How to build a rendering computer

Written by garrett unglaub
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How to build a rendering computer
A rendering computer can look like a normal computer, or be a large cluster of computers. (computer image by Orlando Florin Rosu from Fotolia.com)

A rendering computer is typically a server or fast workstation built for the rigorous bit-crunching required to output a finished image or video. Rendering computers are usually geared towards 3D modelers and architects, but also have a place in the video-effects production field and increasingly in the medical field. It is easy to spend from £650 to £6,500 when building a rendering workstation. Some motion picture companies have entire rooms of servers dedicated to rendering. After the budget is set, compatible parts can be fit together to create a rendering computer tailored to your needs.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Computer case
  • Power supply
  • Optical disc drive
  • Hard drives
  • Motherboard with RAID controller and SLI/Crossfire
  • RAM
  • Workstation video card

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Create a budget by considering your rendering needs. An Adobe After Effects rendering computer for a novice could use a quad-core processor and non-workstation graphics. A professional architect might need a large workstation to render AutoCAD graphics.

  2. 2

    Select the motherboard and processor first. A low-end computer could be built with an AMD quad-core processor, a mid-range could use an Intel quad-core, higher still an Intel 6-core, and dual or quad XEONs with 4-6 cores each is the generally accepted to be top quality.

  3. 3

    Find a power supply and case that matches the specifications of your motherboard, CPU and graphics cards. A workstation ATX motherboard will require a larger case than a standard ATX motherboard. The power supply should be around 600-1000 watts to accommodate the energy-hungry graphics cards and hard drives.

  4. 4

    Select hard drives that match the RAID connectors on your motherboard. Look for SATA, if possible. Also look for the speed. Never get hard drives with a speed less than 7,200 RPM unless they will be used for storage only. 7,200 RPM or 10,000 RPM in a RAID 5 or 0 array would be best.

  5. 5

    Find RAM that is error correcting if the budget allows, otherwise get at least 6 GB for a quad-core CPU, 12 GB for 6 core or dual XEON (quad) and 24 GB for Dual or quad 6-core XEONs. RAM is very important for rendering applications and not having enough can cripple to effectiveness of your CPU.

  6. 6

    Purchase an optical disc drive with either a DVD-R or Blu-ray-R drive. An optical disc drive will not help speed up the rendering process, but might be necessary for exporting the finished product.

  7. 7

    Select a video card that is Adobe approved if your computer will be used for video rendering. If you will be using your computer for 3D renderings, select the workstation-approved video cards from Nvidia or ATI. Nvidia's is called Quadro while ATI's is FirePro.

  1. 1

    Mount the power supply in the case and make sure all the fans are tightly screwed in.

  2. 2

    Place the motherboard into the case, then secure it. Unlock the CPU lock and put the CPU in pins side down.

  3. 3

    Squirt a copious amount of the thermal paste onto the CPU, then place the fan and heat sink on top. Lock both into place using the motherboard clips.

  4. 4

    Put the RAM into the motherboard's RAM slots, and make sure they are secure by locking them into place with the clips.

  5. 5

    Insert the video card into the PCI-Express slot and attach the power cable. If you are running multiple video cards in SLI, attach the SLI cable.

  6. 6

    Place the hard drives into the hard-drive bay and the optical disc drive into its bay. Attach the SATA cables from both to the motherboard, then connect the power cables. If you are using multiple drives with RAID, configure it.

  7. 7

    Connect the power cables to the motherboard and check all connections to make sure they are secure. Close the case, attach a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Press the power button. The computer should boot up and display BIOs.

Tips and warnings

  • To save money on operating large render farms, look for energy-efficient modules. Rendering computer often run 24 hours a day and can consume massive amounts of energy.
  • Always take precautions when working with electric equipment.

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