Render Node Part II – Network, 3ds Max & Backburner

This is the 2nd post in my three-part series of building and using your first render node with 3ds Max and Backburner.

 

Render Node

Part I – “Affordable & Powerful”
Part II – “Network, 3ds Max & Backburner”
Part III – “Best Practices & Usage”


 

This is not a step-by-step guide as this is covered in great detail on many other sites. Instead I’ll gather the resources you need, link it here and add my own tips & tricks that most of the sites don’t mention.

 

 

Network Setup

 

Connection

 

Now you’ve got a render node sitting pretty over there in the corner, it’s time to get it up and running!

 

For this to work the best, you’ll need to connect your workstation and node to the same switch via ethernet cables. Getting a gigabit switch is advised for better transfer speeds. I went with a 8-port one from D-Link and it works great.

With everything connected and turned on, let’s get the two machines talking with each other.

 

What you need to do, is to create a Windows HomeGroup for your workstation and node to be a part of. This will allow your workstation to send data to your node and allow your node to access your workstation’s shared assets (mostly textures).

 

Creating a Windows HomeGroup Network

 

Mauro Huculak over at Windows Central has made a great guide on how to do this:

How to setup and manage windows 10 homegroup local network (opens in a new tab)

 

Once you’ve created your homegroup you can skip all the steps untill you get to “How to add computers to a HomeGroup”.

After that section continue to the next part: “How to share additional folders with your HomeGroup”.

 

Done.

 

Shareable Assets

 

Now that your HomeGroup is set up and you know how to share additional folders, you should see if you can access a shared workstation folder from your node. Try and transfer the 3ds Max installer to check speeds and accessibility.

 

If it doesn’t work as planned, hit up google with the error message you received or something simple like: “can’t access shared folder on HomeGroup”. I can’t cover them all here, so google is your best friend (as always).

 

When all is good, it’s time to start making your assets (3D models, textures, proxies etc.) accessible to the node. Make the folder where you keep your assets a shared folder on your HomeGroup and make sure you can access it from the node.

 

Asset_Folder

This is my shared assets folder setup.
(Will move everything to my NAS later)

 

There’s a few things that could go wrong when you send out your first render job to the node. Don’t worry, we’ll go through the big ones and you should be good to go soon.

 

Use Network Paths

 

When you send the job to the node, it reads the scene as it was on your workstation. I.e.: all the plugins you’ve used to create the scene, every proxy scattered and every single texture file probably points to somewhere local on your workstation’s drives.

 

If all your assets are on your D: drive the path for a texture would probably look like this: D:/Assets/Textures/Concrete/Concrete_Dark_01.jpg

 

This is a problem for the render node.

 

When it loads up the scene it expects to find that concrete texture image on the D-drive – but it doesn’t know that it’s the workstation’s D-drive.

 

With a path like that, it will look for it locally, but since there isn’t any D-drive in the node, it will fail to load it and you won’t see that beautiful concrete texture in your finished render.

 

What you need to do is to make sure that your scene assets are all mapped with a network path instead of a local path.

 

Network_path

How a network path looks like in 3ds Max’s Asset Tracking (Shit+T)

 

Depending on how many assets you have, changing all of them one by one from their local path to the network path, will take ages. The whole point of the render node was to save time. I hope you’re not having second thoughts, I promise you all this work will be worth it in the end.

 

I haven’t yet found a way that can batch remap all of your assets. So what I did with old scenes was to use Colin Senner’s free Relink Bitmaps script – I’ll go in to detail on this script in a later post. For now a quick way to redo your scene’s assets’ paths, is to open up 3ds Max’s Asset Tracking (Shit+T), mark all the assets, right click and choose strip path.

 

strip_paths

 

Now start up Relink Bitmaps. Add a new “Saved path” by clicking the + icon and browse to your assets folder. It’s crucial that you find your folder through “Network” and not just through “This PC”. Its basically the same thing, but when you do it through the network path, the node will know where to look.

 

When you’ve added the network path to your assets, click the big “Relink” button and wait. Any missing textures will show up on the right and you might need to add more network folder paths for them to be found.

 

Installing The Software

 

3ds Max & Backburner

 

You won’t be needing a separate licens for 3ds Max. Just install it and close the window when it asks you to activate or use it as a trial and you are good to go. Later on when you are sending a render job to the node, max opens in a special mode and won’t trigger any activation prompt.

Backburner should install as standard when you run the 3ds Max installer, but check that you have it on both your workstation and node.

 

Render Engine

 

Installing your render engine depends entirely on the product you are using. I’m using the Corona Render engine. I get three (3) render node licenses included in the price. With Vray you need to pay a fixed amount per render node license. So add that to the node cost if Vray is your thing.

 

Corona_DR_install

Check your installed 3ds Max version and tick the DR server option
Plugins

 

I’m a big fan of plugins, but for the node to understand the data you send it (a render job), you will also have to install the plugins on that node. Most plugins have an option to “install on render node, slave or DR” in the install menu, like the Corona screenshot above.

 

Remember to also copy the plugins you’ve installed without a typical .exe installer to your node. Look in your max root /plugins folder.

 

Extras

 

Instead of having an extra monitor, mouse and keyboard connected, I highly recommend handling your node via remote access. It’s nice being able to see what’s going on from the comfort of your workstation.

 

For this purpose I use a free program called TeamViewer. With this you can connect to the node via your workstation, laptop etc. and a window with the node’s desktop will pop up. From here you can control it as if you had your peripherals directly connected to it.

 

 

How To Setup Backburner:

 

Autodesk has a great article describing multiple scenarios here. Click on the Basic Procedure 2″ to get straight to the steps you’ll need in this case.

 

What’s Next?

 

Alright, I’m sure you have a lot on your to-do list. It might take a day or two to get working, but I hope I’ve saved you some time and hassle with this post.

 

In part III you will learn some more basics, tips & tricks when using your render node.

Jens Suhr Andersen - Architect & Founder

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