This document is intended to be used to perform manual checks to a scene before submitting the package to a Render Farm or to a 3rd party to render your images. We are trying to automate most of the process, but we found that the following operations always need the user touch.

1. Check if you have the proper output settings.

Note! Due to the fact that our system is fully automated and we designed the process to avoid the need of a human operator to supervise the rendering of your images, saving from the frame buffer is not an option and you should set one or a combination of the following options, in order to have your output saved when the rendering is completed. We disabled the option of setting output automatically if it’s missing because most of the times the user need a certain extension for his workflow and we now rely on the user to set the proper output for al the submitted scenes. Our plugin shows warnings when the scene is packed if no output is present, so make sure you read the warnings before uploading the package.

Inside 3DS Max there are multiple ways to save the rendered image, some of them are the following:

a. Common render output, which is native and is present on all the rendering plugins available. This option allows you to save TGA, EXR, CXR, PNG, JPG etc.

 

When saving EXR file, you have the option to merge render elements into the file when saving to disk by clicking on the setup button when setting the extension. (in case setup is grayed, make sure you set the extension to EXR and you click next to the box where it says “image” in order to activate the window.)

 

Attention!!! This feature is not supported yet on CGIFarm, but it might be supported on other farms. This EXR options are stored locally on your 3ds max instance and they are not getting saved with the 3ds max file, we will improve our plugin in the future to collect this as well. Our farm will export the render elements as separated files in case you have V-ray Raw output disabled.

Render Output File

b. If you are using V-Ray, you have the option to save a V-Ray Raw output. The .vrimg file format is a special format used by the V-Ray VFB to store the rendered image incrementally while rendering, in full floating-point  format, with all available render elements. To convert .vrimg to EXR and extract all the channels you can use ProEXR plugin.

Render Setup Vray

c. Split G-Buffer. This option is used if you want to split the channels of your image, you can read more about this here.

Vray Split GBuffer

d. Render Elements. This is available for all the renderer plugins, but each plugin such as Corona, V-Ray, usually has it’s own render elements which can be added to the list. Make sure you set proper paths, extensions and file names for each render element. Each render element must have a unique name in order to avoid the elements overwriting each other. Our 3ds max plugin will check and show an error in case this happens. You can then right click on the error and choose to fix the naming automatically. The plugin will take the name of the render element and use it as a prefix for your file, keeping the extension the same as you had it set.

Render Elements

Note! Always do a complete render, even if it’s low resolution and check that the output files saved properly on disk and that you have exactly the files you need for post processing and / or composition.


2. Check that your assets are found by 3ds max and that your scene renders locally without any issue.


This one might be obvious, but we had users which received the package from someone else, opened 3ds max and sent the package ignoring all the warnings of missing files, then submitted the entire frame range as the deadline was short. There’s nothing to blame, mistakes happen, but here is an easy way to check if all your assets are resolved by 3ds max, increasing the chances of our plugin to properly collect everything needed to render your scene.

Check The Asset Tracking window.
By pressing shift + T it will open the window where all the assets are listed (or most of them in case you are using some 3rd party plugins which do their own assets management and are not integrated with 3ds max asset tracking). You can find the same window by going to File / Reference / Asset Tracking.

Assets Tracking

atsops

There are some assets like .vrimg output which will display as missing file, this is file output but for some reason it displays as missing in the assets tracking. Make sure you check the Maps / Shaders area and that your files are resolved properly there. With some scenes where multiple people worked on them or if you did major changes in materials and maps, you might have missing maps but your scene will still render properly, for this reason, the next check comes in handy.

 

3. Always do a quick preview render on your workstation.


This one might also be obvious, but it happens a lot of times when the user is in a rush, does significant changes to the scene and forget to check if the image still looks properly. In still images and even in some of the heavier animations might take a long time to wait till you completely render the frame, for this reason I included some of the fast tricks you can do in order to preview your render faster:

    1. If your scene takes too long to render due to its big resolution, you can lower the resolution or do a region rendering of an area to check if the maps are loaded properly and there are no errors when the frame buffer launches. Don’t forget to remove the region or change the resolution back to the one you need after you finish testing.
    2. Use progressive rendering to get a full preview of your image if possible. If you have certain settings specially made for bucket rendering, you might want to save the 3ds max file as a new version before switching to progressive mode to test this. You can also use the “hold / fetch” function on 3ds max.

      3ds max hold fetch

    3. If you are rendering an animation, do a play blast or render a sample of your entire range to make sure everything is moving as expected. You can render a sample range like 0,10,50,100.

4. Always check the logs of the CGIFarm plugin.

Try solving as many warnings as possible before moving to the prepare stage.

3ds max hold fetch

Note! All the warnings and Errors which have a gear icon on them, it means that a quick fix have been implemented, right clicking and choosing fix will apply an automated fix for the warning or error. Multiple warnings or errors of the same type can be selected and fixed at the same time.

