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After Effects CPU performance: AMD Threadripper 3990X 64 Core

Written on February 7, 2020 by Matt Bach
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The Threadripper platform as a whole is terrific for those that need 256GB of system memory, but the AMD Threadripper 3990X 64 Core in particular is completely unnecessary. In almost every case, the 3960X 24 Core is both faster and cheaper, and if you do not need 256GB of RAM, the Intel Core i9 9900K or AMD Ryzen 9 3900X perform on par at a fraction of the cost.

Introduction

If you have been in the motion graphics or VFX industry for quite a while, you may remember the days when After Effects included a feature called "Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously". This feature allowed After Effects to split up your render on the fly between all the CPU cores in your system and made Ae perfect for high core count systems. Due to a number of reasons, however, Adobe removed this feature back in 2014 and instead focused heavily on GPU acceleration.

This shift in priorities resulted in some tremendous performance gains, but it completely changed what the "ideal" processor was for After Effects. Instead of dual Xeon or other high core count options, suddenly AMD and Intel's consumer CPUs (with only a handful of cores) were the fastest processors you could get.

For most users, this makes AMD's new Threadripper 3990X 64 core processor complete overkill as After Effects currently has no native way to take advantage of all these cores. However, you can still spread your renders across multiple cores with plugins like Render Garden, BG Renderer MAX, or your own scripts utilizing AERender, which may make the 3990X perfect for those that leverage these plugins.

Even in the case of these multi-core render plugins, you often can only split up the render about a dozen times before you either do not see a significant performance gain, or require huge amounts of RAM/VRAM in order to successfully complete the render. Because of these factors, we truly are not quite sure how the 3990X will perform in these types of After Effects workflows.

AMD Threadripper 3990X 64 Core After Effects Review

In this article, we will be examining the performance of the AMD Threadripper 3990X 64 Core CPU in After Effects as compared to the latest AMD Threadripper, AMD Ryzen, Intel X-series, and Intel 9th Gen processors. If you are interested in how this CPU performs in other applications, we also have several other articles for Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects, DaVinci Resolve, and more available on our article listing page.

If you would like to skip over our test setup and benchmark sections, feel free to jump right to the Conclusion.

Looking for an After Effects Workstation?

Puget Systems offers a range of workstations that are tailor-made for your unique workflow. Our goal is to provide the most effective and reliable system possible so you can concentrate on your work and not worry about your computer.

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Test Setup

Listed below are the specifications of the systems we will be using for our testing:

AMD Ryzen Test Platform
CPU

AMD Ryzen 9 3950X ($749)
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X ($499)
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X ($399)​​​​​​​

CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard Gigabyte X570 AORUS ULTRA
RAM 4x DDR4-2933 16GB (64GB total)
Intel 9th Gen Test Platform
CPU

Intel Core i9 9900K ($499)​​​​​​​
Intel Core i7 9700K ($385)​​​​​​​

CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard Gigabyte Z390 Designare
RAM 4x DDR4-2666 16GB (64GB total)
AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen Test Platform
CPU AMD TR 3990X ($3,990)
AMD TR 3970X ($1,999)
AMD TR 3960X ($1,399)
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12S TR4-SP3
Motherboard Gigabyte TRX40 AORUS PRO WIFI
RAM 4x DDR4-2933 16GB (64GB total)
Intel X-10000 Series Test Platform
CPU Intel Core i9 10980XE ($979)
Intel Core i9 10940X ($784)
Intel Core i9 10920X ($689)
Intel Core i9 10900X ($590)​​​​​​​
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-U12DX i4
Motherboard Gigabyte X299 Designare EX
RAM 4x DDR4-2933 16GB (64GB total)
Shared Hardware/Software
Video Card NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
Hard Drive Samsung 960 Pro 1TB
Software Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1909)
Adobe After Effects 2020 (Ver. 17.0.2)
PugetBench for After Effects V0.82 BETA
PugetBench for AERender V0.8 BETA

*All the latest drivers, OS updates, BIOS, and firmware applied as of January 20th, 2019

A few notes regarding the hardware and software used in our testing:

First, since many of the platforms we are testing support different RAM speeds depending on how many sticks you use and even whether those sticks are single or dual rank, we have decided to standardize on using four 16GB sticks of whatever the "middle" supported RAM speed is (rounding up when applicable). This means that the latest Ryzen, Threadripper, and X-series platforms are using DDR4-2933 while the Intel 9th Gen is using DDR4-2666.

