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Setting up Remote Renders
This video explains a lot of the concepts and instructions from this article:
The ability to spread renders among multiple machines is a really powerful way to speed up renders and/or to allow artists to keep working without having to stop for long renders.
Traditionally, this entails setting up multiple machines on a local network. However, Render Boss now has the ability to send a render to one or more machines over the internet with the help of a file-syncing service such as Dropbox or Google Drive.
The files are rendered remotely, and then synced back.
The ability to send renders remotely can be paired with a Virtual Desktop service, which is basically a service that rents you one or more computers on the cloud. This can be great to setup a personal render farm on the web, that can scale up for a big project, and then scale back down when the extra computing power is not needed anymore.
Using a Virtual Desktop has the added benefit that, since the machines are in a dedicated data center, they usually have really fast internet. So if you render on them, it’s really fast to upload to Vimeo, YouTube, Frame IO, etc.
There are several cases where Remote Rendering can be a life saver. These three that have been useful for us:
Rendering on the cloud
Whether you’re a single artist, or a studio, rendering on the cloud gives you ability render on as many machines as needed on a per-project basis.
This can make a huge difference in terms of speed and efficiency. You can own and maintain only the absolute minimum number of machines you need for you or your artists to work, and have a personal render farm on the web that can grow or shrink as needed.
Working with remote artists
A lot of times I work with artists in different parts of the world. Now more than ever, we’re seeing an increase in the amount of artists working remotely.
However, if their internet speed is not that great, transferring final renders, which are often big files like ProRes 444 files, or DPX sequences can take a long time.
In those cases it can be faster for them to send renders to your studio or dedicated machine if I have machines available, or to one of the cloud services I mentioned before. The reason is that, when rendering remotely, Render Boss only needs to transfer the project file and the Job data, which is usually a much smaller transfer than finished video files.
When you’re on a short deadline, waiting for the transfer of those last shots can be the difference between delivering on time or being late.
Working on the go
This one is probably a less common use. But in some cases while working from a laptop, the ability to send a render to big machine at home, the office or a virtual desktop service, can be really handy.
Software you’ll need:
- After Effects
- Make sure all the machines have the same version installed, including plugins and fonts
- Render Boss
- Version 22.214.171.124 or higher
- A File-syncing service (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Resilio Sync, etc.)
- Make sure you have enough space for your project
- We recommend Dropbox because it is the fastest option of the ones we’ve tested. Based on that, Render Boss has certain optimizations specific to Dropbox. However, any of the services will work, as long as they have enough space
- Virtual Desktop Service (if rendering in the cloud):
- We like Paperspace because in our experience it was the easiest to set up.
- AWS and Azure also work well.
- Another option we mention in the video is Shadow Tech, which is actually intended for video games, and can be a more accessible option if you only need one machine. However, we can’t recommend it for most people since it came to our attention that it turns itself off after 30 minutes of inactivity on the user side (even if a render is ongoing). This can be prevented by moving the mouse or pressing a key, but is not ideal for a cloud render machine.
Configuring Render Boss
Let’s configure Render Boss for remote rendering. You only have to do this the first time.
It’s really quick and easy using the Multi-Machine assistant.
Go to the menu Multiple Threads and Machines, the Set Multiple Machine Renders.
If you’ve set Render Boss on a local network, this should be familiar.
Since this is the first computer you’re configuring, select that.
In the next page, when asked, select that you’re using a file-syncing service.
Then you need to select a Work Folder.
This needs to be a folder inside your File-Syncing service folder (it doesn’t matter where).
In this example, we’re using Dropbox. If you select a folder that contains other files, it will automatically create a subfolder called Render Boss Work Folder.
Once you’ve selected a folder, click Next, and that’s it for the first machine.
The next screen will give you some additional info, but you can close it and move on to the additional machines.
Multiple remote machines
It’s possible to render remotely to multiple machines. An example of this would be if you have a render farm at studio or at a virtual desktop service.
If you’ll only use one remote machine, you can skip this section.
When using multiple remote machines, it’s needed to designate one machine as the ‘Sync Server’. This machine will be in charge of synchronizing with the web, and the others will connect to it via the local network.
The Sync Server is the only machine that needs to have the project files and the File-Syncing application installed (the others can have it installed as well, but it won’t have any effect).
To communicate with the other local machines, the Sync Server needs to share the folder containing the Project files (and assets), plus the Work Folder with the other machines in the network.
For example, if using Dropbox. The Sync Server can share on the local network the Dropbox folder (e.g. D:\Dropbox).
Then the other machines can access the same folder via the network path (e.g. \\Machine1\Dropbox).
So the following path on the Sync Server:D:\Dropbox\Projects\
Would look like this on the other machines:\\Machine1\Dropbox\Projects\
Configuring Remote Machines
Just like in the first machine, you need to go to the menu Multiple Threads and Machines, then Set Multiple Machine Renders.
Since this is an additional computer, select the appropriate option.
In the next page, when asked, select that you’re using a file-syncing service.
Then you need enter the Work Folder you selected in the first machine.
This has to be the same folder that you selected in the first machine inside your File-Syncing service.
When configuring multiple remote machines, use the local network address to the Sync Server. e.g. \\Machine1\Dropbox\Render Boss Work Folder instead of D:\Dropbox\Render Boss Work Folder
Once you’ve selected a folder, click Next. You should see the confirmation page, with some more information.
If you click on the Machines tab, you should see both the first machine that you configured, and the current machine.
As you add more machines, they should also appear in the Machines tab.
Preparing the project
The most important thing to keep in mind about preparing a project to render remotely, is that all the files need to be inside your File-Syncing service.
For example if you’re using Dropbox, that means making sure all the files needed for the project are somewhere inside the Dropbox folder, and there are no assets in your Desktop or Downloads folder for example.
Also, all the assets need to be synchronized in both machines. Most File-Syncing services have a feature to save space by syncing only select folders and files. They’re usually called Online Only, or Selective Syncing, etc.
Make sure these options are not turned on for the project folder. Otherwise, there might be missing files, which in turn may cause render errors.
Projects folders can be huge, so make sure to give them enough time to synchronize.
Sending a render
Now that everything is configured, sending a project to render is very straight-forward. With the exception of one step, the process of sending a render is the same as when sending it to a local machine.
Just like on regular renders, everything must be in the Render Queue, but before clicking the Send To Render Boss button, you need to change the one setting.
Go to the Target section, and click the setting Target Machine(s).
By default, this will be set to All Local Machines
Here you need to select the remote machine you want to use to render.
Once you’ve done that, you can click Send Queue to Render Boss, and that’s it.
Multiple Remote Machines
If you have several machines connected to each other via a local network, you can check the option Include Target’s local network. Make sure you do this before clicking Send Queue to Render Boss.
When this option is selected, the target machine you selected will render, but also all the other machines that are in the same local network.
Monitoring and controlling remote renders
Monitoring and controlling render jobs remotely can be easily done from the Job Queue. It’s basically the same as doing it when you’re on local network. The only difference is that it takes a bit longer for machines to respond, because the commands have to be sent over the internet.
When you send a Job to render on a different machine, you’ll see that the job appears as Skipped on yours, because your machine was not the Target machine.
Once the machine that was targeted starts rendering, and reporting its status, you will see additional information on the Job Queue, including ETA and Percentage Done, if available.
Just as on any other render, you can right-click on any job to bring up the context menu. This allows you to, among other things, stop or start a job on the machine of your choice. Do keep in mind, that remote machines will not respond as immediately as local machines will.
And that’s it. Once the render finishes, you can use that same menu to open the finished render, or the folder where it’s contained.
I hope this guide was helpful.