Get more RAM. I have a 6-core i7 and frequently my 24 GB is not enough.
Also, get a second SSD to use for AE's Disk Cache and large footage.
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Well, such questions are kinda pointless without having a clue about your work. It's the same like the many questions relating to multiprocessing settings and all that. Contrary to Jonas statement, for your work neither more RAM nor an extra SSD may bear any influence - if you never use certain features, AE will happily chug along with much less resources. E.g. goingv trigger happy on the disk cache with an extra SSD only makes sense, if you're chewing tons of footage or use extensively nested projects, where actually resorting to the cached buffers might be faster than calculating things on the fly. That aside, I don't see the problem. You can always upgrade later and your current configuration will probably work just fine. RAM is dirt cheap and in a few months, a 512GB SSD might be possible to have for the price of a 256GB one now...
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Want to use AE's "Render Multiple Frames" or have Photoshop open while you work in AE? Or a web browser with 250 tabs?
I'd recommend buying more RAM than you think you need, and to buy it all at once as a group (the manufacturers test the stick to make sure they work together.)
For SSD, the persistent Disk Cache is my top feature in CS6. Mylenium has been vocal about problems he is having, but I love it for everything I do. Yes, there are special cases (if you never have to Undo anything, or if you are just animating single Shape Layers, or very simple comps with just a few photos) but for 99% of AE uses I think the Disk Cache and your footage on a separate SSD will make you work faster.
First off, thanks to both of you guys for such a quick response with such helpful information. The type of work I plan on doing is mostly compositing (keying, rotoscoping, camera tracking). 3d object placement in conjunction with camera tracking will be one of the biggest parts of my work from now. Color and noise reduction will also be a huge part. And yes Jones, I meant render multiple frames as to speed up ram preview dramatically. Also I'll be working with footage primarily from the canon 5d mark ii. It outputs h.264 1080p at ~25mbps. Does that fall under what you were calling large footage? I would also like to be able to render at 16bpc for a high quality .mov (90-100% quality).
Being that my current computer is a dual core i3 I think anything will be dramatically faster for me at the moment. So unless you guys strongly suggest adjusting my configuration, I will be going for what I have so far. If anything I've just said about my work doesn't seem specific enough to determine my hardware needs, please enlighten me so I can respond with something more helpful. Thanks again guys!
I still think you should get at least 24 GB of RAM. I'm getting at least 32
GB next time I upgrade my 6-core i7.