Investing in a Visualization Render Farm

If you need serious processing power to render out that next architectural visualization animation then a render farm might be a sound investment for your business. Animations consist of 25 or 30 frames per second depending on the output requirements, which are dictated by the context of the viewer. At 25 frames per second, for example, even a relatively short 60 second animation can have render times that can blow out to days or even weeks, depending on how optimised the scene is. Using this example at 10 minutes per frame the animation would take 15,000 processing minutes to render (that’s over 10 days!). Once the early draft frames, a camera path, a few rough draft animations and then the final high resolution animation have all been rendered processing time can start to be counted not minutes or hours, but in weeks.

There are two ways to approach the processing power problem. You can either invest in a render farm or outsource the rendering process to a dedicated render farm. Both methods have their pros and cons and the final decision will depend on the specifics of your architectural visualization company.

Investing in a Render Farm

Render farms, simply put, are a bank of many networked computers 3d rendering service whose sole purpose is to calculate the rendering process for visualization animations and still images. They may consist of a few computers or up to tens or even hundreds of networked processors. This is a seriously expensive investment but if you regularly render out animations then this may be the appropriate avenue for your visualization studio. Let’s take the above example of a 60 second visualization animation at 25 frames per second. The final animation would consist of 1500 frames, and at 10 minutes per frame the final animation would render out in 15,000 minutes on a single computer. With a bank of 10 networked computers the above animation could render out in 25 hours (a much more reasonable rendering time). In order to maximise the processing power of your render farm you simply need to purchase processors with the most optimal cost to processing power ratio as the processor is still the most important factor when purchasing a dedicated processing machine. Graphics cards are however, becoming more involved in the rendering process as more sophisticated rendering engines become available. At between two and three thousand dollars per computer a render farm can be an investment that many smaller studios simply cannot afford. In this case outsourcing to dedicated render farms can be a viable option.

Outsourcing the Rendering Calculation

There are various companies such as Renderfarm, Rebusfarm, Render Titan and Render Rocket that take your completed visualization project files including material maps and xrefs and simply render them out for you. This can be particularly useful for the small studio that only does the odd animation from time to time. It is however still an expensive process and relies on full communication between you and the render farm staff. Some render farms off free trial render in order to iron out any creases in the compatibility of you project files and their systems. This is an important factor as it means less money wasted troubleshooting. Other points to consider are upload and download times, the cost involved in rendering out draft animations, as well as waiting times as some render farms may require that your project wait in a queue while other clients projects are completed.