Video Card for Professional 3D Work

Time to upgrade the video card and it’s been a tough decision.  “Professional 3D card” like nVidia’s Quadro versus a consumer grade gaming card like the GeForce cards.  Is there a difference?  There’s a lot of debate out there, but it ultimately depends on the budget and how the card is going to be used.  I’m a professional 3D animator who does quite a bit of character work in packages like Maya, but I also do some FX work in Houdini and some digital sculpting in 3D Coat.  Houdini and 3D Coat can take advantage of the CUDA cores and according to this thread in the 3D Coat forums, the CUDA performance has been degraded in recent releases on the GeForce cards. They seem to be settling on the Geforce GTX 580.

After much research, I’ve decided to replace my Quadro 600 card.  It has been reliable and doesn’t consume much power, but the frame-rates are killing my eyes.  I’ve opted for the Geforce GTX 580 w/ 3GB of RAM.  Cost me $260, used on Amazon.   The other option I was considering was the Quadro 4000 w/ 2GB of RAM…  but I would have had to talk a seller down from $450.  Considering the benchmarks and the stats below… well… I’m going to take a gamble on a “non-professional” card.

Quadro 600
CUDA = 96
mem interface = 128
max power = 40w

GeForce GTX 580
$389 (or $225 used)
RAM = 1.5GB
CUDA cores = 512
mem interface = 192
max power = 244 W

Quadro K4000
CUDA cores = 768
mem interface = 192
max power consumption = 80W

Quadro 4000
$665 (or $430 used)
CUDA cores = 256
mem interface = 256
max power consumption = 142W

Quadro K2000
CUDA cores = 384
interface = 128 bit
max power = ?

Here’s some links to some of the Quadro vs GeForce debates.




Playing in 3D

“Playing”?  Did I really just say “PLAYING”?  It must have been due to the time I had off today.  Working on legal stuff (wee), therefore I was away from the PC for most of the day.  After completing my errands, I sat down at my desktop machine, booted up Linux and started playing around with 3D Coat.  It’s similar to ZBrush, in that you can use a drawing tablet to sculpt 3D geometry.  BUT, there’s a key difference.  This uses voxels.  That means that you can literally scupt like clay.  There are non usual polygon limitations.  When you’re done, it’s got plenty of simple retopologizing tools.  Seriously, this has been heaven.

I was curious to see what others have done with the tool. Like myself, people don’t taste it and just walk away, they dive in! This has created a full on 3D sculpting addict out of us.  For example, while looking at this thread, I thought, “Yeah, this is neat and that’s ok.”  But then I saw the image below and had to take a step back.  It doesn’t feel like your classic ZBrush results.  The results from 3D Coat seem to have a more dynamic feel.

Then there’s Ondrej Svadlena, who is praising 3D Coat with, “the voxel sculpting and quadrangulation saved me a lot of time and made things possible that I would probably have never achieved with any other software!” Looking at the images from his short, “Mrdrchain”, I can see what he means. I hope I remember to check back in to see the completed short. In the meantime, you can watch his bizarre short, “Sanitkasan“.

3D Coat doesn’t just sculpt. This voxel stuff is actually relatively new to the package. Apparently it’s primarily used for texturing. Brett Simms has some stunning results in the forums.

While tooling around, I discovered some people using Silo to model, then bringing the resulting models into 3D Coat.  Silo?  Whassat?  That will probably end up in it’s own entry one day.  So many products out there that I’ve not been aware of.

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