#59: SHADOWS & LIGHT (Vue)
(and other apps)


I will update it every now and then, as PC specs advance!

Please note: IMHO, it is much better, two have two good PCs, than one uber-fantastic PC, for a host of reasons:

  • If one PC breaks down, you have the other as back up!
  • You can render on one PC, while continuing to work on and make new scenes on the other PC.
  • More hard drives to have more back up space

Another very, very important thingt o realize about PCs is: never EVER buy the latest, most up-to-date items, because you'll be paying vastly over the odds and in 6 months time they will be 1/5th the price or some such!!
Instead, you want to buy "good" parts, jsut a bit expensive, but not too much.

It's inevitable, that PC components improve, so the PC you buy today for say £1400, you can buy the same power for £700 in 6 months. So it's just damn silly paying for the top of the range stuff, today.
Me, I always go for a really good, rugged system I plan on having for 2 to 4 years, so a cost of £700 to £1400 is ok for me (but that was before the Recession changed prices, sigh)

Just like a car or any other tool, if you buy a crappy, cheap PC, it will cause more trouble than it's damn worth...but buying a Ferrari, why the hell waste that money when you can go holidays, save for emergencies etc? Or in the case of digital art, buy more applications and content, or a second PC! ;)

And there is no point waiting and waiting for cheaper super-dooper parts, if you wait for the "perfect PC", you'll wait again and again as you see more new uber super dooper stuff coming out, and in the mean time, lose all that damn time when you could have been DOING STUFF!! ;)
So, don't wait more than a month for prices to change, it's not worth it.

For me as a rough guideline, with current United Kingdom prices, that's about this:

  • CPU - £120 to £220 or so. Often if you wait, they will drop down to more reasonable prices! I used to buy CPUs about £130 mark, but, because of changes in value of Sterling, the Recession ad new Intel chips completely replacing old line, etc, prices have gone wonky. Hence maximum up to about £220 nowadays
  • Motherboard - about £150 to £220, a good motherboard is absolutely crucial! Do not ever skimp on them. They are the backbone of your PC.
  • Case - about £70 or more, a good case is a solid investment, they last for ages and are eaiser to work with. Don't buy one with flashing lights n' such just because it looks "cool", unless what's inside it is good.

Yes, it's a lot of money, but a good tool is always worth the price! :) But don't go blowing £2000 on some over-priced piece of hyped up crap!

Caveat Emperator!! This is all my own personal tastes and experiences! I'm not a bloody techno-wizard no more, so, check things for yourself too! ;)
I take no responsibility for problems
. It's up to YOU to do your homework, and check with sellers for any issues.
I can only base prices on my experience here in the UK, so things are in UK pounds at the day I updated this article! Local prices and your wallet will differ. Cost of a PC is a hell of a lot of money for me.

My suggested PC build as of 06-06-2009

Antec 1200 gamer case

Antec's page for the 1200
I recommend this for several reasons:

  • it is very very big, now that may actually be a problem for you if you have limited or awkward space restrictions. But it can hold a ton of hard drives if you want, so it has great storage potential. The size also helps the air flow, so it stays cool, and makes installing new parts much easier.
  • Newer build, so some issues with previous cases improved. Such as adding dust filters to stop dust getting inside.
  • It is very strongly built, it's heavy!! But it is rugged and will last.
  • Such cases are a ton easier to work on inside than cheap ones, believe me, that is an issue.
  • It stays cool, very important. Huge fans and lots of them, but quiet when the fans are at "Minimum" (you cna increase their speed if want)

Issues: it's big, heavy and expensive, about £140 today. Please check it's sizes, compared to where you want to put it.

Intel i7 CPU

i7s are new class of chip, they are extremely damn powerful and they chew through renders about twice as fast as previous chips did, wowie!!
Alas, I can't tell you which one to get, because the market is changing so damned fast, as new chips are coming out that push the prices of current ones down. So please note my point above, where you don't want to spend too much on the CPU.

At the moment there is a £600 difference between the bottom and top of the i7 Intel CPU range!!!

As of checking today, the basic Intel Core i7 920 2.66GHz Socket 1366 8MB Cache is £229, and the top of the range i7 975 Extreme Edition 3.33GHz Socket 1366 8MB is £802,
T that's plain crazy to spend that kind of money on the top CPU, for ordinary folk like myself!
Wait a few months, and that price will drop like a rock ;)
Your milage would vary, but as of *this very day I write this*, I'd buy the i7 920 2.66GHz, but next week, or next month maybe a completely different story.

