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How can I use mutiple computers to save time Rendering or any other way?

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Tom Lee
How can I use mutiple computers to save time Rendering or any other way?
on May 12, 2010 at 1:12:48 am

I work in Adobe After Effects CS3 4 &5, Final Cut Studio 3, Motion 4 and Compressor 3.5.2. I work primarily on a Mac Pro 2,1 2007 8-Core 3 GHz, 14GB Ram Running OSX 10.5.8.

I've hesitated to move up to Snow Leopard so far because of complications others have experienced in their workflows with FCP. SO that's the FIRST question. Is it safe enough to move on? Pros out weigh the cons?

I have a Macbook Pro 17" running osx 10.6.3 Core 2 Duo 2.33GHz 3GB Ram from 2006. I also have 7 PC Laptops with Core 2 Duos, don't ask me why. All running either Vista or Windows 7 64-bit. Can I put this power, limited though it may be, to work for me? I have limited funds so I'm trying to work with what I have. Is there anyway to use all these cores to speed up my world. I have long render times and long compressor outputs. Also, I burn a lot of cycles in After Effects doing motion graphics.

Any ideas? distributed watchmacallit, Qmaster cluster render farms, etc...

Thanks,

Thomas


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Walter Soyka
Re: How can I use mutiple computers to save time Rendering or any other way?
on May 12, 2010 at 7:18:50 am

After Effects has a built-in network renderer that uses watch folders. It's somewhat naive compared to a full-fledged render manager, but it does work. There's a list of caveats: it requires fast shared storage and a fast network; you must manually load all fonts and plugins onto the render machines, some of which may not be licensed for distributed rendering; differing cross-platform file and path naming conventions can be difficult to work around.

There might be some workflow adjustments you can make to get the most out of your workstation. I use best-quality, lossless proxies (some prefer to pre-render instead, but I think proxies make for cleaner timelines) in my work a lot so I'm not constantly re-rendering the same pre-comped material. I also often render to image sequences, because if I only need to tweak a portion of a project, I can re-render only the changed frames instead of re-rendering the whole thing.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Tom Lee
Re: How can I use mutiple computers to save time Rendering or any other way?
on May 12, 2010 at 9:40:24 pm

[Walter Soyka] "After Effects has a built-in network renderer that uses watch folders. It's somewhat naive compared to a full-fledged render manager, but it does work. There's a list of caveats: it requires fast shared storage and a fast network; you must manually load all fonts and plugins onto the render machines, some of which may not be licensed for distributed rendering; differing cross-platform file and path naming conventions can be difficult to work around."

Walter thanks for your response. I've been digesting the 'network render' link you gave me. In it it says ' "Do not use the same computer to serve a watch folder and to run After Effects in Watch Folder mode."

So can I serve the watch folder from my Primary CPU the MacPro? In more words, I'm working in After Effects CS4 on the Mac Pro, Creating the project, then I need to render or Ram Preview. Do I have to save the project the watch folder then it renders? What triggers the render? What part does my Mac Pro play in the render?
Does it help render while not in Watch folder mode?
Thanks
Tom

Thanks,

Tom Lee
tomleejr89@gmail.com


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Walter Soyka
Re: How can I use mutiple computers to save time Rendering or any other way?
on May 13, 2010 at 12:11:25 am

[Tom Lee] "So can I serve the watch folder from my Primary CPU the MacPro? In more words, I'm working in After Effects CS4 on the Mac Pro, Creating the project, then I need to render or Ram Preview. Do I have to save the project the watch folder then it renders? What triggers the render? What part does my Mac Pro play in the render?
Does it help render while not in Watch folder mode?"


Let me first outline how network rendering works with After Effects, and maybe then I can answer any other questions you might have:

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. Unless you have at least a gigabit network and a fast RAID on your Mac Pro, it might actually be slower to do a network render than simply to render on your workstation.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Tom Lee
Re: How can I use mutiple computers to save time Rendering or any other way?
on May 18, 2010 at 1:19:13 am

Thanks Walter. That cleared up a lot of things.

[Walter Soyka] "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."

So in the end I'll have x number of rendered frames to compile into a video container right?

[Walter Soyka] "Unless you have at least a gigabit network and a fast RAID on your Mac Pro"

Would 3 drives in my Mac Pro's Hard Drive bays configured into a raid 0 or 5 be considered a fast raid?

My Mac a gigabit card or two. I have a gigabit switch and most of my core two duos have gigabit cards. Will the network suffer if I have a couple of the nodes using 10/100 connections? Or maybe they should not be a part of the nodes network at all.

The broader question I'm trying to answer is can I use this processing power in my possession for faster or improved work flow or should I try to get what $ I can from selling them all to put toward something much more effective? That being said I do long for faster render times so I'm secretly pulling for improved work flow.

Thanks
thanks,
Tad


Thanks,

Tom Lee
tomleejr89@gmail.com


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Dave LaRonde
Re: How can I use mutiple computers to save time Rendering or any other way?
on May 12, 2010 at 4:18:39 pm

[Tom Lee] "I work in Adobe After Effects CS3 4 &5, Final Cut Studio 3, Motion 4 and Compressor 3.5.2. I work primarily on a Mac Pro 2,1 2007 8-Core 3 GHz, 14GB Ram Running OSX 10.5.8. "

Walter has hard-won knowledge about intensive AE renders. He frequently does multiple-screen stuff for corporate meetings and such. So listen up when he talks.

And me? Well, I keep my ear to the ground a lot. You're certainly safe installing Snow Leopard and FCP... as long as you do it the right way. Sidestep the proper procedure and you'll have trouble.

The link below is a thread from the FCP forum that pertains to such matters. The key phrase to note is "CLEAN INSTALL". Ignore it at your peril:

http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/8/1074925


Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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