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A render farm is a network of computers working together to process large graphics that otherwise would take much longer to render. While this can be used to render any graphics, a render farm typically is only used with movie special effects and other graphics that are too large for one computer to effectively process. The processor in each computer communicates with the processors in other computers, so each one knows what the other computers are working on. Manager programs often are needed to coordinate each computer to ensure they are effectively working together on the graphics.
Render farm networks are a large collection of computers working together to render memory-heavy graphics. When someone makes an image or small animation, a single computer often can quickly render those graphics, but very large graphics may take hours, days or even weeks. This slows down the graphics workflow and can cause the computer to crash while rendering. To get around this problem and to make the rendering much faster, many computers are used simultaneously to render graphics. While there are other farm types, the render farm is only used for rendering.
Smaller graphics will not benefit from a render farm, and using this for small graphics can be expensive because of the high amount of energy needed to power each computer. For this reason, only very large graphics go through a farm. These graphics typically are whole, three-dimensional (3D) animations; computerized special effects for movies; and large models used in marketing. Each computer also is optimized for rendering, making the farm work even quicker.
During the rendering process, each computer’s processor will talk to the other computers in the render farm. Their communication is not very advanced and usually is limited to what each computer is uploading or downloading. This makes it easier to manage the farm, but it usually is not enough to run the entire farm without problems. Without some type of management, two or more computers may render the same graphic and, because the graphic only needs to be rendered once, this wastes time and power.
To ensure that each computer only renders graphics that need to be worked on, a manager program often is used in conjunction with the network. The manager will check through the workload and see what files still need to be rendered. It then will distribute the files to the computers, ensuring that each graphic is only being worked on by one computer.