View Full Version : g4 as a 3d modeler and renderer

05-22-2001, 11:52 AM
i have : g4 466mhz 384mb cd-rw[internal] zip250[internal] 30gb ata [ibm] ati rage 128 pro 16mb

assuming the processor will remain inatct, and that i am willing to spend, what would i do to improve? i have already spoken to some and the suggestions have involved moving up to a better graphics card, at least a radeon and perhaps the nvidia geforce3; as well as new hard drives, ultra-160 scsi was said to be the way to go [i looked at the pages you have regarding cards and drives and such, but frankly i am lost as to what would need purchasing, let alone how to install it].

is this advice sound? what else would you suggest? and thak you for this forum.


05-22-2001, 06:03 PM
Hey spidey,

What do you do with your mac? What you do would help prioritize any upgrade suggestions. You can get get very fast I/O with a dual channel ATA card and two ATA drives but you can get even much faster with a more expensive SCSI subsytem like the ATTO UL3D or ATTO UL3S controllers and a couple of big Seagate 10k Cheetahs or state-of-the-art fast Cheetah X15 drives. The video cards you mention are about your only choices but they are great. The geforce3 would be hard to beat but you could beat it by getting a good PCI card to drive a second monitor (something for the guy who has everything).

05-22-2001, 08:41 PM
Well, assuming you are after all-out rendering power, using programs like Form¨ÔZ, Bryce, or potentially Maya, your main concern is processor speed, followed closely by RAM.

If you are really serious, I'd start saving for a dual-G4 upgrade, although most Mac programs should scream on your current machine, esp. if optimized for AltiVec.

Second, buy more RAM. 512 MB is not unreasonable, and 1GB is not ridiculous depending on how much work you do and what you get paid to do it.

A new graphics card might have more VRAM and potentially accelerate 3D performance a little, but in my experience, the above two concerns are far more important. Save your money; a Rage 128 is good enough unless you are into heavy 3D.

A faster drive setup, which would require a SCSI card (best choice ATTO), a cable, and an LVD drive, preferably a Cheetah, is not really a limiter for you right now. Your total space is fine, and the newer ATA drives are plenty fast enough. If you find yourself doing lots of Photoshop work or opening huge scenes in 3D programs, a faster drive would definitely speed up your workflow, opening, saving, and recording faster if you do animation.

That's my opinion.

05-22-2001, 10:15 PM
I agree with Mr. Ripper, but have another angle to add. DO you do anything with OpenGL Renderings? If so then that's where the faster 3D Video Card will come in, especially if you do animations that don't need to be top quality, but you want to look nice.

I have done some pretty complex architectural models in Form¨ÔZ and the time saved by rendering the fly-throughs in OpenGL (on a PCI Radeon) was a life saver! It supports Textures, transpariency, fog, reflections, etc that really bog down Raytraced models. And it's really handy for decent preview renderings.

I think that you might want to lay out a description of what kind of work you are intending the machine to be for. The range of professionals that frequent here is amazing so don't be afriad to really get into details that most "outside" people don't understand. It will only benefit (and be most cost effective) you in the long run.



05-23-2001, 12:47 PM
we're looking at what software to use, i am pushing for form z [i used it a lot at school], but we are considering archicad as well as 3d studio [which would be a platform shift, and not something i care to think about] for their ease of export into renderers like lightscape. i should mention that we already have archicad, vectorworks, art-lantis, lightscape, zoom, and a couple others, but we do not have form z.

perhaps you could also advise on the renderers available for form z et al. or do you believe the capabilities of the modelers extend far enough into rendering as to not necessitate a separate renderer?

anyway, the computer i described sits on my desk right now, and i am for the time being the most 3d modeling adept one in the office, but that will no doubt change soon enough, so what i prefer is not the prime consideration, rather what would be best for the firm. we [as a firm] would love to be more capable of 3d modeling/rendering/animation and that is the driving force behind my queries; however i do not want to be the only modeler as i would like to someday get registered. anyway my current task is the potential model and a 2-5 minute walk/fly through with photorealistic texture mapping. this is not a task which i would care to tackle using vectorworks/art-lantis.

this event could [and i belive should] be seen as an oppurtunity to beef up our 3d capabilities, to more than now exist, and more than necessary for the little movie. to if nothing else prevent this same conversation from occuring in two months when we see yet another opportunity.

so, i am not shy about money, what i want is an all around modeler/renderer/animator and future expansion capabilities. should we just get a new machine and load it up, or tweak what we have?

[This message has been edited by spidermonkey (edited 25 May 2001).]

05-23-2001, 11:14 PM
Well it seems like the packages that you are looking at are at two ends of the spectrum.

One end, you have the more architectural/building programs like Archicad and Vectorworks that are wonderful for 2D drawings, and basic 3D, but lack the real power for complex 3D work (not to mention lack luster render engines). On the other end is the Form-Z/3D studio type which is extremely powerful for complex 3D but lacks functionality for the base project work that it seems you need.

By this I assume that you are in the Architecture/Building realm and need to produce working drawings as well as visualizations.

From my point, if you REALLY want to make a serious stab at 3D, then you will need to have multiple packages. The first for production of the working drawings/design, and the second to visualize it. If you already have Archicad/Vectorworks, that's a good starting point. Use it to start the model and get a basic mass. From there export it into a 3D program and finish the model with the more complex forms and textures/materials. At this end, as mentioned before, the raw processing power is the main bottleneck. The faster the MHz the better.

