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Combustion Eye for the AE Guy

Part 2: Network rendering By Stephen Schleicher

Everyone wants it faster; the producer needs to deliver the product to the distributor, the director needs the product from the editor, the editor needs the motion graphics from you.  You need to render faster with discreets combustion 3.  Have you considered network rendering?

I pointed it out in the first installment of our new combustion for After Effects users series combustion 3 crawls when it comes to rendering.  Discreet knows it, combustion users know it, and now After Effects users know it.  As a recap here is an excerpt from the last installment:

?The two computers used in this test were Sheeta my 2.76Ghz Sony Vaio notebook with 512MB of RAM, and Nadia, my Dual Gig G4 with 1GB of RAM.  Here are the results:

 Combustion 8:25
 After Effects 3:08

 Combustion 15:07
 After Effects  5:13

This can be a definite problem, especially if you have a long project, or several projects that need to be rendered.  One solution for the new combustion user is to use network rendering.  Network rendering was previously introduced in earlier versions of combustion as part of the backburner application.  In combustion 3.0 backburner has been replace/upgraded with Render Queue.  As an AE user you are probably familiar with network rendering with your After Effects system and know that it is a great way to render out an image sequence quickly over your network.

To set up a combustion 3 render farm, the first step you need to do is install the Render Queue application on all of the systems on your network.  Currently there is no limit to the number of nodes you can have in your render farm, so feel free to go to town.  The more systems you have the better.  Also, the faster your network, the greater your results will be.  This is because Render Queue will need to access any files associated with the workspace (images, movies, etc.) to render on that network node.  The slower your network, the longer it will take to transfer the information.  I would highly recommend that you do not use a computer that is on a wireless network as it will substantially slow down rendering on that particular machine.  In an early test with a wireless laptop it was only able to render 5 of the 300 frames in the animation in the time it took the wired machine to do the rest.

Next pick one system on the network to serve as Master Control.  On this system create a shared folder that will serve as your watch folder.  For simplicity sake I call my watch folder ?Watch Folder.  Also create on this same system a shared ?Render Folder

Besides the simple act of installing Render Queue on each of your network systems, it is also important to make sure that your required codec is also installed on each of these nodes.  If you are using 3rd party plug-ins, you will have to install those on each system as well.  If you are not sure if your 3rd party plug-in license permits you to install on a render farm, be sure to contact the developer.  Chances are good that you do have permission to do the install better safe than sorry, I always say.

You will also need to make sure all necessary fonts are installed as well.  If you are rendering cross platform, you should be aware that Mac systems read the font size differently than on the PC.  Text created on the PC, it will appear much larger on the Mac.  This could cause serious problems with your final render, so one solution would be to convert all of your text objects to outlines.  The combustion manual covers this, and Ill also touch on this in a future installment.

In addition to making sure you have all of the necessary plug-ins, fonts, and codecs installed on each of the networked nodes, you also need to configure Render Queue to recognize the files correctly.

Launch Render Queue and click on the Preferences button.  While you have a great many controls in this panel, the main area we are going to focus on is the Batch Render section.

Click on the Watch Folder button and navigate to the shared Watch Folder on your network.  The Check Watch Folder option allows you to set the interval to any time you like.  The default of 15 seconds works very well for small companies/workspaces.  Also activate the Automatic Quick Setup to ensure the rendered outputs in the workspace have the same settings.

Click OK to close the Preferences Panel, and the Click on the Quick Setup button.

Here, chose the preset you will be using for your image sequences.  For this example, Ill be using a 32-bit targa sequence. 

Click on the Render Folder and navigate to the networked Render Folder you created earlier.  This is where all of your rendered files will go.  It is important to make sure each node is rendering to the same folder as the first step in making sure you dont render duplicate frames.  Click OK to close the Render Queue Quick Setup panel.

Finally, click the Process button on each node and Render Queue is set to check the watch folder for new workspaces at the designated time interval.


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