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Best Computers and/or Graphic Cards for Filming

Lexie Linden

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Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart, according to Tom Hardware.

  GeForce                                                                          Radeon

Discrete: GTX 580 Discrete: HD 5970
Discrete: GTX 295, GTX 480, GTX 570
Discrete: HD 4870 X2, HD 6970

Discrete: HD 4850 X2, HD 5870, HD 6950

Discrete: GTX 470, GTX 560 Ti Discrete: HD 5850, 6870
Discrete: 9800 GX2, GTX 285, GTX 460 1GB, GTX 465 Discrete: 6850

Discrete: GTX 260, GTX 275, GTX 280, GTX 460 768 MB, GTX 460 SE
Discrete: HD 4870, HD 5770, HD 4890, HD 5830
Mobility: HD 5870

Discrete: 8800 Ultra, 9800 GTX, 9800 GTX+, GTS 250, GTS 450 Discrete: HD 3870 X2, HD 4850, HD 5750
Mobility: HD 4850, HD 5850

Discrete: 8800 GTX, 8800 GTS 512 MB
Go (mobile): GTX 280M, GTX 285M
Discrete: HD 4770
Mobility: HD 4860

Discrete: 8800 GT 512 MB, 9800 GT
Go (mobile): 9800M GTX, GTX 260M (112), GTS 360M (GDDR5)
Discrete: HD 4830, HD 5670
Mobility: HD 5770, HD 5750

Discrete: 8800 GTS 640 MB, 9600 GT, GT 240 (GDDR5)
Go (mobile): 9800M GTS, GTX 160M
Discrete: HD 2900 XT, HD 3870, HD 5570 (GDDR5)

Discrete: 8800 GS, 9600 GSO, GT 240 (DDR3)
Go (mobile): GTX 260M (96), GTS 150M, GTS 360M (DDR3)
Discrete: HD 3850 512 MB, HD 4670, HD 5570 (DDR3)
Mobility: HD 3870, HD 5730, HD 5650

Discrete: 8800 GT 256 MB, 8800 GTS 320 MB
Go (mobile): 8800M
Discrete: HD 2900 PRO, HD 3850 256 MB, 5550 (GDDR5)
Mobility: HD 3850

Discrete: 7950 GX2 Discrete: X1950 XTX, HD 4650 (DDR3), 5550 (DDR3)
Discrete: 7800 GTX 512, 7900 GTO, 7900 GTX, GT 430 Discrete: X1900 XT, X1950 XT, X1900 XTX
Discrete: 7800 GTX, 7900 GT, 7950 G, GT 220 (DDR3) Discrete: X1800 XT, X1900 AIW, X1900 GT, X1950 PRO, HD 2900 GT, HD 5550 (DDR2)

Discrete: 7800 GT, 7900 GS, 8600 GTS, 9500 GT (GDDR3), GT 220 (DDR2)
Go (mobile): 7950 GTX
Discrete: X1800 XL, X1950 GT, HD 4650 (DDR2)
Mobility X1800 XT, HD 4650, HD 5165

Discrete: 6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 7800 GS, 8600 GS, 8600 GT (GDDR3), 9500 GT (DDR2)
Go (mobile): 7800 GTX, 7900 GTX
Discrete: X800 XT (& PE), X850 XT (& PE), X1650 XT, X1800 GTO, HD 2600 XT, HD 3650 (DDR3), HD 3670
Mobility: X1900, 3670

Discrete: 6800 GT, 6800 GS (PCIe), 8600 GT (DDR2)
Go (mobile): 7800, Go 7900 GS
Discrete: X800 XL, X800 GTO2/GTO16, HD 2600 PRO, HD 3650 (DDR2),
Mobility: X800 XT, HD 2600 XT, 3650

Discrete: 6800 GS (AGP)
Go (mobile): 6800 Ultra, 7600 GT, 8600M GT, 8700M GT
Discrete: X800 GTO 256 MB, X800 PRO, X850 PRO, X1650 GT
Mobility: HD 2600

Discrete: 6800, 7300 GT GDDR3, 7600 GS, 8600M GS
Go (mobile): 6800, 7700
Discrete: X800, X800 GTO 128 MB, X1600 XT, X1650 PRO
Mobility: X1800, HD 5145, HD 5470 (GDDR5), HD 5450
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Gaming CPU Hierarchy Chart, according to Tom Hardware.