DO NOT OVERCLOCK YOUR CPU!! yes I know you can overclock them, but just don't do it unless you are a techno-wizard, and don't mind the fact you'll reduce it's life span. Overclocking is to PCs, what smoking is to your lungs ;)

ASUS P6 Motherboard

There is a variety of th P6 motherbaords, I honestly can't say what's best for you, and they are adding new designs all the time. All should be extremely good.
Now, some people have favourite board manufacturers, ASUS seems to get canned for having poor customer service, but it's boards are very good in my experience. Other folks like ASROCK or GIGABYTE, I'm just going with my own prefferences :)

The ASUS P6 motherbaords can all take up to a maximum of 24 gigs of RAM. it's good to know that, as in the future, RAM will probably get cheaper/larger, so you know you can ramp it right up!

Depending on your finances, I'd go for either:

You have plenty of cash - P6T Deluxe V2
You are less well off: - P6T SE

Now here is a DAMN important point: check with who you're buying from that your CPU, motherboard, and RAM will all work together! These all should, but...CHECK!!! Very important for you to check.

Art users do not need 2 graphics cards, so you don't realy need the SLI or Crossfire stuff.

6 or 12 GIGs of DDR 3 RAM

Now, here's a thing: DDR3 RAM is relatively recent, and has only just come down to prices we mere mortals can afford ;) It's sitll a bit expensive though.

Also, DDR3 RAM is installed in groups of *THREE*, as far as I am aware. Note that, it's vitally important. So you have to buy multiples of three of the same size of RAM chip at the same time for your system.
Often, chips are sold in pairs, so you may need to buy 3 pairs of say, 1 gig chips: 3 x (2 x 1gig). Annoying, eh? lol

You also have to understand that older systems used DDR2 RAM, and the two types are not compatible!

Ideally, you'd like 12 gigs of RAM, but it seems, at the moment in the UK, the 2 gig chips are hard to get.
3 gigs is more than enough for most folk though, only mad, crazy b*stards like me, and other 3D artists need more, lol.
6 gigs or more memory is good for 64 bit apps when you throw TONS of content into them. Otherwise, you don't need more than 3 gigs for say a gaming PC.

The ASUS boards have mostly got 6 slots, so you can throw in 6 x 2 gig chips for 12 gigs, or 6 x 1 gig or 3 x 2 gigs for 6 gigs.
3x2 gig chips is best for 6 gigs, as it leaves 3 slots open when you want to add more later, but as said, currently, the 2 gig chips seem rare. markets change fast though.

You don't need enormously expensive RAM chips, we are not Industiral Light and Magic! ;) Youst get decent "standardish" to slightly expensive priced RAM. RAM chips can give out, so it's silly spending £100+ on a SINGLE chip, which may only give you +10% boost, and die in a year.

Two or Three 1 terabyte Hard Drives, or three 500 gig hard drives

Storage space is vital! You'll be surprised how much you use up for your stuff, seriously!
You can set up on drive as a RAID, but it's not something I honestly know much about, as I jsut back stuff up from one drive ot another, and onto DVDs etc.
Again, you don't need super fancy/expensive stuff here.

600+ Watt Power Supply Unit

Man, many folk have very conflicting views on which PSU is best, lol! I got a Hiper PSU for my art rig and it's quiet as a mouse and works great, so I'm happy :) Your mileage may vary. Hunt around and ask sellers/friends what is a QUIET and reliable PSU. I'ts really important to get a quiet one, it makes working with your PC more enjoyable by far.

You need 600 or more watts of power, for the drain these big CPUs, video cards and multiple drives require.

Note: the Antec Gamer cases have the PSU in the bottom of the case. This means the motherboard socket is very far away, comparatively. A good PSU will have an extra long power lead *check this* is the case for your chosen PSU, or, buy an extender for the lead. I can't remember it's proper name, lol, only costs a few pounds and is a common item from a good PC seller.

9000 Series or GT series NVIDIA Gaming video card

yes, I said gaming card! ;) why? Cheaper and damn good, that's why. And better at OPEN GL than ATI cards, so they are better for 3D art.
Which card though? ye gods, again, these change so fast it's impossible to keep up, lol. I'd recommend checking customer reviws on sites like Ebuyer. You want a card that's reliable, with a lot of RAM (it helps display more stuff in the OPEN GL view ports of apps like "Vue", many cards now come with a gig or more of RAM!).
The 9000 series is older, the GTS/GTX cards are newer.
You don't want to spend more than £150 on a video card, beyond that, again, the "price vs what you get out of it" ratio, isn't worth it.

DVD Writer or a Blue-Ray Writer

Obviously you need one of these to install stuff, but also to make back ups! Blu-Ray writers are a lot more expensive but their discs can store a lot more data. If money is an issue, stick to the DVD writer, BLue-Ray writers are still expensive.
Check reviews to of any blue-ray writer you want, as they are recent tech, and thus you always have higher risks of problems.

