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How do I use the render farm to render a Maya project?

Preparing a File for Rendering

  1. Open Maya on any lab computer. Set your project by going to File -> Set Project, and selecting the project folder. Open the Maya file that will be rendered. Ensure there are no errors that prevent the file from loading properly.
  2. Use Save As to create a new version of that file that will be used exclusively for rendering on the Render Farm. Save this file as a Maya Ascii.

  1. In this file, change all referenced items to imports through the following method:
  •  Open the Reference Editor by clicking on File -> Reference Editor.
  •  Select the first item on the list of references.
  •  In the Reference Editor window, select File -> Import Object From Reference.

  •  If a window appears asking about Namespaces, select Delete Namespaces.
  •  Repeat for each item until the list is empty, close the reference editor, and save the file.
  •  Note: Importing references can speed up a render and lower ram usage significantly, but it may also cause shaders to break or create other errors. If such errors occur, and re-assigning shaders results in an "error parsing arguments" message, a file containing references may be used as a last resort.
  1. Make sure all textures are correctly linked to their corresponding shaders. To do this quickly while Maya is open, press “6” key on the keyboard, and make sure all textures show up correctly.
  • If no textures appear, make sure your project is set. Go to File -> Set Project, and select the project folder. Re-open the Maya file.
  • If one or a few textures do not appear, correct the file path for those textures in the attribute editor.
    • To correct file, select the folder icon next to Image Name.
    • Navigate to correct folder, select file, and select Open.

 

  • Save the file.
  1. If using fur, make sure that any length/direction/baldness maps are linked correctly by checking the file paths in the Attribute Editor.
  2. Play through the animation at real-time. Make sure there are no uncached simulations, and all caches are being found. All simulations must be cached or the file will not render correctly.
  • If no caches are found, make sure your project is set. Go to File -> Set Project, and select the project folder. Re-open the Maya file.
  • If one or a few caches are not found, correct the file path for those caches in the Attribute Editor.
    •  Select the simulation from Outliner Panel, navigate to the Cache tab in the Attribute Editor.

 
    •  Ensure the file path is correct in the Base Directory
    •   If it is not the correct file, select the folder next to the Base Name, navigate to correct file and select open.
  • Save the file.
  1. Open the Render Settings window and make sure all options are set correctly.
  • Make sure that naming conventions, file type, and frame padding are appropriately set.
  • Set the camera that the file will be rendered through. Make sure that the camera is not set to “persp
  • Make sure that the frame range is correct, and By Frame is set to 1. Take note of the frame range, as this will need to be typed into Smedge later on.
  • Make sure that the image resolution is set correctly. If using Mental Ray, go through each tab and make sure the settings are correct.
  1. If not done already, take note of the frame range of the animation. This will need to be typed into Smedge later on.
  2. Test render one frame of the animation. Make sure the frame looks appropriate, and fix any issues that arise.
  3. Save the file and close Maya.
  4. If the file is not already being kept in the class server of an animation course that has render farm access, drag the project folder onto a portable hard drive, for transferring it to the MCAD Render Farm.

Transferring a Maya File to the Render Farm

  1. If transferring a file via an external drive, connect the drive to the render farm computer located in the Animation Studio and open the "RenderFarm" folder on the Class server.
  • If not connected to the class server, select it via Go -> Connect to Server. The machine should automatically connect via the Maya Engine account.
  • Note that Only the Maya Engine account has access to the “RenderFarm” folder. Students are not able to access this folder via their own student accounts.
  1. Drag the project folder into the “RenderFarm” folder if pulling the file off of an external drive. Make sure all files transfer successfully. If possible, remove any unnecessary Maya scene files so that the only Maya Ascii files for render are left in the Scenes folder. If not pulling off of an external drive, locate the file for render on the Class server.
  2. If the appropriate project folder is already in RenderFarm, transfer the scene file to render as well as any new texture, map, or cache files to the appropriate locations in RenderFarm.
  3. Open the file to be rendered in the Text Edit application by right-clicking on the file, selecting open with, and choosing Text Edit from the applications folder.

 

  1. If the file was moved to "MayaRender Farm", find and replace all file paths to reflect their new location. To do this:
      • Hit Cmd+F on the keyboard to open the Find window. Type the name of the textures folder into the find box. This is done to quickly find the file path to be changed.
      • Copy the old file path, up to but not including the project folder, into the find window. Replace with /Volumes/Class Server Share/MayaRender Farm/
      • Be sure to check for stray file locations that were not corrected during the first check, especially if you did not originally set a project for your files.
      • Once you have finished replacing all file paths, save the file and close text edit.
  1. Open the file in Maya, and make sure that all textures/caches/maps have relinked correctly. Fix any erroneous file paths, save the file, and close Maya.

Using Smedge to Send a Job to the Render Farm

  1. Open Smedge on the Render Farm Computer in the Animation Studio if it is not already open. To do so, click on the "S"icon in the dock.