Now, to some degree, the maturity of the render engine is a limiting factor too. For instance, Form-Z's render is pretty fast, does a good job texturing, and can really be cranked up for ultimate realism (Renderzone vs Radiosity). Compare it to Electric Image though, and Form-z looks like a turtle (http://www.electricimage.com). They just released Electric Image Universe for OSX and it's $1995. I haven't used it, but know people that do use older versions of EI. Some even design the 3D Models in Form-Z then just render in EI. With highend software like this, the speed that you can produce material is worth every penny, even to have two expensive packages around. It can mean the difference between a week and 2 days rendering.

For instance, just looking at a say 3 minute movie at 320x240, assuming 15 frames a second that is 2700 frames. If each frame takes on average 90 seconds to render, then you're already looking at 2.81 days to render (I think). As you know time is money. It all depends on how far you really want to take it.

I also still suggest looking at the quality of Form-Z's OpenGL renderings. Make sure that you turn on all the options (transparency, reflections, etc.) and maybe you will find that the quality is close to what you are looking for anyway. If so, then get a good OpenGL card as well, you'll be happy for the fast previews.

I hope that this helps you and let me know if you need more info.


05-24-2001, 11:06 AM
i am relatively familiar with formz, but not as much with archicad/vectorworks. at this office [to which i am a recent addition] we have used vectorworks for cds, but are now beginning to transition into archicad, one reason being its greater 3d capabilities. i used archicad at another office before this one and was less than impressed with its models or its renders. one thing i liked about formz was its capacity to do pretty good renderings by itself, though they took forever even on my g4. the newer g4s are quicker, yes but how much so [i have a sawtooth 400]. my g4 at work is a 466. should i lobby for the purchase of a 733, or dual 533, or is there a dual 733 on the way? what are the real speed differences [supposing the use of software which supports dual processors] should we also go to osx on the new machine [we don't need to jump quite yet, this movie thing won't even begin until mid june]?

so, assume i were to build a formz modeler. would this then be a different machine from an electric image renderer, or would/could i be able to assemble both in one machine, without losses on either end? i guess my question is what does a modeler require vs a renderer, or do they need the same stuff?


[This message has been edited by spidermonkey (edited 24 May 2001).]

05-24-2001, 02:37 PM
The Modeler and Render machines can be one. They both need the same things:

1) Sheer Horsepower (MHz)
2) Boat loads of system RAM.

A faster harddrive will speed up saving/opening the models and graphics that are produced. A faster video card will speed up screen redraws on complex stuff and make OpenGL renders/previews faster. IMHO, both things that will make themselves evident even in the work that you have already done. If you've already done projects that take forever to save/open and are really sluggish when scrolling, then it's something to conider as well.

For the systems, what you need to determine is if you can afford to not use the machine while it is rendering. If you still need to do modeling work during rendering, then 2 machines would be the best. One main beast workstation (fastest processor and mucho RAM) that you could work on until you set it to render, then a 2nd machine that was similar enough to sustain your modeling needs until the job was rendered. If you are going to finish the model, and then do other things while it is rendering then just one good workstation is fine.

In regards to OSX, unless Electric Image does not support 9.1, then I see no need to go that route (but keep in mind that all new G4's come with X preinstalled anyway, however 9.1 is still the default). Also, I don't believe Form-Z is Altivec or OSX ready. We who use the program really need to push them in that direction.

What else do you need to know at this point? I know that there are many options to think about..


05-25-2001, 12:11 PM
wouold it be worth it to get the faster hard drives? would it be better [if i were to get a new machine] to get the scsi 160s from apple [are they cheetahs?] or to get a whole new interior from aftermarket and use only the processor/graphics card from apple?

what are some other renderers out there for use with formz?

you said formz does not support altivec? are you aware of which software does support it, do any of the renderers?


[This message has been edited by spidermonkey (edited 25 May 2001).]

05-27-2001, 09:09 PM
Hello Pete,

-1) "wouold it be worth it to get the faster hard drives? would it be better [if i
-were to get a new machine] to get the scsi 160s from apple [are they
-cheetahs?] or to get a whole new interior from aftermarket and use only
-the processor/graphics card from apple?"

I don't know what apple sells as HD's.. Maybe another can elaborate on this. I would opt for them, but if cash is at all a concern, this should be at the lower end of the list.

-2)what are some other renderers out there for use with formz?

Just about any renderer applicatoin can be used with Form¨ÔZ, especially now that, with the newest vesion of FZ, it can export to native Lightwave format. As for other programs outside of Artlantis and EI, I'm not sure what other apps there are.

-3)you said formz does not support altivec? are you aware of which
-software does support it, do any of the renderers?

For the most part, I have not seen any 3D apps support this yet. The newest FZ MIGHT, but I didn't get a chance to check it out. Since EI went to the point of going OSX, I would assume that it's altivec, but you know the rule about assumptions.

In general, I think that Form¨ÔZ and EI would be a great combo that you would be more than happy with. the EI Universe IS a whole modeling/rendering package and might be fine by itself, but I haven't used it so I don't know how good it is.

What are you leaning towards right now?


05-30-2001, 11:07 AM
leaning towards a new tower with formz. we're trying to assess exactly what it would cost to do one machine as a modeler/renderer, then if the investment is worth it, or would we be better off upgrading one or more of our current machines to a point where they could be used in tandem. also we are concerned that we use whatever we buy enough to justify not only the expense but the existence of a new machine with no as yet allocated full-time user. i started another thread on the viability of upgrading to a gurus approved 160 setup over the shipping apple 160 [time, pain, money, etc.]. this is all academic though, because we have yet to decide even if we will do anything at all.