddrives are a hughe bottleneck to the computer overal preformance.
    Add one or two solid state drives for your OS ,current projects and keep a few massive disks around. The difference for me lately has been enormous. Solid state <3

  • I have something to add…

    For now I could only buy a very slow computer in comparison to the newest and more powerful… and yeah, it’s very cool to have quick renders… but also is very important to try to not only do beautiful things, but to do it simple. In my college the idea that teachers gave to us is to achieve more with less. A great idea and a great design not always require 64 processor cores and 512gb of ram. The power must be in your hability to do great looking stuff without having much to do it.

    thanx for the oportunity to share my thoughts from Chile.

  • Theres also a psycological aspect of this.

    Comparing computers with guitars, you will feel like a rockstar if you’ve paid more for your computer, and that CAN have an impact on your work.

    It can also have an psycological impact on your client if he/she know that youre working on the best of the best.

    Now this is all fine, I would like to say that as a student Im working on a slow computer now, but planning ahead of time has covered it for me, and I dont feel that my slow computer have wasted my time being creative

    I hope I can afford a powerhouse and become a rockstar when Im done with my education 😀

  • November 4, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    cheers to that!

  • I would like make a related point. When working on an image / animation, it’s always good to figure out what settings you need to keep high and what you can turn down.

    If you’re working on reflections, say, you can probably turn the samples down but keep the reflection count high and get much quicker render times than ‘final’.

    Only turn up the settings you need you need to for tweaking. As The Gorilla said, the more iterations you can make, the more beautiful you can make it.

  • True!
    I think Graphics Card is more important it’s not practical right now but in future it will be. there is war going on between CPU vs GPU and GPU is the clear winner! you won’t believe that a cheap graphics card could have 100’s cores. we need the right program to utilize it like Opencl and the software we use that can take advantage of opencl.

  • Completely disagree. limitations imposed on you as an artist are just as important as having infinite computing power at your fingertips. A paper and pencil, imgination and daring to be different are what allows you to make more beautiful work.

  • Hey Nick how about a tutorial on rendering interiors which includes the new IES lights?
    Like to see a really nice modern interior.
    Love your work mate


  • Sometimes I think if I’d invest the time I spend in the store just learning Rflow or with personal projects I’d have an awesome reel.
    You know, the computer is just a tool. Does carpenters spend so much time talking about their hammers?

  • Time is money, thanks Nick!

  • It’s about looking more and more Nick’s face in these tutorials and less and less Cinema 4D interface 🙂

    Nick you’re becoming a product 😛 Nice to see you telling us instead of just reading your blog posts.

  • Hi,

    This is a good reference —

    I do not work for them but a lot of the older professional video guys I work with have sent me here.


  • Interesting stuff as always thatnks Mr Gorilla.

    I was just thinking how funny it will be to read these posts in 10 years time when you are using C4D version 40.5 will a 100 core machine and we will all be whining about our laptops only have 12 cores…

  • Faster is better no doubt. I run a PC with dual quad core processors and a fast GPU from Nvidia. I bought the machine a couple of years ago with the idea that it would last about five years before becoming a liability. I would recomend that you try to buy a computer that you think is more than you need and then grow into it.

  • True creativity do come from the time you spend off computer. Like the ideas you might get doing other things. That walk you take in the middle of the night or that daybreak you gave, the daydream, the eureka. Let your mind be the tool and not in the way because your computer isn’t fast enough. I am using the Commodore 64 still and well sometimes you must do one thing at a time and in the end combine all to get the final product. Pland the seed, give it some love and care, see it grow – then you can start to enjoy what it brings

  • I’m rendering while watching this video and my dual quad is slow as shit.Wwe have a a sweet render farm at my work, I click render and I get the job before i can find it in finder. wonder how long until I can do that with a Macbook Pro.

  • Guys when I read your comments I feel so jealous…

    I’m still working on my PC, which has few years and I almost lost my motivation – ofcourse not 100% but sometimes I’m just tired of waiting but lack of money stops me here. Trying to collect some but I need time 🙂

    I get used to wait a lot for renders, previews etc, what would you guys do on my place:
    1gb ram DDR/400(2×512 Kingston HyperX), A64 3200+ and ATI Radeon GTO2 256, which has > 70 C.

    I would love to have a new PC for experiments but it doesnt stops me from what I do.
    Planing my work, thinking twice before doing smth teached me a lot.
    I have a lot of friends who have a turbo machine and they can’t do anything creative or good looking. Better PC – thats not the point, knowledge and patience is the key! And ofcourse who you can combine both of them.

    Sorry for my English.

    • Hi Adam,

      decent machines are not that expensive.

      get 8gb of Ram
      Quad Core of your choice
      nvidia quadro fx / Ati fire pro – Grapics Card
      a decent motherboard and enough diskspace.

      this shouldnt cost more than 700$/€

      the main key to work in the preview fast is a good graphic card. No, not the gaming cards, the REAL cards are quadro fx and fire pro. they suck at gaming but are extremely powerful at 3D stuff (and 2D ala Photoshop/AE aswell btw.)

    • Thanks for your reply Tedris. I’m collecting money for a new computer and I’m getting more knowledge about what should I buy to improve workflow etc.

      What do you think about Overclocking? I played around with it while ago and I’m thinking about making it again after buying components, shall I?

    • the goal is not to overclock.
      overclocking just fucks up your hardware in the most cases.

    • If you know what you are doing there is a very safe way to go about over clocking and boost speed 10-20% Some manufactures purposely make chips to be overclocked. Look into it, its fairly simple, not just for mad scientists.

    • ryan roehl I know how to do that, not a big deal 🙂 thanks anyway.

