How To: Render .max Files on the ResPower Super/Farm™

Overview

The ResPower Super/Farm™ proudly supports 3dStudio Max rendering using the “Default Scanline”, “finalRender”, “InSight”, and “V-Ray” render engines. ResPower only supports mental ray in 3ds Max version 2009 or newer. If you need mental ray rendering, you must upgrade to version 2009 or newer.

This tutorial discusses how to use the ResPower Super/Farm™ for rendering .max files created using 3ds Max 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.  3dStudio VIZ is not directly supported, although we have a number of customers who have told us that it works splendidly and that the process is essentially identical to the 3ds Max process.

There are a few basic steps to take, which will be discussed in detail below:

  • Prepare your scene file
  • Upload your content
  • Submit your job for rendering
  • Monitor your job’s progress
  • Download the frames
  • Pay

 

V-Ray users: V-Ray can generate a cache of its Global Illumination (GI) calculations in a file called an irradiance map. You can use this cache to increase the rendering speed at ResPower and to reduce GI artifacts (flicker). There is a tutorial for using irradiance maps here . For a complete list of supported V-Ray versions click here

First Time Users

First time users can try out the Super/Farm with zero cost. This will help you to get a better feel for what the costs are and to get through the learning curve. To take advantage of this, please follow this tutorial to submit 10 frames from a scene that is indicative of the work that you do.

When selecting your 10 frames, be sure to space them evenly throughout your scene. For example, if you expect to render a 1000 frame animation, submit every 100th frame using the “Frame Step” option on the Render Wizard. You would then multiply the Credits used by 100 to get the closest approximation to final render cost for that scene.

When submitting your job, please be sure to use the “Metered” billing model. The metered service allows you to run a job to completion, see the total cost, and then choose the “Pay For Output” action on the job status page. To run a test job, all you need to do is run the job with the metered service, and simply skip the last step of purchasing the finished output. This allows you to see the total cost for the job without downloading the finished frames and without actually paying for them. If during the course of running your job the cost becomes too high, simply abort the job on the Job Status page and re-configure your scene to take an amount of time that will meet your budget.

If you expect to use the Super/Farm to perform still frame work, please submit a single frame with 1/2 of the target width and height, using the Split Frame rendering mode. You would then multiply by 4 to get a close approximation to final render cost.

Prepare Your Scene File

Configure Render Engine: To configure the scene for a specific renderer, click the “…” button shown here and choose the renderer you want from the dialog that pops up.
Specify Output File Type: You must have your scene configured to render to a file. The location and name of that file are completely irrelevant; only the type (still formats only, e.g., JPEG, BMP, TGA, TIF, etc) matters. Make a note of the type.
Note Common Options: You will need to copy these values when you submit your job to the render farm.

Select a Render Engine – Your scene file must be configured to render using one of the following render engines:

  • Default Scanline
  • finalRender Stage 1
  • V-Ray

Rendering with mental ray (including mental ray materials) inside of 3dStudio Max is onlysupported with 3dsmax Version 8 or newer.

 

Select Output File Type – Double check that you have a check in the “Save File” box, and that the file type is a still format. The ResPower Super/Farm™ modifies the output location and file name, so those values are unimportant to the render-farming process. What is important is that the file type is a still image type like JPEG or TIFF. Quicktime .MOV and AVI File formats are not supported. When you consider that in order to construct a .mov or .avi file, a computer needs to have exclusive access to it, it becomes pretty clear why having hundreds or thousands of computers try to create that file simultaneously would be bothersome.

Note Common Options – Make a note of the Options list shown in the diagram. You will need these values when you submit your job to the render farm. If these values are not matched properly, your render will turn out differently than you expect. For example, if you depend on all surfaces being 2-sided for your geometry to look right, you must match the “Force 2-Sided” option on the submission form a few steps down.

Merge in XRef’s – XRef’s do not work properly on the Super/Farm™. This is a known issue that we are working on, but until they are supported, you will need to merge in all XRef’d files prior to saving your scene for upload.

Do not use the Render Every nth Frame Option – You will have the option to do this using the Render Wizard™ later. If you use it here, but do not use it on the Render Wizard, you will get unexpected results.

Turn off network rendering – We know it sounds crazy, but you do not want network rendering turned on. This option is used to submit your render to a BackBurner render farm at your site. ResPower handles the network rendering portion for you, so the network rendering option is not needed.

Eliminate .GIF Texture Maps – .GIF format texture maps have an annoying tendency to crash 3dStudio at the end of the render. Don’t use them. Convert to .PNG, .JPG, or any other format.

[Versions 6+] Avoid negative frame numbers – ResPower launches 3dsMax by using the 3dsmaxcmd.exe utility, which fails with an “Error parsing frame list” message when given a negative frame number. Avoid negative frame numbers in your frame list.

Missing resources – If you have any missing resources, the scene will fail to render. This includes textures, plug-ins, etc. If you cannot remove references to resources that are not in use, be sure to upload them to the farm. For plug-ins, you will need to contact support staff to have them installed. If you do not have a texture and you know that it is not necessary to render the scene, create a blank texture with the same name.

