How can I optimize my computer, or any computer, for Adobe After Effects and Photoshop?
May 9, 2007 1:25 PM   Subscribe

How can I optimize my computer, or any computer, for Adobe After Effects and Photoshop?

Specifically, I have an old Abit IC7-MAX3 that I still do all my rendering with, instead of upgrading to a new motherboard, I just wanted to max out this one. I installed a P4 Extreme Edition 3.4 ghz chip, filled it with 4GB Kingston Value Ram, installed a Promise TX4 to upgrade it to SATA 300, and also a Nvidia Quadro FX3000G.

Now then...

1) The TechNotes on recommend using RAID 0 for best performance and also placing the Photoshop/After Effects scratch disk on a separate disk from the one Windows uses for the page file. And many other sites recommend placing the page file on a different disk than the boot disk. So, in order to truly max out performance, do I need 4 different RAID 0 arrays? One for Windows to boot, one for the page file, one for the scratch disk, and one for the data that I'm actually working on? Is there actually a perceivable difference?

2) Secondly, what are the optimal settings for the Memory & Cache page in After Effects. I read on that the maximum memory can be set higher than 100% because After Effects uses the physical ram and the page file also, but any amount I set it to above 100% maxes out at 3GB, which I expected because of the nature of 32-bit operating systems. In addition, I boot windows with the /PAE and the /3GB switches in order to use this extra RAM. What should I set this to, and to what should I set Maximum RAM Cache Size? Should Disk Cache be enabled and what size should the maximum be?

Also, I frequently need to run Photoshop and After Effects at the same time. How should I configure the Page File/Scratch Disk/RAM Cache/Disk Cache so that all my software plays nicely together?

Any memory/hardware/performance tips geared towards Photoshop/After Effects will be greatly appreciated.
posted by idledebonair to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
You'd notice a difference from putting everything on RAID 0, but whether it's perceivable or worth it depends on your load and the kind of stuff you're doing, 320x240, DV, HDV, 1080p, bigger, etc., how much RAM you have, and how complicated your motion graphics are. If you're spending most of your time CPU bound, then making your disks fast won't be much improvement.

It sounds like you're maxing out the Memory & Cache page as it is. Disk Cache is very expensive timewise -- I wouldn't use that unless I was memory starved, which you're not.

Running PS + AE at the same time -- well, do the math. Start with a quiescent Windows system, measure how much RAM you're using. Start up Photoshop with a typical workload, measure how much RAM. Start up AE with a typical workload, measure how much RAM. Configure accordingly. There's no free lunch in RAM land. PS + AE do not share RAM, scratch or page space, so you need to configure each of them separately.
posted by felix at 2:58 PM on May 9, 2007

Response by poster: @Felix. Thanks, I appreciate your response. I use footage of all sizes, from 320x240 to HD. I'm interested really in constructing a philosophical ideal and then compromising that into a practical solution. For example, I'm interested in why the pagefile should be the size it is. And I know, too, that mostly I just have to RTFM, which I'm doing.
posted by idledebonair at 4:47 PM on May 9, 2007

Seymour Cray: "If you need more RAM, buy more RAM".

Once you start caring how fast your paging drive is, it's Game Over.
posted by flabdablet at 6:45 PM on May 9, 2007

RAM is extremely fast.

Application page files ('Disk Cache') are spillover fake RAM. They are used when you ran out of RAM and the data somehow had to be put somewhere. They are 2-3 orders of magnitude slower than RAM.

Operating system page files are spillover fake RAM that doesn't know what it's doing. The OS can't make the kind of good distinction between that-which-must-be-pinned-in-memory and that which can spill to disk that the application can. As such this is absolutely to be avoided and can be 3-5 orders of magnitude slower than RAM.

None of these have to be any particular size or multiple. If your working set is 400 gigabytes, as it can be with video, then you'll have say 397 gigabytes quiescent in files, 1 gig being beaten on constantly by a CPU, and 2 gig being held as reference or prepping to be beaten on by a CPU. The more memory you have, the larger and more complicated your window can get.

I think you're fully optimized on the computer you have. If it's slow, consider network rendering.
posted by felix at 10:53 PM on May 9, 2007

Response by poster: @flabdablet : I can't buy any more RAM. 4 GB is the most it can have.

@felix: OK, so given that, what do you think I should set it to?
posted by idledebonair at 10:12 AM on May 10, 2007

You will get more bang for your buck out of a new mobo+CPU that can have more RAM, then fitting more RAM, than you will from any amount of faffing about with RAID 0.

You have successfully maxed out your existing mobo. If you're seriously contemplating spending more money on extracting the last 5% of performance from it, I really think you'd be better off contemplating spending the same amount of money and time in more productive ways.
posted by flabdablet at 5:46 PM on May 10, 2007

Response by poster: Ok. That sounds about right. Now, does anyone have any ideas about specific AE or PS settings?
posted by idledebonair at 11:30 PM on May 11, 2007

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