Computer Graphics

28 posts
27 April 2014
w4pictures
Photographer
w4pictures
Here's a question for the many here who know more about this than I do.

Most of us, I imagine, specify a fast graphics card to help with the intensive stuff such as batch processing or the larger file sizes from D800s and the like.

But, over the past few years, the size of most image files seems to have steadied at 12-20Mb but the onward march of computing speed has continued unabated.

So, for single image editing, does this mean that the need for a graphics card in photography is now less than it was say 2 or 3 years ago?
Posted 27 April 2014
HowardJ
Photographer
HowardJ
I read somewhere that photo editing is more constrained by:

- CPU speed
- OS you want a 64 bit one so it can access shed loads of RAM
- RAM if you have lots you can do more in memory and it'll be faster
- Scratch disks - maybe 4 disks are needed as a minimum and SSDs play a part

Graphics still play a part but less so now.

Graphics cards are also pretty cheap so upgrading is easy to do.

Posted 27 April 2014
StNeots
Photographer
StNeots
Graphics card improvements have been driven by the needs of game players for many years now. The improvements have been in speed of changing frame rates rather than increasing colour accuracy or bit depth - which are the overriding needs of photographers. For static displays like photographs these are next to meaningless.
I'd be more worried about CPU speeds and the availability of memory to do adjustments without needing to use virtual ram.
Posted 27 April 2014
CSD_Images
Photographer
CSD_Images
Three things required for fast editing:

Fast GPU, preferably OpenCL/OpenGL optimised. Adobe is moving towards GPGPU offloading for many of it's filters and rendering engines (such as Mercury). Lightroom is not using a GPGPU compute model yet sadly.

Lots and lots of RAM, 16Gb should be the bare minimum for a workstation, with 32Gb being preferable for medium format images and multi-layer/16bit images.

Fast sub-system storage. SSD primary and scratch disks or PCI RAM disks for sheer speed (a poor man's version is RAM Disks). Having a a image cache or Lr Catalogue on a fast disk works wonders for your workflow, this is one case where SSDs really beat SAS RAIDs as scratch disks. SAS RAID arrays can stand up to more punishment in the longer term though unless you pay for enterprise SSDs.

Processor is very much a last choice when you're looking at the above, as long as it's multi-core and reasonably fast then it can handle the workload. I use a 4 year processor on my workstation (AMD Phenom) and I can easily edit 1-2Gb PSDs with relative ease, this is because I have a reasonably fast SAS disk set up.

It should also be noted Lr isn't workstation optimised. So it doesn't take advantage of dual CPU rigs and it may not be fully optimised for a multi-core CPU in my experience. Ps and Bridge can and do take advantage of resources. So the only things you can do for Lr is SSD sub-systems and RAM.

Posted 27 April 2014
RedChecker
Photographer
RedChecker
CSD_Images

 It should also be noted Lr isn't workstation optimised. So it doesn't take advantage of dual CPU rigs and it may not be fully optimised for a multi-core CPU in my experience. Ps and Bridge can and do take advantage of resources. So the only things you can do for Lr is SSD sub-systems and RAM.


My understanding was that LR utilises multi-threaded operation when exporting multiple images (although that's the only time I believe it does use it, but IMO it doesn't need it for anything else anyway).  Here's an old article but it proves the point I'm making

Getting the LR catalogue onto an SSD massively boosts performance in my experience, and considering the cost of them nowadays I'd perosnally be tempted to dedicate a single SSD to this task.
Posted 27 April 2014
Edited by RedChecker 27 April 2014
CSD_Images
Photographer
CSD_Images
Aye it uses process distribution rather than multi-core optimisations, so it's useless for single image exports which arguably defeats the purpose of Lr. Hence my comments about the CPU being the last consideration, I've ran Lr on a dual Xeon (24 cores total ) workstation and it ignored the second CPU, this was Lr 4. Annoying as it was crippling itself by not using all the resources available. When it comes down to optimisations Lr is a bit of a pig, then again it's not really tailored to those markets.

Posted 27 April 2014
RedChecker
Photographer
RedChecker
I don't see how you can say that single image export is the purpose of Lightroom. To me it's power has always been in its ability to batch process and I'm sure many would agree with me (as well as doing so in a non-destructive manner).

Besides, as I said you don't really need multi-core power for anything other than patch process with it (exporting a single images takes a second or two, not worth worrying about).
Posted 27 April 2014
Edited by RedChecker 27 April 2014
HowardJ
Photographer
HowardJ
it always pays to the fastest processor you can afford as extends the life of a machine.

Posted 27 April 2014
CSD_Images
Photographer
CSD_Images
Not really Howard, CPU's have been good enough for 90% of people's needs for the last 4-5 years. It's only when you start going into fringe areas like heavy duty editing, CAD/CAM, Video, 3D etc that you start to push what's there.

