Mac Pro vrs Z8

Most of us are acting as one-man shops I presume… unless your fancy and have an assistant in your house somewhere. My z840 is long in the tooth and a pain in the ass. The P6000 is fine but I want something faster and easier.

Z8 with (2) RTX 6000 GPU ???
or
Mac Pro with Radeon Pro Vega II with 32GB.

I understand the workflow differences what I don’t understand is which one is faster. i can’t seem to get a clear opinion. These days I’m working with mostly 4k files. sometimes Im painting on 8k files. shit changes all the time.

So. what’s the fastest mother f-er out there?

Why when i ask engineers to speck out a mac they say 16-core and not 28? why do they say 192GB memory and not 1.5TB? and why 1 Radeon Pro vega II with 32GB and not 1 Radeon Pro vega II Duo with 2x32GB memory or the gigantic 2 x Radeon Pro vega II Duo with 2x32GB each?

More has to be better. sure flame can handle so much but those Autodesk folks must be working hard at optimizing flame for mac since nearly everyone went to mac this year. Besides whoever uses only one app?

I would love one computer to rule them all. I’d love to get rid of all the gear you need with a Linux box. But i don’t want to sacrifice speed. speed is what I want.

so. you guys are much smarter than me. what do you do?

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Yo! Welcome!

The short answer is there isn’t an answer. It’s not black and white. Believe me, I wish it was.

I have a 16 core and a 28 core Mac Pro. My internal tests show that certain tasks are faster on 16 cores and certain tasks are faster on 28 cores. I also have a single Radeon Pro Vega II with 32GB, and a Radeon Pro Vega II Duo. For Flame, the Duo makes zero difference. There’s a sweet spot for value and that’s probably the 12 core because Flame seems to like higher clock speeds.

When your engineers spec out Macs they go to the Autodesk Flame Hardware requirements which clearly states a 12 or 16 core. So why would they spec a 28 core?

When it comes to Flame, more isn’t exactly better. When it comes to Flame + Resolve + Keka + Adobe Media Encoder + Podcasts + Spotify + 1,000 Chrome tabs, more might be better. For me, as an independent that also works for studios that also works for agencies that also works for brands that also works for other artists, there is no one machine to rule them all. I still have an Ubuntu box for the occasional RGS gig, and still have multiple sized monitors for working local and/or remote and multiple Wacom models to deal with controlling remote Flames so any notions you have of one machine to rule them all are sadly misguided. Welcome to the Sadville, population us!

Also, have you measured your CPU and memory usage lately? I’m looking at the last 30 days and I haven’t used more than 80-90 gigs of memory and the only times I max out my cpus are not from Flame. Buy the minimum from Apple at 32GB and add your own 128 to make 160 and spend your time worrying about something else.

Also, 8k? Do you really have to? I mean, are your clients paying you with those really really big checks like you win in the lottery?

If we were Mark Watney from The Martian we’d be dead because we didn’t science the shit out of this so good.

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OK. so a single Radeon Pro Vega II with 32GB is the best you can do on a mac to increase render power and speed and that’s comparable to RTX 6000 for Linux? that’s best we can do? basically just small pros and cons between the two? Linux you can add 2 RTX 6000 at least if you’re into the background rendering thing… I feel sad.

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The speed test spreadsheet (I don’t have the link offhand) shows the Linux machines blowing the doors off of the Mac machines.

They are at least twice as fast, even with older GPU’s.

Now, as someone who has pushed multiple 4k jobs through a 2013 trash can I’m not convinced Max-speed is super necessary, but I digress.

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Don’t feel sad. I’m not. Mac is a good platform for some of us. It’s super easy to administrate and it’s well worth the trade off for me.

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Those of us who bought Mac Pros (Macs Pro?) last year and have gotten to enjoy some ROI are, it seems, mostly pretty happy with our choice.

I would not, at this particular moment in history, knowing what little I know about Apple’s silicon plans, be so hasty to invest in a 10-15k intel Mac. If you’re confident that you can make that money back quickly and need to be able to run other Mac software (as opposed to dual booting or VMing windows), then go for it, but if you’re the kind of person who would be mad if that machine were superseded in 9-18 months, maaaaaybe look for alternatives.

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Same can be said with Linux and CentOS being EOLd.

