Setting up a machine for rendering

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  09 September 2012
Setting up a machine for rendering

I've posted this to the Maya forum as well. I'm researching an article on setting up desktop PCs for rendering / ray-tracing. I've had scant luck getting anything useful out of the software manufacturers, themselves.

Other than buying lots and lots of RAM, does anyone have any tips on setting up a machine for rendering? Windows tweaks? Solid state drives? Etc?

TIA,

mark
 
  09 September 2012
There are multiple things to consider here...

What renderer are you using?
Do you plan on doing GPU or CPU rendering?
Will you be building multiple machines and be doing distributed rendering?
What is your approx budget?

SSD will only help you in loading your scene, no rendering improvements.

RAM needs to be based on scene size, rendering resolutions, texture sizes and number of textures, and other factors. Running out of RAM is a huge performance hit and it is relatively cheap so you need to determine your needs. For my needs I've done fine with 24GB.

There are a lot of windows services you can kill too for tweaking your system.
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  09 September 2012
Originally Posted by KellyM:
There are a lot of windows services you can kill too for tweaking your system.


Hi Kelly, Can you tell about this? What windows services would be good to kill to tweak the system for 3ds max performance?
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  09 September 2012
Take a look to this article, it may be useful,
http://www.tweakhound.com/windows7/tweaking/8.html
 
  09 September 2012
Obviously the more cores the better, but also if you have any spares you can put together a few barebones systems and set up a small farm.
 
  09 September 2012
Kelly, thanks for the information. My problem is that the editors want something of a 'generic' article, so I can't answer your questions in any meaningful way. What I will try to do is include sections on, say, GPU rendering.

If there are notable, specific differences in how you should set up a machine for Renderer A as opposed to Renderer B, I'd love to hear them.
 
  09 September 2012
Originally Posted by mclarkson: Kelly, thanks for the information. My problem is that the editors want something of a 'generic' article, so I can't answer your questions in any meaningful way. What I will try to do is include sections on, say, GPU rendering.

If there are notable, specific differences in how you should set up a machine for Renderer A as opposed to Renderer B, I'd love to hear them.

Well, take Mental Ray(MR) and iRay. For MR the two keys are CPU(s) and system memory. The faster the core and the more cores there are the faster it will render as long as you dont run out of memory. Add to it two additional matching machines (they don't have to match exact CPUs or memory this is just an example) and using Distributed Bucket Rendering (DBR - This allows "buckets" of data to be sent across a network to other CPUs to render them then returns the results to the machine) to render in parallel as one big system and it can be really fast.

On iRay the most important is the GPU(s) and the amount of video memory *each* GPU has. Nothing else matters enough to make any noticeable impact. It is actually faster (but not by a big factor) to disable the CPU(s) and only use the GPU(s). iRay requires the entire scene to fit into the memory of each card. So 4 x 1GB cards will only give you the ability to render a scene that needs less than 1GB, not 4GB. iRay also does not support DBR like MR. iRay will use as many GPUs as you have though. Via a CUBIX GPU Xpander I have 7 GPUs in my main workstation for rendering: 3 Quadro 5000s, 3 Tesla 2050s, and 1 Tesla 2075.

This generally applies to other CPU & GPU renders as far as cores and memory but some GPU renders might have the ability to share video memory. There or various supported features across CPU & GPU rendering too.

There is also debate about consumer verses workstation cards such as Nvidia Quadro and Nvidia GeForce but that is a whole different discussion. I use Quadro primarily and some GeForce. I have never had a Quadro fail but have burned up GeForce cards with iRay.

Any other questions just let me know.
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Twitter: @Kelly_Michels
kelly.michels@autodesk.com
3ds Max Senior QA / 3ds Max Beta Manager
M&E Division Beta Administrator
Autodesk, Inc
 
  09 September 2012
Kelly,

Thanks for your reply. What I'm basically hearing is that there's no generic set of rules for preparing a desktop for rendering. It depends a lot on what rendering software / hardware / network you will be using.

Is that correct?
 
  09 September 2012
It is more purpose driven for most professionals. Knowing your needs will determine what you use. The two basic paths though are CPU or GPU rendering. 3ds Max supports both, as does V-ray, Final Render (GPU support was announced at SIGGRAPH last month), and others.

Part of the determining factor also includes any plugins you might be needing as not all plugins support all renderers. Even how you use materials can be a factor for some.

CPU main points are core speed, numbers of cores, and system memory. GPU main points are GPU core speed, GPU cores (more does not always mean faster here as core speeds and voltage play a factor), and GPU memory. In both cases generally the more core speed, more cores, and memory the better. It then comes down to what your budget allows for.

The only network factor is will you be using multiple machines for distributed rendering and/or network rendering. If yes then you need a network. Pretty much the only one used now days is TCP/IP running IPv4 or IPv6.
__________________
Twitter: @Kelly_Michels
kelly.michels@autodesk.com
3ds Max Senior QA / 3ds Max Beta Manager
M&E Division Beta Administrator
Autodesk, Inc
 
  09 September 2012
Originally Posted by KellyM:
On iRay the most important is the GPU(s) and the amount of video memory *each* GPU has. Nothing else matters enough to make any noticeable impact. It is actually faster (but not by a big factor) to disable the CPU(s) and only use the GPU(s). iRay requires the entire scene to fit into the memory of each card. So 4 x 1GB cards will only give you the ability to render a scene that needs less than 1GB, not 4GB. iRay also does not support DBR like MR. iRay will use as many GPUs as you have though. Via a CUBIX GPU Xpander I have 7 GPUs in my main workstation for rendering: 3 Quadro 5000s, 3 Tesla 2050s, and 1 Tesla 2075.


So, Iray will combine the power(cores) of multiple cards but not the total GPU memory? This is a bit confusing.
 
  09 September 2012
Originally Posted by KellyM: RAM needs to be based on scene size, rendering resolutions, texture sizes and number of textures, and other factors. Running out of RAM is a huge performance hit and it is relatively cheap so you need to determine your needs. For my needs I've done fine with 24GB


I guess this is where rendering down in passes of what is necessary per pass, and compositing later becomes much more valuable too, even if you technically don't need to. If you can get memory consumption down per scene/pass chunk then you might boost render speed a great deal.


For my desktop machine I went with raid0 ssd... just two of them. I think if you could stretch to 3x64gig in raid0 on a very good controller you would have ~ 200gig of 'slow ram'

Has anyone else benchmark or tested these configs vs ram?


My main concern as always was those last steps in ram stick price ramp up quite sharply, and often they are lower performance too, wheras it's the other way around with the small fast ssd's on raid, the smaller they are the cheaper they are.
Obviously MTBF goes up but if it's just swap file/scratch files who cares?!


Cheers

Dave
 
  09 September 2012
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