Jigsaw24 Benchmarks: NVIDIA’s Quadro K5000 vs Quadro 4000

Jigsaw24 Benchmarks: NVIDIA’s Quadro K5000 vs Quadro 4000

Now that the Quadro K5000 for Mac has finally shipped, we wanted put it through its paces. Our friends at NVIDIA kindly agreed to lend us one to test, so we broke out our Mac Pro, upgraded it to OS X 10.8.3 to get the latest GPU drivers (you’ll need to do this too if you want to use the card) and cracked on.

The test

We decided to test the K5000 against the Quadro 4000, as these two cards represent the only professional grade NVIDIA GPUs available for the Mac Pro, so we thought it would be a nice illustration of how the GPU power available to the Mac Pro has progressed. We were hoping that the K5000 would be faster across the board, as on paper it’s a far more powerful card.

We chose a range of tests designed to represent a cross-section of the GPU-centric media and entertainment workflows the K5000 has the potential to accelerate. All of our benchmarks were run on a clean copy of OS X 10.8.3 and repeated three times – we’re quoting the average score below.

Davinci Resolve 9

Firstly we tested Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 9.1.1. Resolve is a colour grading application that makes heavy use of CUDA acceleration for both transcoding and colour grading.  Our (relatively simple) test involved transcoding a 2K DPX sequence into a 1920 x 1080 ProRes 422 Proxy file. So as not to cause a bottleneck that would skew the cards’ performance downward, the files were read/written to very fast storage.

Here the Quadro 4000 averaged 37fps transcoding speed and the K5000 averaged 53fps, which means that the K5000 offers roughly 40% more performance than the Quadro 4000 for this workflow. As almost all of Resolve is CUDA accelerated, this performance gain should translate to an overall increase in speed across DaVinci Resolve.

Adobe After Effects CS6

The next test used Adobe After Effects CS6. AE CS6 includes a new ray traced render engine, which is fully CUDA accelerated. This render engine allows very realistic rendering of things like shadows, reflections and glossy materials, and we planned to time how long it took each card to render a test scene setup.

The K5000 managed the render in 10 minutes and 5 seconds with the Quadro 4000 clocking 18 minutes and 3 seconds, making the K5000 almost twice as fast as the Quadro 4000 – again, a great upgrade for this workflow.

OpenGL benchmarks

Finally we wanted to gauge the general OpenGL performance of the cards to get an idea of how they would perform in 3D Applications such as Maxon CINEMA 4D and Autodesk Maya.

We used a benchmark called FurMark, which tests a card’s ability to draw complex 3D images on to the screen. Higher performance in this benchmark indicates that the card will be able to handle more complex geometry inside the viewport in apps like Maya or C4D, meaning a smoother editing experience with complex scenes.

The Quadro 4000 managed 24 frames per second and the K5000 managed 54 FPS. (To give some perspective we also ran this test on the Radeon 5770 that shipped with our Mac Pro and it scored 31 FPS.) Again, this indicates that the K5000 is over twice as powerful as the Quadro 4000 when it comes to manipulating geometry in the viewport of a 3D application.

The conclusion

Much as we love it, the Quadro 4000 is getting a little long in the tooth and the K5000 looks to be a solid upgrade performance-wise. The Quadro K5000 is in fact the most powerful officially supported CUDA GPU available for a Mac Pro – and as CUDA will not run on the Radeon cards that most Mac Pros ship with, it’s an essential upgrade for anyone who needs CUDA acceleration in their application.

The K5000 also offers significantly better OpenGL performance than the Radeon cards that ship with Mac Pros as standard, so is a solid upgrade for anyone doing complex 3D modelling or animation.

Buy your NVIDIA K5000 for Mac now

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email 3D@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news and reviews, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Speed test results: Fusion iO’s iOFX

Speed test results: Fusion iO’s iOFX

We were recently lucky enough to get an iOFX card from Fusion iO into our test lab. For those who don’t know who Fusion iO are, they have been making waves in the enterprise market with their high performance PCI Express-based flash memory devices. Typically, Fusion iO have sold products into the high end server market, with extremely high traffic websites such as Facebook and Apple’s iCloud service making use of their hardware to deal with the 100s of requests they get a second.

When is an SSD not an SSD?

Fusion iO don’t like to call their devices SSDs as they offer far more than that. SSDs traditionally connect to the SATA bus, which was originally designed for spinning drives – as are most file systems. These two things tend to get in the way of SSDs reaching their full performance. Most other PCIe SSDs, such as the RevoDrive, also use SATA as the interface to their flash – effectively they are like a PCIe RAID controller with one or more SSDs connected. This still brings the inherent legacy of spinning drives with it.

