Video card advice please



I’m beginning an animation course in a few weeks, and I have thought about upgrading my computer a bit before then (have considered this for a long time). The current graphics card I have is an ATI Firegl 5100, and its not really pulling its weight I feel, in Maya and After Effects which are the two programs that are of most importance to me.

Now, I am on a budget, and even though I would love to get a Quadro card, this is out of the question for me. So, I have been thinking about either getting a GeForce 8800 GTS 640mb card, or an equivalent ATI Radeon card.

I know that consumer cards often have problems with OpenGL, viewport issues etc., so I need to know which card make is the least likely to have problems in Maya and After Effects. You hear a lot about GeForce problems around, so I’m wondering if there are anyone here that are running the before mentioned cards without any problems at all (or just very minor glitches)? Is it so that if I buy a gaming card I can simply forget about running DCC apps. without problems?

My specs:
ASUS A8N32-sli Deluxe
Athlon 64 X2 4400
ATI Firegl 5100




Really, the firegl 5100 is pretty good. You probably just need a faster cpu.

Some people use Rivatuner and soft mod the gaming cards to firegl or quadro.

If you are going with an Nvidia gaming card for Maya I recommend a 7000 series fx card. 7600 or 7800 or 7900 or 7950.

The 8000 series still has driver problems with Maya. Read the forums carefully before you buy an 8000 series card.

But again, I bet your 5100 is OK for a now. Get a better processor for your motherboard. Gotta move those pixels around somehow and the cpu is very involved in the process.

Can I ask what program you are taking? Is it animation mentor or a local school program?


you cant softmod any of the cards after the nvidia 6 series to quadros, ati’s still work from what I remember though. the geforce 8 series did have some problems but I think most of them have some sort of fix. its just the 8 series though Ive ran a geforce 7800gt for 2years or so now, at the beginning there were issues but I was able to just jump back to older drivers to fix it, after a couple months I went back up to the current drivers and havent had a problem since. even though they have some issues right now I wouldnt write off the geforce 8 series just yet


Thanks for you replies!

@brianod: I should get a better CPU? I thought the point of a video card was to take the load off of the CPU and better the viewport performance etc., no?

Anyway, the FireGl 5100 is fine for normal stuff, and I’ve never had any glitches or similar in the Maya viewport, which I had once with an old Geforce card. But, when the scene gets pretty heavy then playback performance starts to drop pretty dramatically in Maya. But it’s worse in After Effects. I don’t even have to have much of a heavy scene, but maybe just 3D enabled and a few layers, a camera, and the whole thing grinds nearly to a holt. Very annoying. I was suspecting that the fact that the 5100 only has 128MB RAM…

Regarding the school: It’s a school just outside Berlin, here in Germany, called “Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen Potsdam Babelsberg”. It’s a state college (good) and therefore “free”, meaning you don’t pay any schoolfees, just a semester fee of about 250 EUR. The course runs for 9 semesters.

@davijn:I’ve done some checking on what you wrote, and yes the ATI’s can still be moded, with the use of a mod driver. The driver is for the 2900 XT apparently.
But, the new Quadro 1700 or the Firegl 5600 and 7600 also looks like really good candidates, and I don’t think that the modded cards will perform equal with real pro cards, so maybe I’ll put things on hold for a bit and wait until I get money to buy one of them instead.



actually a modded card will perform just about as good as a regular quadro or firegl. you see most of the optimisation for 3d stuff is done via drivers and software. the actual cards are just about exactly the same. softmoding breaks the locks ati puts on the cards and lets you take advantage of those software modification.


Get a Radeon HD… 2600 or 2900 (XT even better! ^_^) ATI was not very good for Maya until the new cards came out (your FireGL is under the old generation now) They overrun the Quadros and Geforce big time! Besides, with just the installation of a “special” driver you get FireGL performance (no Rivatuner needed)…

More info:


If I mod HD 2900XT to run like FireGL, will the card still able to run for gaming purposes?


The 2900XT should be fine. I have the 2600XT and it is a great card considering how cheap it is. I bought it to tide me over until the “real” DX10 cards come out. In fact there is a recent re-review on the 2600XT here.


Almost true.

In your standard 3D app, the UI is very CPU driven. While yes, the video card takes care of viewport speed, the only affect it has is how quickly the computer can draw complex geometry, or process shaders in your UI. Mesh deformations, edits (modeling), dynamics (hard body and cloth), or any other similar type function (morphs) are CPU driven. This means that if your object is high poly, and you need to edit the mesh in any way, the CPU must process the new coordinates for the various points. Once the CPU is done, the GPU can render out the viewport. So, as you can imagine, if you’ve got a high poly object that you are deforming in some way, the CPU can really slow down the whole process.

A good example of this is Lightwave. It has excellent tumbling speed (just orbiting the camera around a mesh) but when you try and edit that mesh (add points/polys, bones, morphs, etc) it slows down a good deal.

Additionally, most of these deformations and edits tend to be single threaded (currently) and so having a multicore/CPU system does not speed this up in any way. For the most part mulitcore/CPU systems help you out during render and thats about it. Though, I expect that to be changing over the next few years.

Having said that, it should be apparent that if you tie a high end GPU to a low end CPU with low MHz, you will be stuck waiting on the CPU to process all its data before the GPU can draw any new frames. The best combo (in terms of price) is to have a good high end CPU lots of RAM, and a good midrange GPU.


Thanks for your replies guys!
@ AnimAitor:I’m wondering about this driver. You say it is for the 2900 xt. Can it be used for the 2900 xtx too? The difference is that the xt has 512 MB RAM whilst the xtx has 1GB RAM and is clocked a bit faster. Am asking, because I see that the mod is supposed to turn the card into a firegl v8600 which has 1GB RAM, so I’m wondering about what kind of effect that will have on a 512 KB card…

@lots: Thank you for your explanation. One thing I’m wondering about though, is the performance in After Effects. Does the same thing apply (the CPU/GPU relationship), and to the same measure, when using OpenGl in AE? What I mean is that one can turn OpenGl on/off in AE in order to view special shader effects in real time, or not. Firstly, I am with my FireGl V5100 unable to take use of all the OpenGl options in AE 7. But, more importantly, the performance with it on is dreadful. So, when OpenGl is off, are all the effects etc. still calculated by the CPU? And when it is then switched on, will it then be the GPU that determine the playback speed in real time (ie, bad GPU gets you a very choppy result when doing a camera flyby for example), or is the CPU still the bottleneck? I know that this is terribly frased, but I can’t quite get my head around this one still… Also, I thought that the Athlon 64 X2 4400 CPU still counts a decent CPU (even if it’s not exactly in the absolute top level, and not really new either).




I can’t tell you for sure about AE, but my guess would be that any special effects you apply to your project have shaders (small programs for the graphics card) that you can use to view the effect in real time with OpenGL enabled. I imagine that this is entirely on the GPU. I can’t say for sure though, so take that for what its worth :stuck_out_tongue:


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