LCD 22" (or Wider) Wide Screen Monitor, branded

LCD monitors are cheap now, of course. If buying a monitor as well, get a 22" widescreen, or larger monitor, but of a good brand, do not buy "generic" non-branded ones for art use. There is a very big difference, you will notice the quality and better image.

Widescreens are great for art use, plenty of space at the side for menus ;)

Vista Ultimate with Service Pack 1

Ultimate version should come with both 64 and 32 bit versions, (again, check! in case you get some weird verison from who knows where) You want to install the 64 bit version, as apps that work with 64 bit are a LOT more powerful!

And despite what folk say, Vista works very damn well actually, PROVIDED you have a recent PC and Service Pack1 ;)



And there you have it :) Now just pay some poor shmuck to build it up for you, saving you the hassle, and if he blows it up, he can re-pay it!! Muhaha! :p

OLDER BUILD, kept as refference, thisis what I am actually using.

Note: this is my suggestion as of this date 15 October 2008, computers evolve and improve fast, so, be on the look out for updates to this and the PC world in general!!
This is roughly the set up I have and it works damned well and reliably with Vue and other apps :) had it for one year and is working sitll nicely.


  • Antec 900 gamer case. Very good flow through of air, huge fan on top. Plenty of space, easy to work on, but, requires an extra long lead on the PSU as the PSU is fitted into the base (you can buy extensions for PSU leads to the motherboard, in good PC shops etc, and high quality PSU's often come with them).
    Remember and clean it out now and then with an "air duster", and DON'T let stuff drop through the top mounted fan, in otherwords, stop idiot relatives putting beer cans etc on the top of it! ;)

  • HIPER 630 watt PSU (make sure it has long leads to the motherboard, most do). Get a higher wattage if you are gonna put more than 3 drives inside.

  • ASUS motherboard, P5K-E is rock soild
    O or, if you are really on the ball, Striker Extreme (that m/board will screw up a lot unless you install all the chipset drivers and I mean ALL of them, see user forums on ASUS, etc. Works superbly for me, but many have had nightmares with it).
    You need a 64 bit motherboard, hence the recommendation.
    Motherboard architecture is always changing. The *best* IMHO, are the Intel chipsets from ASUS, though others like Gigabyte.
    Most recent Intel high-end chipsets support only DDR3 memory, as of writing this article, that's too expensive for most folk, but, DDR3 prices will probably drop and it may become the standard RAM type.

  • Vista Ultimate and install as 64 bit (which I think it defaults to?)
    Note, when installing windows 64 bit, some versions have a problem (I believe XPPro64 bit on some odd motherboards?) and will only install if only have 4 gigs of RAM on the motherboard, during the install, but you can add more in afterwards ok, lol, think that was recently fixed though.
    Don't listen to idiots who say Vista isn't good, it's superb, when done correctly and with Service Pack 1.
    Turn the User Account Control garbage off, as when you *run* as Administrator, it solves nearly all problems, along with Service Pack1.

  • 8 GIG RAM, DDR2, any generic, decent stuff will do, don't need uber specialized RAM, we're not ILM ;)
    Note, the most recent high-end motherboards are starting to switch to DDR3 memory.
    Always ALWAYS check the full specs of any motherboard on the manufacturer's website!

  • Quad core intel CPU, at moment prices/models are of course, always in flux so I can't say what's best on any given day, you want one about (£ or $) 120 to (£ or $) 170 mark, you do NOT need the "best", CPU's constantly evolve, the top ranges are grossly over priced for the few % bonus they give you.
    Again, check check the motherboard specifications and make damned sure you get a CPU suitable for the motherboard!

  • 2 hard drives, Western Digital is good some other brands are better, avoid Maxtor like the plague, lol.
    Reason for 2 hard drives: one is for back up. Or get 3 drives, and RAID one, or, using Vista Ultimate's back upsystem, you can mirror your C drive for emergencies.
    Back ups are *essential*
    DVD writer drive of course, for backing up.

  • 8600GT graphics card, Nvidia, 512 RAM, ideal for Vue, do not]get an ATI card! Too many OpenGL problems with ATI, IMHO from what folk have said :/
    As cards evolve, this spec will change, point is to get a good card, with plenty of video RAM to display textures and polygons, you don't need an uber card as at the moment, Vue doesn't use the "GPU" to render, so the only benefit for a powerful video card is only for display, or higher end renderers like V-Ray.
    Tip: if you have weird video and mouse glitches in Poser 7or earlier, go into Control Panel --> Nvida Control Panel, turn on "Advanced Settings", go to Manage 3D Settings, turn "Threaded Optimization" to ON.


My Rig and RPG room, hehe!

I hope you find this of use! :)

All original art, writing on this site, copyright of Steven James, "Silverblade the Enchanter" ©2012