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Render farm
show user profile  tommtomm
Hi there,
I was hoping some1 here can help me out. I am going to be rendering a 22 minute animation and have finally decided to take the plunge and buy a small render farm to help me out. It’s not just for the project I thought it might be time to invest in an in-house system instead of using online remote renderers to do the work.
Although I have used local renderers and even remote internet renderers, I have never had to buy one or even try and work out how they really work.
My questions are:
1. for a small budget of maximum £4000 what is the best thing to buy, taking into consideration that it must be a server type setup as I can’t have 12 desktops piled 1 on top of the other in the office?
2. With a server is it better or cheaper to buy more weaker nodes than 1 or 2 powerful nodes?
3. How much ram should I start with per processor core when dealing with a renderfarm?

Thanks in advance for your help,
And I look forward to posting the final project so you can all see it.

read 1128 times
11/22/2011 10:09:55 AM (last edit: 11/22/2011 10:09:55 AM)
show user profile  Bolteon
i really hope your frames are in the sub-5 minute range. 22min of footage... jesus.

-Marko Mandaric

read 1118 times
11/22/2011 10:38:46 AM (last edit: 11/22/2011 10:38:46 AM)
show user profile  mrTallents
Why do you choose not to use remote render providers? Guess its like renting a house or buying one? You dont feel like your throwing your money away?

I havent owned one but i have had backburner running across around 60 machines at uni, its ugly...but saved my bacon!

From my IT sales background, and if space is an issue, I would perhaps look at a blade server but im not sure if your budget will stretch to a system that would really help e.g. 2 x blades for the same price as maybe 10x smaller high speed, dual core 2gb base units. If you took the latter option, you would need a kvm switch or some form of central control. You can also get very small form factor cases that can still pack a punch. 10 of these might take the space of 4 x tower cases.

Spec is important too, so these 60 machines a had running, well they were all dual core 2 gb ram, uni then took delivery of 4 x i7, 8gb machines, lovely! Just one of those i7, did the same rendering task in the a 3rd of the time it took 20 dual core machines, the calculations were so much quicker, it was impressing seeing how quickly each frame cleared in the render window!

You can hire turnkey solutions too i think.

Might not have helped at all but thought i would share my experiences, you can probably save a stack if you build them yourself, but you might prefer the peace of mine of a warranty and support package, if so, HP users always tend to be fairly smug! ;o)

read 1115 times
11/22/2011 11:04:29 AM (last edit: 11/22/2011 11:04:29 AM)
show user profile  Mr_Stabby
a desktop hardware based node would go something like this
i5 2500k £160
ASRock P67 Pro3 £80
450w generic psu £15
16gb generic ram £70
random cheap hdd £20
2u chassis £40
hyper 212 £15
total £400
for 4k you can get 10 of these, you could just stack them ontop of each other or get a cabinet for another £500. These are ment to be OC'd to around 4,5ghz and will yield you the best rendering performance you can get for the money(well ignoring a 1090t system which would get a bit better price/performance but has no viable upgrade path).

The equation for finding out whats best is simple - rendering performance / cost of node. It is true that with low end cpu's you can get much superior performance/price of cpu but the cost of other essentials will weigh down the end result, in higher end the price premium is often not worth the added performance. So basically you do what everybody else does and get the most popular cpu around.

Alternatively you could get real server hardware that will cost you double for the same performance but for a node based render farm its way not worth it since it isnt exactly critical that all nodes perform at their best all the time, one goes down - no biggie, you fix it or replace it and still have money left for other things while other nodes carry on.

read 1112 times
11/22/2011 11:07:07 AM (last edit: 11/22/2011 11:07:07 AM)
show user profile  mrTallents
I second Mr_Stabby, get a rack cabinet! But be aware they are pricey considering its a metal box!

Also, its just advice given to me, but I have been strongly warned against overclocking for rendering on the basis it can throw out some dodgy calculations. In a gaming environment the rendering is real time so its not such a problem because you have probably run past the dodgy texture/geometry glitch before you even notice it! Obviously when you are rendering your animation, its going to be there to haunt you (if you dont notice it until finished!) unless you can spot the frame and re-render.

Again its just advice given to me on a forum, might not be factual but seems logical to me!
read 1103 times
11/22/2011 11:22:21 AM (last edit: 11/22/2011 11:22:21 AM)
show user profile  BishBashRoss
If you get 10 machines expect your electricity bill to skyrocket.

read 1099 times
11/22/2011 11:26:25 AM (last edit: 11/22/2011 11:26:25 AM)
show user profile  tommtomm
Wow I under estimated the price completely. I spoke with dell and been checking online for prices of blade servers, and even 2 half size blades at low spec are very expensive.
1 half hieght with 2 sockets at 4 core 2.1 GHz and 12G of ram costs £1860, so even if I get 2 I get a total of 33.6 GHz and would cost me £3720.

I think you guys were right maybe 3 high spec workstations with 6 core 3.4GHz in each would cost £1200. so I would get in that set up 61.2 GHz for £3600.

That's almost double the blades and just under in price.

Am I working this out correctly or have I gone wrong somewhere, it seems like there is a huge price difference.

Sorry if these are sounding like stupid questions. I'v never had to make anything like this before.

