Render Farm Management for Digital Media Pipelines



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Most often, when it comes to replacing machines in a studio, artist desktop machines are the first to get updated with the latest and fastest machines available.

Do "faster desktops" remove the need of a

"render farm"?

Not necessarily.

For any studio purchasing new equipment and still contemplating the need to keep their current render farm running, here are some points to consider:

  1. Quite often faster desktops are a necessity to keep up with the latest requirements of the artists or the artists’ software. This applies to both the creation of content (when the artist is on his/her machine creating the models) and for the rendering of content.  Advancements in the software will often require more system memory and use of faster or larger set of cores. This being the case, content creators won’t notice a dramatic increase in performance or productivity from buying faster desktops. If they do notice an increase in performance, it is typically short lived.
  2. The pixel depth and overall size of render outputs for several mediums is growing exponentially. There is a dramatic increase in the demand for 4k content for movies, and video is often shot at 4k and down-res’d to 2k. And using 4k content is larger than just doubling 2k or quadrupling 1080p. This puts a much heavier workload on desktops and requires multiple machines to be used on one job if the job were to finish in a reasonable time period. Even with this kind of demand for 4k in the market, several large studios have only recently fixed their pipelines to deal with 2k content and some have not done anything at all.
  3. Artist or user workflow is typically designed for a user to work on multiple different pieces of content one right after another. They do this by being able to create a scene or model, send it off to be rendered, and work on another scene or model while the first renders. Rinse and repeat. Most movie or commercial houses could not meet their deadlines without this kind of workflow. Being able to render just at night is simply not enough time to get all the work done.

With these points in mind, the demands on artist workstations are already guaranteed to grow which will require the use of either multiple desktops or a render farm to complete a single job!

Adding to the growth in content is the use of higher frame rates. With film typically shot at 24 fps and video at 30 fps, the popularity of 60 fps or 120 fps content increases the render load anywhere from 2x to over 4x of the current file sizes. Multiply by the higher resolution content of 2k or 4k, and you could be looking at production pipelines handling 10x of their current volume, which is again, beyond what their new desktops can offer as a solution for efficient rendering or file management.

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