 

  1. If Smedge opens in Engine mode, you will need to go to System -> Connect.

 

  1. In the menu bar, select Job -> New Job. The New Job window will open.

 

  1. New Job Settings are as follows:
  • Type: This designates the render engine being used to complete the render. Leave this as the default Mental Ray for Maya, unless the file will be rendered through an alternative renderer.
  • Name: Leave this alone for now, as the name of the job will change to reflect the name of the file being rendered.
  • Priority: This should be kept at 1.
  • Paused: Keep this button unchecked, otherwise the render will not start when the job is submitted.
  • Process: Keep this as One Per Engine
  • Pool: Make sure Whole System is selected.
  • Wait For: Make sure this is set to None
  • Note: This can be kept blank.
  • Scene File: Click on the icon to the right of the text box. Find the file to be rendered in the project folder inside MayaRender Farm and select it. The job name should change automatically to reflect the Scene File.
  • Range To Process: Enter the frame range of the animation that will be rendered, with separated by a dash. Single frames to be rendered should be separated by commas.
  • Packet Size: Make sure this is set to 1.
  • Maya Project: Click on the icon to the right of the text box. Find the project folder containing the file to be rendered and select it. This may correct itself once the scene file is selected.
  • Output Folder: Click on the icon to the right of the text box. Find the images folder inside the project folder and select it.
  • Render By Frames: Leave this blank.
  • Renumber Start: Leave this blank.
  • Renumber By: Leave this blank.
  • At the top of the window, select the Advanced info tab. Make sure the overtime Kill Ratio is set to 0.0. It is important to do this even when copying an existing job. 

 

  1. Select Submit and Close to send the job to the MCAD Render Farm. The nodes listed in the bottom panel of the Smedge window will turn green to show that they are currently enabled and rendering a frame.
  2. Jobs are listed in the middle pane of the Smedge window. Select a job to view active work and completed frames. In the right pane of the Smedge window, select the History tab to view all in progress/failed/completed frames in that job. Select the Active Work tab to view what frames are currently being rendered.
  3. Once a jobs status is Completed, the frames can be dragged from the project's images folder to a portable hard drive.

Troubleshooting Smedge and the Render Farm

  1. Some nodes are greyed out and listed as Offline.
  • Open the Render Nodes folder located on the desktop. Double click the offline node to remotely access that computer.
  • If you are unable to view the computers monitor, navigate to the screen share window for the render node and quit Smedge, then restart the computer.
  • If you are unable to view the computer, contact the person currently in charge of the MCAD Render Farm to resolve the issue.
  1. All nodes are greyed out and listed as Offline, or some nodes are listed as Unregistered with a brown font color.
  • Inside Smedge, double click each node to remotely access that computer.
  • In the screen share window for each render node, quit Smedge. Do not restart the computer in this case.
  • Once Smedge is down on all nodes, restart the master computer.
  • Once the master computer restarts, open Smedge if it does not open automatically.
  • Open the Render Nodes folder located on the desktop. Double-click the offline node to remotely access that computer.
  • Reopen Smedge on each render node.
  1. Some nodes are failing to render a frame and are now being listed as Offline.
  • Most likely the node is not connected to the Class Server, or there has been an issue contacting the master machine. Inside Smedge, double-click the offline node to remotely access that computer.
  • In the screen share window for the render node, quit Smedge and restart the computer.
  1. All nodes are failing to render a frame, and the job status has been changed to "queued".
  • Right-click on the job in the center Job Window of Smedge, and select Edit Job. In the Advanced Info tab, make sure the Overtime Kill Ratio is set to 0.0.
  • If that fails to fix the problem, there is most likely an issue with the Maya file to be rendered. Open the file in Maya and correct the render settings or file paths. Save the file and close Maya.
  1. A node has been working on a single frame for >5 hours.
  • Right-click on the node in the bottom window of Smedge, and select Disable Engine Deferred
  • Select the job in the center Job Window of Smedge. Then select the Active Work tab in the right window of Smedge. Right-click on the stalled out frame, and select Requeue selected work.
  • Open the Render Nodes folder located on the desktop. Double-click each stalled node to remotely access that computer.
  • In the screen share window for each render node, quit Smedge and restart the computer.
  1. No node has completed a frame after >5 hours of work.

  • There is most likely an issue with the Maya file to be rendered. Cancel the render job by right-clicking on that job in the center Job Window of Smedge and selecting Mark Job as Finished. If the file continues to render, right-click on the job again and select Stop Workers from Job.
  • Open the file in Maya and fix any incorrect render settings or file paths. Make sure that there are no uncached simulations, and that all simulation caches are being found. Save the file and close Maya.
  • In the center Job Window of Smedge, right-click on the job, and select Resubmit Job.

If issues persist, please contact the person currently in charge of the MCAD Render Farm during regular business hours (Mon-Fri 9AM-5PM) for assistance. Be advised that emails may not be replied to outside of regular business hours.

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