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iwto2000
12-26-2006, 03:52 PM
Okay...I need some help on building a new computer. Here is the story:

A friend and I have undertaken the task of producing a Maya animation over the next 2.5 years. I will certainly need a new computer as my current computer is far too slow to allow me to work well. Now...Originally, I was considering a dual socket system with 1 dual core CPU installed initially. This would allow me to upgrade my computer as I needed if I found that the current setup would not suffice...This would allow me up to 8 Intel Xeon cores. My thought was that I would have a powerful enough computer to render (since one has to re-render still images to see if the changes made are good or bad) with and also a nice machine to help out in the task of rendering the final product (we will also use other machines). However, someone told me that such a computer would be overkill and that what I should do was buy a nice computer for doing the modeling and setting up the animation now, and then buy new computers 2 years down the road when we are ready to do the rendering. The reasoning behind this is that 2 years from now, we will be able to get more power for our money.

The problem is that I am not sure how much power I will actually need to to actually set things up in maya (you know what I mean...when doing texturing and such, it is important to see how each change of settings will affect the final render). So...my question is, what would you guys suggest I do? What hardware should I shoot at. (By the way...I am looking at a budget of about 1500...I know it isn't much, but that would start me out with a dual core xeon system)

techmage
12-26-2006, 08:27 PM
An Athlon 64, 6800GT and 2 gb a RAM will allow you to deal with almost anything within maya. Such as animating, dynamics, setting stuff up, whatever.

Rendering... rendering is another subject entirely. There is not a set rule in the world of rendering, it completely depends on your knowledge and skill with the renderer. With only one Athlon 64 over a period of 2.5 years, in terms of rendering quality, you could attain anything from your typical 'My first 3D Animation' on youtube, to Final Fantasy Advent Children quality. Yes, if you really really know what your doing you could attain Advent Children quality with simply one processor over 2.5 years, neeing more processors is simply dependant on your patience. But again, your going to have to really know what your doing, if your just starting in rendering it's going to take you atleast a year of studying it to attain the knowledge and experience to actually accomplish such a thing.

Personally if I were to go solo and tackle the production of a film over the next 2.5 years, I would get as much hardware power as I can in the begining. Because rendering would be integrated into my workflow as I animated it. I would set up a scene, model, animate, texture it, then render it and composite it. Then save the composited clips and at the end of the 2.5 years use all those composited clips to piece together the final. I would feel extremely uncomfortable storing 'finished' animations in anything but a .avi file or numbered stills. I think if you store a bunch of maya files for 2 years, then render everything out in the last .5 years, your setting yourself up for failure. Do not underestimate the ability of the renderer to screw up absolutely everything in your project and I mean absolutely everything. You need to put alot of energy into making sure you know what your doing with the renderer so it does not ruin everything. I would keep a very close eye on the renderer and how it will deal with all your content for the entire production as you make it. I've personally adapted the philosophy 'the renderer hates you and is your enemy', you need to treat it like a toddler with a mission to destroy everything you create in 3D, maintain constant watch and ownership over it.

However, if your not shooting for anything near Advent Children quality and your just gonna use maya software, basic shaders, simple effects and simple compositing techniques, then you don't need to invest as much time in the renderer.

iwto2000
12-26-2006, 08:57 PM
Thanks for the input...Now, you mentioned that if I just want to "use maya software renderer..." that I won't need as much power...This brings up another question: what is the difference between maya software and mental ray in terms of final rendering quality? Are there things that mental ray does that maya software doesn't? Speed? What exactly are the differences. Now, the reason I ask this is because of licensing issues. This project is a creative project that a friend and I have chosen...It is not due until near our graduation (it is an college thesis project). We are not rich and are already putting quite a bit into this. The only hope we have of using mental ray is if we can get our school to purchase some licenses. I just spoke to a sales rep and he told me that it would cost a minumum of $1200. I don't know whether the school is willing to put that much in, and, if they are not, we would be stuck using maya software (we will be using a small cluster of machines and maya software will allow their use without additional licenses).

So, if it comes to this, will our production be severly limited by the use of maya software versus mental ray?

techmage
12-27-2006, 06:21 AM
The difference between maya software and mental ray? Big. Maya software cannot do ambient occlusion, final gathering, sub surface scattering. Things that are absolutely essential to attain a look on par with anything you have seen in the theater in recent years. Although don't let that limit possibilities, it is extremely possible to get excellent results without such capabilties if you use what you have creatively. Toy Story didn't use any such fancy rendering effects, but toy story was also rendering toys in a somewhat less than amazing enviroment. It really does come down to what your trying to do. Is the film gonna be a fantasy film thats gonna have beautifully designed, vast forests and grotesque detailed creatures. Or is it gonna be just a simple enviroment and focus primarily on the character animation and dialogue? The latter could be achieved using only maya software with fantastic results. But for beauty shots that rely on visual quality, I wouldn't want to leave mental ray out of the equation.

Then of course, do you even want to attain realism at all? Mental ray is primarily used for attaining realism in renders. If thats not what your going for then mental ray would be completely unnecessary.

Also, all copies of maya have mental ray in them and Maya Unlimited gives you 8 free render nodes. You don't really need Mental Ray standalone licenses.

iwto2000
12-27-2006, 01:46 PM
Hmm...Does the student version of unlimited come with 8 mental ray render nodes? I called some sales rep and he said that no, it came with one...

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