Renderfarms 101

We want all of our current and potential customers to have a basic understanding of how renderfarms work, at least from a high level view.  The basics we hope you understand and agree with are laid out below.  Please review the bullet points, if for no other reason than as a refresher course.

  • A renderfarm is just a collection of many normal computers.  Our computers generally look and behave the same way yours does.
  • A renderfarm is not a supercomputer.  Each computer in a renderfarm operates independently of the others, and none of them have capabilities or powers that exceed that of a purchasable, commodity computer.
  • A renderfarm does not render images.  This one may seem odd at first, but it’s a very important distinction to make.  Renderfarms allow multiple instances of software to run, and that software is what renders the images.  Renderfarms don’t do anything to the imagery created and are not directly responsible for the output (or lack thereof).  They are simply the hardware infrastructure necessary to (hopefully) simultaneously execute multiple instances of the software you want to run.
  • A renderfarm can not natively output a video file.  Since multiple computers can’t write to the same file simultaneously, renderfarms can only output sequences of still images.
  • A renderfarm won’t always be able to render the desired output faster than your computer.  There are certain render applications, engines, and even settings that prevent the simultaneous utilization of more than one computer during the rendering process.  If only one computer in a renderfarm can be used, render times will be similar to your computer.
  • A renderfarm splits render tasks into pieces, and sends those pieces to execute on computers in the farm.  We sometimes call these pieces “slices”, and they are the smallest part of a render job that can be executed on one computer.  In a render job containing two or more frames of desired output, the smallest slice is one frame.  In a render job containing only one output frame, which meets very specific pre-requisites, the smallest slice is called a “tile” or “strip”.
  • A renderfarm can not circumvent limitations of the software running on it.  Any bug/problem/function/feature that exists in a render application will exhibit those traits on a renderfarm like it does on your computer.
  • A renderfarm operates in the same space/time universe as you presently reside.  They do not have any special time warping capabilities or otherwise super-human powers.  The same laws of physics that restrain you equally restrain renderfarms.

We trust you found this primer useful.  People working in the computer graphics industry do have different experiences, so we hope this article fills in any information gaps in your own understanding.


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