Rendering Pipeline/Using the Renderfarm

Goal To learn how to use the Renderfarm.

Relevant Hotkeys/Tools ← Click!

Important Terms

Preparing to Render

Creating Render Layers

It is dependent upon the needs of the specific shot which layers are created, but there are generally 3 basic layers:

(Load render layers if they are not there - Windows, Settings/Preferences, Preferences, Rendering, Render Setup: Legacy Render Layers)

Character Beauty: (contains just character meshes, any props or objects that the characters will be interacting with, and any lights used to light the characters)

Background Beauty: (contains just background objects, and any lights used to light the background)

Occlusion Layer : (contains all objects in the scene)

To create a layer, select all the objects you want in the layer, then press the "create new layer and assign selected objects" button in the render layers tab of the Channel Box. OR, create an empty render layer, and add the objects you want by selecting them, right-clicking on the render layer, and clicking Add Selected Objects.

Creating an Occlusion Layer (Earlier tutorial found here).

Add your desired objects, and name your layer "occlusion_layer". Right-click on the layer and click Attributes (this may take a couple tries, Maya often doesn't listen the first time). In the occlusion_layer tab in the Attribute Editor, click the Presets button, and select Occlusion. This automatically assigns an occlusion surface shader to all the objects in your scene. The occlusion settings can be adjusted by going into your Hypershade and going into the occlusion_shader's attributes (called mib_amb_occlusion), and adjusting the values, Samples specifically.

It is important to note that occlusion passes do not always have to be contained within one layer. For example, there could be an separate character occlusion and background occlusion layer. This is especially useful if you have a still background in a shot; you would only have to render one frame of the background occlusion instead of every frame. There are other potential benefits as well. However, it's important to make sure that if you do this, you aren't sacrificing any occlusion shadows between character and background. In other words, if we see a character's foot touching the ground (in the background layer), we would need the character and background to be in the same occlusion layer to get that contact shadow.

Render Layer Overrides

Within the Render Settings, you have the ability to change the image size, format, rendering camera, etc of one specific layer. This can be useful if you want to render a certain layer at a smaller image size, for example. To do this, go into the layer you're adjusting the render settings for, and open up the Render Settings. In this case, let's say we want to render the occlusion at 960x540 instead of 1280x720. Change the image size, and then right-click on the Width and Height and select Create Layer Override.

Once you've done this, the text on the overriden attributes will turn orange. These special layer-specific attributes will be remembered by Maya whenever you send out a render.

The render layer's settings button will also turn yellow in the Channel Box when you do this.

Sending out a Render

Once you've created all your layers and made sure everything is working correctly (test each layer before sending it out), it's time to send out a render. Open up your Render Settings and use these settings:

Go into the Quality tab:

Once all your settings are correct, make sure that everything in your scene is SMOOTHED. Disable/Enable your render layers so you're sending out only your desired layers.

Sending out the character layer and the background layer together is usually a pretty good bet, since they render pretty quickly. NOTE: If your camera is static (the background does not move) then you DO NOT need to render out the background layer. You can just render out a single frame of the background, save it as an image, and use that when you're compositing. This saves a lot of render time. Sending out the occlusion layer by itself is a good idea, since it usually takes the longest to render of all the layers by far


Always test any layers you're planning on sending out in Maya first, so you don't end up with a folder full of useless renders.

When you have your settings done, your renders are working, everything is smoothed, the file path is correct, and you have your desired layers enabled for rendering, click the Tractor Button.

When you're done with all of these settings, click Spool. You can click the Tractor Monitor button at the bottom right corner once you've spooled your job to go to the Tractor render manager to monitor your renders' progress.

Tractor Monitor

This render farm manager makes it super easy for you to monitor the progress of your renders. It can be found here.

You may find that certain nodes are causing issues for your renders. You can tell which node is rendering which frames by hovering over the node on the right of the screen. We have three main clusters of rendering machines. Their names are buzz, jessie, and woody. Sometimes a certain node can be malfunctioning, and you may not want your render jobs going to that node. You can restrict this node from rendering by turning on NIMBY. By clicking on the button (B) that takes you to the render nodes, you can see a list of all the render nodes.

By right clicking on a node, you can turn NIMBY on, and this will not allow this node to render any job that gets sent to the farm.

Once you've sent a job out, it's also possible to control it within the Tractor Monitor. There are several possible actions to take once your job is on the farm. If you right click on a job on the farm, the following menu will appear:

Pause New Task Launches will stop the render farm from picking up any new nodes within an already active job. This can be useful if you're sending out a large job, and want to force the farm to pace itself by preventing it from starting on new frames until it has finished previous ones.

Restart Job will stop the currently active job, and restart it from the beginning. This is sometimes a good idea to try if you're noticing errors occurring on the farm.

Archive (Delete) Job will delete the job from the farm. Sometimes this is necessary to do if a job is taking too long and using up all the render machines so other jobs can't get through.

You're done! Now the waiting begins.