[Beowulf] noob understanding

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Sat May 20 07:15:09 PDT 2006

On Fri, 19 May 2006, philip wrote:

> I may call respower and see how far into their brains they'll let me "pick"
> to see if the nodes are linux.  What do you guys think?

Sure, but don't forget to really spend a quiet hour or four with Google.
If I were going to drop what I was doing and make a movie in my
metaphorical garage beowulf (it's actually in the refinished attic:-) I
would begin by doing a really, really thorough search on the existing
tools, some of the very best of which run on linux boxes.  Linux tools
are USUALLY (but not always) open source and freely available.  In this
case, the tools will without question be designed to do frame renders on
render farms, since this is the only way this has ever been done for
serious movies from the beginning.

This may cause you to completely change your toplevel software from max
to something else -- it usually isn't worth your time to graft two
fundamentally different or incompatible packages or approaches together
unless there is already a community working on it (often there is), or
you are a programming god and can start your own community, or you enjoy
pain.  (Hey, there are clearly people that DO enjoy pain or Windows
wouldn't even exist, right?:-)

Some of what you might end up with will cost you money for software or
software support -- this is a "professional grade" application and the
free software just may not hold its own with the closed source software
available.  However, don't write off free -- there are old, mature
projects out there in the specific area of rendering (see e.g.


that have numerous film credits to their name and that are already
ported to run using MPI and/or PVM and/or frame distribution tools.
I've used it to make graphics for papers and presentations myself --
very cool.

I'd love it if you'd publish a review of what you learn and what you end
up selecting back to the list to help others that might be asking these
questions in the future (and to enlighten those of us on list who don't
know exactly how this all works except in very general terms).


> Again, thanks a million for the replies.  BTW. I'm in Pittsburgh.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Joe Landman [mailto:landman at scalableinformatics.com]
> Sent: Friday, May 19, 2006 4:06 PM
> To: phildlight at verizon.net
> Cc: beowulf at beowulf.org
> Subject: Re: [Beowulf] noob understanding
> phildlight at verizon.net wrote:
>> I've searched many of the posts and I only have a few quick
>> questions.
>> Please excuse my ignorance.
>> 1. Is my understanding that you can process windows processes on a
>> linux cluster correct?
> No.  You would need to use VMware or similar environment, and that would
> come at a huge performance penalty.  Xen/Wine/etc all cost cycles, and
> if performance is a problem you are trying to address now, you really
> don't want to do this.
>> 2. Specifically, I'm interested in using a linux cluster (25 nodes)
>> for rendering
> This should work ...
>> 3d studio max by splitting single frames accross the
> this won't.  3D studio max is a windows only product, and will not work
> with a linux cluster.  You would need to ask Autodesk to port it for
> you, and they aren't likely to do this.
>> cluster. Example. We work with enormous output files, usually around
>> 5400x3600, and they render in about 15 hours on a dual xeon 3.4ghz w/
>> 2gb ram. Distributed rendering via windows works, but we're interested
>> in growing the "farm" to many more nodes, hence the interest in a
>> beowulf. Occasionally, we'll do some animations also, so it again would
>> be enormously beneficial. I think I understand that this is possible,
>> and am interested more specifically in the scripting method to dump the
>> job into the cluster from windows.
> You can always build a windows cluster.
>> Additionally, we use vray (render engine plugin for max) for the
>> final
>> output.
>> Am I correct in thinking that this is possible? Any direction at all
>> would be great! Thanks.
> It is possible in linux as long as you are using linux based rendering
> software.  Most of the large CGI houses are doing things like this.  I
> don't know many that are running windows.  You might want to check out
> what they do.
> If you are forced to use 3D studio max, ask them for a linux version.
> They may say no. In which case you are stuck doing what you have been doing.
> Joe
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Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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