View Full Version : The great experiment...

11-24-2003, 06:27 AM
The challenge:

To build a VT[3] powerhouse workstation for under 2,000...

The spec:

Dual 3.06Ghz Xeon 533 FSB
Supermicro X5DAL-TG2 with integrated SATA
3 x Western Digital "Raptor" 36Gb 10k RPM SATA drives
40Gb Western Digital ATA drive
Sony DVD +/- R/RW DVD drive
nVidia Quadro4 980 XGL
Windows XP Pro

and of course...

VT[3] ;)

I'd been considering upgrading my old system (single P4 2.5Ghz, 2 x 16Gb 10k SCSI + Adaptec 29160) since the arrival of VT[3]. I'd used Dell PC's extensively in the past and was pretty happy with them but for a system like this, even Dells start to look expensive (The cheapest similar spec system I could find at Dell was 3,698). I'd seen a few Dual Xeon Precision workstations on eBay but they all went for over 2 grand sooo...

Time to build one myself :D I've done a lot of ugrades on PC (and other) systems in my time but this is the first system I've built from scratch - here's how it went...


All the components were ordered from www.scan.co.uk - they were extremely helpful and I'd definitely recommended them to other UK VT users. The only components I didn't have to buy were the graphics card which I already had (a 160 Albatron GeForce4 Ti4200 modded into a Quadro4 980 XGL) and the VT[3]. Total cost of all these was 1997.56 including VAT (delivery was 15).


This was the easy part ;) The fan is a HiperPower 470w for dual-processor motherboards - both the fan and motherboard are standard ATX form so I got a nice CoolerMaster "Black Widow" case to house it all in - it's an aluminium case which helps with cooling the system (acts like a big heat sink). The case comes fitted with four fans - two at the front, one at the top and a flashy blue "neon" fan at the rear so you can see your expensive components illuminated through the clear plexi-glass side panel - nice :D


Motherboard assembly was the scariest part - a seemingly endless tangle of cables and connectors... Installing the Dual Xeons was fun too - you have to screw a mounting kit to the motherboard before dropping the processors into their slots and clipping the heat sink/fan assembly over the top - BIG thanks go to Symeon at OneVideo here - he helped clear up a misunderstanding over the clips required to fasten the heat sinks (a combination of poor documentation and plain simple stupidity on my part). Having never done this before I found the documentation supplied with the motherboard to be seriously lacking - In the end I had to make an educated guess as to which way 'round the CPU fans were supposed to point. Even installing the cable was trial and error - many have guides to make things simple but quite a few could be plugged in upside down by mistake - took me a while but I got there in the end...


Once I'd got the motherboard installed I went for a trial run using a cheap and cheerful GeForce4 MX 440 (20 from PCWorld) just in case... It's here that I hit my first major problem - Windows wouldn't install! After hours of checking connections, swapping out drives and hitting my head against the wall the problem was traced to one of the memory sticks - I'm waiting for a replacement so for the time being the system only has 1Gb - not a big deal and easy to fit when it arrives.


So here it is - fully assembled - running VT[3] beautifully (VT[3]'s disktest reported 158Mbps on the SATA raid) Overall I'm delighted with it - it's a little noisy ('cause of the fans) but still less intrusive than my old PC which had SCSI drives - It's saved me 1,700 on buying a Dell and is far more upgradable (I plan to add another "Raptor" at some point) and has the benefit of having a NewTek-recommended Supermicro motherboard. LightWave runs like a dream on it too using eight threads :D

If anyone wants more information, feel free to email me (If I'm slow replying it's 'cause I'm having too much fun with my VT[3])

11-24-2003, 07:03 AM

Here's a little shot of the insides and that great blue neon fan... ;)

11-24-2003, 12:12 PM

158 Mbs?!?!?!

That's inspiring! Let us know how the performance goes...

11-24-2003, 03:17 PM
Performance-wise I've got 4 DDRs simultaneously playing different clips flawlessly - I get some stuttering if I add a fifth although I'm still tinkering with the preferences to find the optimal settings - anyone got some hints on what setting to use for "PCI bus speed"?

Also, what experiences are people having with the Xeon's Hyper-Threading? I've seen benchmarks that suggest LightWave is quicker with it disabled - how about VT[3]??

11-24-2003, 07:51 PM
How is the performance in the timeline with DVE's and all? Patch 01? Patch 02?
How many streams?