The iOFX is different. For all intents and purposes it directly connects the flash memory to the PCIe bus. Certain applications, such as Nuke, can even make use of the iOMemory API to address it as if it were RAM, further decreasing the latency. What all of this means is that it is very fast with very low latency, so files load faster even if you are trying to read a lot of them at once.

However, as the iOFX appears to most applications (those that don’t make use of iOMemory) as a very fast SSD, that’s what we’ll be comparing it with here.

The test results

The performance numbers certainly speak for themselves, with a read speed of up to 1.4 GBps and a write speed of 700 MBps the iOFX is significantly faster than SATA based SSDs and faster than other PCIe based SSDs to boot.

We verified these performance numbers in our test rig using the Blackmagic Design and ATTO disk speed tests and were shocked to see a 5GB read test complete in just over five seconds. There is a graph below showing the relative read/write speeds of some other SSDs for comparison – note that the performance numbers for these other SSDs are taken from their manufacturers’ specifications as we don’t have those drives here to test, but it stands to reason that the manufacturers are going to promote best case scenario times.

As you can see, the read speed (in black) of the iOFX eclipses the other SSDs.  The write speed (in orange), while extremely fast, is not the fastest here. Fusion tell us this is by design, as it helps them keep the cost of the iOFX down. They’re pitching this as a cache/scratch drive for post-production applications, so read speed is far more important than write speed as these applications tend to need realtime playback of extremely large files.

Playback and rendering

To give an example, we were able to play back 4K uncompressed DPX files from the iOFX in realtime. We tried this in DaVinci Resolve and Adobe After Effects, and they experienced none of the sluggish performance normally associated with playing back 4K.

We also tried rendering some 2K DPX files read from the iOFX and writing out the resulting uncompressed Quicktime files back to the same iOFX. This more than doubled our render speeds compared to using the internal three drive RAID on our Mac Pro.

The other interesting thing here was the GPU usage. Resolve uses the GPU for most of its processing, and when reading/writing the files to our traditional spinning disk RAID the GPU usage hovered around 20% on our Quadro 4000. Performing the same test with the files on the iOFX pushed the GPU usage to more like 80%, unlocking the performance potential of our GPU.

Is it for me?

I think that the Fusion iO iOFX would make a great scratch drive for working with high resolution video content. It eliminates the shortcomings of traditional spinning drives, having no problem serving multiple files or reading and writing simultaneously. And it allows you to unlock the full potential of the expensive CPUs and GPUs you’re likely have in your workstation already.

We’re going to be posting more info on pricing, availability and where exactly Fusion iOFX will fit into your workflow as we get it, so keep checking back (or keep your eye on Twitter) for the latest info.

Want to know more about Fusion iO? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, reviews and updates, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

Power your design review in the field

Power your design review in the field

Collaboration has always been a big part of any CAD or AEC workflow, and it’s become particularly prominent in the last few years as BIM principles have gained traction and mobile devices have made it easier for works in office and onsite to work together.

However, getting everyone in your pipeline to chip in and buy an Autodesk suite isn’t the only way to get everyone working together. PDF review tools like Bluebeam have been around for years, and newer releases like CadFaster even allow you to share 3D models with colleagues and clients, so you can all agree on a design more quickly. As you can currently get a free one year CadFaster licence by responding to this Vectorworks offer, we thought it was time to revisit review tools…

The iPad angle

There’s no escaping the huge growth in mobile devices and the cloud recently – Microsoft have reported they estimate 14 million jobs to be created by cloud computing by 2015, and mobile devices are set to outnumber laptops in the workplace by 2013. Why? Because they’re efficient, cost-effective and enable the kind of flexible workflow you need when you’re trying to coordinate HQ, on-site operators and clients.

While the thought of having to learn new kit might be off putting, the fact is that most of your workforce probably already own or is looking to get a smartphone or tablet, and that many of the controls and processes will already be familiar to them. And if the investment sounds scary, remember that smartphones and tablets come in cheaper than most laptops, and encourage the sort of out-of-hours and on the road work that big jobs demand, making them a great opportunity to ensure your workflow’s as streamlined as possible. Luckily, Autodesk already has its own apps, and major review tools will allow you to work from a smartphone or tablet.

Paperless PDF review with Bluebeam

Reviewing amends is a key part of any project, but delivering the massive files CAD workflows create, keeping track of versions and making sure everyone is working off the most up to date information can be a huge hassle. Now the cloud is helping the process become more streamlined, with colleagues able to review projects simultaneously and edit them in realtime.

