Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dell Precision T7500

Why do I have such a large computer? That's a question I'm asked when people visit our studio.

Jackson Lake, Grand Teton National Park

I upgraded both my Epson printer and Dell computer earlier this year.

The Epson upgrade was from a 9800 to a 9900 and I'm extremely pleased.  The move was relative simple as I basically changed one great printer for another.  Both print 44" wide however the 9900 uses 11 ink cartridges adding a separate Orange and Green as well as Matte Black with automatic switching between that and Photo Black.  There's more however this isn't about the 9900.

Fence Line

The switch in computers was a little more involved.  I went from a 6-year old Dell Precision 690 dual quad core with 48GB RAM to a smoking hot Precision T7500, dual 6-core 3.47 GHz with 96 GB RAM.  While I kept my hard drives and graphic card (nVIDIA 450) I also added a newer Quadro 2000 to push my 2-30" monitors.

Why all this power and is it slightly overkill?  The answer to the second question is yes it might be overkill today but what about next year? 

I just finished printing an image for a client.  The image size is 24352x11401 (67.6"x31.7") at 360 ppi, 16 bit depth.  The file size of this one image is 1.88GB.  I've got another image measuring 12290x10120 (34.1x28.1) at 360 ppi, 16 bit depth that's "only" 546.33 MB (slightly over 1/2 GB).

Time is money no matter what you do.  I remember waiting for images to render for several seconds up to close to a minute.  While this might not sound long it is when you are trying to complete several actions and don't want to loose your way. A lot of what is being done is instant creative thoughts and waiting 30 to 120 seconds and stop the creative juices from flowing.  There were times I would press the enter key and have to write down what it was I wanted to do next in order to remember it.  Processing images can be a lot like playing chess in that you always want to think several moves ahead and several different options.  If you end up waiting too long you (or at least myself) can loose your way.  Plus in the end you don't want to be too mechanical; by that I mean you really need to watch and "listen" to your image as it'll tell you what's best.  Again all this takes time and the lest amount of time spent between time the better.   Now however the time has been cut in half, sometimes even shorter to where I see the result within a second and can continue on with my train of thought or dismiss it and try something else.  I can also have multiple copies of the same image open and be trying several effects before deciding on the right one.  All in all it's a real time saver.

Of course there are the videos now; and no we're changing our direction, just adding another dimension.  This is the 4th-year we offered DVD's of our work and the past 2-years we added small video clips just to make life interesting.  This year we decided to ramp the video portion up by adding a Canon XF105 to our camera bag(s) and with that we needed to added proper video editing software and graphics card.

I still use the wonderful Phase One P65+ 60 megapixel digital back and Sandy still has her 21.1 megapixel Canon 1DsIII.  We're looking towards the future and Canon coming up with a camera to meet or beat the new Nikon D800 while I've set my eyes on the 80 megapixel Phase One IQ180.  We need room to grow as the cameras offer larger and larger file sizes and we feel we're set at least for a couple more years.

It's often easy to think in the present and not plan for the future.  We know we need a computer to process the current images from the camera we use today.  But what about the camera that will be replacing the current one?  The day where computer became obsolete within 30-days are gone.  You can buy a computer now with the knowledge that it'll be working just as good next year as it is today; several years in fact.  The best option I can suggest is to go to a reputable computer manufacture and have them build the computer factoring in not what you need today but what you'll need next year or the year after.  In my case the Dell 690 worked well when I first built it and used Canon 1Ds, 1DsII and 1DsIII as well as a Phase One P30+ and P45+ and just began to struggle with the P65+ files.  The new computer will continue on for several years while Canon and Phase One build better and larger camera systems to catch up.  I figure I have another 6-years before upgrading the computer system again to meet and match the then current and future crop of camera systems. 

The current system wasn't cheap by any means however it's cheaper in the long run from buying several systems in the same time period.

This is has been my experience and I wanted to pass it on.


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