VFX Workstation Rental Guide
Firstly, what’s the difference between a desktop and a workstation? A desktop is a computer system that most people use for everyday things—even the best of them, though, are too slow and too ill-equipped for what a workstation is meant to do.
A “workstation” is a computer system that has the latest technology and is, therefore, more powerful, faster and capable of being used for the-much-more-demanding tasks required for professional digital animation, product design, film/video making & editing, 3D modeling, electronic games designing & editing, and, most important of all, visual effects designing, manipulating, & editing.
In fact, the term “VFX” is a phonetic abbreviation for “visual effects.”
In the past, it was simply too expensive for anyone other than big Hollywood studios to produce the awe-inspiring, mesmerizing and not-available-elsewhere special effects usually seen in theater-worthy movies and made-for-TV films. Thanks to super-advanced graphics cards, like Nvidia’s Quadro line, it is now possible for even small studios and independent artists and editors to produce such special effects even for moderately funded projects.
All this has been made possible by VFX workstations that can handle the high demands for data capacity, while at the same time, keeping costs to a much lower threshold than seen for Hollywood movies, creating manageable amounts of heat (which has always been a problem for “big capacity” computers), not introducing too much noise to a set, and making it possible control everything from one centralized, fully optimized location.
A workstation, in other words, doesn’t just give the little guy the same tools only the big Hollywood studios had at their possession, but it also allows them to produce videos, films, electronic games, and other products requiring lots of data capacity/memory at a much lower cost, faster, without the extensive IT support used in Hollywood, and with a much smaller staff of dedicated professionals, editors and artists.
VFX Workstations Renting/Obtaining—Best Practices & Suggestions
–Instead of purchasing your own VFX workstation, consider renting or leasing such, if feasible; this may reduce short-term costs, especially you only need this equipment for a limited time; this may be termed “Hardware As A Service.”
–Here are some of the most up-to-date, essential features, options and benefits to expect and look for in a top-of-the-line VFX workstation:
- A professional-level graphics card capacity (e.g., Nvidia’s Quadro series)
- Systems that are ready to go and fully accessorized with cables, adaptors, driver software installation discs, needed documentation, etc.
- Centralized and large-capacity (as high as 20 TBs or more) storage
- The acceleration of high-concurrent and sequential throughput applications
- High performance, scalability and agility in improving storage problems
- Linear scaling capacity, making it possible to access and store large and quickly-accumulating archives of digital content and unstructured data
- Liquid cooling, when feasible and available
- Capacity for multiple displays, with integrated, discrete GPU combinations
- Multiple cores processing
- Silent operation
- Energy efficiency
- Compactness (the more, the better)
- 3D design, rendering & editing capacity
- Capacity to hold/host multiple high-performance GPUs
- Production pipeline integration editing
- All aspects of visual effects: 3D modeling, rendering, animation, simulations; compositing & motion graphics
- Excellent, latest-technology heat management capacity
- A suitably large system RAM size/speed, disk size & speed, processor speed, and video card (onboard video RAM, speed & chip type)
- Simultaneous multi projection—i.e., output of two video signals at the same time; production of a different image for each eye, as for virtual reality (VR) and 3D cameras
- Dynamic load balancing—i.e., automatic designation of power for each of the multiple tasks to be performed