One solution we’ve recommended to some of the top architectural firms recently is Bluebeam PDF Revu. This is a PDF editor, viewer and markup tool which supports the WebDAV protocol so that it can access content from collaboration software such as Autodesk’s Buzzsaw, Microsoft SharePoint or similar services over the Internet – popular programs covered included AutoCAD, Revit, Solidworks and Microsoft Office.

If you’re using Revit, Navisworks Manage or Navisworks Simulate, you can also create and mark up 3D PDFs, complete with the same camera angles, lighting and cross section information as anyone reviewing the document on a desktop machine.

Revu -3d

We recently rolled out 1500 Bluebeam licences for a customer, and it has significantly improved how their architects on-site communicate design amendments to the team back at HQ – changes are made more quickly, more clearly and all without needing to print anything out. (To put this in perspective, US construction company Turner reported a 65% saving on reprographic fees and 50% saving on courier fees after taking on Bluebeam PDF Revu. In this climate, who wouldn’t want to free up that much spare cash?)

Collaborate on CAD models

Getting clients to feed back to you quickly and coherently can sometimes be a challenge, but cloud working can actually help there, too. Having projects stored remotely means that you can have multiple users accessing 3D CAD models simultaneously and making amendments in realtime, so you can talk a client through changes as you make them, getting instant feedback and reducing the risk of misunderstandings.

One new solution that came along last year is CadFaster Collaborate for Revit. As the name would suggest, it’s big on collaboration so Richard John gave it a thorough test to see if the actual speed and ease of use matched up to CadFaster’s claims.

Snapnsend 1_430x 365

“I found CadFaster Collaborate to be an impressive little plug-in which, unlike a lot of solutions out there, doesn’t require any training,” Richard said. “This would make it a great tool for sharing designs with clients who aren’t architects and wouldn’t necessarily be up to speed with other 3D viewers. It’s also good value too, with only the Revit add-in incurring an annual subscription fee.”

– You can find out more and buy a one year subscription of CadFaster Collaborate for Autodesk Revit here. It’ll also work with Microstation and Vectorworks – in fact, Nemetschek are giving away 1500 free one year licences to Vectorworks users.

Onsite mobility

Another plus of the mobile revolution is that architects out in the field no longer have to rely on their ageing laptop’s shonky wifi connectivity to send amended CAD models back to the office. An iPad now packs enough power to make it just as viable a tool as a laptop, and a poll last year by Business Insider revealed nearly 40% of those surveyed use an iPad as their primary computer. Combined with the cloud, this means you can now have someone walking around a building site marking problems and issues on a plan on the iPad, then the architect or engineer in the office can see the markings in realtime, fix them and push the changes to the guy onsite.

You can use a tool like Bluebeam Revu for IPad to redline PDFs from your tablet using industry standard symbols, or save your own custom markups for a project so everyone involved can use them in sessions for that project. It’ll even let you store and share documents using Bluebeam’s cloud service, Bluebeam Studio.

Even better you can do this for free. Autodesk’s AutoCAD WS web and mobile app allows you to upload .DWG drawings to an online workspace, then view and edit them from anywhere using an iPad or iPhone. It’s free to download and has been given the Apple stamp of approval, so you should be able to enjoy a fairly risk-free rollout. While it may not have the functionality of a full CAD application, or the rich mark-up tools of an app like Bluebeam, it does still allow you to work on files on the move without having to install any CAD software, and lets you store content on Autodesk’s servers, or on your own servers using WebDAV depending on how close you like to keep your data.

How we can help

These are just a couple of the options we would recommend for design review and collaboration in the field. If you’re a larger enterprise who wants advanced mark-up tools but doesn’t require as much access to files, a platform like Bluebeam would be ideal, but if you’re part of a smaller team, the collaboration tools of AutoCAD WS or CadFaster Collaborate will be a big help to your workflow.

As well as being able to provide all the software you need for a mobile design review workflow, we can also set you up with deployments of Apple iPad. We can kit you out with tough iPad cases like the Griffin Survivor to protect your tablets while you’re out onsite, and help you keep track of your iPads with powerful mobile device management solutions too.

To find out more about the CAD services we offer, get in touch with our consultants. Call us on 03332 409 306, emailCAD@Jigsaw24.com

End to end workflow acceleration with NVIDIA Quadro

End to end workflow acceleration with NVIDIA Quadro

Traditionally, 3D rendering and video encoding have been extremely processor intensive, often leaving artists twiddling their thumbs for many hours at a time while they wait for their workstations to render their final projects. Then came GPU acceleration.

