Archive for September, 2010

Exploit your PCs as a render farm

The occasion: The Civil Visualization Extension.

With the Civil Visualization Extension (formaly known as Dynamite VSP from 3AM Solutions) made available to Civil 3D and 3ds Max Design subscription holders, the expectation is that visualization will expand in the near future used by Civil 3D users. The Civil Visualization Extension is a plugin for 3ds Max Design and will help Civil 3D users to streamline and ease the process for creating high quality renderings or animations.
While Civil 3D users are focused to learn this new extension, they definitely step into another world. This step may need extra attention and learning of 3ds Max Design but the plugin will certainly help to bridge the gap. Read the white paper of Civil Visualization Extension here.
As soon as these users are accustomed with these tools, they will soon enough experience a lot of time is needed for creating these visualizations.

Accumulate render power.

With 3ds Max (Design) you can create high resolution images or animations (a series of images) mainly meant for presentations.
Until version 2010 this rendering process has always been a CPU consuming event and when render models become complex it takes a lot of time to finish the complete rendering. And of course depending of the way you wanted the result to be, finishing will take more time if you wanted the result look like as natural as can be.
With the 2011 product 3ds Max Design introduces the ‘Quick Silver’ render method. Which is in fact a render engine based on calculations used by graphics processing units (GPU) instead of central processing units (CPU). The newly method via GPUs is much more faster then its ‘old’ CPU (and core) demanding process.
I’m not going into this subject in this post and perhaps I should do in another one.

For getting your results as soon as possible, you need to reduce render timings. You could do this with lower pixel resolutions but that’s only an option for making quick renderings for visual checks. For high quality pixel resolutions you have the following options:

  1. use a workstation with lots of CPUs and cores with lots of CPU power.
  2. use several workstations (mostly single or dual cores) in a network to form a so called render farm.
  3. use a combination of (best of) both 1. and 2.

You should decide how you want to setup this render farm in your business: Do you want it to be dedicated or non-dedicated. And do you use in use PCs or the PCs in surplus stock.

  • Dedicated
    Do I need to purchase extra machines or do I have machines available (left over) which can do this task 24/7?
  • Non-dedicated
    Can I use machines used by colleagues during the day? Or should I setup a schedule for rendering during the night.

So there are some drawbacks with rendering over a network to take in consideration for both dedicated or non-dedicated setup of the render farm.

  • First of all, all machines need to be hardware configuration identical as much as it can be. I.e. same amount of memory, same graphics card with same amount of graphics memory, same type of CPU (if you can).
  • Another thing is the setup up of material libraries on the network which will be used by the machines in the render farm for rendering the finished result.
  • Apply an network (domain) account which needs to have access to all render project shares on the network and the material library. You’ll use this account to setup and configure the Backburner on the Render Node as a service, so no log in is required.
  • The availability of the machines. Do I want to render over the day? No, you don’t want that. Because of the CPU consuming process machines have no resources available more for other tasks. So schedule them after the normal working hours.
  • The availability of network resources. If you want tot render during evening and night time, check if there aren’t any IT network maintenance scheduled. Your render result will be corrupted if network is lost during render time.
  • After initially setup all the machines, changing/swapping or replacing hardware of one of those machines due to maintenance will result in loss of render ‘power’. If you don’t keep up with maintenance of those machines in your render farm you’ll end up with no serious and no continuous render power. So this need a strict setup of your hardware replacement processes in your business involving the setup of the render node.
  • UNC paths for libraries need to setup as high as possible in your network tree. This can be a big drawback when setup is sensitive or lead by organisational moves or IT changes to the network tree.

But if all is in place, you definitely have some serious render power to your benefit.


September 13, 2010 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

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