Join Eran Stern for an in-depth discussion in this video Workflow for multimachine network rendering, part of After Effects Tips and Techniques: Rendering and Exporting.
- In this movie I'll show you how to set up a multi-machine network rendering for After Effects. This will allow you to use all the horsepower you have on your facility and will also support some of After Effects slowest renders scenarios, such as working with linked CINEMA 4D projects. It's very easy to set up, and it supports both Mac and PC computers which are using the same network. I have this project here named WeekEndAnimation from the chapter two folder in the exercise files.
I just want to walk you through this project so you can get a sense of why we need this workflow. So first we are starting with a couple of very simple After Effects shape layers which are using a 3D camera, which I've imported from CINEMA 4D. On top of this, I've got this Stars CC Particles, Worlds Particles. Once again, this is all using the CINEMA 4D camera. And this is the main heel here our WeekEndAmination C4D file.
Now, currently I'm showing it to you using the Software renderer mode which is quite fast and it's actually going to perform quite fine in terms of showing us what we have in this file. On top of this, we have a Particles which is once again using the CC Particle World effect. And this is using null object which I've exported from CINEMA 4D, which tell us where the end of the ship is. And just to make it more happy and vivid, we've got also the CINEMA 4D Lights and Camera.
So if you're going to add additional 3D layers such as those layers over here or additional text, everything should comply to the same lighting environment. Now, the real bottleneck becomes very apparent when we are switching from the Software render to the Standard Final one. And this can take a lot of time just for After Effects to contact CINEMA 4D through the CINEWARE plugin in order to generate a final render.
So we are still waiting for it, and note that we are rendering only half res now. So it does take time. I just want to show you how much time you are going to save, so I want to show you how much time it's going to take to render it. Now, if I'm going to switch to Full resolution, then we once again need to rerender the file. And this of course will take at least twice the amount. So it doesn't really make sense to actually sit here and watch this render.
I can of course leave it to render overnight. But I think that it is the great opportunity to actually show you how easy it is to get the faster performance from After Effects in terms of multi-machine networking. And this what we are going to do now. So the first step is actually to make sure that you have the fastest network possible. For best performance, consider a Gigabit Ethernet networking, although I have to say it will work fine with 10 Megabits Ethernet as well.
I'm not going to go through all the sharing processes over both machines. But I will show you a couple of seconds which I'm going to record from my PC so you see the procedure on both Windows and Mac. They are quite easy these days. On the PC side, you basically select your drive or folder then right-click on it and set it to share and then define the permissions, and you are good to go. On the Mac side, it's a little bit different. You need to go to the System Preferences, and then go to the Sharing Options, and then make sure that you are Enabling File Sharing.
Now you need to drag the folder that you want to share to this location. And then you need to make sure that you enable everyone on the network to read and write files. This is very important in order for all the machine to be able to actually write files onto the same drive. If you are working with a PC environment, then click on the Options and make sure that you are using the Window File Sharing as well just by enabling whatever machine that you want to connect to and then insert your password and username.
Next, you want to make sure that all the computer can mount the drive and can of course read and write files to it. So in this case this is our drive, our Watch Render folder which I've already set up before. Next step is to make sure that all the computers are running the same version of After Effects which you are using in order to build this file. So you don't need to actually license. You just have to install After Effects over there. We're actually going to use the After Effects Render Engine which is a free of charge software.
So actually, Adobe are giving you this engine in order to activate only the part of After Effects which are going to be needed in order to render. Another thing which is very important is to make sure that all the machines that you are using will have the same plugins and fonts installed on them. Now, we are going to collect the footage in the project in a moment. But before doing so, let's just hide After Effects for a moment and define the shared storage for everything.
So I'm going to select the Watch Render over here. And this is a folder on the root of this disk. So we actually need to create another folder. And this will be actually the shared folder. So I'm just going to name this one shared. And then I'm going to select under the shared options over here my Macbook Pro and click on Shared Screen in order to see the actual computer. So I'm just going to log into it.
And let's just open it up so we can see it a little bit better. And just make sure that this machine can actually see the same shared folder, which is true in my case. Now, I'm just going to open a new tab over here, go to the Application Favorites shortcut, and from here I'm just going to launch the Adobe After Effects CC Render Engine. Now let's go to the File menu over here and define under Watch Folder the same directory that we just set.
And you will see that After Effects will try to scan it and see if there's anything to render. It doesn't find anything yet. But it will in a moment. Let's just do the same for the other machines. I'm going to select the other iMac. And for the PC side, I'm going to record the screen separately, and I'm going to show you how this works. But for now let's just connect to Natasha's computer which is my wife, and I know that password, which is very good, so I can connect to that computer.
Okay, and we need to actually make sure that the same thing applies, so we can see that we can have access to the same Watch Render folder over here. And then of course we need to make sure that After Effects can see it. So we are going to launch the After Effects Render Engine once again on this machine as well. And then we'll do the same steps. So go to the File under Watch Folder, make sure that you see the same directories, so in this case we need to tell it to use this shared folder.