Although this buzzword’s been around for a couple of years now, I believe the technology is finally starting to come of age, as it is being integrated into industry-standard tools such as 3ds Max and Adobe’s design suites. This means artists and designers can take advantage of the technology without having to alter their workflow to include new and unfamiliar tools or software packages.

For 3ds Max…

Autodesk’s 3ds Max and 3ds Max Design 2012 are both on the GPU acceleration bandwagon. They now ship with iray, a GPU-accelerated renderer based on mental ray. You also have the option of using them with V-Ray 2.0. Both these render engines are physically accurate, making them ideal for the kind of photorealistic work that’s called for in architecture and design visualisation. They can render upwards of ten times quicker than their CPU-based counterparts, making it possible to add materials and light a scene with realtime feedback at near-final output quality. The interactive quality that I have seen is certainly good enough to base creative decisions on, and the final renders take minutes instead of hours. (As an added bonus, they both have pretty minimal setup times.)

In Creative Suite…

Adobe has also been working hard to add GPU acceleration to many of their packages, with Flash and parts of Photoshop now being accelerated on the GPU. They have also added GPU accelerated features to After Effects and Premiere. These programs now offload playback onto the GPU, making it possible to play back more streams of higher resolution video while you edit.

Certain effects are now also accelerated on the GPU, increasing the efficiency with which they’re applied and rendered, and reducing the load on the CPU so that it can concentrate on other tasks. This means that artists can play back their timelines and render their effects much more smoothly and see a broadcast-quality version of their work far sooner, even with today’s demands for ever higher resolution and deeper compositions. There’s far less time spent waiting for your machine to catch up with your imagination.

Now that GPU acceleration is built into these industry-standard tools, it has made it easy for content creators to take advantage of this exciting technology. Aside from their support for the most popular languages for creating GPU-accelerated applications (CUDA and OpenCL) and support from many software vendors, NVIDIA’s Quadro cards are also available with up to 6GB of RAM on board, allowing them to keep much of their processing local to the card rather than slowing things down by swapping data to and from system memory. They’re a great choice and well worth a look if you’re thinking of moving to a GPU-accelerated workflow.

Want to know more? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email 3D@Jigsaw24.com to find out more. In the meantime, have a browse of our full range of products.

Autodesk Smoke 2013 beta: Are you ready?

Autodesk Smoke 2013 beta: Are you ready?

Beta programs are a great way to get a head start on the latest versions of your favourite software and, if you give feedback, you can even have some say on the direction the final version takes. Unfortunately, as betas are unfinished software they are inherently unstable and can cause problems with other apps on your system, or even your system itself.

Being a software geek, I’ve installed my fair share of betas and had my fair share of problems with them so, in anticipation of the Smoke 2013 beta, I thought I’d share a few techniques for ensuring the testing goes as smoothly as possible.

Where to get your Smoke 2013 beta (and where to talk about it)You can sign up for the beta program at the link below. Sign ups are already available, with a provisional release date of June 1st (edit: Autodesk have now changed this to ‘some time in June’ – we’ll let you know the exact date as soon as we do). If you sign up now, Autodesk will notify you when the download is available.

Download the Smoke 2013 beta

Beta software is generally released so the developers can get feedback on how it runs on a range of setups that just wouldn’t be available in their testing environment, and also so that they can get feedback from the user community on the direction they’re taking. The Smoke 2013 beta is no different, so I encourage you to give feedback, both in the feedback window that appears if the software crashes and on the forums at The Area and Creative Cow if you have any general feedback or comments on the usability and feature set of the new Smoke. These forums are monitored by Autodesk employees and are also a great place to get advice on how to get the best out of Smoke 2013.

As I mentioned before, Smoke 2013 is beta software and is likely to contain bugs. While Autodesk will have done their best to get it as stable as they can, there is no way they could have tested it with every single software/hardware combination that is out there in the wild. In fact, the whole point of a beta is to see how it runs on as many different setups as possible. With this in mind, it is essential that you protect your system and important data should Smoke cause any problems.

A word on backups

Before running any beta software you should make sure you have a current backup. Time Machine is the easiest option, being built into OS X, although other backup software such as Super Duper would work too. Also make sure that you have your original install discs and are able to boot from them (Snow Leopard and below) or a working bootable recovery partition (Lion). The install discs or recovery partition will be needed if you need to restore your entire machine from backup, and nothing is more frustrating than having a backup but no way to restore it.

The same backup rule goes for any data you may be using with the Smoke beta. When you are using a shared SAN or network storage of some kind, you should ensure that any content on it is backed up before you try and connect Smoke to these devices. It’s not that likely Smoke would corrupt content on a networked device, but it’s better safe than sorry – especially with production content. The paranoid/careful among you should copy any content you intend to edit locally or, if you need to test Smoke with network volumes, you should set up an isolated network storage environment for testing the Smoke beta.

