What Is GPU Rendering? And Is It Right for Your Project?

by Render Pool

February 26, 2020

What Is GPU Rendering? And Is It Right for Your Project?

3D design, animation, and rendering are all becoming lucrative industries, and software developers are quickly closing the accessibility gap. Today’s design programs like Blender, Houdini, 3Dsmax, Maya, and Cinema4D, to name a few, all essentially perform similar tasks, albeit in different ways, yielding exceptionally different results. But while much of what you see on the screen is created by talented individuals utilizing these tools, it’s the computer that does all of the heavy lifting.

Keep reading to learn more about the GPU’s role in rendering and whether or not it’s necessary to buy a high-end graphics card for your project.

The Role of the GPU in Rendering

The computer’s central processing unit, or CPU, performs a series of operations most don’t realize is happening. The average user is simply seeing a series of “zeroes and ones” given life through sophisticated UI designed to keep the experience satisfying, but not much else.

The processing power of computative machines has indeed tripled in the last decade, but animation, 3D design, and game development have always been the most processor heavy in terms of hardware. When it comes to more complex computations that, again, are given life through sophisticated UI, more processing power is needed. The CPU can only handle so many operations before it begins to exhaust its pre-established capacity. This strain on the computer can even be heard when the fan inside suddenly gets faster and louder. That’s the computer basically saying, “This is hard.”

For designers and gamers, this is normal. For the CPU, it’s exhausting regardless of how much random access memory, or RAM, you have. The graphics processing unit, or GPU, is a co-processor that takes on graphical calculations and processes so that the CPU doesn’t have to.

Just like a CPU with more onboard RAM can help a workstation run faster, a video card with a more powerful GPU will render graphics faster and more efficiently. This is essentially what GPU rendering is: computation and processing done primarily by the GPU core of a respective system. 

CPU vs. GPU Rendering 

Now that you have an understanding of what GPU rendering is, is it the right solution for your project? It depends on what you need for the task at hand. There are many people who still believe in the advantages of CPU rendering over GPU rendering, so here are three factors you should take into consideration before choosing between the two.

1. Quality vs. Quantity 

If you’re an architect and need to fulfill client expectations as soon as possible, the speed of GPU rendering will help you get your projects into the client’s hands faster and increase your output productivity. If you’re working in animation, quality and precision is an absolute necessity. CPU rendering is slower but much more accurate and guarantees render passes without noise or graininess issues. 

2. Hardware Cost 

If you’re an artist or designer just starting out or a hobbyist looking to make something for yourself, GPU rendering has been a cornerstone for at-home renders and professional-looking work with much less hardware cost. The power of a single GPU can take on tasks of over a dozen CPUs, which means more results for less money.

3. Meeting Consumer Demand 

With subscription-based entertainment platforms on the rise, consumer demand is at an all-time high. For high-end design and animation studios, GPU render farms are extremely cost-effective, allowing for more production of content. Render farms like Render Pool are regularly used by studios and professional freelancers hoping to quickly prototype, finalize, or release a project and need more processing power on demand. 

CPU-based rendering often yields higher quality results, but if you have a deadline and are already over budget, it’s hard not to see the benefits of GPU-based render farms. However, it’s important to note that not every farm caters to every need nor fulfills every request. It’s important to do your research when searching for the best cloud render farm so that you can find one that can accommodate your specific software, without a burning hole in your wallet. 

The Best GPUs on the Market 

When it comes to 3D modeling and rendering software like the ones mentioned above, this type of rendering is essential. GPU rendering doesn’t burden the CPU and is much faster, not to mention less power-hungry. Recently, more powerful GPU cores have been manufactured by the likes of NVIDIA and AMD, the most popular and reliable developers in the business. 

As of 2020, the best iterations of these belong to the GTX and RTX series and the Radeon and Ryzen series of processors from NVIDIA and AMD, respectively. Most studios and artists rely on these tools to design their work, and although it varies from person to person, their power and versatility can’t be denied. 

For NVIDIA, its most powerful GPU to date is the RTX 2080 and RTX 2080Ti, which can be housed in both desktop and laptop workstations. Objectively, this unit is considered the best of the best, but if you’re looking for processing power on a budget, it may not be for you.

AMD’s units boast performance power as well and aren’t as expensive as the competition. The Radeon RX 5700 and the RX 5700 XT deliver graphic fidelity and quality just as well while keeping your wallet in mind. 

Once you’ve found which graphics card is right for you, the next step is bringing your masterpiece to life. Whichever brand you choose, the only remaining limit is your imagination.

Make Sure Your GPU Rendering Evolves with the Times

The GPU market is constantly changing and the progress that has been made in the last few years is only the beginning. As 3D modeling software evolves and begins boasting more powerful capabilities and streamlined workflows, there will be a need to quickly export and render all of that data. If you’re an artist or a designer with a desire to get noticed, cloud-based rendering is where you should be heading in the future.

Happy rendering!