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Sure, but the sting of wishing you’d installed Red Hat instead of Centos is a lot less painful than the sting of buying a Mac Pro that immediately becomes obsolete. Easier to rectify too.

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Many people are still rocking the trash cans 7 years later. Intel Mac’s won’t be obsolete. Sure there will be a shiny newer thing soon, but, if you know what you are doing you still make money by having one. By my calculations it takes 24 days of machine fees a year to pay for the hardware and 20 days of machine fees per year to pay for a yearly license so the ROI ain’t long.

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The i9 boxes we built a year ago (256 gigs of RAM, NVME framestores) we’re just upgraded to single RTX a6000s from Titan RTXs and they are the fastest fucking machines I’ve ever driven.

Ever.

Price-wise I’d imagine it’s significantly cheaper than either of the options you mentioned, but you gotta build it yourself.

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Sounds awesome. Would love to see parts list if you have one.

Linux is still much faster, you have more graphics card options and can configure it much more specific to the tasks. I am curious when the new apple M towers drop to see what they make of it since we should be getting the new mac pro laptops soon I am guessing those are going to be the real competition. If I had to buy something tomorrow I would still go Linux, 8.2 flame will be on for at least 5 years so that will be more than enough time for them to figure out which new Linux Distro they go to but I am guessing by then it will be AWS but that is a roll of the dice. I am kind of in the same position and am waiting to see what the new Mac chips have in store, I know the intel have a lot of life but it will be bummer when new software starts to get only written for M chips since that won’t take long.

It would be interesting to see if we could get render times for certain basic tasks and on what machines. I remember seeing this some time ago at one of the big shops, but something like rendering noise at 4k and 8k for 1000k frames etc etc etc. and posting what the specs of our machines are?
Wonder if someone could just create a sample batch with various tasks to render so its completely accurate across the machines and distribute that setup and the various render output times.

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Personally if I had to build a dedicated Flame machine today, I’d go with something like the Lenovo P620 with ThreadRipper Pro CPU, a single A6000 GPU (you get a lot more value out of putting more money into the best GPU you can get and share that with Background Reactor than buying two “medium” GPUs - assuming you can actually get your hand on ANY decent GPU these days, let alone “latest and greatest”), PCIe 4.0 NVMe storage, and a Mellanox 100GbE network card.

But, if I was a one man band with limited Linux expertise and needed to run a bunch of additional applications besides Flame, I’d definitely go with a Mac based solution: something as simple as connecting a shuttle drive (any shuttle drive) to your computer should just work, and not require 30 minutes of research.

To answer some of the original questions directly:

  • “more is better” is always tempered with “it depends”, and specifically given that no one has an unlimited budget, “bang for the buck” is probably a more useful metric
  • Flame will benefit from more memory, typically allowing it to keep more intermediate results in memory when working through a large batch schematic. But there’s a point of diminishing return, and it’s not like you can keep 5 copies of Flame in memory / running at the same time (like you might do with Nuke). Specifically on the current MacPro, you pay a large premium to go from the 16 core CPU ($2000) to the 24 core CPU ($6000). The reason for that is that the 8 and 16 core models are “Xeon W non-M”, aka W-3235 and W-3245, whereas the 24 and 32 core models are “Xeon W M”, aka W-3265M and W-3275M. Intel only enables support for greater than 1TB of RAM with the “M” Xeon Ws, since the people who need this much memory typically run very specific applications (in memory databases) which can justify the price premium. There are cheaper, “non-M” versions of the W-3265 and W-3275, but those are not offered by Apple, which has chosen to bundle 24 and 32 core options with support for more than 1TB of RAM.
  • Most modern CPUs trade off maximum clock speed with number of cores: going back to the MacPro for instance, the 16 core CPU is rated at 3.2GHz, whereas the 24 core CPU is “only” 2.7GHz. Given that significant parts of Flame are not multi-threaded (saving a clip library for instance, or anything GPU limited), it may very well be that in every day use a machine with fewer, faster cores may “feel” faster. But then again, there’s also “Turbo Boost”, where the CPU can temporarily increase the speed of a subset of cores… (in the end, it’s all about power / heat management, and the CPU trying to avoid melting itself)
  • Flame cannot make use of more than one GPU, if you exclude Background Reactor, which I believe is only supported on Linux. As I said above, personally I think you are better off buying the best GPU you can afford and splitting it between Flame and Background Reactor so you get the best possible interactive experience rather than buying two media GPUs, with one of them being mostly idle.
  • Right now is a terrible time to buy a GPU in general, and an RTX 6000 in particular, given that the A6000 has already been released, but definitely not easy to get your hands on one (especially not at MSRP). If only the crypto currency bubble could finally burst…
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There’s a benchmark set of tests somewhere floating around… who had that archive?

