What is Render Farm and How to Build One?

What is a Render Farm

The term render farm was born during the production of the Autodesk 3D Studio animated short The Bored Room in July 1990 when, to meet an unrealistic deadline, a room filled with Compaq 386 computers was configured to do the rendering.

In the film and animation industry, people call the Cluster a “Render farm”. Many network management technicians like to call “cluster computing systems”, and people in the industry prefer to call him “rendering farms”-very visual and humane.

Rendering farms have been associated with “big” since its birth. Big projects, big teams, big clusters, with the birth of the rendering farm, the key words are-big! Super big! However, as the customer’s quality requirements for CG are getting faster and faster, a certain quality of CG pictures require a lot of time to render. The famous Moore’s Law is still in play today, and he predicts that hardware performance will double every 18 months. In the past, only a large Hollywood production company could afford a rendering farm. Now for a team of about 10-40 people, you can also build a rendering farm that can meet your needs through careful planning and design.

How to Build

To manage large farms, one must introduce a queue manager that automatically distributes processes to the many processors. Each “process” could be the rendering of one full image, a few images, or even a sub-section (or tile) of an image. The software is typically a client–server package that facilitates communication between the processors and the queue manager, although some queues have no central manager. Some common features of queue managers are: re-prioritization of the queue, management of software licenses, and algorithms to best optimize throughput based on various types of hardware in the farm. Software licensing handled by a queue manager might involve dynamic allocation of licenses to available CPUs or even cores within CPUs. A tongue-in-cheek job title for systems engineers who work primarily in the maintenance and monitoring of a render farm is a render wrangler to further the “farm” theme. This job title can be seen in film credits.

Other Options

Beyond on-site render farms, cloud-based render farm options have been facilitated by the rise of high-speed Internet access. Many cloud computing services, including some dedicated to rendering, offer render farm services which bill only for processor time used. Understanding the cost or processing time required to complete rendering is unpredictable so render farms bill using GHz per hour. Those considering outsourcing their renders to a farm or to the cloud can do a number of things to improve their predictions and reduce their costs. These services eliminate the need for a customer to build and maintain their own rendering solution. Another phenomenon is collaborative rendering, in which users join a network of animators who contribute their processing power to the group. However, this has technological and security limitations.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Render_farm