Once again, there is nothing there yet to be shared. But it's going to start looking. So I'm going to just make sure that we can see both of them at the same time. Then I'm going to return to After Effects. Now here we need to make sure that we are using the correct render settings. So I want to make sure that I first add this to the Render Queue. And then from the Render Settings I'm going to choose Multi-Machine Settings for the render one, and Multi-Machine Sequence for the output module.
Usually I like to change the Output Module from Photoshop to JPEG Sequence if I don't need the Alpha Channel, which I'm not in this case. And just know that we are not going to get any audio of this project. This project doesn't have any audio. But if you do have an audio file, you need to process it in a separate pass. Okay, I'm also going to click on the Multi-Machine Settings over here and just show you that this is what's important, the options which is turned on for Skip Existing Files.
This will allow the Multi-Machine Rendering to look at each one of the other computers' result and not render the same files twice. Okay, I see that After Effects really fight to update the screen. So I'm going to press on CAPS LOCK. And this will turn off the rendering for now. And now this is the most important step. After you define the Multi-Machine Settings for both the Render Settings and Output Module, go ahead to the File menu.
And from the Dependencies choose Collect Files. Enable the 'Watch Folder' Render. This is very important. And this will be available only if you selected the Multi-Machine Settings. Here you can also set up the maximum numbers of machine. I'm going to leave it at five because anyway I only have four machines here in my studio. Now I'm going to press Collect and point it to the same shared folder. And then I'm going to hit Save. It will take a moment to collect the files in this case.
In your computer with your project, it make take a little bit longer, but this is a very simple project in terms of its footage file. It's going to be a long process to render it, as we saw. Anyhow, we can hide After Effects for now. And you can see that in this case the Macbook Pro already identified the project and it's starting to render it. The iMac is a little bit slower, so it takes a little bit more time in order for it to join the render process. And now it's starting to do it, And we can render it from here as well.
So I'm just going to press Render. And you can see that the render actually starts after a couple of frames. So we can actually monitor everything here in real time. I'm just going to nudge this window down so we can see what each and every computer is doing. And we can see that all of them are working on the same task together. I'm going to go to my PC and define the same steps over there so you get a chance to see how this is defined using a Windows machine.
And then when all the files are going to be rendered, we are going to import them back into After Effects to finish the process. So here in the PC side, just make sure that you can see and access the same network location. And I'm just going to double-click and use the same network credentials in order to log in to my Mac. Now let's hit OK, and it seems that everything is working. So I can double-click on the After Effects Render Engine.
You will find it under the Program Files, Adobe, Adobe After Effects, and the version that you are working with. So double-click the application in order to launch it. And then I'm just going to make sure that we are seeing it full screen here. So I'm going to maximize it. And then as before, I'm going to go to File, Watch Folder, and then I'm going to select the same Shared Folder that I've created before in the Mac just moment ago.
This will launch the Watch Folder application which will scan the content of the folder. And obviously it will find the same project that all the other computers are working on. It will open it up and you will see that in the Render Queue, it will scan for frags which I've already rendered. And then of course it will start to join that same task. So now we've got four machines rendering the same project.
And you can also open up the current Render Options if you want to see what After Effects is really doing. So we're actually rendering with four machines instead of one, which will be much quicker. And we should be able to get the results ready very soon. I'm going to skip forward in time in order to show you the final state. So it looks like the render is finished. I just want to verify that all the other machines are finished as well. So I'm just hiding After Effects.
And I see that this is the case. So we can say goodbye to the Shared Screen application, return back to After Effects, and actually open up the Output Module. And as I showed you before, you can just drag and drop the result. And let's just drag and drop it to a new sequence in order to see the outcome. Now we can switch to full screen and create a quick RAM preview in order to see the outcome. And by the way, this render took almost 20 minutes. I've tested it before using just one machine and it took one hour and 25 minutes.
So this is a real saver. And also, because we rendered it like this, for example, if you want to check how this would look with fake motion blur, I can just go to the Effect and under Time I can add the Pixel Motion Blur, for example. This will add some faux motionware to the letters. And this is much quicker than using it in the native form, which means that applying this effect to the original CINEMA 4D files this will render much quicker.
And you can get a sense if this is something that you want to leave, maybe raise the Shutter samples, for example. I'm going to go with 16 over here to match the After Effects default. And it will render much quicker than before. So if you need to speed up render and want to use all the horsepower computers that you have, consider setting up a multi-machine network rendering farm. It's easy. It's fast. And you can really save your neck the next time you'll have a tight deadline to meet.
- Adjusting Media and Disk Cache settings
- Rendering multiple outputs at once
- Creating faster and longer RAM previews
- Rendering multiple frames simultaneously
- Rendering alpha channels
- Upscaling footage and compositions
- Exporting to Premiere Pro or CINEMA 4D