The second thing to note is that we are using Noctua air coolers on all of our test platforms. We are not certain yet if this cooler will have enough capacity to keep the 3990X cool when installed in our workstations (our product qualification team is still investigating that), but in our air-conditioned Labs environment on open-air testbeds, we did not encounter any significant performance degradation with this cooler versus a beefier liquid cooler.

Lastly, there are reported issues with this processor using Windows 10 Pro due to how Windows behaves after you have 64 threads. This likely won't affect Lightroom Classic performance since it can't effectively utilize anywhere near this many cores, but we have further testing using Windows 10 Pro for Workstations planned. If you want to learn more about this, Anandtech has a terrific writeup going over the issue and the problems it causes when doing head-to-head CPU performance comparisons like this.

Benchmark Results

While our benchmarks presents various scores based on the performance of each test, we also like to provide the individual results for you to examine. If there is a specific task that is a hindrance to your workflow, examining the raw results for that task is going to be much more applicable than the scores that our benchmark calculated.

Feel free to skip to the next sections for our analysis of these results to get a wider view of how each CPU performs in After Effects.

After Effects Benchmark Analysis

A lot is going on in the chart below, so before getting into it we wanted to provide a key regarding the color scheme.

  • Light blue = Intel 9th Gen
  • Dark blue = Intel X-10000 series
  • Light red = AMD Ryzen 3rd Gen
  • Dark red = AMD Threadripper 3rd Gen

Since After Effects typically only uses a handful of CPU cores, there is only about a 20% performance difference between the fastest and slowest CPU we tested. Interestingly enough, it is more the overall product line that determines performance, rather than the number of cores each CPU has. In fact, it is worth pointing out that many of the more economical processors like the Intel Core i9 9900K or AMD Ryzen 9 3900X perform within a few percent of the more expensive options like the AMD Threadripper 3970X 32 Core.

When it comes to the AMD Threadripper 3990X 64 Core in particular, the performance is not bad, but also not better than many other options that cost significantly less. For example, both the Threadripper 3990X and the Core i9 9900K scored almost exactly the same, yet the 3990X costs eight times more! Even if you want the larger memory capacity or higher PCI-E lane count of Threadripper, the 3960X is still a bit faster at roughly a third the cost.

AERender Benchmark Analysis

AMD Threadripper 3990X After Effects AERender Benchmark Results

As we mentioned in the introduction, there are ways to split your render across multiple threads by using plugins like Render Garden, BG Renderer MAX, or your own scripts via AERender. However, there are limits to how effective this can be. With our test projects, we typically find that about a 3x increase in performance is the most we ever see and while other projects may see larger benefits, you should not expect it to scale perfectly.

Another limitation is that for each render thread you spawn, you need to have more and more system RAM and VRAM. Two threads will require 2x more RAM/VRAM than normal, four threads will require 4x, and so on. Our test projects are relatively light-weight, so even with just 64GB of RAM we can typically spawn up to ~24 threads, but many real-world projects will be limited to significantly fewer threads.

With all that explained, the results of our AERender benchmark took us completely by surprise. We thought that the Threadripper 3990X 64 Core would do well in this test, but it was actually one of the slowest CPUs we tested. Another oddity is that the Threadripper 3970X 32 Core was significantly slower than the Threadripper 3960X 24 Core. RAM/VRAM capacity may be a part of this, but we were able to successfully spawn ~24 threads on each of these CPUs. Compared to something like the Intel Core i9 10940X where we only ever spawned a maximum of 14 threads (we limit the maximum render threads to the number of cores the CPU has), this in theory should result in better performance from the Threadripper CPUs.

This goes to show that you cannot make any assumptions when it comes to real-world performance. Just looking at the number of render threads we were able to spawn, and the performance of each CPU in our After Effects benchmark, these results are almost the exact opposite of what you might expect. But like Shakira said during the Super Bowl halftime show, "these hips benchmark results don't lie".

Is the AMD Threadripper 3990X good for After Effects?

