RenderStreet has been up and running for one year. And it’s been an exciting year for us and our busy Blender users. Many projects have run through our render farm since we turned on the servers, and we’re proud to say we’ve fast tracked quite a lot of them.
Fast rendering can be compared to driving a sports car. Once you’ve had it, it’s very hard to go back to the average sedan or minivan. And that feeling is similar to what we’re experiencing in our business. The joy in our work keeps us engaged and there’s no other way than going harder, better, faster, stronger.
As we announced earlier this year, Render Street’s image was in need of a change. Now we’re celebrating Render Street’s 1 year anniversary with a new website design and a re-styled identity. We are happy to share with you, the incredible Blender community, our dear clients and partners: the new render.st
We are happy to announce that, starting now, V-Ray for Blender is available on RenderStreet. We just launched the closed beta stage, and we are working hard on polishing the interface and mopping out the potential bugs.
The on-going effort on integrating V-Ray in Blender – started by Andrei in 2011 and now continued by Chaos Group - made us decide to add it to our service.
If you want to have a sneak peek and be one of the first to have access to our closed beta program, drop us a line. It won’t cost you anything, but feedback and suggestions for improvements will be much appreciated.
Using an online render farm should be an easy task. In this article I’m going to explain how to get by the basic tasks and answer some of the most frequently asked questions:
- How do I send a project to a farm?
- How do I get the rendered files?
- Is my data secured?
- What kind of performance boost can a farm provide?
How do I send a project to a farm?
There are several ways to send your project to a farm:
- Upload it through a website. That’s the simplest way, it works like any online file upload – like sharing your pictures to Facebook. You click a button in a web page, select your project file or your archive, and click OK. Next, there is another button in the page for sending the file to the farm. Not all farms allow for archives to be uploaded so, if you need to upload a single file, you may need to process it to include all dependencies (external libraries, textures, etc)
- Upload it through FTP. For this you will need to connect to the FTP server provided by the farm, using an FTP client (FileZilla is a good free FTP client). You will find the FTP server address and port in the documentation provided by each farm. You will also need to see what kinds of files are accepted for uploading and how to structure your projects in folders. This should be mentioned in each farm’s documentation.
In my view, pricing is one of the important aspects of rendering in a farm (others being the ability to actually deliver the project, the level of support and how easy it is to use them). So let’s see how render farm pricing works.
What is a GHz-hour? What about a core-hour?
You have probably seen some online render farms that are showing a price per GHz-hour or per core-hour for their rendering time. It’s a system that can be confusing for a first-time user. They usually do this because they have servers from several generations of hardware. And with the hardware performance being uneven, they are trying to find a common denominator to build a pricing strategy. The result: these two units — GHz and core-hour — which unfortunately require some effort and attention from users to get the price right.
There are several types of render farms, each of them with their strengths and weaknesses. I’m going to discuss the most accessible ones in a bit of detail.
Render Farm Pro’s and Con’s
Whether you build your own machines for rendering, or you rent computing time from an online render farm, there are costs involved. I will try summarizing the Pro’s and Con’s for each type in the table below:
|Distributed or collaborative
- Your machine must be available for somebody else’s projects
- You project is distributed to the computers in the network – your data may become available to others
- Long waiting queues
- Inconsistent results – the rendering speed depends on the number of computers in the network
- One-time cost for hardware
- 100% customized for your needs
- A few thousand dollars investment is needed beforehand, the exact amount depends on your needs
- The initial setup requires some tech skills (purchasing the right machines, maybe assemble them, then do the software setup)
- The machines may have an impact on your work environment. They require some space, generate noise and heat, and will require periodic maintenance – cleaning, at the very least
- In the event that something breaks, you need to do your own debugging
Rented computers in the cloud
- You get access to significant hardware resources
- You pay a lower hourly cost, compared to an online farm
- It’s a paid solution – you pay for all the resources you use
- Significant tech skills are necessary in order to make it work
- You need a good understanding of the cloud concept in order to get optimal results
- The time investment can be significant
Online render farm
- You get immediate access to vast hardware resources – hundreds of thousands of dollars worth
- It’s fast
- It can handle every spike in your load
- You receive an invoice for the service, which you can pass to your client
- It’s a paid solution – you pay for the processing time
- There is a learning curve for using each farm (although it’s very fast for the modern ones)
And now let’s discuss each bullet point from the table in detail:
After finding out What is a render farm, this second hands on article will tackle all you need to know to start using one: who is it for, how do you actually work with render farms, where can you find them and what are the costs.
Who uses a farm?
The main users are probably the movie studios (think Hollywood). When rendering a movie would take 16,000 (that’s sixteen thousand) years on a typical home computer and one’s life expectancy is far less than that, in-house rendering is no longer a reasonable choice. After all, they need to deliver those breathtaking special effects to us, right?
As the 3D technology got more accessible and more affordable, different categories of people have started using 3D render farms: production agencies, post-production studios, architects, industrial designers, 3D artists. The majority of users are professionals that make a living out of it, but there is an increasing number of students and hobbyists that are turning to 3D. And this is especially valid for Blender, due to its open nature.
In the past year I had lots of interactions with Blender artists – regardless of whether they are already our customers or not. It’s something I enjoy doing on a personal level, and it is also something that helps us fine-tune our farm to better suit your needs.
During these talks I was sometimes asked about what a render farm is, what it does and how could it help in delivering a project. That’s why I decided to start a mini-series of articles, in which I will try to answer some of these questions.
This first part focuses on the basic questions: the what’s and how’s of render farming.
What is a render farm?