3ds max hold fetch

5. Package preparation stage


At this stage you can add other files to the package before creating the archive and upload it on our server.
You can include scenes or assets to be uploaded in the same package. CGIFarm workflow allows you to create
multiple jobs from the same package by changing the 3ds max file or the camera when the job is created.

Note! When a new 3DS Max file is being added, the assets used by that scene are not automatically collected. If it’s an entirely different scene which uses different assets than the scene you are uploading, I advise sending that as a separate package, running assets collection again from the plugin. You can also add the assets manually by appending folders if your project is well organized. Check the following video for more details:
https://youtu.be/udSqF-uxBTI


6. Upload the package.


You can choose to upload the package from our plugin or zip it then upload on the web dashboard. If you are having trouble uploading the package using any of these options, you can choose to export the zip archive and upload to an ftp server or use gdrive / dropbox then write us an e-mail to info@cgifarm.com to manually place your package into your account.
Youtube Video

7. Check processing logs.


After your package uploaded and is gone trough the processing stage, should be marked as ready. You can then click on the package information icon and this will reveal the processing logs for all the 3DS Max scenes detected inside the package.

3ds max hold fetch

You can check here in case you have any important missing assets and re-upload the package in case there are assets that our plugin missed or they were not properly resolved inside the 3DS Max scene.

8. Create a sample render before submitting the entire range of an animation or a very high resolution image.

Unfortunately this step is highly missed by our users due to tight deadlines. I understand deadlines (never liked them but you cannot live without them) at the same time it’s important to take the necessary steps and not to rush into the rendering process without being sure that everything will run smooth.

We have implemented some useful feature which will allow you changing rendering settings of an already uploaded scene for you to test faster and iterate through your rendering settings. This allows you to change render resolution, set render region, change rendering parameters like number of passes, time limit and almost everything that you have available in your render settings. Here’s a video with more info about that
– https://youtu.be/x5l0RLD9a-Q

This is a list of problems that might arise when you are rendering a scene that’s not verified:
1. You render an entire animation range and you find out that there are missing assets, light is not properly, proxy objects not loaded into the scene. Technically there’s too many things which can go wrong, some can be our fault and some the user’s fault. We usually investigate when there’s a request for a credit refund and see where the problem was, refund the credits in case our system is at fault and try to solve the problem so next time it won’t happen again.

2. The scene requires more ram than our base location nodes can handle. Most of the machines are 48 GB and some 96 GB. The higher ram computers are used automatically for single frame distributed images as those are known for using more ram. We also had animations using more than 48 GB of ram and those needs to be set by us to use just the 96GB nodes group, so knowing the required resources to render your scene is also important. If you want to render on our basic location I advise to get in touch with us.

If you need the scene done fast and you don’t want to get in touch with us before submitting the scene, your best option is to use the priority location, there the default nodes are set to use 96 GB of ram and the single frame distributed machines will use 128 GB.

3. There are plugins which are not performing the same as on your machine due to different plugin version or other reasons. We are always keeping our 3rd party plugins updated to the latest version, so I would recommend checking our supported plugin list where you check the version of each plugin we are using:
https://www.cgifarm.com/cgifarm-installed-3ds-max-plugins

Any of this problems can affect your deadline and have you disappointed by using our system. We are doing our best to solve as many of these problems and provide the best support we can, but sometimes having the user paying attention to these problems will help avoiding this kind of scenarios and help you do your work faster and better.

 

When creating a job you can use any of the following combination for the frame range:
1. Sampling an animation range.
Here’s all the frame formatting supported by CGIFarm:

a. Render a single frame by specifying the frame number: 1
b. Render individual frames by separating with comma: 1,5,10,100
c. Frame range: 1-150
d. Sequence with a step frame: 1-100x5
e. Rendering some key frames then going with the range: 1,50,100,1-100
The frames will not repeat for the same job and you are going to receive first the frames you specify before the entire range.
f. Render every 5th frame then render the in-between: 1-100x5,1-100

Conclusion

If you are going to follow this checklist for every scene you submit to CGIFarm, you will be increasing your chances of a successful render by 90%. These are most of the problems we have with our first time clients and we are working on finding solution to include some of these problems in our automated checks.

As you know, development takes time and requires resources (money in the first place) in order to implement an automated workflow.

We are focusing on implementing some new features which will highly integrate CGIFarm into your workflow, by removing the delay and hassle of uploading a package every time you change geometry in your scene.
So keep an eye on our system, if you are not already using our farm, I advise to give it a chance with the free $20 that you receive when creating an account.

Thank you very much for reading this file and hopefully that you will find it useful, increasing your productivity and making the hole process better than before.
Alex.


Download PDF