How Video Cards Impact Render QUALITY

There’s ample discussion around video cards and rendering performance, but much less about render quality. As a filmmaker focused on cinematic work that I will render (no real-time required) – would a more powerful graphics card allow me to render higher quality images with better detail and post-effects? Or are all the same things possible with a lesser card - the only difference being the time it takes to create that image/frame?

Faster cards only affect render speed, however, a card with more VRAM will allow higher quaity assets to be used, higher resolution/supersampling. You could, in theory, set “TdrDelay” to something ridiculous like 5 mins and then render one frame per 4 mins on a low end card and have no difference in quality than running a 3090 rendering a few frames per second, but if you run out of VRAM, you will crash.

Certain features may not be supported, but unless you’re using a mobile device this usually won’t make much of a difference outside of raytracing.

Raytracing for example isn’t supported on any card below the 1060 6gb.

DirectX 11/12 (or Vulkan or OpenGLequivalent) are required for certain features in Unreal (list here). Again though, unless you’re on mobile, this probably doesn’t matter. You have to go pretty far back in order to find cards that aren’t supported by DirectX 12 and even further to find cards that aren’t supported by DirectX 11.

They dont.

I second the recommendation to get lots of VRAM. This is one of the reasons the more-expensive Quadro cards come with more memory than the performance-equivalent gamer-side card.
Also: you’ll need enough RAM on the computer side to make good use of that VRAM – I’d recommend at lest 3x as much RAM on the host as on the card. So if you get a 20 GB graphics card, at least 60 GB RAM on the host.

Thanks — is there a distinction between realtime ray tracing and ray tracing? Just to be clear - even if I’m rendering, unless I have an RTX card - I cannot ray trace, correct?

An RTX card is not specifically needed anymore so long as your card is a 1060 6gb or better. So if you have a 1070, 1080ti, 1660, etc. they will all support raytracing despite not being RTX cards. Also AMD now has a graphics card that supports realtime raytracing, so if you have one of those I believe you’ll be able to use it.

Both referring to the same thing. Using the movie render queue is essentially still “realtime” raytracing, it’s just using a lot of samples so it is rendering slower.

That makes sense. Thank you.