Buying new system – advice needed!

Hey guys,

I am currently studying for my BA in digital film but hope to pursue a career in compositing and VFX. I am currently doing some roto and compositing work on 2k film scans, so far my iMac has handled it incredibly well (much better than I expected) but really feel I need a better system if I am going to continue doing this kind of stuff (as well as the freelance graphic design and editing I have been doing for a while now too). I am eligible for quite a good education discount from Apple (20% I think). and have about £3500 to spend.

I read in another thread that the 8 core is worth the investment, but I can only afford two 2.26 GHz quad-core’s at the moment (which I’m sure will be more than ample), but is it possible to upgrade the processors at a later date or are these a part of the machine that cannot be changed easily?

Obviously its always cheaper to upgrade RAM and hard drives after purchase, but what graphics card(s) is a good idea for working in shake 4.1 (and soon Nuke) as well as final cut studio?

I want to get 2 apple LED displays and I have been told that the geforce GT that is standard for mac pro’s at the moment supports mini displayport, but the much better radeon card does not. So am I right in understanding that if I wanted the best graphics card but Apple’s own displays I would need to get 1 of each card? 1 to handle the monitors and the other to provide the real power? Also, how easy is it to buy the mac-specific versions of these cards later on?

Any other suggestions of specs or ideas would be really helpful, I just want to get a general feel for whats the best use of the money I’ve been saving for this (been putting it away for a few years now to afford this system).

Thanks in advance,

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