Biped (.bip) files, other non-texture files – Certain 3dsmax resource files require fully qualified paths to work. To use these files on the Super/Farm, you must link them in a specific location, “c:\respower\temp\”. In the Render Wizard, you can select these resource files in the “Super/Cache” section, and each render node will download a copy of each resource file at render time. You can configure which types of files will be listed on the Render Wizard by going to your Account Status page.

Special characters in filenames – Any .max or texture file that uses a special character in a file name will fail to work properly on the render farm. The following characters are the only supported characters for filenames:

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789_-.

For example, a file named

¾view.jpg

will not work.

 

Render Elements and Other Output Files – Configure any render element output paths to save your files to a file in the directory c:\respower\temp\max\output\

For example, a z-depth element output file may be configured to save to:

c:\respower\temp\max\output\z-depth.png

Save your scene – This probably seems obvious, but you must save the changes to your scene file prior to uploading it for the render to reflect your design. We recommend always appending a version number, and increasing that number with each save, e.g., MySceneV01.max, MySceneV02.max, etc.

Upload Your Content

The server name iswww.respower.com, and the user name/password is the same as for the web site.
FileZilla – to upload content, simply drag from the file list on the left into the “source” folder on the right.

Create a ResPower User Name – You must have an account with the ResPower Super/Farm before you can upload any content. Sign up here.

Open your FTP client – Although ResPower is officially FTP-client and platform neutral, we will focus on using FileZilla in this HOWTO. FileZilla is free, fast, and reliable – all Good Things. If you are using another FTP client, the concepts are the same, but the screens will look different. Here is an incomplete list of available FTP clients:

Please note that while using Internet Explorer as an FTP client is possible, it is not recommended. Many users experience unreliable connections and inexplicable behavior when using IE. Because of this, ResPower cannot provide technical assistance under these circumstances. If you have problems connecting with IE, please use one of the fine FTP clients listed above.

 

Connect via FTP – The user name and password are the same as the one you use to log in to the web site. The server name is www.respower.com. The site profile looks like the one shown in the diagram; you can download a FileZilla profile here and import it by selecting File->Import from the site manager menu. To connect, select the ResPower connection and click the “Connect” button.

Upload your content – This is simply a matter of finding your content in the “local” file system – the one on your computer – and dragging it over to the “remote” file system, the one at ResPower. Be sure to place all of your content inside the source folder at ResPower. ResPower recommends that you create separate folders for each project, e.g., /source/project1, /source/project2, etc. If you do this, be sure to make a note of which subfolder you placed your content in for a particular project – this will be the content directory when you get to the Render Wizard™.

Note – many users have a library of textures that they use on multiple projects. This is a very good idea, but you can have problems if you are not careful. The ResPower Super/Farm™ automatically deletes folders where all files are older than a certain threshold. Normally this is not a problem; if you haven’t used our service for more than a month or so, you might expect to upload your content again. However, if your library folder is necessary for other content, the Super/Farm may delete it prematurely. To prevent this, please place a newly created file in your library’s folder.

No Nasty Nests Of Folders – It is highly recommended that you do not create thousands of folders underneath your content directory – doing so can slow your renders down significantly, since it can cause 3dsMax to perform “recursive” file searches across the network, which is quite expensive. A nice clean layout will have your .max files inside the content directory, and all textures in a directory inside that.

Submit your job for rendering

Click on “Render Wizard”.
Fill in the Render Wizard.

Render Wizard™ – Log in to the ResPower web site using the Login panel at the top left of the page here. From there, choose the “Render Wizard” link.

Fill in all options – Provide a description – the value you use here is irrelevant as far as the farm is concerned. Its purpose is to help you to remember which job is which, rather than forcing you to memorize job numbers as they are assigned by the Super/Farm™. Select your .max file for the “Scene File” field, and the “Content Directory” you made a note of when you uploaded your content. For Frame Range, input the start and end frames, along with any Frame Step you might like to use. For example, if you put 20 under “Start Frame,” 100 under “End Frame,” and 10 under “Frame Step,” the Super/Farm will render every 10th frame from 20 through 100. If you need to render an odd selection of frames, you can click the Advanced tab to enter any range of frames desired.

Image Settings – You may select the camera name that you would like to render here. If you do not, then the most recently selected view will be used. If you decide to specify the camera here, please remember that the camera name is exceedingly sensitive to case and spaces – ResPower recommends copying and pasting the camera name directly from the scene rather than typing it in. If you decide to input the Image Height and Image Width, remember that those values are in pixels. They are not required unless you are doing a Split-Frame render. Important If your camera name ends in a space, tab, or other non-printing character, remove it. The Super/Farm will not carry those names all the way through to 3dsmax.

