What is the BEST hardware/configuration available today or in the near future if something is in the wings?

I currently work on a z840 with 1 video card (24 gig ram) and
128 gig ram.
What is the fastest and most robust (especially for enormous batch trees and extensive color correction utilizing neat video) hardware configuration package available today.
What is the “dream configuration”?
Many thanks!!!

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some high-tier Xeon or Threadripper chip or two with an RTX8000 Quadro GPU (or two) and 512 gigs of ram. A bunch of NVME sticks on one of those high point cards for storage.

That is overkill, but if we’re making dream setups…

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The annoying answer, is, it depends. It honestly and truly and legitimately, depends.

I’ve spent the last 18 months with my head buried in a bunch of machines and have spent far too much time futzing around with the Mac side of things and have started to dabble on the Linux side as well.

If you are a one person band and don’t know any Linux and don’t want to spend forever being your own system administrator of your own house and you only want one machine, then a Mac is absolutely the way to go. If you aren’t a tinkerer, and don’t expect to upgrade anything, and you live and/or work in a clean environment, then get an iMac of some sort. But, the lack of expandability, lack of legitimate active cooling, and the lack of horsepower may be limiting. But, if you are a spender…if you like to tinker, if you like gadgets, if you legitimately enjoy the idea of being your own sysadmin, then an iMac ain’t the way forward. Then a Mac Pro makes sense. Then you can fill it with NVME RAIDs and add a Streamdeck and Blackmagic cards and internal whatevers and you’ll have a reasonably powerful but overexpensive solution. Now, everybody will roll their eyes and say “what about M1” and sure, it is an awkward time to buy anything right now, with Apple transitioning (ish!) to M1 and the death of Centos and the brutally archaic ways of Intel AND the crypto bubble AND the pandemic causing shipping delays. Dell is currently reporting 3-4 month delivery times on 7920s and with HP Z8s being forever old with incredibly pricey intel chips, well, they ain’t amazing right now either. So, there legitimately isn’t a “best” solution. Mac Pros are incredible machines because you could buy a refurb model, have it delivered tomorrow, and be working within a few hours. And, if something ain’t rosy, post here and one of us chuckleheads will know the answer. The Macs also resell incredibly well. There will always be someone out there that wants your old machine and will be decent amount of money for it. The sweet spots are definitely the 12-16 core models, 1-2TB internal drives, extra ram from OWC, and either a Sonnet or Highpoint NVME RAID card. Expect to shell out about $15-20K all in, minus monitor.

If you already have a sidecar Mac or Windows box with reasonable capability, AND you aren’t afraid to have a machine that pretty much only runs Flame, then, Linux could be right for you. Autodesk recently certified the Lenovo P620 and those rascals at first glance seem very impressive. The problem is availability. Lenovo.com states that new P620s won’t ship for 2 MONTHS+. Likely it will be longer. And with the supply chain under the pressure it is, companies are likely shipping a ton of garbage. So, there’s a good chance something quite ain’t right with your delivery and expect something to not be perfect.

As far as performance goes, again, well, it fecking depends. For example, calculating Motion Vectors on a 4k 250 frame clip on my 16core Mac Pro with Radeon Pro Vega II Duo was in fact a smidge faster than on a Lenovo P620 3975WX 32core running an older RTX 5000. But, calculating the same clip with the Camera Analysis node on the P620/RTX5000 was about half the time on the Lenovo side.

I’m starting to lean quite a bit on @talosh’s machine learning tools for time warps and fluid morphs. On the Mac side, they are CPU only, and a clip that could take 40+ seconds per frame takes 1 or 2secs/frame on an RTX 5000.

If you check out the Flame Bechmark sheet, you’ll see all the sub 8 minute times are Linux boxes and are typically RTX 8000/6000 or fancier. Dell 7920s, Z8, and AMD Threadrippers take the top slots. If you see Dual Intels anywhere, that’s gotta be like a $20-30K machine easy. A P620 Threadripper can be had for $13k ish. You’ll also see a couple of RTX 3090s and A6000s with the fastest times. They aren’t supported yet by Autodesk, and, either someone has got some pretty serious voodoo chops to get them working fully or I’m out of the loop. I was under the impression that the Flame Machine Learning stuff required Turing architecture, not the Ampere, so, be on the lookout for that.

I think the BEST hardware configuration is the one that, pardon my French, “you science the shit out of it.” As in, what do you actually need? I don’t need more than 100gigs of RAM. I can get away with 8TB fast storage if I have plenty of slow storage laying around. I don’t need dual GPUs when one good one is worth it. Figure out what you do in fact need, and be disciplined enough to stick to it.

Also, a huge part of this is your relationships. Are you on your own? Do you have people in your network that you can call on when stuff hits the fan?

I had something go wrong with a recent machine delivery and Flame install and ended up posting on Reddit, Stack Exchange, a SysAdmin Slack and Logik Discord, AND had to rope in a pro colleague guru to completely bail me out with some extra hardware for troubleshooting. Took me 4 days to be up and running on a Linux machine, but dealing with a graphics card RMA situation. Boo. Now, I’m completely new to it, and almost literally every fecking thing I do on Linux requires googling. As in, oh snap, I don’t know how to switch to INSERT mode on VIM and save and exit. How do I do that? Oh snap, what’s the right syntax for the /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts? Oh snap, I need to install a network driver? Oh snap how do I install an NVIDIA driver? Oh gosh, how the heck do I make a .run file executable? How the hell do I do that? Oh gawsh, how do I create a user in Centos and give it sudo skills? Oh geez, how do I mount my NAS over NFS and have the mount point persistent and be the same on the Mac side of things?

So, in summary:

if you want the bare bones so you can be up and running and would rather focus on the RESULT of owning a Flame, buy a refurb iMac.

If you thing you’re a tinkerer and want to be able to expand your machine and system over the next few years, and don’t know Linux and don’t care to, then buy a Mac Pro.

If you KNOW you are a tinkerer, and the PROCESS of building your own machine is something that intrigues you, then run, don’t walk, RUN to CDW.com right now and snap up one of the last P620 Threadrippers they have in stock and it’ll be on your porch in 2 days. Add some RAM and 4 sticks of NVME and a Highpoint card and give yourself a week to figure it out yourself.

If you want to pay someone else to do it, pay @Jack or the @Gunpowder friends to be on call and bail you out after you figure out the networking side of things and get Teamviewer installed.

And finally, if you just so happen to be on the West Coast of the U.S., then this adds another dayum level of complexity: Dell won’t ship certain PC’s to certain states with certain power regulations. Ha! Welcome to the party pal!!

Hope this helps.


Flame is faster on Linux than on Mac. CentOs 8 definitely doesn’t have some of the painful setup that previous CentOs versions did.

The Lenovo P620 (and other threadripper pro systems) have PCIe 4 which is double the speed of PCie3 so the CPU can talk to the GPU a lot faster. NVIDIA A5000 is the way to go for bang for the buck. Whilst AI/ML is not supported in Flame just yet, it will definitely come and considering the shipment times are as Randy mentions you would not be waiting long for the support to be there.

A Mac Pro system would definitely be more versatile and easier to administer though, so it depends on your use case.

I’d personally buy a Lenovo P620 (or another threadripper pro PC) and as I mentioned, CentOs 8 really is easy to administer if you only have a modicum of knowledge and know how to use Google.

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