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squidsquidsquid
03-28-2003, 10:35 AM
I'm producing Lightwave animations with renders that take one to two hours per frame (needless to say, the work has become quite detailed). For the moment we only have two dual 1GHZ G4's to do this lengthy rendering. I've looked into outside rendering facilities, and found the pricing to be unreasonable for this project.

I'm now looking to create a small network, do you know which is a better solution for rendering such large and time-consuming projects: Mac or PC renderfarms? I'm focused mainly on a cost vs. performance comparison. Would we be more likely to get speedier results with a pc or Mac-based renderfarm? Spending approximately $6000, would a network of three Pentium 4-based machines offer a significant speed/cost advantage over two Macintosh XServes? Have Newtek or Lightwave users found one platform or the other to have a significant advantage? I see posts here indicating that pc's enjoy a fairly great speed advantage, but does that increase justify leaving Apple (for a renderfarm, all projects are still created on a mac)?

Thanks for any replies.

Jayme Perry

mlinde
03-28-2003, 12:02 PM
Although a strong Mac evangelist, for performance/cost, you will be better of getting 3-4 AMD based PCs for a rendering network. I'd love to recommend a cool Mac setup, but if you are at all comfortable and familiar with windows, it will be a better price-performer for a rendering network.

squidsquidsquid
03-28-2003, 12:44 PM
Thanks for the advice.

I agree, I hate to leave the Mac platform, but it looks like it might be necessary in this case.

So, AMD has an advantage over even Intel, let-alone Apple? Is it a price thing or a speed thing, AMD vs. Intel?

Also, do you or anyone else have any idea what the speed advantage is like when comparing PCs and Macs? Is it most likely seconds or decent percentage decreases? I've seen benchmarks, but don't know how to relate those stats to an hour-long render.

Thanks again.

Jayme

mlinde
03-28-2003, 01:10 PM
For both (AMD over Intel & AMD over Mac) the issue is speed AND price. you can get a faster AMD chip for less than an equivalent Pentium or Mac. The real savings is in your ability to build the machines from scratch, where you can shop for the best bargain in each piece of the puzzle. Don't buy pre-configured machines from a Dell or Gateway. If you are buying pre-configured, it's almost worth considering a handful of the low-end PowerMacs. I guess you could get about 3 dual 1.25 Macs for around 6k, which gives you 6 LWSN nodes on top of your existing setup.

As for speed, most of what I've heard is about a 20-30% savings of time per frame rendered, but I haven't done it myself. The biggest thing is that you can build a powerful AMD render node for the cost of a 1x1GHz Mac. If you are serious, drop a message in the PC board for suggestions on where to buy and what to buy.

There is one other option, albeit a little crazy. You could troll eBay or around your local city, and collect recent all-in-one iMacs. Marathon computer makes a 1U rack for the iMac system (you don't keep the monitor) for about $300. If you get your iMacs for $400 or less, and you pile them together, I think you could build a 6 - 8 node render farm. It works especially well if you already have the older iMacs sitting around, or you can get them cheap, and then resell the parts you don't utilize in the rack. This is for the engineer-Mac lover though...

squidsquidsquid
03-28-2003, 01:50 PM
Thanks for the advice. Those were exactly the answers I was looking for.

Do AMD and Intel processors compare GHz to GHz? ie 1GHz AMD=1GHz Intel, etc?

cremegg
03-28-2003, 02:08 PM
I didn't think AMD chips where that fast for LW rendering as they lack specific vector processing optimization. I'd have thought even in a price/performance analysis 2.4Ghz Pentium 4s would be better IMHO.

Johnny
03-28-2003, 02:55 PM
Does he need to buy additional licences for each PC in the render farm??

J

cremegg
03-28-2003, 03:12 PM
Nope, ScreamerNet doesn't require a license to run :D

Johnny
03-28-2003, 03:14 PM
wow...that opens a whole world to me!
I can put that ibook to use during big renders!

woo-hoo!

J

wapangy
03-28-2003, 04:55 PM
Be aware that screamernet does not work with Macs and PC at the same time unless you use Screamer Net Contoller from http://www.catalystproductions.cc/screamernet/index.html

Also check out the new xServe cluster nodes. They would be nice, but probably still not as good of a deal as PC's.

LW_Will
03-28-2003, 06:36 PM
I think you would need a dual dongle for the licence of ScreemerNet for the PC as opposed to the one you have for the Mac, first off. (You only get the unlimited licence for the machine you own...) I THINK that you can upgrade for around $30... quite reasonable...

