What’s the best workstation for CG/VFX artists in 2020?
Are you building a workstation for your VFX / CG needs?
Want to know what components an Ex-ILM CG / VFX artist and ex-Head of Technology at an Animation Studio would choose to build a professional CG / VFX workstation?
Lately, I found myself in need to build a workstation as more remote opportunities have surfaced and I am also wanting to produce some tutorials for my readers and viewers.
So rather then go buy a workstation, I thought why not try to build one?
I started out with an arbitrary budget of USD 2,500 – 3,000 to see how close I could get to replicating my monster workstation setup at ILM when I left right around the time of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
For those curious my ILM Workstation was a 128GB, 24 Core Intel Xeon with a nVidia Quadro K6000 GPU.
That workstation costs in the ball park of nearly USD 20,000 for one. Yea, I know, the cost of a car!
I’m happy to say that the build definitely out performs that workstation but is 8x cheaper at around USD 2,600. I even proposed a budget-pick option that can be had for about USD 2,000.
In this video, I talk about the components of the Best Workstation for Most CG / VFX artists that won’t break your bank.
If you would like to know the best value components for a Professional VFX CG Artist’s PC Build in 2020 that will handle all of you CG needs, check out the video below.
I’ve also included a PDF for the parts list that gets sent to your email if you would prefer.
If not, the list to the parts are also available below.
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RESOURCES AND LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS VIDEO:
FREE Downloadable PDF of The Complete Workstation Parts List :
Recommended – USD 2590
CPU – AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-Core, 32-thread Processor ($700) – https://amzn.to/2URs382
CPU COOLER – Dark Rock Pro 4 ($90) – https://amzn.to/30SBmbS
These are all great coolers. Pick the cheapest or the one that suits your aesthetics.
Noctua NH-D15, Premium CPU Cooler with 2x NF-A15 PWM 140mm Fans (Brown) ($90) – https://amzn.to/2Y9TOKZ
For a a bit of premium, you can have the Noctua Cooler in black.
Noctua NH-D15 chromax.Black, Dual-Tower CPU Cooler (140mm, Black) ($100) – https://amzn.to/3hGO6bA
MOTHERBOARD – Gigabyte X570 AORUS MASTER ATX AM4 Motherboard ($360) – https://amzn.to/2C9FNEC | newegg
Motherboards are in short supply due to the pandemic. I have included additional links to alternative motherboards to consider if the recommended pick is not available. These motherboards all do well based on reviews from Gamers Nexus and were options I would purchase if they were available.
ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Hero X570 ($360) – https://amzn.to/3hSTLvh
MSI Meg X570 Unify Motherboard ($300) – https://amzn.to/2Cs4BrJ
ASRock X570 TAICHI ($300) – newegg
MEMORY – G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 64GB (4 x 32GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 3200 (PC4 25600) Desktop Memory Model F4-3200C16D-64GVK (2 x $240 = $480) – newegg
* Note you need to buy 2 sets of 2x32GB RAM sticks.
GPU – EVGA 08G-P4-3071-KR GeForce RTX 2070 Super Gaming, 8GB GDDR6 ($499) – https://amzn.to/2YLcekA
Any RTX 2070 Super will work. Here’s a list of options if the recommended is out of stock.
MSI Ventus Gaming GeForce RTX 2070 Super – https://amzn.to/2UPic2A
Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 Super Gaming OC 8G Graphics Card, 3X Windforce Fans, 8GB 256-Bit GDDR6, GV-N207SGAMING OC-8GD Video Card – https://amzn.to/2YHoqTu
SSD STORAGE – ADATA XPG SX8100 1TB NVMe Solid State Drive ($120) – https://amzn.to/30TqgTY
HDD STORAGE – Toshiba (HDWE140XZSTA) X300 4TB Performance Desktop and Gaming Hard Drive 7200 RPM $(110) – https://amzn.to/2Y8p1hS
CASE – NZXT H510 – CA-H510B-W1 – Compact ATX Mid-Tower PC Gaming Case ($70) – https://amzn.to/2YFtjMG
If you want a mesh front panel:
Fractal Design Meshify C Compact ATX Mid-Tower Case – https://amzn.to/2B2OXCN | newegg
POWER SUPPLY UNIT (PSU) – EVGA Supernova 850 G5, 80 Plus Gold 850W, Fully Modular, ECO Mode with Fdb Fan, 10 Year Warranty, Compact 150mm Size, Power Supply 220-G5-0850-X1 ($160) – https://amzn.to/2zGAgEJ
Budget Pick – USD 2060
CPU – AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 12-core, 24-thread ($410) – https://amzn.to/2UTEv7e
MEMORY – G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 64GB (2 x 32GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 3200 (PC4 25600) Desktop Memory Model F4-3200C16D-64GVK ($240) – newegg
Why AMD Ryzen over Intel? I do a mix of deep learning and game/cg development so want to ensure I don’t limit capabilities either way.
Nelson Lim says
The Ryzen over Intel debates comes down to price VS performance.
Right now for less cost, most users except gamers will get better performance. Even so, it is marginal.
I don’t dabble much with deep learning, so I can’t comment much there. But if you are running AI learning with GPUs, then you’ll want to figure out how much are your algorithms CPU bound? I suspect not much and it wouldn’t make too much of a different whichever brand of chipset you go with.
Finally, you mentioned game/cg development. If you mean creating code then game engine shader compile times do benefit a lot from more threads. Other then that, if it is for general pipeline programming, the performance requirements are really low. When I was a CG developer I hardly needed more then 16GB of RAM and almost everything I did hardly tapped more then 4 threads at once. This is different for shader, rendering and simulation RnD work though.
The workstation is really targeted at artists who would be creating CG assets or shot work.
Good work with this article, very helpful. I was wondering, it’s now a year later – how, if at all, would you update the list ? (let’s assume that there is stock available for everything, CPUs, GPUs, etc.)
Nelson Lim says
Hi Nick, thanks for the comment and question.
All things being equal (and available), at the moment, I would recommend the AMD Ryzen 5900/5950 series instead. As for GPUs, the NVIDIA RTX 3070.
All other specs pretty much remains the same.
Finally, I would also change up the budget pick system to be the best build for most VFX/CG artists and bump the more expensive 128GB recommendation as the upgrade pick instead.
Thanks a lot for the update (and the quick response) ! Again, very helpful stuff indeed, so thanks again.