Pixel Aspect Ratio is NOT The Same As Image Aspect Ratio! – A common mistake is inputting the image aspect ratio in the pixel aspect ratio field. These values are not the same thing! Image Aspect Ratio describes the width of the image relative to its height. Pixel Aspect Ratio describes the width of each pixel relative to its height. For example, a 640×480 image designed for computer screens will have an Image Aspect Ratio of 1.3333, but a Pixel Aspect Ratio of 1.0. If you input 1.333 for the Pixel Aspect ratio, your picture will come out heavily distorted.

Split-Frame Rendering - Basically, this takes a single frame and divides it into a grid. Each cell in the grid, or Bucket, is then sent to a separate computer where it is rendered. This is not supported for animations; use it only to render out stills. At this time, automated re-assembly of the final image is in Beta. In the event it does not work properly, you will need to stitch the frame back together using photo-editing software like Photoshop.

To specify the way in which the scene is split, please set the “Rows” and “Columns” values to the number of rows and columns that the farm should split the render into. You should set the pixel overlap to its maximum value in order to avoid the possibility of any artifacts around the edge of each bucket.

The start/end row and column fields are advanced settings that should normally be left blank. These values will reduce the number of buckets rendered to the rectangle that includes only the rows and columns you specify. For example, if you specify a 5×5 split, and set both the start and end column to 2, then the center column of buckets will be rendered.

ResPower recommends using a 5×5 or 6×6 split when performing Split-Frame renders under 3dsmax. This provides a reasonable trade-off between the overhead of splitting the job up and the acceleration provided by distributing the render.

Split Frame Rendering Method - New! The Super/Farm™ supports two mechanisms for doing a split-frame render.

  • Region Render- It is easier to reassemble; each bucket is the same size as the final frame, but everything outside of the bucket’s region is black. To reassemble, simply make black transparent and stack up the regions. The drawback to Region-Render-based Split-Frame rendering is that you are limited in your overall resolution.
  • Blowup - This is somewhat different – it crops each rendered bucket down to its bucket region. This allows 3dsMax to render astronomically large frames – larger than it would normally be able to, in fact. ResPower has rendered 20,000×20,000+ images using Blowup-based Split-Frame Rendering. The drawback of course is that reassembly is more difficult; you have to align the buckets manually using your photo-editing software. Blowup based Split-Frame rendering is not supported with V-Ray

 

Render Options – Remember making a note of all of the common options and output file type earlier? Duplicate those values here.

Monitor your job’s progress

Once your job has been submitted, you can monitor its progress and perform special actions using the Jobs page.

To open the jobs page, click the “Jobs” link at the top of any Super/Farm page. Each row contains a job that you have submitted. Jobs include rendering submissions, frames, and certain other commands, notably: unpack, rar, and zip.

The table has several columns:

  • Job #
    This is a unique number identifying your job. These numbers increase sequentially – at the time of this writing, there were 9,438,784 jobs.
  • User
    This should reflect your user name. If you have turned on “Show Other Users”, this column and the “Description” column will be merged for jobs belonging to other users and will contain the phrase “Other User”
  • Description
    This is the description that you provided on the Render Wizard, or one generated during the submission of other types of commands.
  • Status
    This set of columns tells you the current state of your job. If the job is a render, it will be divided further into the columns listed below. Each column will contain a number indicating the number of sub-jobs (frames, buckets, etc) that are currently in that particular state. For example, if you submit a render with 1000 frames, the “waiting” column will have 1000 in it until computers start running those frames. 

    • waiting
      Jobs in this column are waiting for computers to process them.
    • running
      Jobs in this column are being processed by computers.
    • aborted
      Jobs in this column are aborted.
    • dead
      Jobs in this column have failed multiple times, and the Super/Farm has decided not to try any further.
    • complete
      Jobs in this column have finished running.
    • total
      This is the total number of sub-jobs.

    You can drill down to see details on your job by clicking the number of sub-jobs in a particular column. For example, if you have submitted a 1000 frame job, and 5 frames have died, you can click on the “5″ in the “dead” column to get a list of the dead frames.

  • Credits
    This is the running total of Credits used by your job (and its subjobs). The number credits used to render a job is calculated using a formula available on the “Purchase Discounted Credits” page.
  • Actions
    This column contains a “Go” button and a drop-down list of commands you can perform on a job. Certain commands only show up in certain situations. For example, if your job has no waiting or running sub-jobs, the “abort” command does not appear. 

    • View Log
      Brings you to the job’s log page. If the job has sub-jobs (e.g., frames or buckets), you can get to their logs using the table at the bottom of the log page.
    • What’s Wrong
      Generates a customized report to explain why your frames have died. Many error messages have links explaining how to work around them.
    • Restart Frames [Aborted/Dead]
      This command takes all frames in the Aborted or Dead columns and moves them back to the waiting column.
    • Abort
      This command aborts all sub-jobs, or if the job itself is processing, aborts the job. The farm charges you through the time when you abort.
    • Zip Output
      Causes a job to be submitted to the farm, which generates a series of .zip archives of the output folder. Each archive contains 20 frames, so if your FTP client stalls or you lose your connection, you do not have to start at the beginnging.
    • Rar Output
      Causes a job to be submitted to the farm, which generates a series of .rar archives of the output folder. Each archive contains 20 frames, so if your FTP client stalls or you lose your connection, you do not have to start at the beginning. Furthermore, Rar gives higher compression ratios than .zip.
    • Make AVI
      New! Causes a job to be submitted to the farm, which generates a .avi file from the .bmp’s in the output folder. The .avi is compressed using the XviD codecfor high-quality, deep compression. This option currently only works with .bmps.
      Note: you can download a pre-compiled copy of the XviD codec for Windows and/or MacOS here.
    • Submit Copy
      Submits a copy of the job. Please note that if the job has sub-jobs, they will be copied as well.

