The V-Ray for Blender story by Andrei Izrantcev

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Photo of Andrey Izrantzev

Andrei Izrantcev, Developer of V-Ray for Blender

This February V-Ray was officially released for Blender, but the story of the integration started a few years ago. Our guest is Andrei Izrantcev, the man who decided to put together his favorite rendering engine and his passion for open source. What started out as a personal project, managed in his spare time, is now a fully functional part of the V-Ray product line. Now Andrei is a full-time developer at Chaos Group, focused exclusively on V-Ray for Blender.

The story comes from Andrei himself in an interview about the V-Ray for Blender project, telling us how it began and what we can look forward in the months to come.

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Let’s support the Blender (r)evolution

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Blender Foundation Development Fund

 

Since we launched RenderStreet we planned to directly back up the Blender development effort, and at this moment we are in the position to do it. We subscribed to Blender Foundation’s Development Fund in order to help Blender developers keep working on an open source project that relies on the community’s help. The Fund also allows Blender Foundation to collaborate with the best Blender coders out there and make sure the project keeps growing.

The process is very transparent and the Foundation gives constant reports about how the money is spent, what features are being deployed and who is responsible for what. In 2014, three grants have already been awarded:
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Blenderheads using RenderStreet

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RenderStreet users by country

RenderStreet users by country

Our RenderStreet team is made of analytical, curious minds. One year after we launched RenderStreet, we searched the back end of our service to see where our users come from. The results also imply interesting facts about the actual number of Blender users, but they are only speculative. Anyhow, the map shows also Blender penetration, which represents more than 50% of the world’s countries.

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RenderStreet is 1 y.o.

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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.

New RenderStreet brand identity

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

RenderStreet supports V-Ray for Blender – currently in closed beta

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V-Ray+ChaosGroup_logo_black-background1We 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.

Happy Blending!

How does an online render farm work?

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Blender Monkey

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.

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Render farms costs & pricing

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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.

Underwater coin
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Render farm comparison – pro’s and con’s

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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:

Farm type

Pro’s

Con’s

Distributed or collaborative
  • It’s free
  • 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
DIY
  • 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:
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Start using a render farm

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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.

Render farm in abstract

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What is a render farm?

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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.

render farm
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Redesigning our website [*spoiler alert]

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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.

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3D images, rendered with RenderStreet, in 2013

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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.

Moring at the farmhouse
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RenderStreet – 2013 in figures

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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.

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Launching RenderStreet for Artists program

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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.

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RenderStreet at its second Startup Spotlight competition @ How to Web 2013

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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.
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Caminandes Grand Dillama – the first open animation movie rendered with RenderStreet

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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:

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