Preparing your system

At a minimum, I would recommend setting up a new user account on your Mac and installing/running Smoke from there. This will ensure that your main user account is kept isolated from any small glitches Smoke could cause, and potentially save you from having to redo the settings for all of your apps if the beta causes a problem with your user library, which is the most likely place it could cause problems.

For the ultimate in protection you could set up a completely separate testing environment for Smoke. This would involve installing a clean copy of OS X, either by shrinking your existing partition with disk utility to make some space for a second OS X install or using an external hard drive (FireWire 800 would be best) for the second install. You can then boot into this install safe in the knowledge that if Smoke causes serious problems you can easily reboot into your original OS and carry on.

For more in-depth advice on how to implement any of these measures, or advice on any aspect of Smoke, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email Smoke@Jigsaw24.com.

For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Facebook page.

Why V-Ray is up there with the best renderers

Why V-Ray is up there with the best renderers

Recently, V-Ray has become notorious for its speed, relative ease of use and most importantly its great results, making it a favourite with those in architectural and product visualisation industries. As there are now quite a few renderers available, I thought it would be good to give a quick overview of why V-Ray is a good option, and what kind of people should be looking into it.

V-Ray now comes available as a plug-in for a range of CGI/VFX applications including 3ds Max, Maya, CINEMA 4D, SketchUp and there’s also now even a beta version out for Softimage. I first encountered it within Maya just over a year ago, and was instantly impressed by how easy it was to achieve high-quality results compared to the mental ray renderer that comes included. That’s not to say mental ray isn’t a great renderer, it can just be a little complicated at times.

V-Ray RT

If you get the Maya and 3ds Max versions of V-Ray, you’ll find they also include V-Ray RT – a separate render engine that can be accelerated on GPUs. V-Ray RT was designed as a preview renderer to give very fast (if not realtime) previews when setting up lighting or materials, and it does make your renders look incredibly close to the V-Ray production renderer. While RT doesn’t support some of the bells and whistles found in the production renderer, it’s extremely fast and can give interactive, near photorealistic results when running on the right GPUs. If you don’t need the added functions of V-Ray, but would benefit from the speed, RT can also handily be used as a final renderer and can even support use on a render farm.

Who is V-Ray for?

Traditionally, V-Ray has been used in the architectural and product design industries because of its fast results and ease of use, but I’m also increasingly seeing it being used for VFX in film and TV. This is down to the fact that it’s an extremely capable renderer which supports advanced features like caustics, light scattering and physically accurate lights and cameras. Although it’s easy to set up out of the box, there are also many advanced settings which allow artists to optimise their render times. These kind of features are essential in the deadline-driven VFX industries. For anyone needing high-quality photorealistic results, the images the V-Ray render engine is capable of producing means it can compete with the best renderers available.

For more information on rendering with V-Ray and V-Ray RT, call us on 03332 409 306 or email 3D@Jigsaw24.com. To receive more CAD news and updates you can follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’ our Facebook page.


Is GPU rendering coming of age?

Is GPU rendering coming of age?

Along with many others in the computer graphics/VFX industries, I’ve been watching GPU based rendering mature with great interest. Since it was first pioneered for niche scientific applications such as Folding@home, the art of performing general purpose calculations on a GPU has come a long way.

We now have fully ratified and supported languages such as NVIDIA’s CUDA and the platform-agnostic OpenCL, which make developing and supporting GPU-based applications much easier.

A bit of background

GPUs are primarily designed to process huge amounts of data in parallel, and this is how they manage to draw all the pixels on a screen simultaneously. The architecture is very different from CPUs which traditionally excel at processing data in a linear fashion. Even modern multicore CPUs can typically only process a maximum of 12 threads simultaneously, whereas modern GPUs can process hundreds.

So, if they can handle so many more threads, why don’t we just use GPUs for all computer processing? Although they can process many more threads simultaneously compared to a CPU, those threads can only perform relatively simple calculations. This often means processing a single thread on a GPU is slower than on a CPU. This isn’t an issue for software that can perform its processing in parallel as, by sheer weight of numbers, a GPU could still arrive at the answer quicker. However, not all software lends itself to this parallel architecture, so don’t hold your breath for a word processor or email client that runs on GPU. Applications that perform a large number of relatively simple, repetitive calculations such as raytracing or video encoding though can be sped up by orders of magnitude on a GPU.