 

Pay

Please note: if you are using the Metered Service billing option, you must pay for your job prior to downloading it.

  • Metered Service – On the Jobs page, choose “Pay for Output” from the Actions column, and click Go. Once you have paid for your job, permission to download the results will be granted.

 

Download the frames

Please note: if you are using the Metered Service billing option, you must pay for your job prior to downloading it. Use your FTP client to retrieve the frames. They will be in the /renders/<job-number> folder, and named “frame_<number>.<ext>” You can compress your files prior to downloading using the “Zip Output” or “RAR Output” commands; ResPower recommends using the “RAR Output” option, since it will create a multi-part archive, with each part set to 25 MB.

Known Issues

•Output folder does not appear on FTP site
•Output folder does not contain all frames on FTP site 

There are two possible causes for this:

  • The job does not have any complete frames/buckets. If frames are not complete, there is nothing for the Super/Farm to place into the Output Folder. The Output Folder is only created once at least one frame is complete.
  • Your FTP client is caching the directory listing. Many FTP clients try to save time by storing a local copy, or cache, of each FTP server’s directory listings. Because the ResPower Super/Farm™ is constantly placing files into your FTP directory, this cache can very quickly become out-of-date, which will make your client show you listings that are inaccurate. To solve this, use your client’s “Refresh” option to re-download the directory listing. For FileZilla, the hotkey for Refresh is F5.

  • •Cannot delete or overwrite files on FTP
    •”Permission denied” errors uploading to FTP 

    You are not allowed to delete files from your /renders folder; these are automatically cleared out by our automated diskspace recovery tools.

    If you are trying to delete files or folders from your /source folder, or are attempting to upload into a subfolder of your /source folder, there are several likely culprits:

  • The server thinks they aren’t your files. When you unzip files, they show up on the server as belonging to a different user from you. To fix this, use the “Take Access” link available on the web site once you have logged in
  • Your FTP client is not descending into the directory. One of the reasons ResPower recommends FileZilla is that it will descend into directories to delete them.
  • Your FTP client is not deleting hidden files. One of the downsides of FileZilla is that it does not list hidden files by default, and so even if it descends into a directory, it could miss those files, preventing FileZilla from deleting the directory itself. To fix this, we recommend changing two settings. First, choose Edit->Settings from the menu. Then select Connection-> Directory Cache in the tree on the left. Make sure that “Don’t Use Cache” is checked. Select Interface Settings->Remote File List from the tree on the left. Make sure that Always show hidden files is checked. Once you have made these configuration changes, and used the “Take Access” button, you should be able to delete files in your /source/ directory at will.

  • • “Render Every Nth Frame” Option causes unexpected results 

    If you turn this option on in your .max file, 3dStudio will only render every nth frame, regardless of what you specify on the Render Wizard™. It is actually worse than that. If you set this value to “10″ in your .max file, but tell the Render Wizard to render all frames from 1 to 100, 3dStudio will round each frame number down to the nearest 10th frame. In other words, it will render every 10th frame 10 times a piece.


    • Built-In Radiosity Rendering Yields Unexpected Results 

    Versions Affected: [ all ]

    3dStudio’s built-in radiosity engine can produce unexpected results (typically a “flicker”) if you allow 3dStudio to recalculate radiosity on every frame. This is because 3dStudio’s radiosity engine apparently takes the viewpoint into account when it builds its radiosity solution.

    To avoid this issue, be sure to create a radiosity solution in your 3dStudio scene prior to upload and do not allow 3dStudio to recompute its advanced lighting.

    Instructions for 3dStudio Max 5.x

    1. Select “Rendering->Advanced Lighting…” from the menu
    2. If the “Reset All” button for radiosity is disabled, then your scene does not currently have a radiosity solution. Press the “Start” button to force 3dStudio to generate one.
    3. Once your scene has a radiosity solution, close the “Advanced Lighting” dialog.
    4. Choose “Rendering->Render…” from the menu
    5. Under “Common Parameters”->”Advanced Lighting”, be sure that “Compute Advanced Lighting when Required” is turned off.
    6. Save your scene with a radiosity solution prior to uploading.