The fact I'm using a 4 year old processor and I can handle 1-2Gb multi-layer PSDs and medium format images shows this. It's the underlying framework that's more important and it's pretty much always been that case. Most photographers could probably get away with a AMD Phenom or an Intel i5.

Steven, my point is that Lr is designed for event type workflows and not single image rendering hence what I said about single images. It's still poorly optimised and Adobe should really do more, Lr 5 was even a step back in performance when it came to rendering out previews.

Posted 27 April 2014
RedChecker
Photographer
RedChecker
+1 to CSD's response to Howard. Been there, done that, waste of money. The performance benefits of the fastest processors typically only give an extra 10 or 20% more speed for what could be something like double the cost.

Sensible money will go on as much RAM as you can get, and fast/large drives.

Posted 27 April 2014
HowardJ
Photographer
HowardJ
You're welcome to your opinions but if its a £50 or £100 difference to an i7 its always worth spending the money.

But obviously I haven't got a clue as its only my fulltime job to design computer systems for companies in the FTSE 100 like trading systems for the city. D'OH all those wasted years at university doing micro electronics and computer science and the years of designing and writing software and specing the hardware and network.

Companies now write shit bloatware software and don't worry about maximising the use of the hardware. If you have a faster processor you won't have to replace the machine as soon as you would if you saved a little and got the cheaper processor. Sure you may not use the extra processing power immediately but it gives you some room for future shite. You don't have to buy the top of the line just the best you can afford. If you don't then some moron will come along with a shite piece of software that just won't perform on your machine and you'll have to upgrade the CPU which is probably the most expensive component and may not be possible on the motherboard you've got.

Posted 27 April 2014
Edited by HowardJ 27 April 2014
stolenfaces
Photographer
stolenfaces
Obviously one would have the best of everything, but for a general home machine with particular use with LR & PS, maybe the occasional video (because your SLR can probably take one easily), say you start with a cheapish/basic spec: Intel i5, 8Gb RAM, 250 Gb SSD, (plus maybe 3Tb HD), £20 Graphics 1Gb, Windows 7 64bit (or W8 64 bit) Assuming you have say another £100 you could spend, what would you spend it on? I can certainly see the argument that the CPU is the only thing which you can't (easily) upgrade next week or next year. Personally I am mainly using a 2010 core2 with 4Gb RAM, £40 graphic card. I recently replaced the WD Raptor drive with a 250Mb SSD and saw a huge improvement (mainly in how many applications I could run concurrently). I did consider upgrading the memory to 8 or 16, but it's DD2 and I only have 2 slots, so prices are just extortionate. I only have SATA II so the SSD can only run at about 2/3rds of its stated speed. It still works adequately and things which are slow are consistently slow, so I can have a coffee whilst importing photos to Lightroom but that's just part of the routine If I'd spent a lot of money on an i7 processor at the time it may be running faster, but I still wouldn't be able to upgrade my old style memory or old style SATA. I also added USB3 on a card which is particularly useful and single biggest speed increase to my workflow. My other machine from around the same time has a slightly worse spec but crucially only 32bit Win7, so I am looking to get a new machine in the next couple of months to become my main machine and I'll be canibalising any workable bits of the oldest machine.
Posted 27 April 2014
Edited by stolenfaces 27 April 2014
RedChecker
Photographer
RedChecker
HowardJ
You're welcome to your opinions but if its a £50 or £100 difference to an i7 its always worth spending the money.
A flagship processor isn't a mere £50 or £100 difference. The base i7 processors (which I'd personally opt for) are around the £250 range, the 'Extreme' versions of the i7 processors can be ~£800. You certainly don't get 2-3x the speed increase with such processors.
Posted 27 April 2014
w4pictures
Photographer
w4pictures
HowardJ

 If you don't then some moron will come along with a shite piece of software that just won't perform on your machine and you'll have to upgrade the CPU which is probably the most expensive component and may not be possible on the motherboard you've got.


Probably true at some stage even if you do buy the best.  But to have or not to have that piece of software is an easy decision.

A while ago, my graphics card blew up. Smoke came from it. I fed the monitor from the mother board and looked for a replacement. Not immediately finding one, I forgot about it. Frankly, aside from the VGA element, I haven't noticed much difference in performance so I'm in no rush.
Posted 27 April 2014
HowardJ
Photographer
HowardJ
RedChecker
The base i7 processors (which I'd personally opt for) are around the £250 range, the 'Extreme' versions of the i7 processors can be ~£800. You certainly don't get 2-3x the speed increase with such processors.
Precisely, very few people need "Extreme" versions. If it's a choice between an i5 or an i7 or a slower speed processor then it pays to future proof the CPU as much as you can afford. Buying an "Extreme" doesn't fit into this category.
Posted 28 April 2014
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