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blazelet
05-09-2008, 09:49 PM
Hey everyone,

I have seen a number of posts on here about render farms, but I had a more specific question.

I am wanting to set up a render farm for a school project. I don't have a ton of money up front, but could put a little here and a little there into a render farm over time. Could someone point me to a bare bones setup that would be good for a render farm? Is it possible to get a bare bones system for a few hundred dollars that would do the job as a network?

Also - what's the importance of the GPU in a render farm?

Thanks for any help

blazelet
05-09-2008, 09:57 PM
This is a render node hardware setup I found - how does it look?

http://bp2.blogger.com/_aHZ4BdnB9lg/Rz7kJm_sllI/AAAAAAAAAFs/6wGmD9Vtim8/s1600-h/node1.jpg

It comes from this blog with more advice :

http://mysteriousdollfilm.blogspot.com/2007/11/if-i-was-building-new-micro-studio.html

blazelet
05-10-2008, 02:39 AM
Ok I have some more specific specs I wanted to get some input on.

Dual Xeon 2.4GHz CPUs
Onboard Gigabit Network
Onboard 8MB Video
1.5GB PC3200 RAM
60GB HDD (IDE - 7200RPM)

As a simple render PC - would this be workable? I would network maybe 10 of these for 3D and After Effects rendering.

I am still getting a grasp of PC hardware as it applies to rendering. Any feedback would be appreciated.

biliousfrog
05-10-2008, 12:09 PM
1.5gb of RAM is nowhere near enough and I expect that single core Xeons are more expensive than the current dual/quad cores. Read through the various posts on this subject and the same thing will crop up, faster is better. There's little point in having several low spec machines when a couple of powerful ones will do the work faster, quieter, cooler and with less energy consumption. If you have some old machines lying around then by all means put them to work but if you're on a tight budget you're probably better off buying a better all round computer or upgrading your current one than spending money on machines that are all ready quite low spec.

aglick
05-10-2008, 07:49 PM
for a school project, you should simply use whatever PCs are available to you -old ones, new ones, whatever.

forget about GPU rendering...you won't like the creative restrictions...

ALso, it cannot be stressed enough -especially to beginning 3D artists: spend some time understanding how to optimize your scene's greometry, lighting and shaders for rendering efficiency.

Simply cranking up the obvious quality settings will probably increase rendering time much more than any increase in noticeable image quality.

Think about lowering the geometry complexity of "far away" objects. Understand that you don't always need to raytrace shadows. There are some tricks to "fake" GI and Occlusion/dirt maps. Increasing reflection/refration bounces should be done conservatively and not just nilly willy...

The point is, there are almost always ways to substantially shorten (or at least not lenghen) render times without affecting your final image quality. Let you systems render "smarter", not harder...

;)

Adam
BOXXlabs

blazelet
05-11-2008, 11:31 PM
Hey Adam!

I'm accepting RenderBOXX donations :wavey:

I totally appreciate your statements about scene optimization. I spent some time studying this with my last project, and cut my render time from 2.5 hours a frame to 15 min. Still took 5 days to render, though :)

Do you know of a source of information that helps to outline some of these optimization techniques a little better? So far I've been learning by trial and error.

Thanks!

Ryan

Srek
05-12-2008, 08:45 AM
These optimisation techniques can vary a lot between applications and renderers.
You might like to seek out an active forum that covers the software you are using and ask there. Chances are such a forum has a stickythread or similar on this exact topic.
Cheers
Björn

aglick
05-12-2008, 02:54 PM
what Björn said... ;)

If you are using mental ray, check here : http://www.lamrug.org/
This is the best mental ray site on the web AFAIC...

Adam
BOXXlabs

blazelet
05-12-2008, 08:13 PM
Ok I have another system spec here - can you tell me what you think?

AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000 (Dual Core 3.0GHz) + Cooling Fan
ECS AM2+ ATX Motherboard, max 8GB RAM, onboard video and Gigabit Ethernet
4GB RAM
ATX Case with Rear and Side 80mm Fans
400W Power Supply
WD 80GB ATA HDD

I can build one of these for about double the PC I listed above. I do have a couple questions.

