[Beowulf] 3DCG rendering on Beowulfs

steve_heaton at iinet.net.au steve_heaton at iinet.net.au
Thu Aug 18 18:25:09 PDT 2005

G'day all

There seems to be a few questions popping up on this list about using Beowulfs
to render 3D computer graphics frames. This is a topic I know a little about
from an animation perspective <boom boom> so I humbly submit a few comments.

As RGB has mentioned previously, there are truly distributed render engines such
as POV. The engines pixelate/subdivide an individal frame and give each node
their own little piece to chew on. The results are then recombined by the head
node and saved as a single frame.

With all due respect to the authors of POV it's a great idea but by 3DCG
industry standards (MentalRay, RenderMan or even the OTS engines in 3DStudio/Max
or Maya), the resulting images are "poor". I recommend you sniff around the
respective Web sites if you think this is unfair :)

Most of the "render farms" work on a simple scheduling basis. You want to
animate 1000 frames? Give 100 nodes 10 frames each. Simple flavours are availble
from the usual sources like HighEnd3D.com. Of course this is where the licensing
gets interesting too. 3DS/Max can be kicked up in "render node" mode. At the big
end of town... well... talk to your nearest distributor and have your corporate
credit card details standing by ;) This type of environment obviously isn't a
Beowulf application.

If you really want a top class, truely distributed render engines then always
spend a bit of time Googling. There are some talented individuals working on
these things all the time. However, it seems that they rarely make it into
production, battle-hardened versions. Remember to check out the SigGraph and
similar research papers (eg. IEEE) too. You never know :) 

Oh, one final point... like most other such topics there's also some complete
garbage on the Net too. First step, as always, is knowing what you want to
achieve. Then focus on that  :)


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