In reality, both CPU and GPU processing are needed for a balanced machine, with the GPU being used as a co-processor to offload any suitable processing and freeing up the CPU for other tasks. Even with the above in mind there are still challenges to overcome. Early GPU-based applications were notorious for making a machine unusable by taking up so many of the GPU’s resources that the screen would flicker or become unresponsive while the GPU was too busy to re-draw it.

A new era…

NVIDIA have recently made a large leap in unlocking the potential of the GPU for the masses with their Maximus technology. Maximus allows you to combine an Nvidia Quadro card with a Tesla co-processor which is effectively a GPU without the extras needed to output to a screen.  The Maximus system will then intelligently assign suitable work to these two resources. So – as an example – while the machine is in use, the Quadro will be used to draw the screen and the Tesla for any CUDA processing. If the machine is not in use, then the might of both cards will be assigned for CUDA processing – maximising the processing power on offer, while keeping the machine usable.

The first GPU-accelerated content creation applications we saw tended to be standalone applications that required you to import work from a user’s main application and work in an often unfamiliar interface. This was far from ideal and any gains in speed from the GPU acceleration were potentially wiped out by the time taken to move data from one application to another. More recently, we’ve started to see GPU technology integrated into industry standard applications such as V-Ray, 3ds Max, Photoshop, After Effects and Adobe Premiere.

Both V-Ray and 3ds Max now offer renderers in the form of V-Ray RT and iray that can be accelerated on the GPU to potentially increase render speed by a factor of ten or more. The renders can be used as ActiveShade previews and, with the right GPUs, can give interactive results close to final quality to base lighting and texturing decisions. This can break the tedious iterate/test render/iterate cycle many 3D artists are used to. As RT and iray are closely related to their CPU-based counterparts V-Ray and mental ray, the final renders can be passed off to one of these if the unsupported features are required.

If a 10x speed boost still isn’t quick enough, our Cubix GPU-Xpander boxes can be used to add GPUs to your render farm. There isn’t enough space inside the typical render blade for a large GPU, so using an Xpander to add external GPUs is a great option. The Xpanders can also be used to add up to four GPUs to a single workstation which means you may be able to forgo the render farm altogether.

Now that we have GPU acceleration in industry standard applications and technologies such as Maximus and the GPU-Xpander I think the technology is ready to make a move into the mainstream. In fact, you may already have at least one part of the puzzle built into your application or workstation.

For more information on how to speed up your render workflow with GPU acceleration, call us on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Facebook page.


Make sure you get the right 3ds Max

Make sure you get the right 3ds Max

At first glance, it may look like the only difference between 3ds Max and 3ds Max Design is the colour scheme. But dig deeper under the skin of the modelling, animation and rendering software, and you’ll find the feature sets differ more than cosmetically. Both suites share the same code base but are tailored for users in different industries, so it’s important to know which product is the right one for the work you’re doing.

Simply put, 3ds Max Design is for architects, designers and visualisation specialists, and 3ds Max is for the games, film and TV industries. So you can see which features you’ll need to help you get the most out of your workflow, I’ve picked out the major differences between the two.


3ds Max Design, unlike 3ds Max, includes Autodesk’s Exposure technology for simulating and analysing sun, sky and artificial lighting. This is very useful for architectural design, as the data is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified for green building design.

Software Development Kit

Another main area where 3ds Max Design differs is that it doesn’t include the Software Development Kit (SDK) that you get in 3ds Max. The SDK (pictured below) allows developers to create their own plug-ins, extending the powerful toolset on offer and allowing more flexibility in your workflow.

3ds _max _2012_sdk _1400x 846

Interface and settings

They may look similar, but 3ds Max Design is subtly optimised for visualisation while the user interface and application defaults in 3ds Max are more suited to entertainment pipelines. Icons in 3ds Max Design are also more similar to Autodesk’s AutoCAD and Revit architecture solutions, so can be more easily recognised by AEC users.


All the tutorials, sample files and documentation are customised to the relevant industries, so whether you work in visualisation or entertainment, there’s a wealth of content and helpful resources to draw on.

To sum up – if you work primarily in the architecture, civil engineering or manufacturing sectors, and don’t need to create your own plug-ins, choose 3ds Max Design. With all the features of 3ds Max (except for the SDK), it also includes the Exposure lighting analysis tool which is handy for LEED 8.1 certification. You can of course install both 3ds Max and 3ds Max Design on the same machine if your work requires you to use both, and a single binary ensures there’s full file compatibility, but you’ll need a unique serial number and product key to activate each.

To find out more about Autodesk 3ds Max and 3ds Max Design, get in touch with me and the team on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. You can also keep up with the latest CAD news by following @Jigsaw_CAD on Twitter and ‘Like’-ing our Facebook page.