How does one know what kind of power supply is needed? I figured since the 400W is a mid range power supply, and I don't have a powerful video card, sound card or things such as a CD Drive - that a 400W would be OK. Is that correct?

As far as cooling goes, I do plan on overclocking. Are the two 80mm case fans and the single processor fan going to be good enough for this system? The PCs themselves will be in a room with an avg temp of about 67 degrees.

For my purpose - is there a huge benefit to a SATA hard drive over an IDE?

Thanks, again, for all your input.

elvis
05-17-2008, 10:01 AM
Best bang for your buck at the moment is the Quad Core 2.4GHz Intel chips (non-Xeon). Despite being a slower clockspeed than the 3GHz AMD you mention above, it works out less per MHz/core (which isn't always a good way to compare AMD to Intel, mind you).

For pure render boxes, more cores is what you're after. Cheap, commodity quad-core is the best thing that ever happened to this industry.

aglick
05-18-2008, 03:21 PM
here's a handy link for making quick determinations of relative CPU rendering performance on different processors...

http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/processors/3d-studio-max-9,369.html

blazelet
05-19-2008, 05:39 PM
elvis - Is the 2.4 GHz quad core you are referring to the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600? According to the benchmark page posted by Andy @ BOXXLABS, this processor is a 47 sec render as compared to the fastest which is 22 sec or the slowest which is 317 sec. It ranks 7th overall on render speed, but is 1/4 the price of the next fastest at just $219 ea.

I think I am going to go with these for certain - I'm going to configure and price a system and then post the specs for anyone else interested.

BOXXLABS - thanks for that benchmark page. It has been incredibly helpful.

Ryan

PanzerMKZ
05-20-2008, 02:50 PM
another thing to think about is network. if this is just going to be a real render farm setup then putting only the master and the nodes on a network would help. No traffic from the outside world.


Panzer

blazelet
05-20-2008, 04:01 PM
The specs I am looking at now are :

Win XP 64 Bit
Intel Quad Core 2.4 GHz (Q6600)
Asus PK5-E mobo with onboard gigabit ethernet
8GB DDR2 800MHz RAM (4x2GB)
500W power supply, tool-less case, and fans
Cheapo 64MB vid card (not sure which yet)
100GB SATA drive
Total - $580

I have read that with this processor and mobo combo I can overclock to 3.0GHz Quad core. That combined with a 64 bit system and 8GB RAM should make this a good render machine. The link Andy posted rates this processor as the 7th most powerful listed, rendering the test scene in 44 sec (as opposed to 22 sec for the fastest $1500 processor).

another thing to think about is network. if this is just going to be a real render farm setup then putting only the master and the nodes on a network would help. No traffic from the outside world.

This is a good thought, I have a spare Linksys router that I plan on using. As I have one master and want to build three of the above slaves, a Linksys should suffice until I expand. Does that sound right? I plan on putting my master upstairs and then running a Cat5 into the basement where the router will live with the three slaves. I just bought a crimper and some cable so I think I'm good to go.

aglick
05-20-2008, 05:23 PM
be sure that your Linksys router is GigE and not 100bT or your rendering and websurfing will slow down a bit...

lots
05-20-2008, 11:41 PM
I guess that depends on how many, how large, and how often frames come into the file server..

blazelet
06-12-2008, 08:37 PM
Alright, I put together my first box last night. For $900, specs as follows:

Q9450 Processor (Quad Core 2.66GHz, 12MB Cache)
Gigabyte Mobo - DDR2 Support, Gigabit Ethernet and HD Sound On Board
4GB DDR2 RAM
500GB SATA Drive
500W Power Supply, Case, 2 Case Fans and a large CPU Fan

My old PC was rendering a frame of an animation I'm working on in about 35 min. I was hoping to get 8 min with this new configuration. I got 4:20 :) Can't wait to see how it is after I overclock.

Thanks for all the advice on here - I'm going to put together 3 more of these which will equal 32 of my old render boxes.