    Instructions for 3dStudio Max 6.x & 7.x

    1. Select “Rendering->Advanced Lighting->Radiosity…” from the menu
    2. If the “Reset All” button for radiosity is disabled, then your scene does not currently have a radiosity solution. Press the “Start” button to force 3dStudio to generate one.
    3. Once your scene has a radiosity solution, close the “Advanced Lighting” dialog.
    4. Choose “Rendering->Render…” from the menu
    5. Under “Common”->”Common Parameters”->”Advanced Lighting”, be sure that “Compute Advanced Lighting when Required” is turned off.
    6. Save your scene with a radiosity solution prior to uploading.

    • Mismatched Output File Types Lead to “Unopenable” Files  

    Versions Affected: [ all ]

    When you select the output file type in the Render Wizard, you are only telling the ResPower render farm what extension to put on your output files.

    The format used in the files is specified in the render panel inside of 3dStudio. For example, if you select “TIFF File” in 3dStudio, but “JPEG File” in the render wizard, the ResPower render farm will put a .jpg extension on your files, and 3dStudio will format them as TIFF files. When you go to open them in an image editor, it will get confused by the discrepancy.

    The obvious solution is to be certain to match output file type in 3dStudio to the output file type in the Render Wizard. But if you have already rendered with mismatched output file types, the fix is to rename your frame files so that the extension matches the format. This can be accomplished in a Windows command prompt (“DOS Box”) with the following commands:

    cd /d [path-to-folder-with-frames] This command changes the current directory. The /d changes the current drive as well.
    ren *.jpg *.tif This command renames all files that end in .jpg so that they end in .tif instead.

    • Choosing “Render Selected”, “Region,” or “Blowup” Results in Black or “Partially Rendered” Frames 

    Versions Affected: [ all ]
    This render setting in the main 3dStudio Window can give you unexpected results on the ResPower Super/Farm™.
    This is the recommended render setting for the ResPower Super/Farm™.
    In 3dsmax 2008, the setting was moved to the Setup Render dialog.™.

    The ResPower Super/Farm™ does not modify your 3dStudio settings as to what to render [unless you are using Split-Frame Rendering, which will use the "Region" or "Blowup" modes]. If you have selected the “render selected” option in 3dStudio, the ResPower Super/Farm™ will only render those objects that are selected. Typically this results in black frames with exceedingly quick render times, often less than 2 seconds per frame!


    • Locking Viewport in “Render Scene” Dialog Results in Unexpected [Possibly Black] Output 

    When locked, the setting shown here can cause unexpected results in your rendered frame.

    When locked, the viewport option overrides the camera specified in the Render Wizard. Even if you specify a camera when you submit your scene for render, 3dStudio will render the view specified with this option. If the viewport specified here happens to be looking at nothing, or at geometry where lighting is not visible, you will receive black output.


    • GIF Texture Maps Kill Render 

    GIF files with certain settings will cause Max to report a render failure after the entire frame has rendered. The result is that the farm retries the frame over and over again until it decides that the frame is unrenderable and marks it as “Dead.”

    The workaround is to simply not use GIF files for texture maps.


    • TIFF Texture Maps Kill Render [JPEG-Encoded] 

    TIFF files with certain settings will cause Max to fail with the error message, “Error Reading Tif File.”

    The workaround is to use uncompressed, RGB, PC-Byte-Ordered TIFF files for texture maps.


    • DDS Texture Maps Kill Render 

    The DDS file format is tied to the Direct3D subsystem and for some reason often leaves the entire Direct3D subsystem unstable, causing frames to die with the following error:
    Error rendering frame 1896: DDS (filename) – Error creating Direct3D Device

    Once this happens, the entire Direct3D subsystem is compromised and the only recourse is to reboot the render node.

    ResPower does not support DDS format with 3dStudio. Use another format, like TGA, instead.


    • PNG Texture Maps Causes Hung Render 

    At least one customer has encountered a situation where a large number of PNG textures caused approximately 50% of their frames to hang during render. The render farm now automatically detects this hang and fails the render. You are not charged in this case, but your frames may be marked “dead” and the completion of affected frames may be delayed due to the need to re-try them.


    • X-Ref’s do not work properly 

    If your animation has X-refs, you will be plagued by at least two issues. The first is that textures utilized by X-refs are not tracked in the “master” file. Because of this, even if you use the photometric path editor to re-path your bitmaps to match the Y-drive, X-ref’d files will not be updated. The net result of this is that those files are not found and your render will fail.

    The second issue is considerably worse. Max apparently locks its X-Ref files for exclusive access when it goes to read them in for render. This is fine if you’re rendering with one computer. If, on the other hand, you’re rendering on 100 computers, the odds that two computers will try to lock the same file at the same time are pretty overwhelming. When this happens, Max ignores the error and renders your animation with a placeholder (typically a big red box) instead of the X-ref. Our farm has no means of detecting this error and so believes that your render went through successfully.


    • Linked files are not supported 

    If your animation uses linked files (via the “File->File Link Manager”), it is likely to not work on the farm and to simply crash with a “max is down” message. Please break all of your links prior to uploading.

    ResPower has not tested to determine if placing your AutoCAD drawings on the Y: drive will solve this problem or not.