Pick of the bench: CINEBENCH scores for the latest Apple hardware

Pick of the bench: CINEBENCH scores for the latest Apple hardware

As 3D software continues to improve, it’s important that your hardware can keep up. The latest version of CINEMA 4D, R13, puts even more fantastic tools into the hands of designers, including an all-new physical render engine. To ensure you get the best performance from C4D, we’ve run CINEBENCH 11.5 CPU tests on a range of Mac Pros, MacBook Pros and iMacs. Check out the scores below to see which hardware works best with C4D.

If you’re unfamiliar with CINEBENCH benchmark testing, check out MAXON’s explanation here, although, essentially it’s a case of the higher the number the faster the rendering process.

Mac Pro

With up to 12 Xeon cores, 1TB hard drives and 6GB of RAM, Apple’s Mac Pro can provide a powerful engine for even the most demanding 3D workflow.

With a range of hard drive, memory and processor configurations, Mac Pro prices start at £1659 ex VAT.

 While the Mac Pro range clearly produces a great set of results (look at all that green!), some may feel that the cost, form factor and fixed nature of a tower machine isn’t for them. If you want something more slimline, or even mobile, MacBook Pros and iMacs still ratchet up some pretty impressive scores…

Cinebench Scores Mac Pro

MacBook Pro

Apple’s MacBook Pro range offers the best mobile computing solution available and these dual-core or quad-core models are a viable replacement for a desktop. Apple has worked its magic to get the much lighter, much more mobile MacBook Pro performing as well as the early Mac Pros (the quad-core even outperforms the current quad-core Mac Pro), making it a superb all-rounder.

i7 dual-core MacBook Pros start at £1072 ex VAT and there are 13″, 15″ and 17″ options to choose from.

Cinebench Scores Mac Pro


The quad-core iMac provides an all-in-one solution. It boasts the advanced AMD Radeon HD 6970M GPU and 1GB dedicated GDDR5 video memory – both good news if you’re doing graphics-heavy work – all built in to a 27″ 2560×1440 LED-backlit screen. 

Prices start at £1365 ex VAT for an iMac with high-end processor speeds.

Cinebench Scores iMac

– Call us now to tool up your C4D workflow with the latest Apple computers on 03332 409 306 or email 3D@Jigsaw24.com.

You can also keep up with more news and offers like this by following @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or Like’-ing our Facebook page.                                                                                                                                         


Maxon CINEMA 4D R14: the verdict

Maxon CINEMA 4D R14: the verdict

With R14 of Maxon’s CINEMA 4D adding new modelling tools, digital sculpting and Nuke integration, we asked 3D consultant Ben Kitching to run through the new features and let us know what he thought. Well, we say asked. We actually came into the office the day after it came out to find that he’d been 4D-ing for eighteen hours straight…

Maxon have announced that CINEMA 4D R14 will be shipping in September. I made some time over the past few weeks to have a play with the demo version (which is already available from Maxon’s website) and yet again Maxon have come up with an exciting release. CINEMA 4D R14 strikes the right balance between adding new features and improving on existing workflows.

There are way too many new and improved features to cover them all here, so I’ll focus on a few of my favourite ones.


One of the biggest additions to R14 is sculpting. This feature is only available in the Studio edition, and is a completely new toolset for CINEMA 4D. It adds sculpting tools like those found in the likes of Mudbox or ZBrush, enabling artists to quickly add fine detail to polygon meshes. While the toolset is nowhere near as comprehensive as that found in ZBrush, the de facto industry standard, the tools on offer are more than suitable for 3D generalists.

Artists are able to subdivide their base meshes to add resolution and then use tools such as wax, pinch, pull and stamp to add detail to the geometry. Maxon have opted for a layer-based system, giving fine-grained control of this added detail with the ability to switch layers on and off and vary their opacity. Added detail can be baked into texture maps to improve the rendering performance and make it easy to move the extra detail into game engines or other rendering software.

In typical Maxon style, these features are easy to use without sacrificing power, and when combined with the other toolsets in CINEMA 4D they can give some interesting and unique results.

Camera Tools

Also included in R14 are a whole raft of new camera tools and enhancements, the most obvious of which are the new viewport camera transitions. Changing the viewport view from one camera to another now results in an animated transition between the cameras. This feels like a gimmick at first, but the more you use it the more you realize its usefulness in helping you to understand where the cameras are placed. This is especially useful in complex scenes with many cameras. It’s little things like this that I love about CINEMA 4D.