   Intel                                                                                                         AMD

Core i7-2600, -2600K
Core i7-965, -975 Extreme, -980X Extreme, -990X Extreme
Core i7-970, -960
Core i5-2500, -2500K

Core i7-860, -870, -875K, -920, -930, -940, -950,
Core i5-750, -760
Core 2 Extreme QX9775, QX9770, QX9650
Core 2 Quad Q9650
Core i3-2100
Phenom II X4 Black Edition 975
Core 2 Extreme QX6850, QX6800
Core 2 Quad Q9550, Q9450, Q9400
Core i5-650, -655K, -660, -661, -670, -680
Phenom II X6 1100T BE, 1090T BE, 1075T
Phenom II X4 Black Edition 970, 965, 955
Core 2 Extreme QX6700
Core 2 Quad Q6700, Q9300, Q8400, Q6600, Q8300
Core 2 Duo E8600, E8500, E8400, E7600
Core i3 -530, -540, -550
Phenom II X6 1055T
Phenom II X4 945, 940, 920, 910, 910e, 810
Phenom II X3 Black Edition 720, 740
Athlon II X4 645, 640, 635, 630
Athlon II X3 455, 450, 445, 440, 435
Core 2 Extreme X6800
Core 2 Quad Q8200
Core 2 Duo E8300, E8200, E8190, E7500, E7400, E6850, E6750
Phenom II X4 905e, 805
Phenom II X3 710, 705e
Phenom II X2 565 BE, 560 BE, 555 BE, 550 BE, 545
Phenom X4 9950
Athlon II X4 620
Athlon II X3 425
Core 2 Duo E7200, E6550, E7300, E6540, E6700
Pentium Dual-Core E5700, E5800, E6300, E6500, E6600, E6700
Pentium G9650
Phenom X4 9850, 9750, 9650, 9600
Phenom X3 8850, 8750
Athlon II X2 265, 260, 255
Athlon 64 X2 6400+
Core 2 Duo E4700, E4600, E6600, E4500, E6420
Pentium Dual-Core E5400, E5300, E5200
Phenom X4 9500, 9550, 9450e, 9350e
Phenom X3 8650, 8600, 8550, 8450e, 8450, 8400, 8250e
Athlon II X2 240, 245, 250
Athlon X2 7850, 7750
Athlon 64 X2 6000+, 5600+
Core 2 Duo E4400, E4300, E6400, E6320
Celeron E3300
Phenom X4 9150e, 9100e
Athlon X2 7550, 7450, 5050e, 4850e/b
Athlon 64 X2 5400+, 5200+, 5000+, 4800+
Core 2 Duo E5500, E6300
Pentium Dual-Core E2220, E2200, E2210
Celeron E3200
Athlon X2 6550, 6500, 4450e/b,
Athlon X2 4600+, 4400+, 4200+, BE-2400
Pentium Dual-Core E2180
Celeron E1600
Athlon 64 X2 4000+, 3800+
Athlon X2 4050e, BE-2300
Pentium Dual-Core E2160, E2140
Celeron E1500, E1400, E1200


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My partner and I have done tests on a number of Mac systems, and have had great results on a lot of machines.

Since early 2009, everything Apple makes has come with a pretty solid GPU under the hood.  Entry level machines came with an nVidia 9400m at the very least, which got respectable frame rates in SL and could be used to film machinima.  Better machines will of course deliver better performance, so keep your eyes open for options that include a better GPU, more video memory, and more system RAM.

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I have posted above an hierarchy chart for CPU, and Graphic Cards for Filming. Obviously it is for reference only, as difference set ups may behave differently.

On the Graphic Cards chart, a twin HD 4850 may performance in terms of FPS like a HD 5870 or a HD 6950, and a twin HD 4870 is compared with a HD 5970. However both HD 4850 and HD 4870 support DirectX 10.1, and Shader Model 4.1, while both HD 5870 and HD 6950 support DirectX 11, and Shader Model 5.0, which may make some difference while filming. I am not really sure what DirectX Second Life supports.

I use a single HD 5870 for machinima, and I am quite happy with the results. As a sample I leave this vid I made some ago while playing with some SL shadows. For a HD version of it click



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Sorry but the 9400m is crap IMO. The 320m that the new 2010 MBP 13" is ALOT better. The NEW NEW 2011 has an intel HD 3000 which is said to be comparible to the 320m.

Apple would be my number one choice if money were no option because I strongly feel that OSX is the best OS out there right now.

With that being said, For $1000 dollars, you get a MBP with a class 3 video card (320m, intel HD 3000). These will diffetely produce some good frame rate but for $1000 you can get a PC with a class 1 video card which will give you AMAZING frame rates and you will future proof yourself as well. For $500-$800 or so  you can get a laptop with a class 2 video card in it.

Like I said I would go with apple if you can afford it. Though I would recommend there 15" line up which comes with a dedicated graphics card. Though for $1500 for a 15" mbp, you get a Class 2 graphics card. If you spent that on a laptop PC, you could get a class 1 graphics card, these cards are comparible to many high end desktop graphics cards.

