The Film/Video Render Farm

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A render farm is a group of computers that work together to render frames of an animated or visual effects shot. This is achieved by parceling out the frames to be rendered amongst the networked computers. The networked computers that do the rendering are called “workers.”

Using a render farm can greatly speed up your rendering while also leaving your computer workstation available for you to continue working on other shots. 

For example, if you have a shot that is 100 frames long and each frame takes 10 minutes to render on your workstation, you’d have to wait 1,000 minutes (16.7 hours!) for your workstation to finish rendering the shot. However, if you have a render farm comprised of 20 computers that are each as powerful as your workstation, your shot would render in just 50 minutes.

The School of Film/Video has a render farm that is comprised of six (6) Mac Pros, each with a 28-core Intel processor, 192 GB of RAM, and a Radeon Pro Vega II Duo MPX Module providing 64 GB of HBM2 memory.  

While six render workers may not seem like many, each one has more than twice the computing power of a lab workstation.  Render farms are often measured in terms of “computer cores”, and a typical lab workstation has about 12 CPU cores.  The render farm provides access to 168 CPU cores.

Our render farm currently works with After Effects, Maya, and Cinema 4D. 

Your Renderfarm Folder

In order for the render farm workers to render your shot, the project file and all assets used by that project file need to be in your Renderfarm folder on FVCentral. 

Copy your project file and all assets for that project to your Renderfarm folder if they are not already there.

When using Finder to copy files to a folder on FVCentral, it’s good practice to hold down the OPTION key on the keyboard as you drag-and-drop.  This will ensure that Finder copies the file instead of moving it, and will help avoid weird permissions issues.

Submitting Render Jobs

Adobe After Effects

1. In order for the render farm workers to render your shot, the project file and all assets used by that project file need to be in your Renderfarm folder on the server. Copy your project file and all assets for that project to your Renderfarm folder if they are not already there.

If you are using fonts other than the default After Effects fonts or a plugin that is not installed on the lab workstations, those unique fonts/plugins will need to be installed on the render farm workers by the technical staff.

2. Open your project file from the Renderfarm folder on the server and check that all your assets/media are loading correctly. The paths to your assets/media files in After Effects should all point to locations in your Renderfarm folder on the server.

3. Go to the Composition menu and click on Add to Render Queue.

4. Your After Effects project file can only have one job in its render queue, so be sure to delete any old jobs that show up in your Render Queue. In the Render Queue, click on the blue text next to Output Mode. Under Format, select a type of image sequence, such as PNG sequence. Click Ok.

The render farm cannot render out videos. You can marry your image sequence to audio using Premiere later and export from Premiere as a video file.

Click on the blue text next to Output To and select a location in your Renderfarm folder on the server. Make sure Save in subfolder is unchecked. Click Save.

6. Now that you’ve confirmed your job is queued in After Effects correctly, save your project.

7. From the File > Scripts menu, select DeadlineAfterEffectsClient.jsx

8. A Submit After Effects To Deadline pop-up window will appear. Click the Submit button.

If you do not see the Deadline extension appear in the menu, please save your project, close After Effects and relaunch After Effects.

9. Click Yes in the pop-up window that appears asking if you want to use Mercury Software Only.

10. A pop-up window will appear letting you know that your job was submitted successfully. Click OK.

11. In the Submit After Effects To Deadline window, click the Close button.

12. Close your After Effects project file without saving.

To view your project in the render queue, see Render Wrangling with Deadline.

Autodesk Maya

In order for the render farm workers to render your shot, the project file and all assets (including textures) used by that project file need to be in your Renderfarm folder on the server.

Make sure your Maya project is saved, and that Maya is closed before beginning.

1. Copy your Maya project directory and all assets for that project to your Renderfarm folder if they are not already there.

2. Now that your Maya project directory is in your Renderfarm folder, launch Maya and go to FileSet Project.

This will bring up the Set Project window. In this window, select your scene’s Maya project directory in your FVCentral Renderfarm folder and click Set.

3. Now, go to File → Open Scene… and open your scene file from your Maya project directory in your Renderfarm folder on the server.

4. Check that all your assets are loading correctly. The paths to your assets (such as texture files) in your Maya scene should all point to locations in your Renderfarm folder on the server.

If your Maya scene is referencing other Maya scene files, those referenced scene files will also need to be in your Renderfarm folder on the server along with their textures. You may need to reconnect your references using Maya’s Reference Editor if their location has changed.

Alternatively, you could import your referenced scene files into your Maya scene using the “Import Objects from Reference” command from the Reference Editor. However, before importing references you should save your Maya scene as a new version. This new version of the scene will only be used for rendering.

5. The render farm can only render out image sequences. Make sure that your scene’s Render Settings are set to render out an image sequence (for example, a PNG or EXR sequence).

6. Now that you’ve confirmed your render settings are correct, Save your scene file.

7. Afterwards, navigate to the Deadline Shelf in Maya and click on the green icon in that shelf.

If you do not see the Deadline Shelf, please save your project, then close and relaunch Maya.

The Submit Job To Deadline pop-up window will appear. 

You can basically leave all settings as default.  However, for the Output Path field, be sure to select a location in your Renderfarm folder on the server where you want your images to get rendered out to.  Finally, click Submit Job.

Done!  At any time, from any computer, you can keep an eye on the progress of your render job using the Deadline Monitor app, found under Applications → Thinkbox → Deadline10 → DeadlineMonitor10.

To view your project in the render queue, see Render Wrangling with Deadline.

Maxon Cinema 4D

In order for the render farm workers to render your shot, the project file and all assets (including textures) used by that project file need to be in your Renderfarm folder on the server. Copy your project file and all assets for that project to your Renderfarm folder if they are not already there.

Open your project file from the Renderfarm folder on the server and check that all your assets are loading correctly. The paths to your assets (such as texture files) in your Cinema4D scene should all point to locations in your Renderfarm folder on the server.

2. The render farm can only render out image sequences, so make sure that your scene is set to render out an image sequence (for example, a PNG sequence). Also, be sure that your scene is set to render to a location inside your Renderfarm folder on the server.

3. To submit your shot to the render farm, go to the Extensions menu and select Submit to Deadline.

If you do not see the Submit to Deadline option appear in the menu, please save your project, then close and relaunch C4D.

4. The Submit To Deadline pop-up window will appear. Click Submit.

5. A pop-up window will appear confirming that your job was submitted successfully.

6. Quit Cinema 4D without saving changes to your project.

To view your project in the render queue, see Render Wrangling with Deadline.

Getting Support

For render farm support, submit a ticket or send an email to 2popsupport@calarts.edu.

Next Render Wrangling with Deadline Monitor
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