To put it bluntly, the AMD Threadripper 3990X 64 core is not a great choice for After Effects. The Threadripper platform as a whole can be a great choice for those that need 256GB of system memory, but for most users, the AMD Threadripper 3960X 24 Core is going to be a much better choice.

Even in our AERender benchmark (which spawns multiple render threads in order to improve render times), the 3990X fared poorly. This is the kind of workload that you might expect the 3990X to excel in, yet the AMD Threadripper 3960X 24 Core or Intel Core i9 10940X were both almost 2x faster than the 3990X.

To be fair, it isn't all bad news for the 3990X. Disregarding the price, it performed within about 5% of the fastest CPU we tested which is unlikely to be noticeable in the real world. So if your workflow involves other applications that are able to utilize all of these cores, you can at least be confident that choosing the 3990X is not going to result in lower performance in After Effects. It just isn't a very good choice if performance in After Effects is your primary concern.

Keep in mind that the benchmark results in this article are strictly for After Effects and that performance will vary widely in different applications. If your workflow includes other software packages (we have similar articles for Photoshop, Lightroom Classic, Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, and many others), you need to consider how the processor will perform in all those applications. Be sure to check our list of Hardware Articles to keep up to date on how all of these software packages perform with the latest CPUs.

Looking for an After Effects Workstation?

Puget Systems offers a range of workstations that are tailor-made for your unique workflow. Our goal is to provide the most effective and reliable system possible so you can concentrate on your work and not worry about your computer.

Configure a System!

Tags: Intel 9th Gen, Intel X-series, Intel vs AMD, AMD Ryzen 3rd Gen, AMD Threadripper 2nd Gen, Intel X-10000, Threadripper 3990X, After Effects
Mappi75

But only use 64GB RAM dir 3990X is a way too less memory!?

I think 128GB should be the minimum.

Posted on 2020-02-13 13:37:20

Extra memory doesn't do anything for performance, and in the case of our After Effects benchmark, it is designed so that you only need 32GB of RAM. In the real world, you probably would get more RAM if you were spending $4k on a CPU, but we try to keep things like RAM, GPU, and other system specs the same between platforms in order to minimize the number of variables

Posted on 2020-02-13 15:26:45
Bernie Retallack

After Effects is a trash bucket for optimisation and barely uses a single core, it's absolutely useless for anything other than effects.

Posted on 2020-02-22 17:18:46
motionato

If i had the same system but with 32 GB RAM (4x 8) would i get the same performance or the difference will be very wide?

Posted on 2020-03-03 17:23:59

The time to render each frame or to export should be identical. What more RAM gets you in After Effects is being able to have more frames stored in RAM Preview. We have some charts you might want to check out in the Memory section of https://www.pugetsystems.co... .

Just as an example, if you work with 1080p, 30FPS, 32bpc projects, with 32GB of RAM you would be able to play back around 30 seconds worth of your comp before you run out of RAM and the playback stops. You can hit play again and it will keep going, but it will overwrite the previous frames that were stored in RAM Preview so when you go back to the beginning, AE has to re-render those frames.

If you have 64GB of RAM, however, you would be able to store roughly double the number of frames. Or 128GB would be 4x the number of frames. So if your comp is 60 seconds in this example, you would be able to play the entire comp without needing anything to re-render after the first playback if you have 64GB of RAM, but with 32GB you would constantly be re-rendering frames.

That is why it isn't all that important for our benchmark testing (the comps are designed to not be a problem with even 16GB of RAM), but in the real world, you can easily see a benefit from 64GB, 128GB, or even more RAM.

Posted on 2020-03-03 17:35:07
motionato

Thanks very much for the detailed explanation. I already read the article but your explanation made every thing clear to me. I thought that RAM have part in rendering process, so the render queue only depend on The CPU?
Another question if you don't mind.
What about the ram speed? I can't see any mention of the speed in the process of RAM previewing.

Posted on 2020-03-03 17:51:30

You need to have enough for the rendering process (just like you would with Premiere Pro), but the reason why AE needs a ton of RAM is for RAM Preview.