Now, on to processors... I have AMD based machines. I like AMD... but I'd like to recommend the Pentium 4. The increase in render speeds using the MMX and whatever is in the Pent 4 are increadable. You can't really buy an AMD chip with more speed than you can get out of a Pent 4 with the enhancements.

Now... you don't need fancy graphics or anything much beyond a gig (or half) or ram and a hard drive for each. You could get a very cheap system build for around $900-1000... and that would mean you'd have 6 hogs chugging away... or you could build them yourself...

They built overclocked dual Celerons with dual 100T network cards (I think) for the Foundation Imaging render farm... they placed them in something unigue... I remember that they didn't bother with cases... can't remember what tho...

Johnny
03-28-2003, 06:42 PM
Pretty interesting, Will...

Can 6 render machines handle movie-making? Or maybe I ought to ask, what kind of movie-making can 6 machines handle?

I guess this would really depend on the per-frame complexity of the clips..

J

cremegg
03-29-2003, 02:36 AM
Originally posted by LW_Will
I think you would need a dual dongle for the licence of ScreemerNet for the PC as opposed to the one you have for the Mac, first off. (You only get the unlimited licence for the machine you own...) I THINK that you can upgrade for around $30... quite reasonable...

You do not need the DUO to use ScreamerNet. This is the last time I will say this, ScreamerNet does not require any particular platform License to be used. I would think the most you'd need is the PC installation CD. That isn't to say the DUO isn't great value but I wouldn't upgrade till LW 8 IMHO.


Originally posted by LW_Will
Now, on to processors... I have AMD based machines. I like AMD... but I'd like to recommend the Pentium 4. The increase in render speeds using the MMX and whatever is in the Pent 4 are increadable. You can't really buy an AMD chip with more speed than you can get out of a Pent 4 with the enhancements.

MMX Was a chip name and does in no way refere to the internal workings of a Pentium 4. Pentium 4 chips achieve there speeds through there vector processing unit (Motorola are not the only CPU manufacturer to use a Vector processing unit, they just use theres in marketing more), which for whatever reason Newtek has been able to really set to work in rendering, L2 cache and finally the PC's Quad-pumped 100/133Mhz FSB (400/533Mhz) which ensures that its long CPU pipes are continually having data fed to them from RAM.

Lynx3d
03-29-2003, 07:12 AM
MMX Was a chip name and does in no way refere to the internal workings of a Pentium 4. Pentium 4 chips achieve there speeds through there vector processing unit (Motorola are not the only CPU manufacturer to use a Vector processing unit, they just use theres in marketing more)

MMX stands for Multi-Media eXtensions and was Intel's first attempt at SIMD instructions (or vector unit if you want to call it like that)
What LW uses is SSE2, the third incarnation of SIMD instructions on Pentium chips.

Anyway, about AMD vs. Intel i also think ~2,4GHz P4s would make a slightly better price/performance ratio.
The faster the CPUs the smaller the price gap between AMD and Intel, but at some point the CPUs get so expensive you could almost buy two lowend systems instead of one with a fast CPU...

But possibly dual Xeons (~2,4GHz too) could make a good price/performance ratio too, you need things like HD, RAM, case etc. only once for two cpu's, and some i7505 boards became quite affordable and don't need anything fancy like a special PSU anymore...

I guess that means heavy math to find the best solution :D

cremegg
03-29-2003, 08:06 AM
Originally posted by Lynx3d
MMX stands for Multi-Media eXtensions

Matrix Math eXtensions actually ;) but as I understood it Intel never confirmed the buzz word 'MMX' as meaning anything. It was the addition of 57 Instruction sets to x86 and as you said it was Intels first _attempt_ at using SIMD (Sorry I like Vector Processing, L00vely phrase ;)). But still what the P4 uses is SSE2.

I've not seen any prices for Xeon CPU's. As ScreamerNet can only utilise 1 CPU I'd be inclined to stick with Single P4 CPU systems. I _believe_ the P4 offers slightly better performance/price in a single CPU configuration and the 2.4Ghz is the best price/performance chip in the P4 Range at present. Although you may be able to stretch to the 2.8Ghz.

One thing which hasn't been mentioned is space. XServe will obviously take up much less space and you obviously have to pay for this compact architecture. Similarly you'd have to pay for PC architecture like that.

Also theres the 'technical' side of things. I believe mlinde touched on that. Can you handle the Hardware and Software maintenance of a PC?

:cool:

kite
03-29-2003, 08:26 AM
I have been looking in to this some too, but in smaller scale (just one "render-pc").
And after some helpful tips from around the net, I too think the P4 2.4Ghz has the best price/performance ratio.

Thing is though, some say there is great chance of extra work when sending scenes to windows from mac for rendering...bugs or just incompatible files.

Macs has better secondhand value too, might be nice when the new machines comes this summer (I hope).

:)

Ade
03-29-2003, 09:12 AM
Overlooked mac pro rendering farm advantages:
Far far quieter than pc's
Far Far cooler temperatures
Macs can be opened while on
Less wires and cables
Macs can read pc files
Firewire
Superior networking


noise and heat are big issues for me.

wapangy
03-29-2003, 09:23 AM
Originally posted by kite

Thing is though, some say there is great chance of extra work when sending scenes to windows from mac for rendering...bugs or just incompatible files.


The Screamer Net Controller I spoke of earlier can control one node for free, it works really well. Thats what I have, I work on a G4 400, and I have an athlon 1.33 for rendering.

wapangy
03-29-2003, 09:25 AM
Originally posted by Ade
noise and heat are big issues for me.

Yeah, me too. I hardly ever turn my rendering PC on because it's so loud. (beware, xServes are also loud)

squidsquidsquid
03-29-2003, 06:42 PM
What role does RAM play while Screamernet rendering, with Macs or PCs? I assume more is better, but is there a limit as to how much it can actually help rendering times? Or, is rendering almost entirely relegated to the processor?

Also, there doesn't seem to be a consensus on whether there are compatibility issues between a Mac an PCs when using Screamernet. I thought Lightwave's manual said this was possible, and even that a PC version of LWSN was included on the install cd or else could be downloaded. Maybe I'm not remembering this right.

I think this entire thread has been extremely informative. Thanks for the info.

Ade
03-29-2003, 09:56 PM
Screamernet imho needs alot of refining.
Its too outdated in its interface and conectivity.
Things like being able to actually name the cpu would be great too and being able to restart a cpu is needed.

wapangy
03-29-2003, 10:03 PM
You always want lots of RAM, I'm not sure about how much it effects speed, but I know higher resolution renders need a lot more.

I'd go with at least half a gig to a gig of RAM for a render node. My main machine has 2 gigs.

One reason Macs and PC do not normally work well with each other on screamer net is because the paths on each machine are different and screamer net dosen't know what to do. For example window uses \ and Mac OS X uses /, and the Mac version of lightwave still uses the old Mac way of :
(i think this is right)

Screamer Net Controller for OS X can deal with this. I hope NewTek does something about it sometime. The Linux version also has problems.

cremegg
03-30-2003, 03:00 AM
Your making this far more complicated than it ought to be folks. Why not just use a PC controller? I assumed that you would no longer be using your macs for rendering?

With regards to RAM it does affect Rendering times as data needs to be requested and sent from RAM to the CPU. However all this is decided for you in modern architecture. All you need to do is decide how much (I would recommend 1GB minimum per node), the price you want to pay and the CAS Latency (Slower CL=3 or Faster CL=2). I can't actually say CL=2 will provide better performance and you may not be able to find it as an option in the Physical RAM you choose to buy.

squidsquidsquid
03-30-2003, 10:21 AM
The reason I didn't plan on using a PC as the controller is that we only have a copy of Lightwave for the Mac. Also, for the project I'm working on, every available cpu would be used, including the Macs, so with one copy of Lightwave, at some point the machines would have to communicate. I can see where the PC controller idea would solve the compatibility issue, though. It looks like Screamernet controller might be needed.

As far as RAM, maxing out a new machine with 4GB wouldn't really help all that much? One or two GB would do just fine without jeopardizing speed?

Koen
03-31-2003, 01:42 AM
Originally posted by Johnny
Pretty interesting, Will...

Can 6 render machines handle movie-making? Or maybe I ought to ask, what kind of movie-making can 6 machines handle?

I guess this would really depend on the per-frame complexity of the clips..

J

Well, actually you can't make a QT movie using network rendering. So I suggest you make pic sequences using TGA, PICT or whatever.

Koen

Julian Johnson
03-31-2003, 04:05 AM
squidsquidsquid - a machine with 500Mb of RAM should render a Lightwave scene that only requires 80Mb of RAM as fast as a machine with 4Gigs of RAM (assuming the RAM is of equal speed). The point at which RAM becomes a significant factor in performance is when your scene starts to require more physical RAM than you have available. At that point, you start paging virtual memory very heavily which results in a fairly dramatic slowdown in rendering speed.

Julian

Lynx3d
03-31-2003, 05:27 AM
Exactly...
well if the scene doesn't fit in RAM you can outperform every renderfarm with a single PC that has enough RAM :D

At least rendertimes always went up multiple times for me as soon as something like a shadowmap etc. required more RAM than available.