As well as this, there is the new Camera Calibrator, which is essentially a camera tracker but implemented in Maxon’s trademark easy-to-use style. Its purpose is to match your virtual camera settings to a photographic backdrop, so that the perspective and scale of your 3D objects will match. Placing lines, grids and measurements on to your photographic backdrop accomplishes this so that CINEMA 4D can calculate the perspective and scale. Once this is done, you can create a tag to place on to your objects that will adjust their perspective to match your scene. In use, this is very effective – another nice tool.

There are other smaller but no less useful improvements, too. There are now presets to add realistic shake to a camera, with settings to mimic jerky handheld cameras or the smooth motion of a steadicam. There are even settings to control the height of the virtual cameraman, complete with a representative stick man in your viewport. Camera focal points can now be chosen by clicking the object to focus on in the viewport rather than having to mess around in orthographic views.

Finally, the camera morph tool will take several different cameras, even animated ones, and create a single camera which transitions between them all smoothly. Anyone who’s tried to animate complex cameras in a 3D app will appreciate this feature, which makes the whole process easier.


CINEMA 4D has always had excellent interoperability with programs like Adobe After Effects and Illustrator, but Maxon have raised their game with R14 and added Nuke and Photoshop interoperability into the mix as well. These are two widely used and highly regarded programs in their own right, and Maxon have made it easy to move content from CINEMA 4D into them. You can now generate a layered Nuke project file from your render passes and even import geometry into Nuke via the FBX format. Maxon also supply an Adobe Photoshop Extended plugin that allows you to directly open a CINEMA 4D scene as a 3D layer inside of Photoshop Extended.

Very few digital artists do all of their work in a single program so to have these simple ways to move content in and out of CINEMA 4D to other widely used apps is a huge saver of time and frustration.

CINEMA 4D’s render pass system now includes a ‘position pass’ option. This will generate a simple matte pass, colouring objects in flat, high contrast colors. This allows easy selection of objects within a compositing application, aiding advanced effects such re-lighting.

Maxon have also added Alembic support to R14. Developed by Sony Imageworks and ILM as a replacement for the ageing OBJ format, this is a new open source file format. It was designed as an efficient way to transfer assets and animation between software packages in a VFX pipeline while keeping disk usage to a minimum. It is too complex to go into detail here, but it’s nice to see Maxon supporting this high-end format in CINEMA 4D.

Interface and Workflow Enhancements

As usual Maxon have made several usability enhancements to the interface for R14. Objects in the viewport are now highlighted as the cursor hovers over them and remain highlighted in a different colour when selected. These highlights outline the actual object rather than showing a bounding box as in previous releases, making selections easier and more accurate.

R14 now allows you to define ‘workplanes’, which are like the default grid but can be oriented any way you like, with the co-ordinate system being aligned to the workplane. This makes creating objects on the faces of other objects or at strange angles to the grid far easier.

There is also a new ‘Commander’ that allows adding of effects and tags to an object by searching for them, rather than having to dig through layers of menus to find the right thing. This is a huge time saver.

Again, there are also several smaller tweaks, such as the ability to add to-do tasks directly to objects and have these shown in a list within CINEMA 4D’s project settings. Animation paths shown in the viewport will now clip to the preview range set on the timeline, allowing users to focus in on the important parts. There is more fine-grained control over positioning and animation of xrefs. It is also possible to show a sound wave in the FCurve editor, making it easier to sync animation to music.

Rendering and Simulation

There are also several enhancements to the rendering and simulation toolsets. The dynamics module now sports improved aerodynamics that can take an object’s shape into account when calculating aerodynamic effects such as wind and turbulence, meaning that objects behave more realistically.

The plastic deformation tools are also improved. Springs now have plastic deformation and connectors are able to break and deform, meaning that objects can be made to keep their deformation. Aside from allowing more realistic simulation, this feature opens up more creative control, as the dynamics module can now be used to put realistic dents and other plastic deformations into objects.

When it comes to rendering, there are more new toys. The new wood shader replaces its ageing forerunner, giving far more control and more realistic results. And there is a new weathering shader, making it easier to add a weathered, faded look to renders.

The new ‘normaliser’ can take a greyscale image like those commonly used for bump maps and convert it to a normal map. Normal maps provide better results than traditional bump maps, but until now could be more difficult to create. This shader changes that and gives very nice results.


All in all, CINEMA 4D is an exciting looking release for Maxon with a nice combination of workflow improvements and new features. R14 cements CINEMA 4D’s position as a high end yet user-friendly VFX tool. Having played with the demo I’m looking forward to the full release in September.

Want to know more about 3D workflows? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email 3D@Jigsaw24.com. To keep up with all the latest news, follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ our Facebook page.