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Old 02-14-2010, 04:03 PM   #1
eyedrinkvenom
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Setting up Linux servers for rendering


(hopefully this is the right place to post this.)

I do a lot of 2D/3D work, 95% on Mac, 5% on Windows, and I have been battling with the idea of setting up a render farm for some time, particularly one that is running Linux. My main concerns are:

1) I've never used Linux
2) I need to render multiple kinds of files from various apps
3) I've never built a computer from parts before


The main software I use that I would want distributed rendering for are:

1) Maya (Mental Ray)
2) Maya (Renderman)
3) Adobe After Effects (secondary)
4) Shake/Nuke (secondary)


From what I could find, After Effects will not render on Linux, so maybe setting up some system that was dual boot would be good so I could run windows or OS X when I was doing AE rendering unless there is some way to get modern versions of AE to render on Linux. Shake was discontinued but I still use it occasionally and am transitioning over to Nuke now, which I'm not sure if it runs on Linux. From the research I have done, the most efficient approach to this is to have a bladed server to reduce space, power consumption and heat, and maximize power.


As far as hardware goes, I am clueless. I priced out Apple Xserves and BOXX render systems and they are way too expensive, BOXX more so than Apple, so building a Linux machine seems more economical. I read a few sketchy articles where people discussed building a linux system from scratch can you save you heaps of money and get much more power for your buck, but none of them were detailed or gave proper tutorials on how to do so. Being for rendering, I would want to cram as many processors and as much RAM as I could afford into it. Right now my most complex 3D scenes need 32GB of RAM to render. I would want all of them securely networked and most likely disconnected from the internet, yet networked to my workstation so I could deploy renders easily.

I would like to start off keeping the costs between $5,000 - $10,000. It would be nice to have a master machine doubling as a file server, and hopefully I could use a Mac for that but am not opposed to linux being the file server. I have a a floor standing rack for music gear that I'm not using so I could use that to hold the servers if they would fit. I should say that I'm not opposed to using turnkey systems, but it would depend how much I can get that way as opposed to building the machines from parts.

So maybe some of you Linux gurus could lend your advice as to how to approach this? Any advice and links would be much appreciated.

Thanks

EDV
 
Old 02-14-2010, 06:47 PM   #2
chrism01
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Well Linux is very popular in the commercial world for rendering
Quote:
All the big film studios primarily use Linux for animation and visual effects. Perhaps no commercial Linux installation is larger than DreamWorks Animation, with more than 1,000 Linux desktops and more than 3,000 server CPUs.
http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/9653
I'm sure I remember hearing the Lord of the Rings trilogy was done on Linux.
I guess a little research of those companies might help. Maybe you can find out what they use from google.
 
Old 02-14-2010, 07:20 PM   #3
eyedrinkvenom
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrism01 View Post
Well Linux is very popular in the commercial world for rendering

http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/9653
I'm sure I remember hearing the Lord of the Rings trilogy was done on Linux.
I guess a little research of those companies might help. Maybe you can find out what they use from google.
I know they do. I have many friends who work at those companies. They use a Linux farm for South Park. Even Pixar uses Linux for rendering.

Those companies have IT departments and may even have custom Linux builds. I'm more interested in how I could set something up. I can't afford a thousand node render farm

I'll check out the link though.

Thanks
 
Old 02-14-2010, 07:39 PM   #4
chrism01
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Well, your mates would be the best source of info I'd think, given they work there.
Those companies prob get rid of machines on a regular basis, its worth it to them to keep all systems up to reasonable stds so they don't bottleneck on one slow system.
 
Old 02-14-2010, 10:36 PM   #5
eyedrinkvenom
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My friends are artists. They don't even see the machines and they definitely don't build them. I've already asked.
 
Old 02-14-2010, 10:42 PM   #6
Quakeboy02
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Have you done a websearch for "Linux Render Farm"? This looks promising:

http://www.extremetech.com/article2/...1847365,00.asp
 
Old 02-14-2010, 11:09 PM   #7
eyedrinkvenom
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Yes I have done many searches. The Frankenstein method of wiring your old crap together won't work anymore for the stuff I do. When you use modern renderers, most of them do not support old hardware. I spoke to Pixar recently and they verified that their new version of Renderman Studio and Pro Server will not work on older machines. So even if I used the 5 Macs I have here (the oldest is about 10 years old), Renderman would not work on them because it won't run on PowerPC Macs. It also won't work on older machines of any kind that don't meet a specific processor spec.

Now, If I can install Linux on those old Macs I have, it may very well work, but I'm working on very complex 3D scenes. Half of the work I do requires more than 4GB of RAM to render a single frame, so I have to boot into 64-bit windows on my Mac to render (Maya is only 32-bit on the Mac). Some of my older machines can't even hold that much RAM. Keep in mind these are optimized maya scenes, but I'm working at HD res or 2k or 4k film res, my textures, displacements and normal maps are 4k or 8k (that's thousand of pixels width and height) so older machines can't handle that. One of the scenes I'm working on now, just one model has 4GB of texture maps applied to it.

You can force mental ray to use different ways to break up your scene (BSP, LArge BSP and BSP2) but with all that disk swapping it would take forever to render something because it's much slower than having things stored in RAM.

Is there anything on this forum that deals with building a new bladed server because that's what I think I need as well as a master machine. I am going to ask Pixar about running linux on older macs and I would like to know if any of you have installed Linux on PowerPC G5 and G4 machines and which Linux builds will work on it.

Thanks
 
  


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