Everything You Need To Know About Render Farms
If you are familiar with 3d rendering you probably already have been in a situation where the renderings are taking longer than you would ideally like, especially when these are of high quality. It’s no doubt that creating high quality renderings is something that takes time and it’s never wise to rush the process if it runs the risk of compensating for the quality of the final product.
That being said, there are certain ways that can speed up the process without compensating for the quality of the end product, and we understand that sometimes deadlines aren’t flexible. One of the main ways to speed up the process (click here to read more about the rendering process) is to make sure of render farms, which allow the images/animations to be created quicker than usual.
What Is a Render Farm?
The rendering time of your project mainly depends on how well optimized your 3D scene is, how advanced lighting effects and materials you use, or how many images you need to create. Nonetheless, highly photorealistic images are always time-consuming to render.
However, this also depends on your computer parameters, or being more specific on the performance of your CPU or GPU processors – which depend on the 3D rendering software you use, as some of them use processors while the others leverage the use of graphic cards. The better this component is, the faster rendering is.
That being said, even the best components will fail if they have to render thousands of photorealistic images, and this is why in the 3D world we have the option of creating clusters of multiple computers working together on rendering. We call this cluster a render farm and the computers within are called render-nodes.
Professional render farms take this to another level and group hundreds of even thousands render nodes together which allow for the ability to create special effects for blockbusters, while other render farms are more specialized to serve smaller rendering studios.
So how does this allow for a faster and smoother process when it comes to creating 3d renderings? As an example, let’s say that you’re looking to produce a 60 second animation at 30 frames per second, which means that you would have to render 1800 images (frames). With this goal in mind, a single computer can generate one CGI image in roughly an hour, which means that with a single computer, it would take 1800 hours (75 days) to render the full animation. On the other hand, let’s say you decide to use a render farm to help create animation which has 100 render nodes (computers). With 100 nodes, the process becomes 100 times quicker, bringing the timeframe down from 1800 hours to 18 hours, a massive difference.
When are Render Farms Used & Who Uses Them?
Render farms are becoming especially useful for users who work with ultra photorealistic 3D renderings and animations as these require an immense amount of computing power. In general, those who are struggling with rendering time are mostly likely to use render farms but there are also some professionals who use them, choosing to opt for comfort and instant results as saving on time makes for a smoother and more efficient workflow.
Regardless of whether you’re a freelancer or a 3d studio, render farms can significantly improve the turnaround time of your deliveries and help to meet deadlines. Moreover, rendering farms are an absolute must for those who work with larger projects and 3D animations (which just can’t be computed by a single workstation within a reasonable time frame).
This is why rendering farms are widely used amongst 3D artists and studios working on architectural projects, marketing agencies producing animation for ads, or big movie studios like Pixar or Walt Disney that use CGI in their productions.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that the rendering process uses almost 100% of CPU/GPU potential which means that the computer is unable to handle other demanding programs like 3D software or video editors whilst rendering is occurring, not to mention that it would make a computer highly unstable. This also means that many users can’t work on their computers whilst images or an animation is being rendered which makes for a frustration if you’re dependent on the same computer to carry out other tasks. Because of this, many people decide to leave the rendering process with a render farm so that they can continue working on their machines.
Benefits of Using Render Farms
Producing a simple rendering is usually not a problem for a single workstation and this can take a few minutes to render. The problems start to arise when the number of images required to render is higher, and when these need to be photorealistic. These issues are compounded when there’s a deadline around the corner and pressure to deliver, in which case a render farm can be a lifesaver. Not to mention that a big animation or movie can’t be handled by a single computer/processor as it would take months or years to get the results, meaning that render farms are a necessity.
In any case, rendering farms help to save your time when it comes to delivering 3D content, due to the speed at which they produce, meaning that they are always beneficial regardless of whether you’re a 3d studio or a freelancer. It’s also worth reiterating that during the rendering process your workstation is unable to do anything, meaning that using a render farm helps you fix this problem as the rendering part can be outsourced and you can continue working on your computer.
Building Your Own Render Farm vs Hiring External Render Farm
There are two ways to enjoy the benefits of extra computing power for your projects – building your own render farm or hiring a company who can rent you one.
