Everything related to Maxwell network rendering systems.
By elkolea
Hey everyone,
i am thinking of building my own little render farm. I am an architect and together with my wife we have recently started our own firm. I have been doing Visualization on my free time for my old office and some minor clients. With the new firm we will make rendering a much bigger part of our hole workflow.
So this is what i am planning to do.
5 or 6 of the 2018 6-core i7 mac minis. One as my main "workstation" (+ eGPU?) the rest as pure render nodes as long as we don't have any other employees. I would prefer this over one beefier workstation because this way, if we decide to employ people and budget might be tight i could just take one of them instead of buying a new machine. Rendering will be pure CPU of course.

I have a few questions that i would love to get some help with.
What do you think in general about the plan?
What about ram? I will only do cooperative jobs, so the voxelisation is on one machine only right? Should 8gb for the rest be enough?
Is there any advantage considering faster network speed in regards to the rendering process? Should i go for 10 Gigabit network or would the regular make no difference?

Thanks. Kolja
By arcmos
I think it’s cheaper if you use a cloud rendering service such as Rebus or Fast Render. I would recommend you 1 strong workstation instead of 5-6 Mac mini’s. For that money you will get a nice machine. Consider using Windows OS because you’ll have more options in terms of CPU and GPU. Maxwell needs NVIDIA cards!
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By Nasok
I was wondering how fast those stackable Mac minis would start to pop in render set ups. Pretty fast :)

Alrighty, if you set up everything correctly it should work fine. Altho you might need an external graphics card - for a faster scene handling. And maybe a bit more RAM

As the way it works - is that to handle the scene inside your app you use video card. The more powerful it is the less lags you have during scene navigation, alteration and yes - FIRE :)
Once you're done and you push the render button - what happens is that all your geometry, textures, lights, materials, procedural and what not, get's into your RAM first and only afterwards it goes to your CPU for rendering.

Think of RAM as a door. The bigger it is the bigger the volume you can push through.

So in other words if you have a complex scene with rich heavy textures - you gotta have more RAM otherwise you can easily "ran out of memory" and your scene will simply not get to your CPU.

Now CPU is also important as it is basically definition of how fast Maxwell will render, and since Maxwell has almost 99% of scalability - it is almost multiplied equally by the number of CPUs.

In my case - I'm using iMac pro - just so that set up is simpler and easier. And in those situations when I need to render a complex scene fast (to hit the deadline) - I'm just using render farm. You pay like 15 euros - and you get your high res image in a matter of minutes. I would just keep the render farm budget in mind when doing cost estimates for the project.

Hope it helps.
By elkolea
Thank you for your thought. I have seriously considered changing to Windows again and building a Threadripper based workstation. But for the last 3 Years i have been working on a maxed out 5K iMac and my hole workflow is build around that, so i think i am quite fixed on mac at this point. Even more because my proposed setting gives me a lot more flexibility to expand or even reduce the setting if necessary.

Nvidia is a good point to and i know you need cuda to do GPU rendering, but who is even sure when it would be ready at this point... So right now i am going to just care about CPU performance. And i could even go with eGPU if i really needed it.

So if i understand you correctly Nasok or tim (right?) every node should have decent RAM? Or just the one you are doing the Setup and so on? I would of course spec at least one higher than the rest to do my setup on. I do most 3D in Rhino, then export to studio and i do all texturing, lightning, camera setup and even a lot of furniture and that kind of stuff inside studio. There is another thread discussing if studio is even useful and i do heavily rely on it.
I would also love if studio would be expanded a bit in different areas. Like snapping would be awesome and has been asked for i think. Moving objects overall could be improved a lot. Also the ability to unwrap objects inside Maxwell would be super useful.

I could also use the iMac i am working on right now to do the work. So the Minis would just get turned on, start the node app and then wait for the job. So they would than basically need the same amount of RAM as the "main" machine to load all the geometry and so on as you said on each node or is it only loaded to the RAM from the main machine?

Some GPU power is needed of course, if i keep working on the iMac im good for now i guess, if a move my main machine to one of the Minis i will going to get some eGPU. Is fire also relying on CUDA or does it work with any card? Apart from CUDA during rendering there would be no benefit from an Nvidia card regarding working in studio? im only talking about the Maxwell related stuff here.

You are working on an iMac pro right? 18 core? would be nice so see some comparisons if i do it like planed, budget should be similar and i was also considering going that route. love your work by the way.

Cheers Kolja
User avatar
By Nasok
Hi Kolja, you need RAM only when you're sending your scene for voxelization (converting to voxels) - once it's done - it will be distributed between your render nodes for rendering. As once your main machine done voxelization - it will basically have the "information that has to be calculated" - and this job it will split equally (or sequentially) between available render nodes.

So those render nodes carriers could just have a good CPU, because RAM , hard drive, and video card on those are no so important. You don't need to have the same ram or same video card. In fact video card is needed only on your "main" machine. For render nodes you need only CPU .. well network sort of card .. and a little hard drive to store the temp files.

I think, generally, video card (and it's memory) is important only for machine you're working on (not the render nodes) - because all your textures, tessellated geometry, lights information is all in the memory of those video cards - because you wanna handle everything real time in viewport :) right ? :)
In my case I've got Radeon Pro Vega 64 with 16GB of video memory :) And that's good enough for storing lot's of textures, and other graphics elements and still being responsive.

FIRE is not relying purely on CUDA. In fact Here on Macs we don't have CUDA cores anymore :) as now we're using Radeon cards. And fire works good enough.

So bottom line, here are the priorities:
Main computer (Rhino, Studio, etc) - More RAM, good Video card, fast hard drive
Render farm (render nodes) - CPU, hard drive

Yep, I'm on iMac pro, but for some reason when I was getting one I decided to get with 8 cores instead of 18, don't really recall what was the rationale behind it, I remember it was the end of the day :))
Here are my specs:
Screenshot 2018-11-09 at 11.48.17 AM.png
Probably on 18 core render would be even faster, but can't complaint, everything is good enough for me :) And my tasks are not so heavily on rendering but rather on concept design and ideation, these days. And in an even of a bigger render task I'll let render farm to do the heavy lifting there - it would be cheaper and on demand :)

Render farm is useful if you use it like constantly :) otherwise - ... mm nuuh :)
Thanks for your kind word :) - I'm actually considering recording a little videos .. like tutorials to help people solve some problems just to show my workflow in case it could help anyone.

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By elkolea
Hi Tim, that is what i wanted to hear about the RAM, i can save a lot of cash on that :D I will keep you updated if interested if and when i will make a purchase

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