    • Video Post is Unsupported 

    Our testing with Video Post on the render farm shows that 3dStudio will render out correctly, claim that it has succeeded to render, and then not place any output file on disk.

    ResPower is investigating this and hopes to have a solution soon.


    • Render Elements are Not Supported on Max 6 

    Our testing with Render Elements shows that 3dStudio runs and claims to successfully render, but no output file is actually placed on disk.

    discreet has confirmed that this is a bug in 3dStudio Max, and has provided ResPower with workaround information.

    Update! ResPower has implemented the workaround for 3dsmax 5 and 7. Max 6 continues to exhibit the problem. As a result, the current stance is this: Render Elements are supported for 3dsmax 5 and 7, but not for 3dsmax 6.


    • Active Time Segment Affects Render Farm Output 

    The Active Time Segment in your .max file must be a superset of the frame range you wish to render on the farm. This means that if you wish to render frames 1-800, but the Active Time Segment in your .max file is set to frames 1-600, frames 601-800 will all be copies of frame 600. If this happens, set the Active Time Segment to include the frames you want to render, save, re-upload your scene, and render again.


    • PNG Output Fails 

    At least one customer has experienced a failure to write out to the .png format. It is believed that this was caused by the camera in this particular scene actually being inside some goemetry (i.e. a wall in this case). If this happens, check the position of your camera in the scene to confirm it is outside any geometry and able to be rendered.


    • RPCs face the wrong way 

    When set as billboards, RPCs will always face the camera.

    In the RPC plugin there is an option to force your RPCs to act like billboards that are always facing the camera. This is useful for some objects, like trees, that may need to exhibit this behavior. However, most RPCs should not. If your RPCs are not changing as the camera is moving and they should, check that they are not set as billboards.


    Known Issues [Brazil r/s-Specific]

    • Split-Frame Rendering Gives Disappointing Results 

    Some customers have noted that our Split-Frame Rendering has not seemed to offer any acceleration for Brazil renders.

    We are not sure if this was because of the configuration of their particular scenes, or due to an inherent problem in the way we provide Split-Frame rendering.

    Unfortunately we have simply not had the time to determine which is the case. Other customers have used the Split-Frame Rendering service with Brazil with great success.


    • Brazil 1.0 Lights Are Incompatible With Brazil 1.2.x 

    If you are using Brazil 1.0, upgrade to 1.2.0 and verify that your lights are working as expected – before submitting your render to the ResPower Render Farm.

    Some customers have found that the “Focus ON” check box in the Hotspot/Falloff/Focus rollout gives different results in Brazil 1.2.0 than it did in Brazil 1.0.

    Specifically, if the light is far away from the object and the “Focus ON” box is checked, then the light will effectively be disabled and will not illuminate or cast shadows on the object.


    Known Issues [finalRender Stage-1 - Specific]

    • Shadow Maps use Fully-Qualified Filenames 

    One of the great features of finalRender is that you can pre-render shadow maps. This can greatly reduce render time. Unfortunately, finalRender Stage-1 Service Pack 1 stores shadow maps using fully-qualified file names. The reason this is a problem is that ResPower has a specific filesystem that is not likely to mirror your filesystem. In other words, our “C:” drive is not going to have the same layout as your “C:” drive.

    The workaround for this is to set up your computer so that its filesystem layout mimics ResPower’s layout. Once this is done, place all of your shadow maps into the ResPower-style filesystem, and save your .max file. When you upload everything to ResPower, finalRender will never know the difference.

    For details on setting up your computer to mimic ResPower’s filesystem, please read our document: User’s Guide: Mimic ResPower Filesystem


    • Split-Frame Rendering Has Artifacts 

    One customer has had an experience where the artifacts caused by split-frame rendering were terrible. If you were going for a “checkerboard” appearance, it might have been acceptable, but this customer wasn’t.

    ResPower has had insufficient time to investigate this error and does not yet know if it is an inherant problem with finalRender, or a configuration issue in the scene.


    Known Issues [V-Ray - Specific]

    • Mislinked Irradiance Map Fails Silently 

    If you use an irradiance map in V-Ray, but fail to link it correctly according to the tutorial here, V-Ray can ignore the irradiance map setting, and render your scene much darker than expected.

    The solution is to be certain that you have followed the directions in the tutorial.


    • Blowup-Based Split-Frame Rendering Fails 

    V-Ray’s implementation of blow-up rendering is incompatible with the ResPower Super/Farm™. As a result, split-frame renders performed with blowup mode end up with all buckets rendered as identical miniatures of the total frame.

    The workaround is to not use blowup mode split-frame.


    • Frame Stamp Shows Up Unexpectedly 

    Using V-Ray’s frame stamp option can sometimes cause a dark bar to unexpectedly show up at the bottom of each rendered frame. The best way to avoid this is to simply turn off the frame stamp before uploading your scene file to ResPower.


