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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Render farms costs & pricing

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

Render farm comparison – pro’s and con’s

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:

Start using a render farm

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

What is a render farm?

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

Redesigning our website [*spoiler alert]

      News

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.

Header

3D images, rendered with RenderStreet, in 2013

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

RenderStreet – 2013 in figures

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.