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Eric Guiliani
Render Farm Questions
on Jun 7, 2016 at 1:34:50 pm

Hey Everyone,

I work in a smaller agency (about 3 AE machines and 2 Cinema 4D machines). We're looking to set up our first render farm or a solution that would let us render much faster and not tie up our machines. What do people recommend for this usually? Is it best to buy a few PC's and link them, or a server? Does each machine need its own license for the software? Any help would be greatly appreciated!


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Blaise Douros
Re: Render Farm Questions
on Jun 7, 2016 at 9:46:59 pm

As far as I know, AE does not support any kind of distributed processing. I don't know about C4D but AE won't do it.


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Chris Wright
Re: Render Farm Questions
on Jun 8, 2016 at 1:48:42 am

Multi-Machine Network Rendering
https://helpx.adobe.com/after-effects/using/automated-rendering-network-ren...
up to 2014 cc so you have to open 2015 with 2014 to use it as watch folder doesn't exist in 2015.

lynda video






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hanna dean
Re: Render Farm Questions
on Jun 8, 2016 at 2:55:20 am

after effects cc 2014 / 15 does and man this is just crazy stuff am getting a 2 laptops for this.


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Walter Soyka
Re: Render Farm Questions
on Jun 8, 2016 at 10:55:00 am

Below, I will repost a summary of Ae's network render engine I wrote a while back. It's a few years old, but still accurate for CC 2014. (As Chris notes, there is no watch folder feature in CC 2015). In short, you will want a number of competent systems for rendering and a high-speed shared storage system. The watch folder system is very naive, and I think you should consider a dedicated render job controller like Deadline instead of relying on Ae's watch folder system, regardless of which version of Ae you use.


Let me first outline how network rendering works with After Effects, and then I will list a couple of bullet point notes from my experiences with network rendering. Much of this information is found in the documentation [link], but some of is not. All of it was learned the hard way.

How After Effects Network Rendering Works
You use Collect Files to get your project, its render queue, and all required footage together into a single folder. You configure the render nodes to watch that folder; once Collect Files is complete, it creates a render control file. On the render nodes, you select the folder to watch. When the render control file appears in it, the render nodes begin work according to the options it specifies. All watch folder network renders are done as image sequences, with each instance of AE on each render node working on one frame at a time.

There is no active communication among the render nodes, and the machine hosting the watch folder does not actively control them. Control is completely passive -- each machine looks at the shared storage to see if "Frame 0000" has been rendered yet. The first one to see that there is no image for "Frame 0000" will create that first file in the image sequence to claim responsibility for the frame, then begin rendering it. Finally, when the frame is complete, it overwrites the placeholder "Frame 0000" file.

As other render nodes join the party, they will see that "Frame 0000" already exists, so they will skip it and look for "Frame 0001." If "Frame 0001" already exists, they'll continue sequentially until they find the first frame that doesn't exist, create a file for it to claim responsibility for it, and begin rendering.

All the render nodes are also accessing footage from the shared storage, so that storage system is seeing many constant small reads and writes.

As you can imagine, this places some serious strain on the network and disk subsystem on the server.

Notes on After Effects Network Rendering

  • Each of AE's render nodes is self-directed; there is no supervisor or controller for distributing the workload. (See above for some details.)
  • You need a very fast network and very fast storage on your server. (Again, see above for my explanation of how the AE network renderer works and why this is necessary.)
  • Network rendering will create an image sequence on your shared storage. You can add a post-render action to re-import the image sequence and output a movie, but this will only be handled by one computer. If there is sound in your project, don't forget to output it separately if necessary.
  • You must specify the maximum number of render nodes when you set up the watch folder render. Multiprocessing increases your node count. For example, if you have four quad-core machines, you will have 16 render nodes.
  • All fonts and plugins used in your project must be installed on all render nodes.
  • Some plugins are licensed for unlimited use in render farms; others are limited to a specific number of render nodes; still others must be licensed for render nodes separately. Many plugins activate through their installers, but others activate with the AE environment itself. In this case, you will need a full license of AE in order to activate them. Most font licensing also limits the number of workstations they may be installed on.
  • Some plugins allow GPU acceleration. I highly recommend turning this off unless your render farm is completely homogenous.
  • Cross-platform file naming and path conventions can be tricky.


Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]


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Eric Guiliani
Re: Render Farm Questions
on Jun 8, 2016 at 11:37:15 am

Thanks all for the help. This all looks promising. It says you need to have a copy of all plugins and I'm assuming C4D for each machine? What happens if I only have one license for each plugin like trapcode or optical flares?


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Tero Ahlfors
Re: Render Farm Questions
on Jun 8, 2016 at 12:32:44 pm

[Eric Guiliani] "What happens if I only have one license for each plugin like trapcode or optical flares?"

You'll have a neat watermark created by the unlicensed plugin on the whole picture for every frame that machine renders. I wouldn't recommend that.


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Eric Guiliani
Re: Render Farm Questions
on Jun 8, 2016 at 1:38:27 pm

What I meant to ask was, if you own the plugin already and want to use a render farm... do you need multiple licenses if it needs to live on the other machines in the network?


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Walter Soyka
Re: Render Farm Questions
on Jun 8, 2016 at 2:19:21 pm

[Eric Guiliani] "What I meant to ask was, if you own the plugin already and want to use a render farm... do you need multiple licenses if it needs to live on the other machines in the network?"

That varies by developer; you need to check with them about their policies. From above:

"Some plugins are licensed for unlimited use in render farms; others are limited to a specific number of render nodes; still others must be licensed for render nodes separately. Many plugins activate through their installers, but others activate with the AE environment itself. In this case, you will need a full license of AE in order to activate them. Most font licensing also limits the number of workstations they may be installed on."

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]


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