Last but not least. DONT BE FOOLED BY NUMBERS.

for example a 5850 would beat the pants of a 6450. Though the 6450 is a "newer" series, after the 6 is a 4, which indicates this is the lower end of that series which means even though its newer, it will not compete speed wise with its older but faster counter part. This number scheming works pretty good still with NVIDIA and ATI cards.

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macs rock for video editing in my opinion, at least they used to anyway.

Personally I have a gts 250 by pny the xlr8 series with 1 gig of ddr3, a amd 945 quad core, 4 gigs of ram and an intel solid state drive. its more than enough for sl. On windows 7 64 bit.

Cool vid Steve, but if you have epilepsy DO NOT watch that video lol.

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A lot of folks are more than willing to spend more money on the better machine and better computing experience.  Computers are like tools.  And as with tools, there are a lot of brands offering a wide range of quality.  For every pro out there swearing by the good stuff, there are a few out there convinced of the value of the low end stuff.  However, I don't want to get into any platform debates, use whatever tool you like.

As for the 9400m, it's not a bad entry level integrated GPU (and certainly better than the plague of Intel GMA graphics that a lot of entry level machines come with.  On the MacBooks that came with it, SL can manage 15-20fps on an average build at ground level.  You can get better frame rates at altitude, or if you turn down the graphics settings, but that's not bad (and certainly better than what most SL residents are logging in with).  It also supports shadows, though expect single-digit frame rates with them enabled (still worthwhile for shooting still pictures).  It's a moot point, though, since anyone out there shopping for a new system today isn't going to see it in a Mac, the GT320m and Intel HD 3000 are the bottom end GPU's.

Neither would be my personal choice (I prefer the higher end machines), but objectively speaking they're not bad.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • Lindens

Some people have asked what my own configuration is. After all, if I pick it, it must be awesome, right? More like... through much tinkering and experimentation over the years, I've gained a lot of experience figuring out how to get a powerful system at a reasonable price. I'm thrifty like that!

So, without further ado, HERE'S EXACTLY WHAT'S IN TORLEY'S MAIN WINDOWS RIG... that was assembled by Digital Storm Online. (I also have a Mac but I don't really use it for machinima, since Second Life runs a lot slower.) Usual disclaimer applies that this is not a universal Linden Lab recommendation, it's merely what I have chosen for my own multimedia-centric needs both working and playing inworld.

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  • 4 weeks later...

My dream computer would be an Intel i7 processor, 1 GB HD video card with HD 1080p support, 8-16 GB of RAM, 1TB HDD, 2x512 GB SSD, Surround sound, 750W power supply, Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit, and Gigabit ethernet router

Programs will include: Sony Vegas Pro 10, Camtasia Studio, and Adobe Aftereffects/Flash/Premiere Pro CS5. Of course it won't be complete with Norton 360 and Second Life Viewer 2 with graphics on ultra and draw distance up to 512m for racing, HD 1080p machimia and taking large high-resolution photos. Other programs will include garry's mod, IMVU and Minecraft.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Seems you a the optimal computer for windows machinima, the things I see that may affect the performance since you were not happy with the results. Well keeep in mind many textures are not high resolution themselves,and second life it's self will not give you pixar like images no matter what you use. Also you choose a laggy situation as I see the jerkiness of the video and also I didn't see a logitech 3D space navigator mouse listed so I assume you are panning using the mouse, and with panning or zooming comes distortion. Also I saw no reference to the light settings you were using I assume defauly mid-day and avatars to me look best in windlight, although it does cause some increased glow effects for backgrounds.

The best viewer I have seen for graphics is the old 1.23.5  has the best balance,lowest noise, and very important depth perception. I will not use ANY of the new viewers or phoniex all are problems for my filming.  

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  • 2 months later...

Hi, ive read through this thread and i only wish i could understand half of what was said. I'm not very computer literate and have a hard time comparing one or the other, in my eyes newer means better which i understand isnt the case with computers. Right now i have a desktop, its an old dell dimension 3100 it still works fine but im thinking its time for a replacement, especially since everytime i log into sl it tells me i don't meet the minimum system requirements. Surpisingly sl runs pretty smoothly for me as long as im not in a very crowded area but then again i do have my graphics setting on low so i know im not experiencing the true visuals sl offers. Anyway i've been looking at laptops, i have enough for a Macbook Pro which is what i've been eyeing but im not sure thats the best choice. As far as desktops i've been looking at another dell but thats only cause its what im used to and im not sure if thats the best either. So if anyone could make some recommendations, u may have to dumb it down for me a bit lol, i'd really appreciate it

edit: sorry i should add i'm not willing to spend over $2000

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  • 1 year later...
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