Huge numbers of processor hours are needed to “render” the special effects and animations in the latest hit films and TV programs. For Monsters vs. Aliens, a total of 40 million hours of processing was required. Even a mostly-live-action movie like Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith included almost 7 million hours of rendering. The technology behind the process is pretty impressive, and you will find a tremendous amount of cross-platform research and cooperation. Even Microsoft studies ways to get PCs and Macintosh computers cooperating in a render farm setup, while some rendering solutions require third-party software and hardware.
A frame at a time
Rendering times differ according to the medium, the budget and the deadlines. Thus, one frame of TV special effects typically takes from 30 minutes to an hour, while many hours per frame is required for feature films. IMAX resolution – such as rendering the Devastator character in Transformers 2 – can take as much as 70 hours per frame. The solution to this immense computational challenge is a kind of distributed computing where entire banks of networked computers do nothing but render final frames. In a state-of-the-art setup like George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic the artists themselves have some 2000 cores in their workstations, connected to a render farm with almost 6000 processor cores (at the time of Transformers 2).
Even a small special effects firm with a half dozen animators will likely have 100+ processors working for them. The maker of the South Park cartoons, South Park Studios, now has a 120-processor render farm with over 30 Mac workstations (similar to Mac Pro rentals from CRE) along with some 10 terabytes of storage using the same technology CRE can provide, Xserve RAID rentals.
Do you need a render farm?
Compositing, motion graphics work, architectural visualization and digital audio recording can all be accomplished with render farms. If your firm is working in any of these areas, the answer to the question is, “Yes, you need one!” Small studios or companies that don’t have the money to buy the computers they need can use computer rentals for rendering.
In the “old days,” there were few options on connecting the devices that make up a render farm. Today, however, many of the leading 3D and compositing software programs include built-in networking/rendering functionality, and some even have a rendering controller. This means that the additional “nodes” (distributed PCs or Macs) can be managed right from your main workstation with a Virtual Network Computing (VNC) arrangement, meaning that you can run them as “headless systems” without a keyboard, monitor or mouse.
CRE is an expert in providing render farm rentals and setups to companies of all kinds and sizes. Our Account Executives are up to date on all the render farm specifics, and can get you on your way in no time if you need to set one up. Simply call or e-mail, or complete the Quick Rental Quote form - we’re ready to render assistance.