RAM speed can make a small difference, but not as much as people online typically say it does. We did some testing fairly recently, and in AE the performance difference between DDR4-2666 and DDR4-3600 was pretty much within the margin of error. So simply having as much RAM as possible is going to be way more of an impact than having faster RAM. Keep in mind as well that once you get beyond the RAM frequency supported by your CPU, we tend to see an increase in application/OS/system crashes.

Posted on 2020-03-03 17:58:17
motionato

This is an incredible fact about the RAM speed in Ae. Did you have the chance in the past to test older RAM running at 1666 compared to 2666? or you can expect it will behaves the same as 2666 and 3600 did?

Posted on 2020-03-03 18:09:34

1666 would have to be DDR3, which is pretty old at this point. We typically only look at the most recent generations of products, so going that far back isn't something we have tested. My guess is that at a certain point it would make a difference, but it is really hard to say since CPUs that would support that speed of RAM are also pretty old, which likely will keep the performance bottleneck on the CPU rather than RAM speed.

Posted on 2020-03-03 19:34:42
motionato

Very convincing.
Did it happen that you test the feature Max of Memory Channels and it's effect on RAM preview or performance overall in Ae?

Posted on 2020-03-03 20:50:33

That also isn't something we have tested. There is no reason not to use all the memory channels (unless you are on an extreme budget), so we have always recommended using all the channels available. There is really no downside like there is with RAM speed.

Posted on 2020-03-03 20:55:08
motionato

Sorry I should have been more clear. I meant the feature in the intel processor "Max # of memory channels"

Posted on 2020-03-03 21:00:42

Oh, you mean like how the 9900K supports 2 memory channels versus the 4 on the 10980XE? I wouldn't worry about it to be honest. The CPU itself is going to be way more important. Using just those two CPUs I mentioned, the 9900K is definitely faster for After Effects even though it only supports half the memory channels.

Posted on 2020-03-03 21:03:48
motionato

Man thanks very much for this info yes this was my concern. But do any other adobe programs will benefit from such a feature?

Posted on 2020-03-03 21:06:27

Oh, oops. A few comments back I forgot to include the link to our testing looking at the impact of RAM speed on various Adobe apps: https://www.pugetsystems.co... . The short answer, however, is that no, it doesn't make a significant difference. Stick with what the CPU natively supports (for best reliability), and just get enough.

Posted on 2020-03-03 21:09:00
motionato

You are lifesaver!

Posted on 2020-03-03 23:04:59
motionato

I have been thinking about this for the past two days, wouldn't Higher RAM GB means Higher RAM Preview, shouldn't this get the RAM preview both half and full a Higher score in Case of 64GB?

Posted on 2020-03-06 17:49:33

No, more RAM does nothing for how fast a single frame can render. All it does is allow you to store MORE frames. That is a big deal in the real world since the more frames you can store, the less likely you are to need to re-render existing frames. But for a benchmark like this, it doesn't matter since we are rendering each frame once.

By design, there is no "re-use" of frames in our benchmark since that would no longer be testing the performance of your system. If a comp has all the frames cached in RAM Preview, pretty much any system is going to be able to play that comp at full speed no matter the resolution or FPS (within reason of course).

Posted on 2020-03-06 18:12:58
motionato

I thought it measures how fast the RAM would cash the comp in case full/half res. So what dose half and full RAM represent in the test? How that differ from what the first left column represents?

Posted on 2020-03-06 20:19:59

"Half Res" and "Full Res" is the playback resolution. https://uploads.disquscdn.c...

Posted on 2020-03-06 20:22:07
motionato

Yes I know this but I think I didn't make my self clear.
I see that the benchmark do the same comp three times. Three columns are generated at the end of the test
"Final Render" "RAM preview half " "RAM preview full" This is what I meant. If the test measures the CPU rendering every single frame, why we have three columns then? I thought That the second and third column represent how fast the RAM can cache the frames of the comp hence the name RAM Preview. But you explained to me that RAM is not part of how fast single frame can render so now I don't understand what "RAM preview half " "RAM preview full" represent if they weren't the measurement of RAM cache and I suppose that "RAM preview half " "RAM preview full" are also a CPU measurement not RAM so I don't understand what they represents.