11-24-2003, 08:53 PM
All informal rendering and waiting tests I have run with T3 and hyperthreading have been quicker with it on.

12-16-2003, 09:04 PM
Greetings. I recently acquired a job producing/editing/filming hunting and fishing shows that air on Empire. When I started out they had no video system, so they rented a Video Toaster and Flyer system for a few months and then finally bought their own VT[3] system (on my recommendation).
Here's the 'low down':
Dual 2.8 gHz Xeon processors with 533 mHz FSB
1 gb ECC Registered PC266 DDR RAM on a
Supermicro X5DAE motherboard - VERY important to install ECC REGISTERED RAM - the motherboard doesn't accept any other type. I found that out the hard way when I mistakenly ordered ECC RAM, not registered, and couldn't get it to boot up for a few weeks.
4 U320 SCSI hard drives RAIDED together in RAID0 - incredible performance and speed, though not officially tested with any sort of software.
ATI FIRE GL Z1 dual monitor display card, with two ViewSonic monitors in use
Also, a Buslink 3 port PCI firewire card is installed
Plus a system drive and all the rest.

I won't go into detail because my intention is not to seem like I'm bragging or anything. In fact, I only list these specs because I've found it extremely useful to read what other people are doing with their system configurations and whatnot, so I thought I'd list my own and hope someone gets something out of it. [smiley face]

Anyway, I've found the system to run more than smoothly and I LOVE the features that are built into the VT[3]. Being able to switch between storyboard and timeline editing is an irreplaceable feature and I don't really know how I worked without it. That's just one of the features - there are many, many more that make the VT[3] worth every penny.

All in all, the company I work for paid around $7,000 for the system and so far it has more than paid for itself in time saved and power.

One question I do have, if anyone is still reading ;) , is in regards to installation. Is the VT[3] intended to run in a PCI-X slot? I have it installed in a regular 32-bit PCI slot currently but I see in configuration that I could set the bandwidth for a PCI-X 66 mHz slot. The motherboard I'm using only has a single PCI-X 133 (the SCSI drives are installed on it) and two PCI-X 100 mHz slots available.

Would I see improved performance if I moved the VT[3] card to one of those slots? And now that I think of it, I have another question - and this question more than any other comes purely from ignorance...

Am I supposed to be able to export my VTEdit projects out the firewire card and to my digital camera in realtime, or do I need to render it out first? Even when rendered out, I can't seem to output the DV stream to the camera for recording purposes. I know someone has to have some insight into this, and I'm willing to bet that just about anyone knows more about firewire than me. So, please help!
Thank you very much!
Sean Zicari

12-16-2003, 10:38 PM
The pci setting is for the raid controller not for the T3 itself.
You're doing fine in the 32.

No, you have to render first, and use another app to send out, (I think) but hopefully someone Firewire savvy will respond.
I'm component in/out to beta here.

Congrats on the system.

I've been thinking of starting a thread asking people to list their components and problems/non problems, thought it might make a good database for users esp. new ones looking to build.


12-17-2003, 02:25 AM
I've been thinking of starting a thread asking people to list their components and problems/non problems, thought it might make a good database for users esp. new ones looking to build.

Good idea Jim! When investigating my system I knew I wanted a SuperMicro motherboard but I had no idea which one was best for the job - in the end, budget and the decision to go the SATA route determined my choice but it'd be good to have a list of tried and tested hardware, dealers and components suppliers...

02-09-2005, 10:01 AM
I want to use this same setting for vt4, is that a good or a bad idea ( I plan to use scsi controller by adaptec)

02-09-2005, 01:02 PM
I want to use this same setting for vt4, is that a good or a bad idea ( I plan to use scsi controller by adaptec)
Good news/bad news, Supermicro now has EM64T Nocona dual Xeon boards with an 800 Mhz FSB. The above specs are now officially "legacy". The system will still perform as described. You should just consider something newer.

I am building a system with a Supermicro X6DA8-G2 (onboard Adaptec U320 dual channel SCSI controller) mobo and dual Nocona Xeon 3.0Ghz cpus for a little under $3600.00. At the time (I think), 1 pound = $1.50, so Aegis' system went for $3000. Plus, he reused monitors from his old system, so add a few buck for those.

The price differences are like $175 more for the X6DA8-G2 mobo, the Nocona cpus cost about the same, etc. These "little differences" can add up fast, of course.

I think you'll be happy whatever you do. Have fun!

02-10-2005, 05:23 AM
Yup, Paul's right. His specs are the way to go.