PC Hardware for Animators, Web Developers, and Online Marketers
Having the proper PC hardware is crucial for the effective and efficient use of any animation, web design, and website development software. For example, it is possible to run software with a wide variety of PC hardware. However, if you want to be efficient and need to run complex and processing heavy applications, high-performance hardware must be considered.
To start, you will need to do some research to find PC hardware that will provide you the efficiency you need. The most essential pieces of hardware for use with animation and web design software include:
Graphics Processing Unit
The most critical piece of hardware when it comes to anything visual, especially 3D visuals, is the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). Through the GPU, your monitor receives its information, and the speed of rendering and processing is done within animation software has a direct correlation to the quality of your GPU (and CPU). So, if the viewport (the “camera” that displays 3D models) used inside your 3D application is running slow, a better GPU will speed that up. NVidia graphics cards are a great choice when it comes to animation. Many of their cards provide the power needed for effectiveness.
Central Processing Unit
A primary component for PC hardware is the Central Processing Unit (CPU) is essentially the brain of your computer. Everything from basic tasks to complex functions is processed within this piece of hardware. It is crucial to have a powerful enough graphics card that allows the CPU more room to compute and process tasks. This on its own improves performance in many cases. When buying a CPU, you have two choices. You can choose from AMD or Intel. Both are compelling brands, and you are sure to make a good choice from either. It is recommended that for 3D animation, one chooses a CPU with at least a dual-core capable of running a 64-bit operating system. That is very important. However, one thing about the CPU is that each one requires a motherboard capable of supporting it.
The motherboard is the part of a computer that allows everything to work together. Without a motherboard, the computer can’t run. The GPU, CPU, RAM, PSU, and USB ports all connect to the motherboard. Usually, motherboards are designed for either Intel processors or AMD processors, so it is essential to know which CPU you want before purchasing a motherboard. Most current GPUs fit on most current motherboards as long as there are PCI-E slots available. It is even possible to connect multiple GPUs to one motherboard for increased performance. This is called Crossfire for AMD cards or SLI for Nvidia. Please note that looking for the correct motherboard is not required if you are interested in purchasing a laptop for animation purposes. However, it is wise to learn about the other hardware pieces, such as GPUs, RAM, and CPUs, to help you make the best purchase.
Random Access Memory or RAM. This is not hard drive storage. This is the short-term memory that your computer uses to increase its multitasking capabilities. This is stored your PC uses for information on what is currently being worked on, which the processor can use for easy, quick access. So essentially, the more RAM a computer has, the faster and more efficient it will run. Usually, 16GB of ram is recommended when using animation software. For regular PC users, 4GB of RAM is acceptable. But 3D animation programs are very hardware-intensive and require a lot more from your computer. Your motherboard should hold as much RAM as possible, and it is wise to leave room for an upgrade of RAM in the future.
Hard drives are pretty simple and a core component of PC hardware when it comes to local storage. They are where you store all of your files. The more hard drive space you have, the better. It is recommended to have 500GB of space and above. I enjoy having 2TB of space (Roughly 1000GB). It feels good knowing that it will take a long time before you run out of memory. Investing in an external hard drive would also be helpful, as it would allow you to transfer large files between different PCs and laptops. There are also online storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive. These make moving files between computers almost effortless. You also have the option of choosing between traditional hard drives, SSD, or both. SSD is a newer type of drive that performs much faster than its predecessor. That also means that they are more expensive, so that investment is up to you.
Power it up!
There is also the Power Supply Unit (PSU). This is basically what allows your computer to turn on. But you will need a power supply with enough wattage to power all the other components in your system. So the more powerful your parts are, the more significant the wattage amount you’re going to need. An intelligent decision would be to purchase a Power Supply that is a couple of hundred watts over what you need. That way, if you were to upgrade a component later on, then you won’t run the risk of possibly needing to upgrade your PSU as well.
Aside from the computer itself being able to run the programs, various peripherals range from monitors, drawing tablets instead of mice, multiple cameras, or even photo scanners. While most of these are not necessarily “required,” most people prefer to have them to save time or perform specific tasks and certain animation styles, such as hand-drawn 2D animation or clay figure stop motion. (“Blog.” Topic Simple RSS. Web. 22 May 2016.)
The first peripheral to discuss is your computer monitor. Most can usually connect with PC desktops or laptops through HDMI, DVI, or VGA. Having a bigger monitor (generally ranging from 21”~28”) means more space to work with your various tools, as well as having it easier to see your animation in better detail. Having a monitor with a higher refresh rate of up to 144 Hz would also benefit your animation. Despite 60 Hz usually being the standard. A monitor with a higher refresh rate would allow your animations with more frames not to have a screen tearing while they are being played.
The next aspect to think about when looking for a monitor is buying an IPS panel or a TN panel. “TN (Twisted Nematic) is the most common technology and also the oldest. The main advantage is that it provides the shortest response times, making them good for gaming.” Despite TN panels being good for gaming, they usually offer higher refresh rates but have worse color reproduction having their colors look more washed out than an IPS panel. IPS panels, on the other hand, “offer better color reproduction as well as much better viewing angles,” where your color would be more vibrant, and you could view your screen at various angles without it becoming distorted. Despite these pros, IPS panels have insufficient black and white contrast. (“TN Vs. IPS Vs. VA.” TN Panel. 2011. Web. 22 May 2016.)
Another Peripheral which most 2D animators prefer to use over the standard mouse is a Drawing tablet, which most state “not a ‘must’ but helpful to be able to draw in a ‘free-hand’ way and also ‘map’ your large screen (or screens) to the drawing area of the tablet. This allows the efficient pen to replace your relatively slower mouse and save valuable time. Tablets can cost from a hundred dollars to several thousand. There are many kinds, but an industry-standard is WACOM.” Most people prefer drawing tablets over using a mouse since it allows them to have a more natural feel when they draw.
Tablets also come in various sizes, but most professional animators prefer medium to large-sized tablets because it allows them a bigger canvas to let out their inner “Picasso.” It states, “Graphics tablets range in size from 4″ x 5″ to 18″ x 12″. If you need something bigger, the Cintiq measures a whopping 20.4″ x 12.8″. While small tablets are suitable for home and professional use, most artists prefer mid-size to large tablets because they allow for more natural drawing/painting movement. For non-artists, a small tablet will usually suffice. It is preferred by people who don’t need a large tablet to express their inner Picasso. Those with carpal tunnel and similar issues also prefer smaller tablets because less movement means less stress on their wrists and hands.” (Felton, Julie. “Do You Need a Graphics Tablet? Find Out What You Need to Know.” Design & Illustration Envato Tuts. Web. 22 May 2016.)
The last peripherals used for animating are “image creators,” which allow people to use images created outside from their computer software and animate those videos/pictures. These image creators are usually Cameras and Photo Scanners. Photo scanners allow animators to use hand-drawn images and import them into their computers for animating. Cameras, Camcorders, etc., can be used to take pictures and videos for animation styles such as clay stop motion videos which are still widely used in many movies.
Takeaway on Computer hardware for work
Whether your an animator, web developer, or online marketer, having the proper computer setup will only help your productivity and get the work done. The right processing power, coupled with storage, memory, and peripherals, is imperative in keeping projects active and delivered to its customers. More importantly, high-end hardware is a necessity when it comes to using the latest software.