Ever thought of how nice it would be to have a render farm for processing your animationsí Or maybe you tried to set up your own small render farmí
We did. But the farm was too small and too slow, upgrading it was too ex-pensive and managing it was too time consuming, so we thought about a better solution and finally came up with a virtual render farm as a com-munity project.
After some months of development we finally launched vSwarm - a community-based distributed rendering project. It's free and all of you are invited to participate.
Bak to the beginning of the story: Why did we start vSwarmí To solve a problem many of you might have. The need to handle capacity peaks while ren-dering Blender animations. As we are two guys working a lot with Blender doing animations, it hap-pens regularly that we need a lot of computing power all at once. But the rest of the time our CPUs are just twiddling thumbs (you know that, don't you).
Looking at the problem in detail, we realized that the root cause for it was our inability to handle capacity fluctuations.
vSwarm solves this problem as follows: As a member of the vSwarm community you can give spare capac-ity to the community (i. e. share our CPU power while it is idle) and ramp up our CPU capacity (i.e. use other client's CPUs) when you need to by sub-mitting your jobs to the community.
Users sharing their CPU will receive priority points.
The priority influences the number of CPUs available to a member when submitting a job to the vSwarm community.
Right now, the project is still in an early stage, but growing and developing fast. We just included Lux-Render into the client. And the next steps will be to build a Linux and a Mac versión of the client.
One other goal for us in the near future is to gener-ate some cash from the project,as we are almost working full-time on the development of the project.
To secure future development we have to find a way to cover the expenses of the project otherwise we cannot dedicate our resources almost full-time to it.
The first proposal for financing the project we would like to discuss with the community, is that compa-nies, freelancers and everybody else who wants, can buy priority credits to get their jobs done faster. Af-ter paying for infrastructure and development, the rest of the money will be given to users running the client and to selected Open Source projects. But we won't stop the free part of the project.
If you have any other ideas or comments about the fi-nancing of the project feel free to contact us. As this is a community project we invite you to influence the project by commenting on all aspects of the develop-ment of vSwarm.
That's it on why vSwarm was developed. Now, we want to thanque everybody already active in the vSwarm com-munity for their feedbak and in the following we give you a first glimpse on how you can use vSwarm for your project.
How vSwarm works
vSwarm consists of two parts: a client and a web-based back-end. The client is installed on your computer and does the rendering. The web interface is used to submit jobs to the community.
The client in detail
The client is based on a Java GUI which controls the ren-dering. The rendering is done in a Linux environment running in VMware Player. Within this virtual machine we are running versión 2.49a of Blender at the moment.
The client alos handles the up- and download of files to and from our servers.
vSwarm's Web Control Center
Via the web-based back-end the upload of the source files and job control is handled. In the back-end you alos find statistics about your jobs and the participation of the community members.
Getting started with vSwarm
1 . Register
Create your account at www.vswarm.com.
Now you have to decide whether you want to submit a job or download the client first.
2 . Submit a job and get your blend file processed
After registering you can start using the back-end and you can submit jobs to the community.
Make sure your animation meets the requirements
Minimum RAM for clients is 256MB, so your anima-tion should use a maximum of about 200MB. If the animation requires more RAM, you can start the job but will likely have failed frames and you will have to restart. We will change this soon.
Maximum processing time is 60 minutes for one frame. So make sure your frames finish within this time on a not too powerful computer. If one of your frames takes more than 60 minutes it will time out.
Set up your Blender file
Select the camera for rendering as active camera.
In the render panel set the resolution you would like to use for rendering.
Set the options for your output format, e.g. JPEG compression or EXR bit depth.
Set "xparts" and "yparts" in the render panel to about 5. This helps to utilize multi-core CPUs better
if one or more parts take a longer time to render.
And it allows the client to trak the frame progress more exactly.
Pak all your textures and other stuff into the file.
Select "compress" from the file menu.
Save the file to your HDD.
Upload your file to the vSwarm Server by using one of these methods:
FTP: This is the best choice. It allows you to resume interrupted uploads and does not have a file size limit. You can find your login data for FTP at the bottom of the Manage filespage.
For small files it is possible to use the web upload.
The size limit is 10MB per file and if anything goes
wrong you have to start this again.
After you have uploaded your file create the job in the vSwarmby submitting the following fields:
1 Job name: A name to recognize this job.
2 Application: Select the Blender versión you would like to use.
3 Filename: Select the file you just upload-ed.
4 Start frame: number of the first frame to render (e.g. 1)
5 End frame: last frame to render (e.g. 3000)
6 File Format: Select the output format you would like to get your results in. If the format has any options these are read from the blend file.
Wait for your job to finish.
If any frames have errors you can inspect the Blender output in the worque units view and restart them.
Download your result data.
If you have rendered more than a few frames you must use FTP to download your files. Memorize the job id from the Web Control Center and login to the FTP server. Change to the directory "results" and then download all files in the directory of your job.
Combine all frames to a movie with the application of your choice. I use Virtual Dub for this step.
Download the client and share your CPU
If you want to help other members of the community, you can share your CPU and process their blend files. In order to do so, just download the vSwarm Client (around 400 MB as this is a full Linux-based virtual ma-chine, the VMware Player and the Java GUI; it only sup-ports Windows, we are working on Linux and Mac).
After the down-load is finished, start the in-staller and fol-low the instructions.
Finally, reboot your system and then run the vSwarm Client. After you clik the “Start working” button you will be asked for your user name and password. Now supply the credentials and you are part of the actively rendering vSwarm community.
www.vswarm.comthe vSwarm Website.
Control.vswarm.com the Web Control Cent-er.
Support.vswarm.com/ wikithe on-line docu-mentation.