V-Ray Distributed Rendering and Backburner

Part 1: Network and User Setup | Part 2: V-Ray Installation | Part 3: Distributed Rendering | Part 4: Backburner

Hi everyone and welcome to this tutorial that explains how and why to setup V-Ray's DR (Distributed Rendering). You will also learn about Autodesk's Backburner network rendering system that ships with 3ds Max. We will start with the initial "IT preparation" such as network setup and V-Ray installation before we get into the actual V-Ray cool stuff. This might seem tedious to more experienced users, but worth while especially for new people that like diving straight into the deep end. Some parts may be explained in too much detail, but again very relevant seeing as this is a topic coming up very frequently on the Chaos Group V-Ray forum. As with many things in IT, there are various different ways of getting the same results. This tutorial is aimed at beginners on the V-Ray side and explains one way to setup DR and Network Rendering.

That being said this tutorial also covers some non-V-Ray technical IT issues which should only be attempted if you are comfortable fiddling with your computer and network settings. In no event will Morné or his company be liable to any party for any direct or indirect damages for any use of this tutorial including, without limitation, any lost profits, business interruption, lost data on your information handling system or otherwise, even if he is expressly advised of the possibility of such damages.

Note: Computer and User names used in this tutorial are example names. You will most likely want to substitute these names with the appropriate equivalents on your own network.

Part 1 - Network and user setup

For the sake of simplicity, we'll assume you're running your own small studio and some extra computers for rendering. The principles can also be applied to larger networks with many more users and many more render slaves. You can use any additional computers in the office to help you render without having to worry about extra software licenses for 3ds Max or for V-Ray with 1 minor exception. When using V-Ray's DR system, you can DR render using 10 computers simultaneously for each V-Ray license you own. When rendering with Backburner, this limitation falls away. For both options, it doesn't matter how many processors or cores you have in your system, as V-Ray is not concerned about this for licensing.

OK so let us start. Let's say you have 10 computers running any combination of the Operating Systems Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 (doesn't matter if it is 32-bit or 64-bit). Try and stick to 64-bit of the same OS on all computers just to make things simpler to manage. Your computers will probably be networked in one of the following ways described in Image 1 below:

Image 1: Network configurations.

In Option A and Option B the router will dynamically give IP addresses to each computer in the network. In Option C your computer will assign the IP addresses. Dynamic IP assignment or DHCP in a nutshell means that the hardware assigning the IP address has a list of private IP addresses that it will assign to each computer whenever it connects. For this reason each computer might get a different IP address each time you restart it, which is perfectly fine by the way. Any option will work and each has its own security issues, but I'd say Option B is the better option for this small 10 computer network. For larger networks Option C might be better as you can set the 1st computer to act purely as an additional firewall for added security.

Make sure you are an administrator of the computer you are using. Do this by clicking "Start" > then right-click on "Computer" ("My Computer" if you are on XP) then "Manage".

Image 2: Right click "computer" and select "Manage"

If you're running Vista or Windows7 and you have "User Account Control" enabled, you will get a message asking your permission to continue. Most advanced users I know just disables "User Account Control" in Control Panel, but then they have a reliable 3rd party Firewall and Antivirus installed and they are aware of the risks. For the remainder of this tutorial we will assume you have "User Account Control" switched off.

In the "Computer Management" window in the left pane double click "Local Users and Groups" to expand it and then click on "Users" in the left pane. Depending on the software installed on your computer and amount of users of that computer, you may see more users than that of the screenshot below.

Image 3: Computer Management.

In the right pane, double click on your username ("MainDude" is my username for this tutorial). On top you will see 3 tabs and you should click on the one labelled "Member Of". If you do not see "Administrators" in this list, it means you are not an administrator of the computer, which is an essential part of this tutorial. Speak to the person that initially installed and configured your Operating System as they will know the necessary password etc to make you an administrator if you are not already one.

Image 4: User Properties

For Distributed Rendering and also for file sharing purposes, it is essential to sort out users and permissions in the beginning to eliminate headaches later. For installing any software it is always a good idea to do it as an administrator.

You need to choose which computer will act as your fileserver. It can be any of the computers in your network, but for this tutorial we'll assume your main computer will also act as your fileserver. This simply means all your work, textures and other scene assets will be shared on your internal network. Now you need to create a user for your render slaves on your main computer so the slaves can access your files. One user is enough and you don't need to create separate users for each slave. Go to "Users" in "Local Users and Groups" we discussed earlier and create a new user by right-clicking in an empty space in the right pane. You can name the user anything you like but in this example it is "SlaveUser". Give it a password and un-tick "User must change password at next logon". You're right there on the password screen so might as well give a password now instead of next time.

Image 5: Creating a new user.

Now also create this "SlaveUser" on all the slave computers and make sure you use the same password you initially used for this user when creating the account on your main computer. Now since our IP addresses are dynamic, we need to check the names of the various computers, so we know what they are called and we can setup DR etc. Start with your main computer. Right-click on "Computer" ("My Computer" if you are on XP) and select "Properties". From here you can give your computer a useful name and also give the workgroup the computer belongs to, a useful name. Let us call our main computer "MainPC1". Also let us call the workgroup "My3DStudio". All the computers should be on the same workgroup for easier management etc, so also make sure to let all the slaves be on the "My3DStudio" workgroup (or any other name you choose). Now rename the slave computers and number them "Slave1", "Slave2", "Slave3" etc. When you're done you should have 1 computer named "MainPC1" and your user account on it is "MainDude", all other computers are named "Slave1", "Slave2" etc and they all have a main user account of "SlaveUser". The slaves and the main computer belong to the workgroup "My3DStudio".

Now we need to share our files on "MainPC1" so that the slaves can access textures and other scene assets. On your main computer make a folder for your work, and a folder for your library of textures etc. Right-click on the folder and click "Share…". You ("MainDude") will already have access to this folder. Click on the drop-down and select "SlaveUser" and click add. Make sure here that "SlaveUser" has full access like you, and NOT JUST read access. "SlaveUser" needs more than just read access, as the slaves also needs to be able to write the images being rendered, and also to write pre-computed GI files etc back to the main computer.

Continue to Part 2 - V-Ray Installation

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Morné is a self-taught 3D artist who started fiddling with 3ds Max in the days of MS-DOS when it was just called 3D Studio. Before "falling" into 3D as a profession, Morné was an IT Manager for 4 years. He has 12 years professional working experience in Max of which the last 5 years is running his own studio in Johannesburg, South Africa.


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