Title says it all really, and you also get my fundamentals on retopology, how can you go wrong? Its available now at 3D World Magazine There is also an excellent article on product rendering tips which I am excited to read, as well as the usual selection of just simply stunning imagery and tutorials from the best 3D artists in the world.....and me!
Being a Pro Mac user is not a barrel of laughs at the moment, the writing has been on the wall ever since the Xserve went the way of the Dodo, and then there was Final Cut Pro X, which while an inspiring new direction had a lot of people worried that Apple was going it’s own way and that was that.
Then there was the Mac Pro, no significant update in years, and as of now you can’t buy them in Europe. :sigh:.
So in the current climate, I am now the proud owner of a New (old) Mac Pro, why? Well for the simple fact that for the outlay, right now, I couldn’t find a better built, quiet and reliable workstation to see me through the next couple of years. I could wait until the fabled next great Pro Mac that Tim Cook has promised, but I have no idea when this promise will ship. As a very proud owner of a Macbook Pro Retina, which despite being the best laptop I have ever owned, after nearly a year of use, I could start to feel the compromises that have been made for what Apple deems are Pro use needs right now, for example a graphics card which can struggle with driving all those pixels, and the very annoying non upgradeability of the hardware.
So as I needed a workstation, ideally before the end of my tax year, so what where my options?
Option A was a hackintosh, I have had experience of making my own hackintosh netbook, and whenever I talk to someone who uses a hackintosh tower for Pro work, you can see the sweat build on their botton lip worrying if Apple has just issued an update which will bork their OS, so as this machine was going to be one of my primary means of making money, I don’t want a machine that gives me a sweaty top lip!
The second option was switch to Windows. Thankfully, most of my apps are cross platform, so that big hangup of switching has disappeared. However, from a hardware perspective, although the machines from Dell, HP, Workstations Specialists, etc where all very enticing, to get a machine that was near where I wanted with suitable grunt, I was looking at spending a lot of money for OK hardware. What you really seem to pay for with PC workstations is the service agreement. The third option, was build my own PC, this would be my preferred method with windows, and it is a lot cheaper, but I wasn’t massively comfortable switching all my power over to windows just yet. As a second machine purely for rendering, I think this will be a viable option.
Which left me with the outdated Apple option, but I have found a couple of ways that can bring the Mac Pro grudgingly into 2013, which I would like to share. There’s not much you can do about the fact that Mac Pro’s come with last years chips, but on the plus side, you get one of the best designed cases for upgrades. Also Mac Pro’s run practically silent, which doesn’t seem to be an option on the PC workstation side, unless you build your own. Personally this is a massive deal, and was one of the key factors in my purchasing decision. Apple has spent (literally) years making the interior of a Mac Pro better looking than the exterior, and makes any hardware upgrade of drives, ram and GPU a cinch.
This care to the case design is handy as you need to spend a bit of time inside shoving stuff in.
So what did I shove in?
Well lets talk about the Mac Pro I chose to adopt. I am a great believer in Apple Refurbs, they are as good as new Macs, and Apple bless them with the same warranty level as a new mac. Potential ‘bargains’ can be had, in my case I picked up a 12 core 2.4 Mac Pro from 2012 for £450 less than it’s cost new. My intention was to use that saving and plough that into the Mac Pro in the way of upgrades.
First was 16gb of RAM from crucial, this takes the mac up to a reasonable 28gb with much more scope to upgrade to a potential 64gb, as and when needed. I also picked up a 128g SSD and 500gb 5400 rpm drive, the platter drive was for short term time machine backups and the SSD, well I intended to pair that with a 750gb WD Caviar Black I had spare and make a Fusion Drive……..yup, you can make one of Apples key reasons for making you want a new mac with a couple lines in terminal, and it works like a charm.
The fusion drive merges the SSD and the platter drive into one volume which feels just like an SSD with over 800gb of space. This is where my system sits, I use the 1tb 7200rpm drive which came with the mac for caching and spare capacity for render sequences, etc, as I use Dropbox pro to keep my work files safe. Its best to have a decent backup for your Fusion drive, as if either of the constituent drives goes, you lose everything. Also a Fusion drive isn’t as fast as fast a standalone SSD, but in my tests’s its faster than a RAID, and ‘feels’ as snappy as an SSD, due to the way that it handles files where it keeps the system and most used files on the SSD for quick access, and moves everything else (in the background) to the platter.
I used a couple of 3.5” drive boxes to make the SSD and the WD caviar black sit in the pro, as both were 2.5” size, and these work great and stop the drives rattling about.
The other thing that needed an upgrade was the Graphics card, the ATI 5770 which comes with the Mac Pro, is just rubbish, and the upgrade options that Apple offers are just as bad. The graphic card issues have become especially galling since CUDA came along on the Nvidia platform, which apps like After Effects etc, love. But here’s a thing, (thanks to Tim from Plastic Pictures for putting me onto this) you can install stock PC Nvidia Gaming Cards into a Mac Pro, as long as your running at least Lion and have installed the necessary Nvidia Driver. If you want CUDA, you can install the CUDA drivers, and with another quick bit of terminal magic make After Effects and Premiere use your Nvidia Card for CUDA acceleration.
Here is what you lose when you install a stock PC card, your boot screen, this isn’t a massive deal, but to play safe, I installed an Nvidia GTX 660 as it was a powerful but cheap card, and only needed one power lead, (the more powerful cards require two). This meant I can keep the stock ATI installed, so I have access to a boot screen if required as well as drive a second screen when I am out in the Creativebloke Shed.