    • Missing Texture Maps Ignored 

    Wrong Setting: In V-Ray’s “V-Ray:: System” settings, under “Miscellaneous Options,” turning off “Check for missing files” can have disastrous consequences.
    Correct Setting: In contrast, turning the check box on will ensure that if your textures cannot be found for any reason, your render will fail.

    In V-Ray it is possible to configure your file not to check for missing files. This is a BAD idea, because it means the Super/Farm will not get notification if a render node cannot find a specific texture map.

    This could happen if you forget to upload a texture, which will result in your textures not showing up at all. Worse, it could happen if a render node has a momentary network outtage during your render, which could cause individual frames to lose your texture, otherwise known as “texture flickering on & off.”

    Fortunately, avoiding this issue is simple. In the “V-Ray:: System” rollout, make sure that “Check for missing files” is checked.



    Known Issues [Forest Pack Pro-Specific]

    • Enabling gamma breaks Forest Pack textures

    If gamma is enabled while using the Forest Pack Pro plug-in, the result is renders without textures on the Forest Pack Pro objects.

    iToo Software is aware of this issue.


     

    Common Error Messages

    • ERR: Camera <camera-name> defined but not found 

    This indicates that the camera you specified in the Render Wizard does not exist in the .max file you uploaded. Please re-submit your scene file with the camera name corrected. ResPower recommends opening your scene in 3dsmax, selecting the camera, and using the Windows clipboard to copy the name from 3dsmax to the Render Wizard.

    IMPORTANT: DO NOT INCLUDE ANY LEADING OR TRAILING SPACES IN YOUR CAMERA NAMES. Spaces in the middle of your camera name are not recommended, but ones at the beggining or end of your camera name are not supported or allowed.


    • Error opening scene file: “<file-name> 

    For whatever reason, 3dstudio was unable to open the scene file. The typical cause is that the .max file is corrupt or otherwise unreadable. If you can open the .max file on your machine, please re-upload it and try again.


    • Error rendering frame [#]: Missing dll: dll nameplug-in name  

    Your 3dsmax file has a reference to a plug-in that is not enabled for the render engine you specified. Please contact technical support to get your plug-in installed.


    • ERR: invalid output file type specified in the .MAX file…
    • ERR: Cannot assign targa extension for non-targa file types 

    Your 3dsmax file must be configured to save an output file of the same type that you specify in the Render Wizard™. Please see the section at the beginning of this page entitled Prepare Your Scene File for instructions on doing this.


    • ERR: Error creating bitmap 

    You requested a render size that exceeds the inherent limitations inside of 3dsmax. Resolution must typically be less than 20k x 20k.

    As long as you are not rendering in V-Ray, you can use Split-Frame™ rendering to work around this issue; be sure to set the Split-Frame Rendering Method to “Blowup.”


    • Error rendering frame: std::exception:Error 10061 connecting socket 

    A render node that is attempting to process your job is in a partially crashed state. It’s crashed enough that it is failing to render, but “alive” enough to keep grabbing frames. It should reboot itself automatically after a few frames. Please restart your dead frames according to the section above on Monitoring your job.


    • ERR: Missing Map File: <file-name> 

    The texture specified as <file-name> is not present in the content directory you selected in the Render Wizard™. This has happened either because you chose the wrong content directory, or because you did not upload the file. Please verify that the file has been uploaded into your content directory and try again.


    • Obsolete File Format detected.  

    3dsmax tries to be helpful by failing if you submit a job using a .max file that was created on an older version of 3dsmax. Sometimes this error occurs because you actually did create the .max file on an older version of 3dsmax (service pack levels can matter, too!). Other times it can occur because your .max file became corrupt during the file transfer process – a bit flipped in transit, for example, making the file corrupt, or the file is truncated on our end because it didn’t transfer fully.

    Verify that you submitted your job using the correct version of 3dsmax and that your file is the same size (measured in bytes, not in KB or MB) on our end as it is on your end. If the problem persists, you can resubmit your job using the “Ignore Obsolete Format” checkbox on the Render Wizard.


    • max is down  

    Unfortunately, this is one of the least useful 3ds max error messages available. Some known causes include:

    • You have an AutoCAD file linked in using “File->File Link Manager”. This is not supported.
    • Your .max file is corrupt. Please re-upload it and try again.

     


    • Error rendering frame n: std::exception: bad allocation  

    If you see this error while rendering a Split Frame under 3dsmax, it is most likely caused by having a frame buffer that is too large without using blow-up mode. When using region render mode Split Frame rendering, 3dsmax allocates memory for the entire frame, even though it is only going to render a fragment of it. If your frame is huge, the allocation will fail, and 3dsmax will crash.


    • An unexpected exception has occurred in the network renderer and it is terminating.  

    3dsmax has crashed for some reason. If every frame is crashing with this error, it is typically due to a corrupt .max file. Verify that the .max file on our server is exactly the same size as on your computer, down to the byte.

    It is not uncommon for 3dsmax to crash due to random failures with this error message. This is typically presented as a render where some percentage of the frames die while the rest render to completion. In these cases, simply use the “Restart Frames [aborted/dead]” command to restart your frames.

