Sunday, January 17, 2010

Free Blender Render Farms

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One of the most significant challenges for Blender users is that, when scenes become complex, with meshes containing many thousands, or even millions, of polygons, complicated physics, many texture and material channels, many render layer passes, all of which are animated, render times on even a powerful PC can become unacceptably high. These can stretch into even days or weeks. You might think that you would need a Pixar-size budget to get acceptable render times. In fact, it's possible to significantly reduce render times, I mean by factors of 10 or 100, for free. The answer is to use one of the free render farm options available. I believe that Blender, combined with using one of these render farm options, can help you to approach Pixar-like, or Avatar-like, quality videos with a fraction of Pixar's budget, or even with no budget at all. That's why I call Blender "Pixar on your laptop". I hope Pixar doesn't sue me for this slogan. My goal for this video is to show you how to either create your own render farm if you have some spare PCs hanging around, and you have a wireless Internet connection, or how you can use one of the free, open source, to grab the computer power you need.

First, here's a quick and dirty way to create a render farm with some spare PCs that you have networked. The only real requirement is that you have enabled file sharing on, say, a Public folder in your network. I don't know what operating system - Windows XP, Vista, System 7, Linux, Mac OS X, whatever - that you're working on, but I'll assume that you have some way to share files. Once you've done that, create the Blend file that you want to render. Press the Scene button (F10) and in the Output directory, enter the name of the shared folder (I entered /IRA-PC/Public just as an example). Then press the Touch and the No Overwrite buttons. What this does is allow any temporary files to stay around. Save the file. Then copy the Blend file to the Public folder, making sure the file is shareable. The last step is to go to each PC on your network, open up the blend file, and press the ANIM button. Each computer will then start up at the next unrendered frame, thus sharing the rendering load. Try it. Tell us your results by going to my blog for these tutorials, at, and adding a comment.

OK, now suppose you don't have spare PCs available and want to speed up your renders like the big guys. No problem. There are a number of free, open source, render options available. I'll show you two of them. The most commonly used one is FarmerJoe, which you can download at (Make sure you use the .info suffix.) I haven't installed it, but I did download the zip file. The install appears to be simple enough. Unzip the file, in Windows, run the exe file, and then run the Python script to schedule jobs. There's a Web app server to check the status of your job. Again, try it and tell us your results by adding a comment to my blog at I'll post the full URL of the blog page on the Youtube notes to this video.

Another possibility is the University of California, Berkeley's BOINC project, which uses the spare computer cycles of PCs around the world, available for anyone to share. You can join the network, at and trade your idle CPU cycles with other PCs. There's plenty of idle computer time to go around. Why not make use of it?

Maybe you have other ideas? If so, please share them by commenting, either on my blog at, or leave a comment on this video. If you liked this, remember to hit the Youtube Subcribe button so you won't miss any of my future Blender tutorials. Happy Blendering!