You could always hit up Stockx for your 3090 and pick up a pair of 1200 dollar DunkSBs while you’re at it…

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Just to contribute some findings gathered from building several Flames for myself and others. Flame feels more CPU dependant than I expected. Many cores helps but there are diminishing returns.
The 5950x (16 cores + new PBO2) is an amazing sweet spot for Flame. The responsiveness of the system is incredible; It runs circles around a threadripper 3970x at almost all tasks.

Framestore speed also seems to have a big impact on responsiveness. With a gen4 M.2 raid array, I can playback 7680x7680 8bit footage at 30fps and scrub through 4K footage like butter.

The only reason to run a threadripper, in my opinion, is if you are running dual GPUs or need the PCIe lanes. I don’t know how useful dual GPU is these days, you can run reactor with a single GPU. 3090 also pairs really well with a 5950x.

64gb of ram feels like a sweet spot too.

The main reason I was leaning towards a the Lenovo P620 with ThreadRipper Pro is the availability of remote management: one lesson of the pandemic is that I would not buy a system without some kind of remote management capability. Really what I want is the full iDRAC 9 in the Dell R7920 rackmount workstation (really just an R740 2U server), but that’s no longer current unfortunately. Guess as long as I’m pretend shopping I could just put together an R7525 2U Epyc based server with a GPU and call that a Flame.

Unfortunately AMT on the HP Z workstations is pretty lame: good enough for remote reboot / power cycle, but that’s about it.

I recognize my priorities may be quite specific…

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I debated this for a long time and even though I would consider myself to be a pro linux user - I still bought a mac - and here is my reasoning:

-I need the machine to do more than just flame, yes I can run resolve and nuke on centOS as well, but then flame xxx needs a certain driver ir even firmware version and resolve another and and and… let me just open this clients photoshop file… ehh…

  • Networkconfig SUCKS on snowflake adsk centOS and while I modded my centos very heavily to get a useable networkmanager … upgrading to a new flame version is scary , annoying and a big timewaster, I usually just reinstall, as I sometimes need to carry my machine on set and just need to connect to wifi really quick or whatever…

  • Z8 with their old xeons is so last century to me… sorry i dont want dual cpus, only option would be the lenovo with the threadripper pro or DIY .

-I have mac only software I need to run anyhow (pomform silverstack).

-have fun with connecting client provided drives to your linux machine “really quick” I currently use a trashcan mac with 10gbit card just for ingesting to my nas, its about 200 steps more than necessary.

-"the files I sent you are tagged red and green and purple " … (my clients are 100% mac).

-dualbooting sucks , You cant use the same fast cache drive for linux and windows… meh.

-Quicktime player… just to see how things look in the client side (metadata etc). and then I like to scrubb back and forth stuff a lot and tbh vlc and mpv suck compelte a** djv is clunky and slow and RV consts money and takes 1hour to launch. there is nothing that beats quicktime/quicklook there just is not.

-I tried to buy parts for a diy linux flame and it was more expensive than the mac … due to shortages

regarding the M1 comming - i know weird time to buy but then: my get out of jail free card is the fact that the mac pro really is just a pc, I can always use linux and/or windows on it as well .

I went with the 16c , 256G ram (nuke likes ram) and the vega2Duo (long debate but I want the Vram for redshift and resolve)

This is for a 1-man-band sort of setup so thats why I went mac wven though I dont like apple. I bought from a reseller they are providing me with cheap ram and a 8x nvme raid card :slight_smile: will be fast I hope. (my home rig is a 6core i7 with a 1080ti so… it can only be better :stuck_out_tongue: ) .

Having 2 workstations wirth a KVM is another option but that would have gotten 2 xpensive but if I ever need to render a big job at home and if GPUs become affordable again I might just build a quad GPU redshift pc and put it next to the mac…

There isnt a perfect thing…

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