Workstation vs Laptop use in the Film Industry

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  08 August 2013
Workstation vs Laptop use in the Film Industry

I'm asking this question on behalf of someone else. I don't have any experience in this particular field, so i'd like to know of your experiences working in the film industry. Are there any companies that don't use desktop workstations, instead favouring laptops? Do all companies keep some workstations to perform the "heavy lifting" or are laptops increasingly adequate for a wider ranger of tasks? The person i'm asking this for is of the belief that laptops are pretty much all you need, but this is probably due to the advice his film course gave him. Personally, I have my doubts that a laptop could fulfil every conceivable need, but that's why i'm asking. Thanks for your help.
 
  08 August 2013
Would you run your laptop 24/7? 18" max monitor? Cramped heated keyboard?
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  08 August 2013
Production staff generally use laptops but artists use workstations.
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  08 August 2013
don't know about you, but I find it hard to fit seven drives in to a laptop.
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  08 August 2013
I had a job once where everything was done on laptops due to logistical reasons(shoot/edit in prison), including rendering. 2 out of 5 were still functional after the job, the rest was just expensive junk afterwards due to overheating. So yes, workstation ftw!
 
  08 August 2013
It all depends what you are doing. If you're talking about 2D apps like photoshop and after effects then a good laptop is okay but for 3D apps like Maya and Zbrush I believe it would run, and you can do modeling and rendering. However with more complicated scenes it would be a burden on the hardware and it might be a matter of time before it dies.

There are many advantages that workstations have over laptops. Workstations have more powerful components compared to a laptop. Laptops have limitations and workstations are more customisable. Also high performance components will cost less compared to trying to put the same components into a laptop, if even possible.

I agree with dwigfor, you will have to leave the monitor turned on while the computer is on. This could mean the screen can blow with it being on for so long, then you will have a very hard time replacing it, if it is even worth it. There's also the issue of working on one screen, of course you can plug in another screen to the laptop but it's kind of contradicting the point of having a laptop for it's portability.

Another component that blows easily is the power adaptor. Probably overheat or you drop it too many times, I don't think they will have as much protection compared to a computer's PSU. Also they aren't the lightest of things if you want a decent adaptor. I can just imagine how often a laptop will overheat considering how small the fans, heatsink and the case are too.

I would rather spend a my money on a workstation rather than a laptop with power you get and reliability.
 
  08 August 2013
Originally Posted by dwigfor: Would you run your laptop 24/7? 18" max monitor? Cramped heated keyboard?


I wouldn't personally, no. I like my big screen and my mechanical full-sized keyboard. Always hated laptops and their papery buttons.

Originally Posted by leigh: Production staff generally use laptops but artists use workstations.


Thanks Leigh.

Originally Posted by DanHibiki: don't know about you, but I find it hard to fit seven drives in to a laptop.


Ha, very true. I guess someday they'll want us all to use Thunderbolt for additional storage :|

Originally Posted by scrimski: I had a job once where everything was done on laptops due to logistical reasons(shoot/edit in prison), including rendering. 2 out of 5 were still functional after the job, the rest was just expensive junk afterwards due to overheating. So yes, workstation ftw!


That doesn't surprise me. In my limited experiences of macbooks that are a couple of years old, they can get hellishly hot. You could cook an egg on the power supply I bet. Maybe the new ones are much cooler, I don't know.

Originally Posted by Darkherow: It all depends what you are doing. If you're talking about 2D apps like photoshop and after effects then a good laptop is okay but for 3D apps like Maya and Zbrush I believe it would run, and you can do modeling and rendering. However with more complicated scenes it would be a burden on the hardware and it might be a matter of time before it dies.

There are many advantages that workstations have over laptops. Workstations have more powerful components compared to a laptop. Laptops have limitations and workstations are more customisable. Also high performance components will cost less compared to trying to put the same components into a laptop, if even possible.

I agree with dwigfor, you will have to leave the monitor turned on while the computer is on. This could mean the screen can blow with it being on for so long, then you will have a very hard time replacing it, if it is even worth it. There's also the issue of working on one screen, of course you can plug in another screen to the laptop but it's kind of contradicting the point of having a laptop for it's portability.

Another component that blows easily is the power adaptor. Probably overheat or you drop it too many times, I don't think they will have as much protection compared to a computer's PSU. Also they aren't the lightest of things if you want a decent adaptor. I can just imagine how often a laptop will overheat considering how small the fans, heatsink and the case are too.

I would rather spend a my money on a workstation rather than a laptop with power you get and reliability.


All good points. The work I believe is mostly editing of footage and effects/transitions. To me a laptop is an example of compromise in order to enable the goals of small footprint and portability. I'm a workstation guy myself but my friend is quite adamant about his choice. It's nice to get the views of industry professionals though - I knew I wasn't crazy
 
  08 August 2013
I do animation, rigging, coding and also freelance, so laptop is most ideal for me.

For rendering, or anything that requires more disk space I think a workstation would be cheaper yet it wouldn't help you if you freelanced and had to go abroad with your machine.

Like said above, it depends on what you need.

edit: reading the title of this thread once more, I thought I'd point out that I'm referring to laptops for personal use. In an office I can't see much of a benefit for them.
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Last edited by marcuso : 08 August 2013 at 12:42 PM.
 
  08 August 2013
In all honesty I can't think of a single person in your average VFX company whose work couldn't be done comfortably on a top end laptop docked up (assuming we count as laptops the monster gaming set ups or the pro lines like the latest Precision).

At the same time, I can't think of ONE single advantage to laptops except logistics. They run hotter, have shorter life, are more issues prone, are restricted in HW choices, and at the top end they get phenomenally more expensive than an equivalent workstation, and have a much lower performance ceiling.

The logistic value in a desk and chair shop, which is 99% of them, is practically near 0, even when you turn stuff around like it's a game of musical chairs. The limitations of a laptop, while never truly show stopping, range between irrelevant and absolutely crippling, and the cost would be astronomical.

"The Film Industry" is a big place btw, and there are some stretches where laptops are necessary.
CGI for film VFX though, they make little sense. Well, with due exceptions, as production staff everywhere these days has turned dailies into a piano concert played by spastic parkinsonian typists, it's good they are typing the notes down so fast and in such high redundancy, because some sessions you don't stand a chance to hear them from the director/supe over the sound of keys being angrily beaten into submission.
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Last edited by ThE_JacO : 08 August 2013 at 11:48 AM.
 
  08 August 2013
Originally Posted by ThE_JacO: at the top end they get phenomenally more expensive than an equivalent workstation

This a thousand times.
 
  08 August 2013
Unlike other industries which successfully have the ability to move to a more mobile setup (Photo editing, Music, Video editing, development, etc.) CG is way to resource intensive to make that jump imo.
 
  08 August 2013
In small studios where BYOD is accepted yes, but that usually is for modeling, texturing etc. Neverthless a couple quad core laptops can still help a render that needs to be finished for tomorrow.
 
  08 August 2013
If I had to average-it might have been nice to have had a portable computer
once a year as the studio re-arranged the artist team locations. Other than that nothing *moves*.

Make it big -with two monitors- and make it FASTER (there can always be faster). Doing sims-its never fast enough. Better yet give me TWO workstations!

I spit in the general direction of your booky little laptops.
 
  08 August 2013
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