All told, this cost about £100 more than the stock Mac Pro new, and now I have a 12 core workstation (24 core using hyperthreaded apps) which is fully enabled for CUDA, runs OSX with the option of running windows, and is still within warranty and rates at just over 20k on geekbench. The Mac Pro barely ever makes a sound, the only thing that sets the fans off so far is using raytracing in After Effects, even fan happy ZBrush runs in silence. The best bit, this configuration still has a ton of upgrading which I can do to it.
For those waiting for the next Pro Mac, don’t dismiss the current Mac pro, it’s still a beast, and most importantly it is a beast we know and can upgrade to practically our hearts content.
Here’s a list of links I used to get the Mac Pro up to 2013(ish) spec:
Nvidia GPU upgrade:
Enable CUDA on Adobe Apps
If you want to know more question away!
Been waiting a while for this one to appear, this months 3D World has a bunch of my articles in it - woot!
As well as my answer on how to create custom 2D graphics for modo, and my review of Clarissé IFX, there is also my Fundamentals article on Creature Design, which I am proud of as it pushed some areas I hadn't pushed for a while, a big thanks to Glen Southern who held my hand through some ZBrush issues I was having.
This month's issue deals with Realtime graphics, which is becoming more prevalent for all 3D artist's - check it out now
If your at BVE (The Broadcast and Video Expo in London's Excel on Tuesday, I am giving a seminar on "The new post model: how can freelancers succeed to maximise the value of their services to clients and creative agencies and facilitate cross collaboration?". I always find the short title's are the best. It's at 5pm in the Post Production Theatre on Tuesday the 26th, pop by and say hi!
So I am switching from Canon to m43 after getting an OM-D EM-5. This has been a decision I have been pondering for over a year as the realisation that I sans't using my 7D and all its lovely kit started to hit home.
I wasn't enjoying my photography anymore, and the olympus, while at times fiddly, is starting to shape up to be an amazing camera in an amazing camera system. Until I get myself kitted out with more lenses, the main advantage of m43 is the ability to easily adapt old lenses to the system. Case in point the below image was taken on a Fujinon 2.2 55mm, not the best lens in the world, and its stuck wide open, but the image pleases me, mainly because it shows a new take on that view.
So if like me your struggling as to why you have the kit, but not the inclination, I would strongly recommend investigating the m43 system.
This was me just before I agreed to take on all that writing, seriously though the new 3D World Magazine is chock full of amazing work, features and tutorials with a special focus on ArchVis, hence the picture of my house above.
In the current TELEVISUAL, Glowfrog Studios has a leading mention in the SMALL SCREEN VFX showcase article, which is lovely as a) Glowfrog deserve it, and 2013 will be even better than the amazing 2012 for them and b) one of Creativebloke's shots is used to in the article.
The shot in question is below, it was an After Effects composite with some C4D in the background, for the History Channel US documentary "What's the Earth Worth". Really pleased with this shot, as well as some of the other comps from the show, and one day may actually find the time to shove in the reel.
Thanks and congrats again to Glowfrog:)
The new 3D world #165 is excellent, chock full of articles and training, standouts this month are Ant Ward's Cartoon Genie Tutorial and Phil Nolan's Blender Liquid's Tutorial. There is also a fantastic article from the Set of the Hobbit. Also find out what I think of Unity 4 Pro and Substance Designer. It's available now in the UK and via Digital delivery.
Well I am entering again http://99frames.tumblr.com
This is awesome very handy plugin for after effects (works in CS6) which allows you to relight your 3D renders as long as you have outputted a normal pass, it won't save the world, but its a great little tool to have to pump up your renders without the need to rerenader in 3D.
Oh and it's donationware so you can see how useful it is : http://www.3dcg.net/software/normality/
Along with my fundamentals article, which this month is about medical imaging (check out those corpuscles above!), you can also read my review of the latest and greatest version of Cinema 4D. As ever, there is a heap of great, great stuff in this month's issue. A lot of it is rendered in V-Ray which is a relief considering my last post.
Wow - this week is all about Maxon's latest and greatest. Monday saw the Maxon open day in London which was a fantastic networking and learning event. Then working with my first cinema 4d dedicated studio in Brighton alongside the amazing Chris Cousins, who has shown me the light of V-Ray, not that there is much wrong with the Cinema 4D native renders, but V_Ray definitely gives another option, and so far seems lightning quick. The only real issue is the price, and lack of a demo version, but now I have taken the plunge I am glad that I have!
Hi, time for a very quick review of the new Wacom Intuos 5 medium tablet, which I also got the wireless kit for.
In a word this tablet is awesome, I am upgrading from my 3 year old Intuos 4 medium, and the 5 is in a whole different class from a construction standpoint. I really like the new matte finish, and the way the buttons are now recessed, makes them a lot less prone to grime and easier to clean. Wireless is nice, but your still losing a usb port due to the dongle. The killer feature is the touch, it means, you really don't need a mouse anymore, everything is controlled through the tablet. Which until you try it, you don't realise it should have alway been this way.
Short of owning a cintiq, (which obviously I am willing to demo if anyone is asking) this is the best artist's tool you can get for your computer, couple it with a 3dConnexion SpaceExlorer, and content creation is a dream in Cinema 4D or modo.
Thoroughly recommended, even for Intuous 4 owners, the inclusion of touch is worth the upgrade alone, but the improvements in build quality and the wireless option, easily make this one the best investments you can make as an artist.
Only negatives are drivers, the new 6.33 ones are a dud and can kill the wacom in 15 minutes of use, I am using the 6.31 drivers and all seems fine, just keep an eye on the wacom forums and don't upgrade the drivers until you have seen the complaints drop off.
I shopped around and the cheapest I could find the Wacom Intuos5 Pen and Touch Medium Graphics Tablet was on Amazon, if you use the link and want to buy I get a teeny commission, which is always nice.