ColdMonkee
06-12-2008, 11:32 PM
For initial bang for the buck I'd go for the Q6600 instead of the 9300 - cheaper, slower fsb (easier to overclock), the less cache doesn't matter for rendering, higher TDP though - so mind it's power consumption over time. Q9300 is a better long term choice if you render a lot since it consumes less power and has higher stock FSB, though it would require pushing the FSB very high to suck out all the extra juice which may cause problems with stability. Gigabyte's cheap-ish (100-120$) P35 mobos would be the best bargain IMO and they have solid capacitors (good for long-term stability). You'll need the not so cheap-ish 150-160$ models to overclock the 9300 though. Memory - 8GB DDR2 800 - anything more is pointless, timings don't matter much, just choose a decent kit. A cheap 160/250gb hdd would be a good choice to keep costs down. A cheap case with a good PSU - Foxconn comes to mind as they use good Fortron PSU's (120mm fan preferred). Better off get a decent case and a separate psu - 400watts is enough for your system - active pfc 80+ model preferable - the power savings will make up for it and stable power = stable system. Video card... anything will do as long as its cheap (cheap! :). I'd recommend you replace the stock fan on the CPU as they tend to suck and add an extra ball bearing fan at the back of the case to ease the work of the PSU fan.

Overclocking - well you'll have a bit of a problem with 8 gigs of ram. it shouldn't be too hard to push to a reasonable clock speed though you may need to lax the memory timings. A decent cooler is a must ($20-25ish). A good PSU is necessary too. One note of caution - don't overdo it - it's better if you rendering takes a little longer then to find the machine crashed in the morning. Also note that overclocking increases the power drain of the CPU far more than the increase in MHz. Over time power consumption should be taken into account as the electricity bills may be considerable if you render a lot.

Hope all this blabbering helped someone,
cheers

imashination
06-13-2008, 01:07 PM
If you have rendertimes of 2.5 hours per frame then that is your problem, not the lack of render power

blazelet
06-13-2008, 03:11 PM
If you have rendertimes of 2.5 hours per frame then that is your problem, not the lack of render power

Yup ... as stated in the next sentence, I got that time down to 15 min\frame through simple scene optimization.

Then that same 15 min scene now renders in 4:10 with my new hardware. And when you look at the original 2.5 hour render and the new one side by side ... not a whole lot of difference.

blazelet
06-13-2008, 03:16 PM
Coldmonkee -

Awesome thoughts!! It does help me understand 'why' I did things the way I did a little bit better. And at this point I have a very basic understanding of overclocking, so thanks for the thoughts on that - it'll help when I finally decide to try it :D

Is anyone aware of a benchmark that compares the 6600 to the 9300 and 9450?

I went with the 9450, but it's not listed on Tom's hardware page in the rendering benchmark - whereas the 6600 is. I was able to get a good mobo for my 9450 for $95 - the processor itself was $100 more than the Q6600 and then I got a big CPU cooling fan for $50.

aglick
06-13-2008, 04:30 PM
http://www.3dfluff.com/mash/cinebench/top.php

**edit** please be careful with Cinebench scores. The same system scores under XP64 are 15-20% better than under XP32 on the same machine.

The "CB-DUAL" score is the one that uses all availabel cores. CB-single is the measurement for single-core performance.

Also, the scores are a good indicator of raytrace rendering capabilities of any system. The scoring is "linear" - menaing that a score of 20,000 means that a system is roughly twice as fast at rendering as a system with a CB-DUAL score of 10,000.

Adam
BOXXlabs

elvis
06-16-2008, 01:27 AM
elvis - Is the 2.4 GHz quad core you are referring to the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600? According to the benchmark page posted by Andy @ BOXXLABS, this processor is a 47 sec render as compared to the fastest which is 22 sec or the slowest which is 317 sec. It ranks 7th overall on render speed, but is 1/4 the price of the next fastest at just $219 ea.

I think I am going to go with these for certain - I'm going to configure and price a system and then post the specs for anyone else interested.
Yes, these are the CPUs we use at Kanuka for our entire renderfarm. Price to performance, they beat anything else at the moment.

blazelet
06-16-2008, 08:38 PM
Here is another direct comparisson of the Q6600 to Q9450

http://techgage.com/article/intel_core_2_quad_q9450_266ghz/6

Seems to me that for the extra $100, the 9450 is well worth it ...

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