I am turning to Wikipedia for a formal definition of a render farm: “A render farm is high performance computer system, e.g. a computer cluster, built to render computer-generated imagery (CGI), typically for film and television visual effects.”
From the end-user perspective, a render farm is a service that puts a lot of computing power at his disposal, with the purpose of helping him deliver his projects faster.
RenderStreet was launched in Oct 2012 in Closed Beta with this bold announcement on BlenderArtists forum. After the service was tested and refined with the help of this great community, we launched it publicly, in February 2013.
This past year we put all our efforts into making RenderStreet a cutting edge rendering machine, keeping pace with Blender releases, increasing the computational power of the rendering farm and being close to our customers.
Today, we want our brand identity and website design to represent our solution that has turned to be one of the best on this market. RenderStreet must align its looks to its value – The next generation render farm for Blender.
In 2013 we had over 10.000 Blender projects that ran through our farm. They are all private work and most of them were never exposed publicly. But some are out there, on the world wide web. Here is a collection of some cool 3D images rendered with RenderStreet, publicly released by our clients.
The beautiful image Morning at the farmhouse made by Richard Hoatland. Rendered with Cycles, 1500 samples. Took about 1,25 hrs to complete with RenderStreet.
Welcome to 2014!
At RenderStreet we are constantly looking into our performance indicators, as they allow us to monitor our service’s health and performance. And because you are at the center of all our efforts, we wanted to share with you a few of those indicators.
Here are some stats for Blender renders on our farm:
- 99.91% service uptime. We only had seven hours service downtime since our launch, out of which 5 hours were scheduled updates. And our service has been running during the holidays too – we even had a project rendering between the years.
- Over 10,000 jobs, with a 98% success rate in job delivery. This means only 2% of the jobs had errors that prevented rendering from being completed. We worked with most of the respective clients to get their projects to render as well.
- 87% of the animations rendered on our farm were delivered in under 72 minutes. That’s pretty impressive, considering that we had some significant workloads to render.
- Highest acceleration for a project, compared to the client’s machine: 51,429%, or 514 times faster. Meaning 3.5 hours instead of 2.5 months for an animation.
RenderStreet was among the selected startups for EIT ICT Labs‘ innovation program. An initiative supported by TechPeaks and Startup Pirates, EIT ICT Labs has selected 8 startups from Europe for a one-week program of coaching and mentoring. So, for the entire last week I have been in the beautiful city of Trento, in Northern Italy.
A BMW retailer in Switzerland is promoting the new X5 with a TV spot created entirely with Blender. As it usually happens in advertising, short deadlines demand fast production. This is how RenderStreet was entrusted with rendering a significant part of the animation.
Blend Swap is an initiative to open collaboration that grew to become the biggest library of 3D assets made with Blender, at free disposal for personal and commercial use. Launched in 2009, the site gathered a community of more than 48k registered users fostered by founder Matthew Muldoon.
A great event may be measured by the ideas and projects it generates. For us, Blender Conference was the place where we came up with a way to help Blender community develop.
We are officially launching the RenderStreet for Artists sponsorship program in which we will provide selected projects with free rendering on our servers.
The only requirement for applicants is that their project is open and all the resources are made available for anyone to use. It may be an animation film, a 3D image, whatever you decide to work on that needs fast rendering.
On 20-21st of November, all the tech scene of Central and Eastern Europe was in Bucharest, attending How to Web event, organized by Bogdan Iordache and his team. RenderStreet was selected, among other 32 finalists, to take part in the Startup Spotlight competition, a valuable experience taking us closer to the next stages of our business.
How to Web is dedicated to the online tech industry, with keynotes from company CEOs, investors, serial entrepreneurs, start-up accelerator officials, designers, web journalists and we’ve never missed any edition, since 2009.
Besides running a serious business, we love watching well animated cartoons. And when Blender Institute released the first episode of Caminandes, we knew we wanted to back them up.
We allocated 50 some pro-bono servers and we gave Pablo Vazquez and his team our full support for rendering the next llama adventures. For the last month, our servers have been busy with Cycle rendering Caminandes Grand Dillama scenes. Amazingly, one day after the upload, it got over 20k views on YouTube:
Even if our service is up and running for almost a full year now, business wise, we are constantly looking for development opportunities and exploring strategies to enrich RenderStreet on all levels. This small intro is meant to prepare some good news: RenderStreet is a finalist in the Startup Spotlight competition, part of the How to Web event.
We just got back from the Blender Conference in Amsterdam. It was an impressive show, with lots of engaging presentations and many talks you could learn from. The overall atmosphere was very close to the Blender spirit: open source style, a bit chaotic, but kept on track and delivering good content.
Marius Iatan and Sorin Vinatoru, founders of RenderStreet, among other participants at the Blender Conference. Cheers guys!
As winner of the Romanian Best Cloud Startup award, RenderStreet participated in the European contest for the Best European Cloud Startup organised at the EuroCloud Congress and was a runner-up for the title.
With over 300 industry and government experts from 23 EU states and around the world, the EuroCloud Congress is the place to be for learning about new developments in the cloud industry.
RenderStreet was finalist for Best Cloud Services Startup at the EuroCloud Congress 2013. Image source
Our Blender plugin is now available for all platforms. This means you can use it in Windows, MacOSX and Linux, with Blender 2.67 or newer. After installing it, you will be able to send renders to our farm and check their status, all from Blender’s interface. The plugin handles the file upload to our farm in a secure way, and launches the render automatically. It also displays a list of your recent jobs, and you can click in the list to open the job page and download the files.