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Is a render farm worth the trouble with CS3?

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AlphaChannelIs a render farm worth the trouble with CS3?
by on Aug 18, 2007 at 1:02:59 pm

After searching through all the previous posts I cannot find any help on our particular issue. We have the CS Production Bundle running on a Boxx Technologies PC with 2GB of RAM. Our computers (10 on Windows XP and another 6 on Mac OS 10.4) are connected via a gigabyte ethernet connection.

With that info, what are your opinions/experiences on creating a render farm versus increasing the power of the computer I'm using for AE CS3, assuming cost is not an issue? We expecting a sharp increase in the number and complexity of projects over the next 6-12 months and would like to do whatever is needed to speed up our workflow. Thanks for any input.

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Austin WallenderRe: Is a render farm worth the trouble with CS3?
by on Aug 18, 2007 at 6:52:05 pm

i haven't used the watch folder in CS3, but in the past it's been a disaster. We're currently looking at deadline, rush, and drqueue. many others love royal render too.

In a pinch, you can just do it manually (or with a script) with the command line renderer and make sure you check 'skip rendered frames' in your output module.

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Ramesh ShanmugaVadivelRe: Is a render farm worth the trouble with CS3?
by on Aug 13, 2009 at 4:46:53 pm

hi, i have a problem i when i was rendered ...
The error is
At least you want to select on render layer,
but i tried i can't get it...
pls some one tell me...
I am beginner...

Thanking You,

Have a Nice Day:)

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beenyweeniesRe: Is a render farm worth the trouble with CS3?
by on Aug 19, 2007 at 1:22:43 am

Needless to say, one of the primary advantages of a farm is being able to offload renders while continuing to work. If you are talking about having your existing artist workstations double as the render farm, rendering will have to be done after hours (or on unused stations) since it consumes that machine's resources and eradicate the farm's usefulness.

With regards to the farm itself, you should avoid the "Watch Folder" technique and invest in some actual render farm management software. My studio uses Smedge, which is only $89 per license and has most if not all of the features of way more costly solutions. You can install the render node version of AE on all of the render machines (if they don't already have AE installed) for free, which will be required for the farm to work properly.

Also, maybe I misread your post but it sounds like you are weighing setting up a farm vs. upgrading one or more machines. The difference in cost and complexity can be substantial unless you already have dedicated render boxes available. If cost truly isn't an issue I would highly recommend a farm, but only if the machines you are planning to use are somewhat dedicated to farm use, and are not production machines that artists use frequently. Also bear in mind that there are technical considerations. An After Effects farm can only render frame sequences, not Quicktime files, and this can throw some people's work flows for a loop.

Brendan Coots

Splitvision Digital

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AlphaChannelRe: Is a render farm worth the trouble with CS3?
by on Aug 19, 2007 at 1:44:33 am

Thanks for the responses thus far; you've both been a real help.

Since most of my rendering will occur during business hours, there won't be much benefit to the render farm strategy. I guess I'll look into increasing the RAM (currently I have 2 GB), installing Nucleo Pro 2 and basically learn how to render smarter (low res outputs for preview, use proxies, etc.).

As our projects become more intense I'll look into dedicated render farms, like the one Boxx Technologies has. I'm sure it will be unbelievably expensive, though.

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Red OchreWhat's wrong with "watch folder"?
by on Aug 19, 2007 at 8:07:30 pm


What's wrong with the watch folder method? I've tested it out and it seemed to work well. Are there situations where it causes problems?

Brendan Thompson
Indigo Films

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bogiesanRe: What's wrong with "watch folder"?
by on Aug 20, 2007 at 12:04:19 am

Adobe's out of the box render network has never worked for most of us. "What's wrong" would be easier to describe if it had ever worked. I think most of us just stopped bothering. I haven't even looked at render engines for AE since v3.5.


This is my standard sigfile so do not take it personally: "For crying out loud, read the freakin' manual."

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Joseph W. BourkeRe: What's wrong with "watch folder"?
by on Aug 20, 2007 at 12:37:44 pm

Alpha -
Here's a script that will knock your socks off:

I have tried it, and our entire facility is now using it (we're a broadcast facility that relies on AE for all our motion graphics - opens, bumps, etc.). It allows you to have a render going and to continue working in AE. The directions for putting it in AE are on the link above. There's one setting you have to change in AE in Preferences, having something to do with allowing network access to the script. Other than that, you'll see a DOS-like window open up, and whatever is in your render queue will start processing, while you work happily away in After Effects! It worked for us...very well.

Joe Bourke
Art Director / WMUR-TV

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Red OchreRe: What's wrong with "watch folder"?
by on Aug 20, 2007 at 6:03:37 pm

Hmmm... I set one up, tested it out and it worked like a dream. The only obvious problem was having to have all the plugins loaded on each computer. It wouldn't be a problem if we hadn't lost the install discs and serial numbers.

I used AE 7 so perhaps its time to give AE's out of the box render another chance.

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Mike_PRe: Is a render farm worth the trouble with CS3?
by on Aug 20, 2007 at 2:35:33 pm

It's definitely worth it. I use AE's Watch Folder feature. I know other people prefer 3rd party apps like Smedge, etc., but most problems with Watch Folder are a result of not having all of the required fonts, effects and codecs installed on the farm machines, and that problem applies to 3rd party apps as well. Once you get the Watch Folder work flow down its pretty reliable. There's really no reason to wait around while your workstation renders. Even with a small farm, it'll render faster than your workstation, and you can be working on a different project while it does.

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Rhett RobinsonWatch Folder
by on Aug 21, 2007 at 2:41:24 am

Okay, so I have to chime in... I've had great success with the watch folder, or setting up individual machines to render, but... it's just me I have to deal with, so I don't have to worry about fonts missing, etc. I have 7 machines, 1 that I usually sit at and work, and run the others through VNC including the 2 Macs. 3 of the PCs are complete dogs by current standards, but when the tension is high, they're all on board, even the ones that render S-L-O-W-L-Y compared to my primary machine. I have it set up so that 1 mac (an old G3) is the server, and I'll set my primary workstation to be part of the render team as well if it looks tight. The issue? Plugins. Fonts aren't a problem, even if both Macs are working on it, as it's easy to convert and share those. Plugins are limited by licensing restriction, as well as most not allowing installation on another network machine. I have my second fastest machine loaded with almost all the same plugins, so it frequently renders alone, or with my primary.
Here's the deal - machines are cheap. Even though new machines are cheap, I started out with a bank (used to have 12) from my state's surplus sales (which came with Win2k), which were all below 50 bucks a piece, and have each paid a mortgage payment for their work. When I need them, I walk by, hit the power button to turn them on, and they automatically look for the watch folder and go to work. No, and I mean -NO- hassle. If I had a partner again, it probably wouldn't be so easy. Over time, I put Ubuntu on some of the oldest machines, and gave them to people that needed them. I'd be hard pressed to buy a new machine just as a render unit, but I'm a tightwad.

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