Search form

The perfect computer for animation

17 posts / 0 new
Last post
The perfect computer for animation

Hey ladies n' gents,
I'm in the market for a new computer. I may buy a system or just build my own. Does anyone know of any good articles or reviews on computers specifically for animation and multimedia?


the key question here is do you want to do 2d animation or cg?

The following links to this three part article may be of help to you, if you decide to build your own graphics workstation. The fellow who wrote them is a special effects animator, and apparently he has kept the articles updated over the years.
buy vaporizer

I do mostly 2D animation, but I want the capability to work with Premiere, After Effects and a ideally Maya.

Thanks Brad!

1. The fastest processor you can get your hands on (multiple processors, if you want to go hog wild).
2. As much memory as you can cram into the thing
3. An excellent graphics card designed for 3D.
4. Massive amounts of drive space.

Beyond that, it's up to you. Look up the system specs for Maya and go from there. Any machine that will run Maya will have more than enough horsepower for AE and Premiere. And did I mention massive amounts of drive space?

The "perfect" computer would probably just be the most expensive workstation available, or whatever you can afford.

A workstation-class video card - like the Quadro or the FireGL - is nice, but if you're building a system from scratch, be aware that some of these cards get so hot that they require special wiring and their own fan.

Multiprocessor machines are great for rendering. Two processors will render twice as fast, etc.

I don't think getting the fastest processor is that important, unless you have money to burn. A 3.6 ghz processor is only nominally faster than a 3.2, but it can cost around $800 more.

A three-button optical mouse is a must to run Maya; optical so you don't have to worry about it getting clogged with dirt and crap.

Definately get an internal DVD+RW drive. You can get a stack of 100 for about $40 and they hold about 6.5 times as much as a CD, plus they're coming out with dual-layer (not the same as double-sided) DVDs soon which will have twice the capacity of current DVDs. Contemporary DVD+RW drives should be able to read and write dual-layer disks, once they become available. (These drives will also read/write CDs.)

at least 1 gig of memory

If you need to capture video for AE or Premiere, you might consider RAID drives. I don't know how necessary they are for video production.

once you touch video

you got to buy the best you can afford.

video playback needs memory (2x512ram) and 2 or 3 7200rpm hard disks.
video transition, rendering (either 3d or video) needs cpu power.
3d needs special video cards (like quadro) for responsive display. current ones are tailormade for games.

and don't forget the motherboard
new nforce2 chips talk to two memory chips simultaneously so faster.

then adequate power supply for these hogs and cooling.

which is not really saying much

but have a buyer's guide categorized into god box, hot rod and two best values. check it out.

Don't worry.  All shall be well.

This is all really helpful, thanks guys! If anyone else has any good tips... keep em coming!

If you have the cash to burn you could get an Alienware.

They're quite a bit pricier than a custom built comp, but IMO the optimized hardware-configuration and online support end up saving you a lot of time and headaches. And it comes with a trimmed down version of Windows, saving you the trouble of having to tweak everything yourself to free up system resources.

Another place that specialises in computers for digital content creation is Boxx.


I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy [i]-Tom Waits

Both PC or Mac platforms will work, because most animation software is now cross platform. I use both Macs (Dual 2GHz G5 at home) and PCs (HPXW8000) for my 2D and 3D animations. Remember to beef up your RAM and hard drive.


Visit The PC Weenies Cartoon
"Tech Toons for the rest of us!"

Dave, which Alienware machine have you used? I noticed that many of them focus on gaming.

Can anyone one tell me the crucial differences between a gaming computer and a DCC workstation?

I have read some reviews on Boxx, but word on the street is that they're loud as hell.

Thanks again guys,

The main difference between a gaming machine and a graphics production workstation is probably the video card. Generally a gaming station is going to have a high-end consumer grade video card that supports massive amounts of directX and on-card graphics effects, while your graphics workstation is going to have a professional-grade video card designed to handle millions and millions of polys as well as much stronger OpenGL support on top of all the directX goodness. These video cards are generally a *lot* more expensive, however.

At home I have an Area 51 gaming machine. That's just for personal stuff, so no wicked deadlines to consider. It runs most 3D stuff just fine though.

In the end it all depends on your needs and budget. If you can write it off as a business expense I would go for a dual machine with a professional grade graphics card. Otherwise a high end desktop/gaming system will probably do just fine.

The main thing IMO is stability. When push comes to shove your clients won't give a rat's fuzzy behind about harddisk crashes, driver problems, hardware incompatibility or any of that. If you can't deliver on time there is only one responsible party, you. Deliver late and there's a good chance you lose the client. In that respect; you can pretty much pinpoint the time it will take to finish something on a slow machine, while it's impossible to know if you'll make a deadline on a machine that isn't running stable (this coming from someone who remembers trying to render final frames on a crappy machine one hour before I had to hop on a plane to go deliver the finished film in Italy. I lost about ten years of my life in that one hour ;))


I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy [i]-Tom Waits

I've used both macs and PCs... and if you want a reliable system that you don't have to build yourself, or have compatibility issues with (and have the money to spend)... then get a mac G5. (you can always lease it)

if you think you're smart enough to build your own pc computer, then that's the ONLY way i would ever recommend buying a PC. You can choose all your own parts, and do the research to build yourself a system that could run like a nerds wet dream, for a lot less than it would take to buy the equivalent mac.

The only problem with buying from alienware, or any other "we build it for you" type place, is that they greatly limit your choices... plus, it's just nice to have all the manuals and warrantees for each individual part, rather than having to deal with a middle-man.

The only problem with buying from alienware, or any other "we build it for you" type place, is that they greatly limit your choices... plus, it's just nice to have all the manuals and warrantees for each individual part, rather than having to deal with a middle-man.

Um... no offense wicker but you're talking about limited choices and recommending a Macintosh? They're the kings of limited choices. Granted, if you're looking for ease of use and don't mind a slightly limited software library for cg animation then a Macintosh might be for you.

I work tech support at a location with several PCs and Macs and while the Macintoshes have less issues with hardware, the performance as far as 3d applications is concerned is far superior on the PC side of things, especially under Linux.

Your choice I guess.


Thanks guys, this is a tough decision. I'm leaning towards a PC because of all the software I already have. I also have a G4 but it doesn't get as much use due to the lack of software I have for Macs.

Remember that no computer is forever. Have in mind that you will want to upgrade sooner than you expect, so I recommend you build your own machine. It's cheaper and it's easier to change its pieces later.