If it wasn’t for the render farm the movie, Transformers would have taken years to be made. These farms play a crucial role in delivering high quality work faster in the film and visual industry especially in postproduction houses and VFX studios where there is heavy workflow with limited human and IT resources.
What are Render farms?
These are high performance computer system used for rendering images in a very independent and parallelized way. These farms work in a very interesting way where, there is a queue manager, which distributes the processes to many processors. For animations the rendering time is very high and a single computer for a simple task can take up many hours to days. To simplify the process, a system like this comes in help where many computers are clustered together to each other to fasten up the process. In most cases, the farms are controlled by software client server package where the load is distributed among the clustered computers also known as nodes to process it and finally gathering these pieces to complete the picture.
In television visual effects these farms play a crucial role. For a character in the movie Transformers 2: revenge of fallen heroes, it took 72 hours for a frame to process and it would have been very tough to do without the render farms. The farms help in a great way as they can be used as an add-on to one workstation or as standalone rendering powerhouse. Even small facility with few animators can have more than hundred processors. These rendering units are great help for large studios and 3D artists, also many freelancers are opting for this as it helps in increasing their productivity rather than working on single workstation. In Animation industry, most 3D software and applications have rendering capabilities and some, also have a kind of network rendering controller. One can add this to workstation as additional nodes and can run them as headless system with no requirement of mouse, keyboard or monitor.
One can acquire these farms if they are interested to pursue it as a freelancer or as hobbyist to increase their productivity and quality of high-resolution images, which require a long time for processing. Also, for high quality rendered images one has to make sure the processors in render frame and workstation should be same, if there is any difference in the architecture between the two it can affect the final rendered frames. Additional advantage of these set ups is one can add faster computers to slower ones with no compatibility issues and therefore, constant updates and rebuilds about new technologies is easily possible. These farms are usually kept in a dedicated room with extra electricity supply and cooling for proper working as the processing time can be very long and hindrances of any kind can delay the work. The main render server sits right next to the central company server and the render nodes are kept in racks.