Oh and just for more info regarding the animation, it's around 14 minutes of 3d arch animation, walkthroughs etc. The rest is live footage so not as bad as 22 minutes 3d :).
read 1094 times
11/22/2011 11:38:02 AM (last edit: 11/22/2011 11:38:02 AM)
show user profile  mrTallents
This is also where i get mixed up, Im not sure what is more cost effective, quad cores are all good, providing all the cores are used (e.g. my AMD phenom system only uses one core for rendering). From what i understand, if i had 2 more versions of max running, then it would use 2 more cores (3 total) with one left for the OS.....but im not sure if you can have 3 x backburners running on the same machine so dont know how much it would benefit you. Im not claiming to be an expert in this but im sure i have my system setup to use as much resource as is available.
Im currently installing windows on a new Intel Core 2 Quad workstation i have built and will be able to post some results from this soon.
If its a case of 1 instance of back burner per machine, i would just get a load of high power duals like a 3.6 i5 or something, couple of gig of ram.

read 1088 times
11/22/2011 12:10:36 PM (last edit: 11/22/2011 12:10:36 PM)
show user profile  tommtomm
Sorry I meant to link all 3 machines to make a render farm, each workstation acting like a node.
read 1078 times
11/22/2011 12:26:32 PM (last edit: 11/22/2011 12:26:32 PM)
show user profile  Mr_Stabby
>>Also, its just advice given to me, but I have been strongly warned against overclocking for rendering on the basis it can throw out some dodgy calculations.

if the core is stable it wont throw out anything like that (and if its unstable it would crash sooner or later anyway)

following the amount of ghz comparison - building 10 i5 systems would yield you 180ghz of the best kind. you also have to keep in mind not all GHz are greated equal, for example the current generation intel i series cpus(sandy bridge) are 15% faster per ghz than last generation(nehalem) and 22% faster than core 2 series per ghz. When compared to AMD systems SB beats phenom 2's by 28% and bulldozer cores by 35% per ghz.
here is a chart to compare core efficiencies,2765.html

max uses all cores for rendering unless you specifically told it otherwise, im not sure whats wrong with your phenom system but thats not how its supposed to operate

also save your time and dont bother speaking with ready-made retailers like dell, you'll get ripped off

read 1077 times
11/22/2011 12:28:33 PM (last edit: 11/22/2011 12:28:33 PM)
show user profile  Bolteon
well written stabby.

-Marko Mandaric

read 1067 times
11/22/2011 12:52:19 PM (last edit: 11/22/2011 12:52:19 PM)
show user profile  tommtomm
Mr_Stabby, you speak the truth,
There is only 2 thing that's making me lean to fewer and more powerful desktops and that is.
1. less space and i think less power consumption -- I might be wrong on the last bit but it makes sence in my head.
2. I am planning on hiring visual artists in the future as long as my projects keep bringing in the green. :) and being able to pull up a high speck desktop PC for setting up scenes sounds quite enticing.

But then again 180 GHz is the sort of power I was thinking of at the begining.

Thanks for the help and please add you 2 cent if you have another take on all this.

It's good to know what others have done.

read 1064 times
11/22/2011 12:58:43 PM (last edit: 11/22/2011 12:58:43 PM)
show user profile  tommtomm
I just had a look and for my £4000 budget I have 2 options.

1. 3 x hex core 3.4 GHz 8mb cache that would give me 61.2 GHZ for £3660.
Intel Core i5-2600K

2. 6 x Quad core 3.4 GHz 8mb cache that would give me 81.6 GHz for £4040.
intel i7 3960

Non of these setups are OC and are the standard speed. It's a difference of 20 GHz.
All systems would be overloaded with Ram ofcourse.
read 1059 times
11/22/2011 1:15:42 PM (last edit: 11/22/2011 1:15:42 PM)
show user profile  Emphacy
If you're going to build your own make sure you get a CPU with Hyper-Threading at least.
An i7 with Hyper-Threading will be able to way outperform any CPU without it, especially an i5 2500K...

The best option would be to build 3 or 4 Core i7 machines, maybe a 2600S or a 980 with 6GB RAM each. Also wouldn't bother with any BE or K edition, unless you're a pro at overclocking.

Wouldn't want the thing to crash half way through rendering.
read 1057 times
11/22/2011 1:38:58 PM (last edit: 11/22/2011 1:43:19 PM)
show user profile  Mr_Stabby
i think you have the cpus mixed up, the 3960x is a hexacore and the 2600k is a quad. Both mind you are not exactly good choices.

HT adds at most 10% rendering speed in max at the same clock speed, also if you arent going to OC there is no reason to get the K version. All in all 2600k doesn't justify the price bump for the performance it gives over a 2500k. 3960x is even worse of a choice, its a $990 cpu that has 3mb more cache than a $550 cpu (the 3930k), the performance difference in reality is less then 5% while the price is nearly double.

As for the power consumption - in essence the cpus pretty much consume the same in relation to the amount of cores they got so its the other hardware consumption per machine that makes up the difference. I would say it amounts to around 100w per system so running the rendering equivalent of 4 core systems would consume in total 150w less as hex cores (out of ~2kw)

read 1047 times
11/22/2011 1:56:35 PM (last edit: 11/22/2011 1:56:35 PM)
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