As PC owners, we tend to use our computers for multiple different things, ranging from school assignments to video streaming. This is true for gaming PCs too, as long as what we’re doing requires a mouse and keyboard.
What about 2D/ 3D animation projects? Considering that gaming PCs have powerful hardware that can handle visually-demanding video games, like Hogwarts Legacy, surely they are good enough to be used for animation work too, right?
Yes, gaming PCs can be great setups for running animation works and projects. Workstations used by 3D animators and visual effects (VFX) artists usually have the same system specs as gaming PCs, if not more specialized depending on the project.
However, every gaming rig is different, each built with various hardware combinations to run video games smoothly. Anyone can call their computer a gaming PC even though the most demanding game that it can handle is World of Warcraft (almost 20 years old now), so the best way to identify a computer’s animation-work capability is to understand its actual system specs and hardware themselves.
With the best components and updated tools installed, though, a gaming computer can be used to create 3D cinematic movies and animations, just like Vladislav Zharkov’s “Death Train” YouTube short here:
If you’re planning on making small-scale animations like this, then a modern gaming PC is more than sufficient. For award-winning movies like Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, though, then what you need is a completely different monster (not just a gaming PC!).
Which Animation Software Runs Well on Gaming PCs?
To create fun animations, be it using 2D imagery or 3D assets, the ideal software plays an important role. From friendly user interfaces (UI) to seamless optimizations, different software benefits different users, each offering its own unique features.
With that in mind, which animation software works best on a gaming PC?
In my opinion, these are the most stable ones that we can use to create animations on our gaming computer:
Again, this is just my take, and we can always try other software, like CreateStudio, OpenToonz, and Dragonframe, to see which one fits our appetite the most. For perspective, here’s a good opinionated video by Gear Solid explaining his view on the differences between a few of them:
In general, though, it doesn’t matter which software we use. What does count is the time invested to learn them, mastering their tools, plug-ins, and workflows to simplify our animation projects, regardless of which one we opt for.
Sometimes, old-gen games, like business-strategy games, are great references for us to imitate in-game animations. This can be a good reason for us to consider buying used PC games, which are normally safe from viruses and malware if we opt to buy them legitimately.
What Hardware does a Gaming PC Need for Animation?
So far, I’ve been emphasizing the need for proper hardware. But what does that actually mean?
Well, just like how video games have minimum system requirements, animations also utilize specific computer resources. Gaming PCs usually have them covered, primarily consisting of:
- Processor (CPU)
- Graphics card (GPU)
- Memory (RAM)
When gaming, many of us don’t care about the display monitor too much. So long as the image quality is clear, everything should be fine.
If you’re an animator, though, a large, high-resolution screen with a fast refresh rate is a big help. You’ll appreciate those finer details and textures when trying to make the most amazing animated scenes, and a better refresh rate allows for smoother character movements and image transitions.
Minimum spec (estimate): 1080p (FHD), 60Hz, 24-inch IPS-panel monitor
Animation work involves a lot of sophisticated programming and algorithms done behind the scenes. Because of this, a strong CPU – e.g. Intel i9, AMD Ryzen 9 – is crucial, ensuring our projects are done at a smoother, consistent pace.
Every animated motion forces the PC to calculate complex computations, resulting in realistic movements and effects. By using a powerful CPU, we’ll have the ‘brain’ power required to do so, especially when it comes to compiling hundreds of scenes together.
Minimum spec (estimate): Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 (the latest generation of both)
Graphics card (GPU)
Unless we’re talking about 2D graphics, the GPU is the most vital component when it comes to creating lifelike animations. The GPU handles all 3D-related processes, including model rendering and asset sculpting.
But, not every GPU is viable for every animation project. Each graphics card model has its specs and functionalities, like the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 that runs ray tracing flawlessly.
To be safe, though, it’s always best to upgrade our animation setup with the latest GPU. This way, we’ll cover a wider range of animation projects.
Minimum spec (estimate): NVIDIA GeForce 1650 or AMD Radeon RX 570
All computers, including gaming PCs, need sufficient RAM to manage multiple programs simultaneously. In terms of animation, we will have many applications running at once while we juggle between them to construct the perfect scene or scenario.
In professional animation, RAM can be consumed quite quickly, so abundant RAM is always ideal. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t go overboard with it too because top-end RAM sticks aren’t exactly cheap.
Understanding the potential workload is the best way to gauge how much RAM we need at the moment, and it can always be upgraded later if we need more.
Minimum spec (estimate): 16GB DDR4 RAM
While working on a project, we will surely need to install a couple of unique programs while saving copious different files on the PC. Understandably, a lot of computer storage memory is needed.
Our new project might take up as much as 100GB once it’s completed, not to mention other files and resources used to accomplish it, so we must make sure enough storage space is always available. To this end, we should always aim for a storage drive of more than 1TB in memory space.
Minimum spec (estimate): 1TB SSD/ HDD
Let’s hear the opinion of established 3D animator, Wade Neistadt, on the matter:
We can always consider changing our PC gear around too, like swapping the regular keyboard for a gaming one instead. A drawing tablet is another important device that we might want to have instead of a mouse, for obvious reasons (drawing objects!).
Additional niceties, like SD card slots, aren’t quite as critical, but they are still convenient to have in case of unexpected emergencies.
Are Gaming PCs Better than Workstations for Animation?
Since we’re deep into gaming PCs already, are they actually better than dedicated workstations when it comes to doing animation?
No, proper workstations are better equipped with compatible hardware and tools for animation work, all while being easier to buy with better after-service support. Building a gaming PC that can manage animation projects will undoubtedly allow us more freedom to manage our budget, but without the right advice and knowledge, we risk exceeding it entirely.
Not only that, but if we’ve been pirating games from the Internet, our PC might become infected with dangerous viruses or spyware too. This can be detrimental to our work if the computer starts slowing down at random points throughout the project, besides sudden freezes and program crashes as well.
Some workstations are also mobile and portable, which is something that bulky, stationary gaming desktops can’t compete with. Unless we’re talking about gaming laptops here, which are even more expensive, then workstations are still superior to gaming computers for daily animation tasks.
Is Doing Animation Cheaper on Gaming PCs?
Eventually, it all comes down to this: is it cheaper for us to do animation on gaming PCs instead of workstations?
Yes, creating animations on gaming PCs is much cheaper than doing it on prebuilt workstations. We can mix and match the individual hardware by shopping for better-value components found on the market.
That being said, we need to have some basic knowledge about building a gaming PC from the ground up, especially in terms of the specs of each item. For comparison, here’s Round Table Animation’s perspective on the estimated budget for different categories of animation PCs:
When we’re combining both gaming and animation in one, ultimate package, then we would need a more expansive storage capacity to install video games. As such, it’s more advisable to own two separate computers instead, each for gaming and animation work respectively.