Best Workstation For After Effects
Choosing them to power your Adobe After Effects projects can be complicated. Aspiring visual effects artists and seasoned professionals have the same challenges in deciding which Workstation configuration is best to pick. It is essential to choose correctly because only a highly optimised Workstation solution can accelerate your workflow and make you as productive as possible.
Adobe After Effects’ varied features make choosing the right hardware for the job even more difficult. We have many years working with design professionals and have built up a wealth of knowledge to get the very most from their software and Workstation hardware. Below we will discuss all the key characteristics to making a powerful Adobe After Effects Workstation, and some configuration tricks and tips to further optimise your workflow.
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Adobe After Effects used to be very favourable towards heavily multi-core processors; however, this has changed in recent years. After Effects now has very limited multi-core functionality and as a result, favours processor with the fastest clock speeds. With fast clock speeds being the most critical feature, no processor beats the Intel Core range. If, however, you are a user of the Cinema4D renderer engine, then the extra cores/threads AMD Ryzen processors have makes them ideal for you.
Many customers ask about HEDT processor options such as the AMD Threadripper range. Our advice for these is the same as all highly multi-core processor such as the Intel Xeon alternatives. Due to Adobe After Effects limitation on Cores/Threads, not only are you paying more for the processor, you will also be reducing performance. Unless you are working on projects requiring more than 128GB RAM Intel Core i9 and AMD Ryzen workstation solutions maintain being our top picks.
How much RAM is needed?
RAM consumption can be reasonably heavy within Adobe After Effects. To a point fast storage can mitigate this but nothing is as quick as RAM so for optimum performance, make sure you configure enough for your workflow.
The amount you require is directly affected by the number of frames you work with and the resolution of each frame. Generally, we recommend a minimum of 64GB to our customers using Adobe After Effects and 128GB for heavier users. If you are pushing today’s technology with 60FPS+ and 8-16K footage, then 256GB may be necessary for you.
Which GPU Should You Use?
Considering Adobe After Effects VFX capabilities, it is understandable that most people believed a very high-end graphics card is required. If fact this is incorrect and there is only a very minimal improvement from going from a low/mid-range GPU to the high-end options on the market. Instead investing more heavily in your processor or RAM will provide far more significant improvements to your After Effects Workstation performance.
We often recommend the NVIDIA GeForce graphics card range to our After Effects customers. These GPU’s offer users exceptional value for money and unbeatable performance. Some customers select to go with NVIDIA Quadro, which can be a great choice too if your solution is mission-critical and you believe the slight increase in reliability to be worth the extra cost. We also recommend customers to have a minimum of 6GB VRAM to cover off even the most demanding projects. Luckily all mid-range NVIDIA GeForce RTX cards today have a minimum of 6GB VRAM.
Some customers ask about the AMD Radeon range of graphics cards. While there are some excellent cards available in the AMD line up we generally recommend NVIDIA GeForce for After Effects. The price to the performance possible with the NVIDIA GeForce range at the time of writing is currently unrivaled for After Effects.
Optimal storage configuration
Often overlooked storage configurations have a significant impact on system performance and are particularly important for video editing Workstations. The huge leaps forward in terms of variety and speeds of storage drives recently has made choosing the right option rather more complicated. To understand what the best storage configuration is, you need to understand the types of drives available and what the software needs.
Here at Workstation Specialists, we have done the hard work, so you don’t have to. We recommend a 3 to 4 drive configuration to perfectly optimise your workflow:
Drive 1 (Primary Boot drive): We recommend configuring a SATA or NVMe Solid State Drive (SSD) specifically for your Operating System and Application installs. NVMe is faster than SATA and as a result slightly more expensive. Either type provides adequate performance for your boot drive.
Drive 2 (Active Project File): A separate SATA or NVMe SSD for your active project files is ideal for After Effects Workstations. Quick access to data files is essential for highly optimised After Effects Workstations and sharing drive bandwidth with any other application will hurt performance.
Drive 3 (Media Cache/Scratch): This is optional, but separating your media files onto a dedicated scratch drive can further accelerate your system’s performance. The same principles apply as to Drive 2. Having unrivaled access to your storage drive significantly improves performance.
Drive 4 (Long Term Storage): A traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD) is often used for non-active long term storage of project files. The high capacities and relatively low costs make them ideal for this purpose. The necessity for a long term storage drive is often not required if you have access to a network storage server.