Posted on 2020-03-06 21:05:41

I don't see anywhere that we have columns with those headers, but in the Raw Results tables we do have three sections:

RAM Preview FPS (Half Resolution) = Performance in FPS when previewing the comp at half resolution
RAM Preview FPS (Full Resolution) = Performance in FPS when previewing the comp at full resolution
Final Render FPS = Performance in FPS when rendering the comp through the render queue

RAM Preview is the name After Effects uses for playing/previewing a comp in the composition window. The speed at which a system can render a frame for RAM Preview is usually tied to the preview resolution. Playing a comp at full resolution is the most difficult, but best quality. Half res is much easier, but the quality isn't as good. There is also Third and Quarter res that we don't currently test.

The speed of your RAM can impact the performance a little bit for RAM Preview, but it is typically overshadowed completely by the time it takes the CPU to crunch all the numbers for that frame. Think of it like this: when going to work, how fast you can walk from your living room to your car does impact things slightly, but the speed of your car is way more important overall.

Posted on 2020-03-06 21:17:05
motionato

So " Performance in FPS when previewing the comp" this depend mostly on CPU not the RAM?

Posted on 2020-03-06 21:46:49

Yes. CPU and (to a smaller degree) GPU are what influence performance. RAM is just like storage - it has to be fast enough, but it is more about having enough to meet your needs in the real world.

Posted on 2020-03-06 22:01:05
motionato

Thanks Very Much Matt for responding and explaining everything.

Posted on 2020-03-07 00:11:28
Davide

Hi,
the AMD TR 3970X has a RAM preview score of 111.1. My CPU has a score of 62.
Does it mean it takes more or less twice the time to RAM preview?

Posted on 2020-02-15 10:38:44

Technically 1.8x times longer, but yea, pretty much twice the time to render the RAM Preview

Posted on 2020-02-17 18:12:05
Davide

Thank you!

Posted on 2020-02-24 12:43:23
Levi Dixon

If I much lower than expected scores is there a way tell where the bottleneck is happening?

Windows 10 pro
Ryzen 3800x
X470 Aorus Ultra Gaming
32gb 4x8gb 2133mhz
GTX 970

Overall Score 822
Render Score 75.9
Preview Score 81.8
Tracking Score 88.9

Thanks

Posted on 2020-03-14 18:38:04

Most likely, it is your RAM speed and (to a lesser degree) your GPU that is holding you back. AE is mostly CPU-limited, but 2133MHz RAM is a bit slow for that CPU. You might also try setting the Windows power mode to "High Performance" and make sure you have the latest BIO and driver versions.

Posted on 2020-03-16 15:45:57
Levi Dixon

Thank you for the reply. My RAM is trident RGB 3200mhz ddr4 so I'm not sure why the benchmark read it at 2133. I assume if it would show 1600mhz if my settings are wrong, bit I will double check in cpuz and in the bios that xmp is still enabled and the speed is correctly set. Bios is up to date and high performance is enabled. I will update once I check.

Thanks again

Posted on 2020-03-16 15:50:37

The benchmark gets it's system information data from WMIC ("wmic MEMORYCHIP get speed" is the exact command if you want to run that from the command line), so that is the speed that Windows detects the RAM to be running at. You might want to try manually setting the frequency/timings/voltages since XMP doesn't always work like it is supposed to. The last time I did testing looking at RAM speed, I had to manually set a couple of the systems since XMP wasn't actually doing anything even though the BIOS was saying it was.

Posted on 2020-03-16 15:54:33
Levi Dixon

So XMP was off. When I went into my bios it gave me a message saying bios was reset. Not sure if its a mobo battery issue which ill check. I re-enabled XMP and now in windows using the (wmic MEMORYCHIP get speed) command is showing 3200. Going to run the benchmark again and ill update the results.
If I'm getting 3200 in windows, is there still any reason you would recommend putting timing in manually still? It looks like voltage and timing values are what I would put in (not overclocked) anyway.
I have a GTX 1080ti in my gaming rig, I may try to move it and retest just to see what it adds.

Thanks for all your help Matt

Posted on 2020-03-17 00:22:33

I prefer setting things manually because then I know for certain it is right, but if the frequency is set properly, the timing and voltage should be as well so it probably isn't worth worrying about.

Posted on 2020-03-17 16:16:15