      And I know that in most cases HARD overclocking fucks up your hardware. I’m very careful with this 🙂

  • The initial post showing the speed of a 12 core computer inspired me to buy the equivalent PC machine, with components out of my current computer I was able to get the parts ordered to build the 12 core xeon 24 thread system for just under $4000.

    I recently rendered a animation for a client that took 50 hours to render, I have used farms before with great success, but there is something nice about keeping it on one machine.

    All I know is by having 24 threads at my immediate disposal will be invaluable to my work flow while in Cinema, and not to mention many other applications I use.

    Ultimately, this is the smartest upgrade to my tool-set I can make, the time saved over time will be invaluable. My electricity bill might go up a bit though…

    – Shawn

  • totally agree nick, i work in a college and trying to explain to the students that faster machines, let you try more things, not make your work better.

    takes a while to sink in but works out in the end.

    i like this more varied approach to the site, but i thought “make cool shit” would deal with this phyc stuff?

    are you just gonna bring it all together?

  • I had this guy Had a bench score of 4.81
    Then I got one of these suckers and got a score of 8.64
    and then I slapped one of these suckers on it and over clocked to 4 Ghz and got a score of 10.24

    More then doubled render speed for $1000.

    the overclock is healthy staying in the 60 Celsius range after 30 hours of a Prime 95 stress test.

    • what other parts you got in your pc. i have the same cpu and running it @4ghz too but in cinebench i got a 11.33

    • Ah bummer! haha. Well, I got 12 gigs ram, but not sure how much that effects the render speed. Its actually at 3.89 ghz or something, are you a little over 4?

  • Would be nice to open the subject of net render… Is this better to have 4 machines on a network to render (like 4 mac mini or pc shuttle) or buy a 12 core mac pro/pc ?

  • How do I compare video cards?

    Am I looking for the biggest numbers or is their a combination of features to look for?

  • Nick please say what better mac pro with raid or with 1 ssd solid state drive for boot…?sory for my english

  • “take what you have … and make something beautiful!” i like that!

  • Great point! I know render times for me haven’t gotten shorter as computers get faster.

  • Hey there. Thank you! Love the site and almost all of your advice!

    About Video Cards, I have a EVGA GEFORCE GTX285 and I really love it. What card(s) do you use and what card(s) do you recommend? There aren’t that many premium cards for us Mac users, is there REALLY a difference between the $200, $500 and $1000+ cards?

  • Quadro’s and FirePro’s are absolutely useless in C4D. They are a complete waste of money.

    C4D will favor the “gaming” cards, and you’ll end up saving a huge amount of money.

  • It makes me think of “Film Camera” vs “Digital Camera”

    Digital camera makes you see the end result faster and you can keep on trying till you are happy with the result. While a film camera you still can keep experiment with it but you just have wait to see the result.

  • Now I’m about to buy a new MacPro, I’m hearing the RAID disks are the quid of the question. “The better and faster access to disks -in our massive data environment-really makes the diference”. Even more important than RAM?

  • Guys, what think about Alienware loptops, do they actually make your renders faster?

  • Well, I think a best machine is good to work faster and sometimes it’s necessary to make simulations with a high number of partcles like realflow.

    I want a new machine and I love the apple computers, but I don’t like next version of macos x, and I think apple is wrong about the graphics cards cause CUDA is working with the future of the motor rendering, the GPU rendering.

    The problem with pc’s has name, microsoft windows.

    My real question is: “mac or pc?”, but it’s the eternal question

  • I kind of disagree with the
    “Get the fastest machine with as much ram and the best video card you can afford.”

    I don’t really see the need of excessive amount of ram
    it will not help render times
    it will help if you have C4d, photo shop e-mail ect. open all at once.

    Vid card and CPU makes a huge difference

    but the price to performance I TOTALLY agree with…
    no point in spending a lot of money for a small performance increase ..
    especially in video cards.

    as for mac to PC ..
    only reason to spend the extra cash for a mac is if you really do not like Windows.
    if you don’t care spend the extra $$ on better parts for a PC
    Like an SSD drive

  • I have been held down by the thought of render times. My computer is very slow to render. so i need to learn to make work that does not need a lot of render time. that is a drawback. but i have no choice as it is very hard to experiment while thinking that a fifteen second project will take five days to render.
    I have no choice but to continue working.

  • I do not have internet at home. why don’t you have your tutorials down-loadable like those on Vodeocopilot? It’s very hard to remember what you said on a tutorial when I get home from the internet cafe. Sorry for deviating from the topic.

  • great advise, just want to thank you for be a guide on a very blurry path

  • i use a 2 gig mac system. i live in nigeria and it great here by the way but we lack a lot of information I’m hoping to serve s a medium of my country to learn from you boss. it has inspired me a lot to learn from this blog in ways that may offend people but i live in a country were education is hard and i don’t understand the concept of the system here and it has been my problem for a long time…i just saw The Adventures of Tintin, lovely movie by the way and i seek knowledge beyond comprehension please help…

    May Allah continue to reward your great success… ameen

  • Is it better to spend all your money on one giant workstation? Or maybe get like an 8core desktop machine and spend the rest on a mini render farm?

  • I agree with this. I began learning C4D on a fairly slow machine, but if it did teach me one thing, it was how to optimize renders to look good and render relatively quickly. I think that in most respects, that’s a good skill to have.

  • I’m thinking of building a workstation under 700$ budget in india.
    Can someone please help with the specifications for the build. I’d be really grateful and produce good work 😀

  • I keep imagining. How fantastic it is to live in America, where prices are actually true according to the product. If you live in a country like Brazil, for example, the machines arrive in 3, 4 times the actual value. It’s not easy.

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