In these new-fangled modern times, buying powerful computers is easy. Jump on to Dell's site, or whatever your preferred brand is, and you can have some decent hardware at a decent price. But what if you've got a bit of a PC building itch? Or you need a workstation to do serious, uptime-sensitive and time-critical work on, but don't want to pay workstation prices? What if you want to combine both? Well, then you can start browsing Newegg, or here in Australia, MSY, or whatever it is in your country. Ignore your wallet's screams, load up on the latest and greatest, and build it all yourself. Good fun. Except when it isn't.
|Prepare your wallet for abuse|
For me, NS2 is not just a passion, or a hobby, it is a serious effort. It is about supporting a game that represents openness in development, encouragement of community creativity, and pushing the boundaries of independent game quality. If I am to support it in all the ways I want to, I need horsepower. Lots of it. High-definition gaming video production is one of the most demanding workflows a PC can be asked to perform. If you are serious about it, you need to be able to do six things:
- Record hundreds of gigabytes of gameplay footage at high frame rates
- Archive and organise that footage
- Edit the footage at speed
- Apply special effects and post-processing at speed
- Render a project in a reasonable amount of time
- Upload the rendered project in a reasonable amount of time
This is where the bleeding edge appears. For almost every single gamer and amateur video producer, a CPU like the the i5-2500k paired with a GPU like the AMD 6950 will never leave you frustrated at frame rates or render times. But if you're looking to regularly post gameplay, you might want to move beyond that level of performance. Suddenly, if you are trying to post three videos in one night, a 30 minute render sounds meaningfully better than a 45 minute render.
|The Intel X79 with some recalcitrant OEM thermal paste|
|An i7-3930k and its' future loving home|
So the new NS2HD rig uses an i7-3930k. Six cores, twelve threads of 32nm Sandy Bridge architecture. It brings serious speed when applied to a serious worflow, like rendering out a video of me being owned by pewpew, or De Para. Moving from an AMD 1090T was not night and day, but the difference is welcome and noticeable.
|1866mhz only really works in matte black|
|Twins to play with... CPU's have never had it so good|
|While we're on the topic of twins...|
Before you even get a chance to sacrifice your RAM on CS5's altar of rendering-greediness, you need to render your frames. When it comes to reliable, high FPS for recording, a single very powerful GPU is always preferable. SLI GTX 560's might give you higher FPS on the edge, but a GTX 580 or 6970 will give you more consistent FPS. When recording, consistency is crucial.
|Said twins, now clothed|
Of course, SLI or CrossFire is perfectly fine if the individual GPUs are so powerful that the inconsistent framerate is sitting up in the stratosphere. For example, the GTX 590 above.
As the card renders the frames, you need somewhere to put them. Recording at 1080p30 will eat one gigabyte in less than a minute. Recording a long game, or sequence of games, requires hundreds of gigabytes. A few nights worth and you are breaking one terabyte without sweat.
|HDDs are boring to look at, so here's a chipset waterblock instead|
A single decent quality 7200rpm HDD will sustain a 70-110mbps write, provided the write is close to the centre of the platter. That is easily enough to write 1080p30 in FRAPs, but won't sustain 1080p60 close to the outside of the platter. So to be sure, I whacked 3 Samsung F3 1Tb's in RAID 0. And yes, I bought them before Thailand! In total, the new rig uses ten separate SATA disks.
That about sums up the guts of the new NS2HD editing rig. If there's enough interest in what else went into it, and why I chose certain components, disk arrays etc, I will make another post.
|Pumps turn out to be posers for the camera|
Oh - And the blocks, pumps, reservoirs? Why watercool this thing? Well now... Why not! Ambient +15C load temperatures on a GTX 590 is truly something to behold.
So what was the problem? Why did I say it nearly killed me? Let's see... How about:
- Spilling one whole litre of water on the motherboard
- BSOD after BSOD after BSOD
- Marvell RAID drivers not installing in Windows
- Memtest86 showing defective RAM (When it turned out not to be defective!)
- GTX 590 deciding to take a siesta and give me no POST
- Hard crashes during gameplay recording
- BIOS corruption
- Reservoir imbalances
On second thoughts... Bugger that, I'd take the challenge any day.