What iMac setup is the best for using Houdini

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Hi, I am a 3D artist and I am getting into VFX (mostly sims like fire, fluid, sand, explosions, etc). The problem is, I currently have an iMac late 2015 model with the lowest specs: . I understand that sidefx.com says that I need at least 8 RAM but that 64 is recommended. I bought this one course about doing fluid sims, fire etc, and I can't even cache a pretty low res simulation or fire because it keeps freezing up my computer after about the 60th frame (I can't hardly do anything during the caching either). Do I need more RAM, faster processor, or a better GPU or a combination of them all? Also, I do a lot of rendering in Blender and that is pretty slow too. So, does anyone know what would be the best move for me (buying an iMac with more RAM, a Mac Pro, or what). All help is greatly appreciated!

Thanks,
Benjamin
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First of all, don't buy a Mac Pro right now, new models are due toward the end of the year/early next year which will be much better.

Secondly, you don't tell us the specs of your current machine, maybe it doesn't matter if you're going to replace it, but it's good practice to mention what you're using right now and at the moment I have no idea how you can improve it since I don't know what it is.

Thirdly, you don't say what your budget range is. That makes some recommendations kinda moot if you can't afford what I'm suggesting.

So to answer your question, a top of the line iMac Pro with 18 cores and 64Gb of RAM would be your best option. It's also crazy expensive, but if you can afford it, go for it.

If that is too rich for you, I'd still suggest you try to get your hands on an 8-core iMac Pro with at least 32Gb of RAM.

If that's too expensive still, you could try your hand with one of the brand new Mac Book Pro's with 6-core CPU's which were just announced yesterday. Try to get 32Gb of RAM, but 16Gb might be ok if your simulations aren't terribly complex.

Lastly, if you're too cheap for any of the above, and if you're a pretty technically savvy type of person (you kinda need to be in order to do fluid sims in the first place), you might also consider the Hackintosh route which is what I use. You can read all about it here:

https://www.tonymacx86.com [www.tonymacx86.com]

Ok, one more option. If you're cheap, and not very technically savvy, you might consider getting yourself a PC and using Windows.
>>Kays
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Ok, my specs are : . I had it in the original post but it was removed for some reason. Budget-wise, I only can pay up to $2200, but I would like to find something for less if possible.

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You'll probably want more memory than 8GB. I'd say 16GB minimum.
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Yeah, that i5 isn't doing you many favors. 8Gb as Twod suggested is fine for word processing, but hardly sufficient for high end computing such as fluid simulations.

Quite honestly, if you're really serious about this type of stuff, if I was in your shoes (and assuming you want/need to stay within Mac OS X) I'd try to get my hands on a 12-core “cheese-grater” Mac Pro 5,1:

Intel Xeon X5675 @ 3.1 GHz (12 cores)
Intel Xeon X5670 @ 2.9 GHz (12 cores)
Intel Xeon X5650 @ 2.7 GHz (12 cores)


I'm seeing them on eBay for around $1000-$1500. That 12-core Xeon is going to run circles around your i5, even if the machine is considerably older. In addition, should you wish to use a renderer such as Octane or Redshift, you can easily add the latest Nvidia GPU's in that machine. RAM-wise I think they can go up to 128Gb, they have 8 RAM slots so you can literally keep adding memory as you have the money to spend.

It's an older machine (2012 I think), but it's a beast and I know many pros who still use them.
>>Kays
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Thanks man! Oddly enough I was looking at that kind of thing but it is so expensive on a trusted site like here: , about $3500 or more! Didn't even think about Ebay. So can you explain to me which is better, more RAM or more cores? To me it seems like I need both (something like 12 cores and 32+ GB RAM, right). By the way, you have been real helpful here, I appreciate it a lot!

__Benjamin
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Yeah, basically both. When you're doing simulations (fluid, particles, explosions, etc.) there is a lot going on under the hood. Houdini has to compute the positions of millions of points, and reference them to the previous frame, and so on for the duration of your shot. The more points to track, the more processing and the more memory addresses that it needs to have available.

Now, if your thing wasn't fluid, explosions, etc. and you primarily just wanted to do modeling and animation, then you could get away with less computing power and less memory.

My point is that you picked the thing that is the most resource heavy, so yes, you need both.

Do your own research, but I would see if you can get your hands on a 12 core Mac Pro for around $1000 with at least 16Gb of RAM. I would install Sierra on it (stay away from High Sierra, it's been nothing but trouble for me) and the latest Houdini. If you have some money left, consider getting another 16Gb of RAM for it (the Mac Pro RAM specs are different than in other machines, but the correct type…also on eBay). If you have a little bit more money on top of that, consider adding a new GPU, something like a 1070ti (don't worry about the “Mac compatible” GPU, any Nvidia GPU will run fine on a Mac with Web Drivers) so that if you opt to use Redshift (highly recommended) or Octane (not as much) you will be able to have faster renders as well.

If you're not in a terrible hurry, you might consider waiting for Siggraph which is in the middle of next month. I suspect SESI will announce Houdini 17 there which might or might not affect hardware choices. For instance, if Houdini 17 leverages OpenCL much more, and offloads most of the computing over to the GPU, then perhaps more CPU cores might no longer be necessary.
>>Kays
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ok thanks, I'll take it from here.
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