    Occasionally it is caused by a bug in a plug-in that only shows up in a render farm environment. For example, at the time of this writing, we were debugging an issue with a modeling plug-in that has a “free render-node” version. The render node version would crash upon seeing certain data produced by the “non render-node” version. We had the user collapse the modification stack to editable polygons, but the render node version still crashed. The workaround was for us to un-install the render-node plug-in and use the “Ignore All Missing Plugins” option on the Render Wizard.


    • Error parsing frame list  

    3dsmaxcmd.exe does not like to receive negative frame numbers on its command line. This is the program that ResPower uses to control 3dsmax versions 6 and higher. As a result, ResPower does not support negative frame numbers on those versions of 3dsmax.


    • ERR: Brazil r/s License Error 4 – See Chap 2.8 for details- Render Aborting  

    Occasionally the render nodes have trouble talking to the Brazil license server. The farm automatically restarts frames when this happens. On rare occasion, the same frame may be affected three times, causing it to be marked dead. You can typically restart the frames using the “Restart Frames [aborted/dead]” Action from the Job Status page to re-start those frames.


    • Error rendering frame n: The Scene XRef file: “<path>” can not be found  

    The farm does not support X-Refs. You must merge them into your scene file and try again.


    • Promaterials do not appear, or look wrong.  

    Promaterials are little different from normal textures, and they may not render correctly or at all if the render isn’t set correctly for them. We have seen situations where having gamma set incorrectly would make a promaterial texture fail to show up.


    • Error rendering frame n: Cannot assign targa extension for non-targa file types  

    The output type specified on the Render Wizard must be identical to the output type specified in your .max file. Either resubmit the job using the file type specified in your .max file, or modify your .max file and re-upload it.


    • Timed out waiting for 3dsmax.exe to start.  

    The ResPower Super/Farm runs 3dsmax by way of running 3dsmaxcmd.exe. Certain scene files seem to randomly hang before launching 3dsmax. We are not sure what triggers this, but there is a patch in place which should terminate the job and try again if 3dsmaxcmd.exe does not start 3dsmax in a reasonable amount of time. When that happens, this error message appears.


    • ERROR: an error dialog box popped up. Caption Was:Biped  

    This error usually indicates that your scene is using a biped file (.bip) that is not present for the render node. For best results, link your .bip files in a folder called “c:\respower\temp”, and upload them with your scene. When you submit the render, choose the appropriate .bip files in the Super/Cache section of the Render Wizard, and the render farm will copy them to each render node just prior to launching 3dsmax.


    • error: Could not save irradiance map
    • Error rendering frame n: [V-Ray] Could not save irradiance map 

    Saving an irradiance map from V-Ray is not supported. Turn off the “Auto-Save” checkbox for the irradiance map.

    Advanced Users: This is an entirely unsupported possibility, but in theory, you can create an irradiance map on the farm. Configure your scene to auto-save an irradiance map to “c:\respower\temp\max\output”. Then, submit a job to the farm at low resolution, rendering every nth frame. The farm will produce a series of .vrmap files which you can merge using the irradiance map viewer that comes with v-ray. In theory. We’ve had very limited success playing with this – if you find a workflow that is reliable, we’d love to hear about it!


    • error: Could not load irradiance map
    • Error rendering frame n: [V-Ray] Could not load irradiance map 

    Configure your .max file to load its irradiance map file from a directory named “c:/respower/temp/”. Upload your irradiance map file with your scene file. Make sure that the name of the irradiance map file matches the one you select in the Render Wizard Super/Cache panel exactly, including the extension. Some users have had their .max file reference an irradiance map with a name like “c:/respower/temp/irradiance”, rather than “c:/respower/temp/irradiance.vrmap”. This does not work.

     

    4 Responses to How To: Render .max Files on the ResPower Super/Farm™

    1. Juan says:

      Hello!
      I wonder how to setup a specific render on your servers.
      I need to render tons of objects against a background (TGA’s with alpha channel) for compositing and i need some max settings in Preferences/Rendering to be set since they arent usually checked. and they are:
      Filter Background
      Use Environment Alpha

      Is this possible??

      • earlye says:

        Hi Juan,

        This should be possible, although I’m not certain that these settings are carried in the .max file. Please contact support@respower.com to take advantage of our 10 frame test (we’ll typically do a few iterations of this test if there are any issues, like one of those settings not taking effect.) If they are not carried in the .max file, there may be command line options you can apply from the Render Wizard, or we may need to throw together a patch of our software to reconfigure 3dsmax on-the-fly.

    2. Hello!
      Does Respower servers support (3dsmax2013 64bit) meshes using Point Cache modifier (modifier loads a separate cache file with specific vertex transform data animation).

      Thanx in advance
      Juan

      • earlye says:

        Hi Juan,

        Sorry for not getting back sooner – we’ve been getting drowned in WordPress spam messages. This should be doable, provided your point cache file is copied to each render node using the Super/Cache™ mechanism. Please contact support@respower.com to try another 10 frame test to make sure you have the process down.