For those of you curious about how to build a render farm, it’s worth knowing that having your own render farm is comfortable and isn’t that difficult to do but it requires some level of experience in IT in order to connect computers and make them work together as a render farm. The issue here is how many render nodes you can afford to purchase and maintain as there more you have the trickier the maintenance becomes (it requires more technical knowledge, air-conditioned spaces, more advanced components like routers etc.). Because of this many studios end up having small render farms of a few or several nodes that do the trick for smaller jobs. Also, very often studios are able to connect computers that are used by artists during the day and become render nodes at night (which is a very good practice as it is a makeshift way of building a render farm but with no extra investments ).
On the other hand, building a professional render farm is a huge investment not only in buying render nodes but also in maintenance, IT specialists, proper spaces etc. This investment is way beyond for small and middle size studios who very often decide to hire these professional render farms for their use, especially when they work on big animation projects or face tight deadlines (and their own small render farms aren’t enough). A large benefit of external render farms is that these companies are dedicated just to this type of services and they tend to have client support to make sure things are going well, meaning that you don’t have to worry about any of this.
To cut to the chase – deciding to build a render farm and using a professional one are both solid solutions, which is why in many cases people are ending up using both solutions as a way of not having to depend solely on one of them.
Render Farm Costs
When it comes to hiring external render farms you only pay whilst you’re using their services. Different providers have slightly different methods to calculate the fees but they are all based on how much computing power they are selling to you per hour.
Render farm cost will either be based on the number of render nodes working per hour for you, or totaling processing power measured in GHz for CPU and OB for GPU.
This way of calculating might be confusing for beginners and that is why many rendering farms have their own calculators to find out how much computing power you will need and how much it will cost. Also, a common practice is to offer free tests before starting the project to make sure the calculations were done right and there will be no surprises.
Regardless of the provider, the average render farm cost will be between $1-2 for a single rendering at 4K resolution and $5-8 for a single second of 3D animation at Full HD resolution. However, these costs are calculated considering that your 3D scenes are optimized according to general standards within the industry. If you’re unsure what your resolution needs are, then you can find a complete guide on this page.
Also, some render farms are having extra for a higher priority which means that you can start your rendering faster than others, and some farms are more expensive because they have superior 24-hours support.
Our Personal Picks – Best Render Farm Companies
As a 3D rendering studio with over a decade of experience, we have managed to build our small rendering farm internally and also have the pleasure of using the services of professional rendering farms when projects are big and deadlines are around the corner. Please see below a few recommendations:
Gridmarkets – GridMarkets is definitely a company we would recommend working with for cloud rendering and simulating. They offer a free trial of up to 100 frames and have an easy-to-understand pricing structure and a highly professional support team filled with cloud engineers & VFX artists from some of the world’s best studios,. Their customers include freelancers and some of the best studios in the world.
RebusFarm – RebusFarm is based in Germany and offers its rendering services since 2006, making it the renowned render farm in the 3D industry. With their focus on implementing the latest state of the art CPU & GPU technology and ability to render images from over 16 different software types, we know that they offer a top quality professional service. They also offer attractive discount packages, the more you purchase with them.
iRender – IRender is a Vietnamese-based software company which offers cloud computing solutions all of the globe, as well as Render Farm services for 3D Renderings. With 24/7 customer support, and a huge amount of high quality equipment, you can guarantee that they’ll be available to take on your project making them a reliable company to work with. They also have a lots of online resources to help guide you through the render farm process and understand the more technological side.
Super Renders Farm – Founded in California in 2010, SuperRenders Farm has seen considerable growth over the past few years and is now widely considered as one of the top render farm providers on the market. With affordable pricing, fast turnaround and a highly responsive customer support, we would definitely recommend working with them on your rendering projects. To get an idea on their pricing structure please check out this link
Garage Farm – Garage Farm is a render farm company founded in 2010, which now boasts a team of 45 people. With a solid 24/7 customer & technical support and their ability to support all major 3d softwares of the market, they’re a great choice if you’re looking for someone to render your projects.
Rendering farms are something must-to-know when it comes to working professionally with 3D rendering so whether you are a freelancer or a studio you can find benefits of extra computing power for your project which leads to faster deliveries or working with a type of project you wouldn’t be able to do without fast render farms. In other words, exploring this topic is a good investment for any 3D professional.
Author – Eddie Kingsnorth, Co-Founder & COO at NoTriangle Studio