What do you use for VFX hardware?


My background is mixed between business, IT, and traditional fine arts; I’ve never worked in a VFX studio. I’ve been interested in VFX for a long time and I’m noodling it in my free time.

I built myself a computer to do this, but I have no idea how it compares to what ‘grown-ups’ use in the real world. I only had about a $1000, so obviously there were compromises. I had a couple drives, so it kept the cost down a little.

So I ended up with:

Dell Precision T5610
Dual Xeon 2687w v2’s, 16c/32t, 3.4Ghz
64GB ram
1TB SSD, 4TB HDD, 512GB NVME swap drive
RTX 2070 8GB

Just starting out, I’m not really making it work very hard yet. But I’m wondering if it’s good enough to get me through to pro level projects, or if I need to start my replacement fund now :smiley:

It’s a hard enough curve to run up, without beating my head against the desk because I’m trying to build a bonfire with a toothpick.

Thanks for your time!



Seems pretty good! Should do for a VFX beginner!

This definitely seems quite solid but it really all depends on what projects you are doing. I personally would do what you can with your current setup and just see if your projects become too intense for it. And then, upgrading would be a good idea because a computer hardly capable of running your project can drastically lower your productivity.
Hope this helps!:v:


Hey thanks, good advice!

I guess I was also phishing for actual specs people use in pro studios. AVFX has clients who do work on projects the size of Marvel Studios. Foundry list some of its test systems, these would run about 10-16k off the shelf. But I have no way to gauge if these are high end, common, or the hand me down system that are given to the intern for the Reception position? :smiley:

I been looking online, but all I’m finding are companies that want to sell me expensive gear. It still doesn’t tell me if it’s overkill or below par for the industry?

I’m just curious what people are running as their daily drivers.


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Hey Christopher!

I think that setup would be able to get you through most things. I’m not too sure exactly what type of things you’re planning on working on, but if you’re working efficiently and keeping your projects as clean as possible and using proper caching, etc. I think you’d be able to squeeze quite a bit out of that!

For us, we do have a lot of beefy machines in-house. I did a video awhile back about one of our builds you can check out, here.

But I will say, a lot of the profession studios are moving/have already moved to cloud-based machines. It’s a really wild concept, but you can essentially work on a Chromebook if you wanted as long as you have good internet, since your machine doing all of the heavy-lifting is in the cloud.

Amazon more recently rolled out their Amazon Nimble Studio that does this, and while it’s a bit complex, I think most of the future VFX and 3D work will continue to move to this type of workflow since there are some huge benefits. One being that you don’t have to upgrade your machine since you can just scale up and rent a bigger one if you needed, and the other being that all of your files are centralized in the cloud. So you don’t have to worry about transferring renders or anything.

Pretty awesome stuff!


Luke, thanks, that’s exactly what I was looking for! So mine is not that far off the mark, on paper at least, it’s about 70-80% of that build. It certainly won’t be the weak link in my workflow!

Are you finding any advantage in having dual GPU’s in anything other than rendering/GPU compute type tasks? Does having one assigned to background tasks help with say, VFX scene compositing? My guess is the software will want to keep all of that on a single card, but trying to think outside the box. I wish I had an extra 2070 lying around to test this theory…maybe when the kids move out :smiley:

I’m not surprised about the distributed workflow model. So many of the pro apps are designed to allow simultaneous production by different teams that it would be the only way to meet any deadline with the even more distributed workforce from covid.

In a prior limetime, I did some INFOSEC, network security with the military; which if nothing else, left me with an inherent distrust of all things networked. I guess I’d have to get over that, if I ever find myself working outside of family productions! Long ways to go to worry about that, however.

I’ll check out Amazon’s Nimble Studio, though I’m not sure I trust them more than the military! o.O

Actually, if you haven’t bought it already, I’d like to say that Xeon processors are meant for servers.

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Honestly, I’ve always seen a dip in performance when running any level of SLI or multiple GPUs.
If I can help it, I’ll get x1 of the newest cards over x2 of an older model. It may be something with how I’ve configured them in the past, but having 1 stronger one that can handle everything I throw at it just seems to run smoother.

And as with anything, the different scenarios can require different specs. But if that works for you it works for you!

And I second the natural distrust, haha!


Xeon’s tend to have higher avg core speeds and larger caches than their i-series brethren, but have a lower single core burst speed. They are nice for systems were you expect to run all cores frequently, or want more than one CPU. For games, they take a back seat as most games, even if multicore capable, still favor one thread above the others. The GPU framerate is dependent on the speed of the thread feeding it, so i-series tend to built to maximize that relationship.

I built myself a Dual Xeon machine back in 2015 for my one man VFX and Design Studio, with 64gigs of ram and 3x 4gig GTX 970s.
Multiple GPUs are a good investment depending on whether your software can use multiple GPUs.

In 2018 I started coding my own version of Blender and I coded support for CPU + CUDA + opencl GPU rendering at the same time.
I had Blender rendering with my Dual Xeons, a 32gig Radeon Pro Duo Polaris and 2 of the mentioned GTX 970s. More render devices = more render speed.

In 2019 I ordered a pre-built 32 core thread ripper machine with 64 gigs of ram, a 24gig RTX Titan. The Mobo can take up to three GPUs but I need a stronger PSU so I’m only using one GPU for now but it is fast.

Whatever your budget, I’d get the best that you can afford and try to get a Mobo that can be upgraded with stronger CPUs, GPUs, and Ram at a later time and when you can afford it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re focusing on VFX that uses CPU in one case and GPU in another case because you’re eventually gonna work on a project that requires hard work from both CPU and GPU. It don’t matter what it is, whether it is single or multi-threaded cpu operations or plain ole rendering, you’re gonna want the fastest hardware that you can get.

You’re CPU clock of 3.4Ghz is pretty good which will work just fine for single and multi-processing.
Your GPU… hmmm… if you can afford something with more Vram it’ll go a long way with heavy compositing. I’d get way more than an 8gig video card because I do a lot of 3D heavy compositing, but I build my own high quality 3D assets and for that type of stuff… strong CPUs, GPUs with more than 16gigs of Vram, and regular Ram are needed for speed when painting 3D textures, UV unwrapping and working with millions of polys in Edit mode.

An 8gig GPU is underwhelming because you’ll run out of Vram pretty quick.
16 gigs would be better but anything above 24 gigs is the way to go if you can afford it.

Hey, thanks for the post @spydurhank !

You must have read my mind… I’ve been finding 8gb a bit (or is it 8589934592 bits?) squished for Iray rendering lately, so I was looking at new systems. I bought a new box with an 11th gen Intel in it. Honestly, it’s faster than both my old xeon’s combined and comes with a 3060 with 12gb. I did the math and I basically upgraded for free for what I can part out some existing gear for these days. The 12th gen are seriously overcooked, from what I can see, huge high watt heaters like the old AMD’s. I’d love to build a Threadripper, but it’ll have to wait until after the kids move out!

The box has slots and power to run a second 3060, or I may upgrade to a 3090 or it’s successor at some point. But either way, I’ll be fun for now :smiley:

Iray forums are finding that a single 3060 renders about the same as two 2070, so @Luke your math seems about right!

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No problem @zaubermac,

I treat my machine hardware as if it were real world Art supplies. I’ll work harder and save cash for better Art supplies, so I never skimp on those types of things. :grinning: