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Thread: Network Rendering: Dreamlight Constellation vs. Butterfly (head to head)

  1. #1
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    Network Rendering: Dreamlight Constellation vs. Butterfly (head to head)

    So, I've been using Constellation for a few months now. I've always been looking at the nodes and saying to myself, "wow... there's like 30 seconds there where it's literally not doing anything." The reason? it's just a screamernet interface. But is Butterfly any different?

    Uh... hell yes it is!

    I'm not sure if Butterfly is still using the LWSN.exe file to execute renders, or exactly what's going on under the hood (yet); But I can tell you that there is virtually no delay between frames. I can also tell you that rather than using a text file on the host computer to transfer messages, there is an actual node app that sends messages back and forth every few seconds (including how much memory is being used on the nodes in real time).

    What does this mean?

    On a 7484 frame render (testing some mocap on some sticks parented to each FBX bone) that Butterfly uses ~30s per frame (I also have some fiberFX/bullet mohawk hair to test the mocap to see if the movement is too severe, as well as a human head to test the mocap face). On the same scene, Constellation is about 1:15 per frame.. 30s of which is just screamernet saying, "yep I'm done, waiting". THAT'S A HUGE DIFFERENCE!!!

    Not only that, but if I set up an after effects scene to process the image files into a movie, I can set that in the queue after any LW camera angles, and BLAMO! It processes AEX directly after the LW is done (or Nuke, or whatever you like... Butterfly has a lot of different render types).

    Then there's updates. Constellation hasn't been updated in over a year! Butterfly... much more up to date on their development.

    And finally... there's the setup. With dreamlight, every time you add a new plugin, you'd better remember to add that plugin on every node. With Butterfly, you only update the master computer (it uses the plugins and config files from the master computer). So ease of setup is crazy.

    Final verdict: Not even close. Butterfly kicks buttinsky!

    What do you guys think? Have you used both?
    Last edited by cyclopse; 01-15-2017 at 05:18 PM.

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    Angry Mac User Otterman's Avatar
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    Hum I'm guessing you get what you pay for. I've used one old version of Dreamlight in the past. It was very basic but rock steady not to mention cheap. My understanding it is written by one guy who frequents these forums and has always been very hands on with advice so I think its a solution that smaller companies or individuals should entertain. That said I have no experience with Butterfly although I have heard good things about it. I imagine its a lot more robust but a more expensive render farm management solution than Dreamlights offerings. Me personally, at work we are set up to use Qube. Believe me when I say it is the most complex, flakey and expensive software I have ever used. Avoid!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Otterman View Post
    Hum I'm guessing you get what you pay for. I've used one old version of Dreamlight in the past. It was very basic but rock steady not to mention cheap. My understanding it is written by one guy who frequents these forums and has always been very hands on with advice so I think its a solution that smaller companies or individuals should entertain. That said I have no experience with Butterfly although I have heard good things about it. I imagine its a lot more robust but a more expensive render farm management solution than Dreamlights offerings. Me personally, at work we are set up to use Qube. Believe me when I say it is the most complex, flakey and expensive software I have ever used. Avoid!!
    Yeah... Qube is a turd. We used it on some science visualization stuff for planetariums at a company I was at a while back. Once you get it running... it's great... for one scene. But setup a new scene with different objects and shaders and it goes all crazy.

    Correct... Dreamlight is a bit less than 1/2 the price of Butterfly (for 10 nodes of dreamlight vs 8 nodes of b-fly). But man, (like qube says it can) you can render anything with it... pretty damned easily. I'm gonna shut up now. Starting to sound like I work for them or something...

  4. #4
    Angry Mac User Otterman's Avatar
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    Ha no it's ok. I would of gone the Butterfly route if they had offered a mac solution at the time I chose Qube. Qube was kinda mis sold it to me and it's something I have to live with for the time being. My understanding that Butterfly is now available to us mac users. Is this correct?

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    We've used Butterfly for nearly 15+ years. It's solid, great support by Paul and works everytime. He keeps it up date and we have always been pleased! Glad you found it, hope you can support him and his work.

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    Lava Lamp Technician 3D Kiwi's Avatar
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    It sounds like it is loading your scene after each frame. Butterfly is probably using some kind of task or group setting, see if there is a way to increase or even use tasks in dreamlight

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    Super Duper Member kopperdrake's Avatar
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    I'm afraid I also use Butterfly. I used to use Amleto, but found Butterfly so much easier to set up and keep set up that I haven't gone back to anything else.
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    Spinny Spinland's Avatar
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    I switched to Dreamlight from Smedge because the latter was flakey and prone to irritating dropouts, not to mention more difficult to manage. I've never used Butterfly but in my experience with Dreamlight each node only loads the scene at the start of a job. I like the file flag approach because it's robust and my local network isn't necessarily so.

    Not sure why the OP is seeing such a disparity in render times but maybe Mike will see this thread and comment. In my testing I got render times nearly bang on as fast as I would on each node rendering locally. Not arguing what the OP is seeing, I'm sure that's happening, I just don't understand why.
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    3D Mac Maniac Scazzino's Avatar
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    Hi Guys,

    DreamLight Constellation was primarily developed as a replacement for the built-in network render panel in LightWave 3D for the Mac in small studios where a simple drag-and-drop interface was most useful (actually for my use in my own Mac studio). There were no third-party controllers left that ran on the Mac when I wrote Constellation. It runs full speed on the Mac and you shouldn't see any difference in speed between controllers on the Mac. If you're on Windows however that won't be the case.

    DreamLight Constellation also runs cross-platform on both Mac and Windows and remaps paths on the fly for Mac/Win. However there's a problem we kept running into with Windows nodes running LWSN that would often read a duplicate bogus command from the SMB network cache. In such cases they would report "Ignoring duplicate command" to the terminal but not report anything back to the controller. So there was no easy way to recover from this which meant Windows LWSN nodes would just drop out of the network over time. This also happens when using the built-in Network Render panel. The workaround I used for simplicity on this initial version was to add a 30 second delay between LWSN commands if any Windows nodes are detected in your setup. This 30 second delay got rid of the problem of LWSN reading bogus duplicate commands from the SMB network cache. In future versions I'd expose that setting to the user to tweak or disable this setting. It also may only be needed in mixed Mac/Win networks and if so I can disable it on Win/Win networks in a future version.

    So if you're rendering primarily on Windows and are rendering frames that only take a minute or so then yes, that 30 second delay that Constellation uses will slow down your renders. If you're rendering frames that take long to render then the delay wouldn't be as noticeable. If you're Mac only, there is no delay and it should be the same speed as any other controller. That Windows 30 second delay workaround is noted on the Constellation page but I thought I'd explain it further here for anyone that missed that.

    Thanks,
    -MikeS
    Last edited by Scazzino; 01-18-2017 at 11:43 AM.
    MikeS [LWProfile] 30+ Yrs of Award-winning Media DreamLight.com

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    3D Mac Maniac Scazzino's Avatar
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    Here's the original note on the Constellation page about the delay.

    "[NOTE: If a Windows node gets stuck just reinitialize it and it should resync. There’s currently a 30 second delay when Windows nodes are activated to compensate for the SMB networking cache sending repeat commands to the LWSN nodes.]"

    I've reworded it to be clearer that the delay is between all LWSN commands where the original note could have been misinterpreted as only occuring when first activated.

    [NOTE: There’s currently a 30 second delay between all LWSN commands when any Windows nodes are detected to compensate for a problem where LWSN reads duplicate commands from the SMB networking cache. If a Windows node gets stuck just reinitialize it and it should resync.]

    Hope that's clearer!
    MikeS [LWProfile] 30+ Yrs of Award-winning Media DreamLight.com

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  11. #11
    3D Mac Maniac Scazzino's Avatar
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    One other note about setup. Constellation uses the LW config file to read the plugin directory. The tutorials walk you through setting it up by installing directly on all nodes because that's sometimes the most robust rather than running all the nodes across the network, so that only the job/ack files are read/written over the network (along with the rendered frames of course). Sometimes I've had trouble running too many nodes over the network rather than each running locally on each render node. So that's the way the tutorials are structured. But, you should be able to set it up to run LWSN over the network and read the config files (and thus the plugin directory) over the network as well. Just like the built-in network controller. It should basically run just like the built-in controller but allow drag-and-drop configuration, scene queue reordering, Mac/Win path remapping, individual scene/node starting/pausing, etc.

    So for a small Mac studio I'd recommend Constellation (which is why I wrote it for my own Mac studio).

    For a small Mac/Win studio that's mostly Mac but has a few Win render nodes and renders frames that take a while to render so the 30 second delay on windows isn't a problem I'd still recommend Constellation for the price.

    For a larger primarily Windows studio that renders lots of quick frames, one of the other Windows centric controllers would render faster without that 30 second delay.

    Hope that helps!
    MikeS [LWProfile] 30+ Yrs of Award-winning Media DreamLight.com

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    3D Mac Maniac Scazzino's Avatar
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    BTW: I'm curious for those running Windows only and/or Win/Mac networks with another controller. Do you ever notice LWSN nodes reporting "Ignoring duplicate command" and then just hanging? If so what does the controller do?
    Last edited by Scazzino; 01-18-2017 at 12:27 PM.
    MikeS [LWProfile] 30+ Yrs of Award-winning Media DreamLight.com

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    Spinny Spinland's Avatar
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    Interesting, thanks for the insights, Mike. I can vouch that the lone Windows machine in my studio sometimes hangs and has to be kicked in the keister to get it back online. Fortunately it's really only around to run MOCAP stuff so I don't rely on it much.

    One great way I've found to share common files (like configs and plugins) across all my nodes is to install them into a DropBox folder and point everything there. Give it a few minutes to sync up after any additions or changes and voila. I did have some issues with the commands folder being there: as I noted above sometimes my local network gets dodgy and I was missing ack reads so nodes were getting borked. I have all that stuff on a NAS now that gets automounted by new nodes as I add them to the farm. Still a shared folder but more quickly in sync than DropBox. My farm is no great shakes size-wise but with some good file structure management it's not hard at all to keep all the nodes in sync. Not sure how Windows would handle stuff like that since it doesn't follow the *nix industry standard for file systems. In MacOS I just use the command line tools to move and symlink stuff wherever I want it.
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    Spinny Spinland's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scazzino View Post
    BTW: I'm curios for those running Windows only and/or Win/Mac networks with another controller. Do you ever notice LWSN nodes reporting "Ignoring duplicate command" and then just hanging? If so what does the controller do?
    Well, when the token Win10 box hangs the controller just shows it holding at the last status it reported. If I restart the node it picks up at the next frame the controller gives it and I have to remember to re-render that frame after the fact. It's often better just to leave that box out of the render unless I really need the extra boost in time. Gotta weigh risk and reward. If there were good MOCAP tools for MacOS I'd donate the silly thing to charity.
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    3D Mac Maniac Scazzino's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spinland View Post
    Interesting, thanks for the insights, Mike. I can vouch that the lone Windows machine in my studio sometimes hangs and has to be kicked in the keister to get it back online. Fortunately it's really only around to run MOCAP stuff so I don't rely on it much.

    One great way I've found to share common files (like configs and plugins) across all my nodes is to install them into a DropBox folder and point everything there. Give it a few minutes to sync up after any additions or changes and voila. I did have some issues with the commands folder being there: as I noted above sometimes my local network gets dodgy and I was missing ack reads so nodes were getting borked. I have all that stuff on a NAS now that gets automounted by new nodes as I add them to the farm. Still a shared folder but more quickly in sync than DropBox. My farm is no great shakes size-wise but with some good file structure management it's not hard at all to keep all the nodes in sync. Not sure how Windows would handle stuff like that since it doesn't follow the *nix industry standard for file systems. In MacOS I just use the command line tools to move and symlink stuff wherever I want it.
    Thanks! I'm glad it's working well for you!

    Yes, I've even set it up using Dropbox to render across the Internet between local and remote nodes. As long as all the computers can access the job/ack files and the content folder then they can render, anywhere in the world. It's not the fastest method, so doesn't work well for frames that render fast, but if the frames are taking a long time to render each frame, then the extra time to handle the remote networking doesn't cause much trouble vs. the extra horsepower you can add with the remote nodes.

    Here's a tutorial where I showed how to render across the Internet using Dropbox. Any such filesharing system should work similarly.

    http://dreamlight.com/blog/mastering...eamernet-lwsn/
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