A lot of processing hours is required to create visual effects and animations for hottest films and TV shows. For instance, the rendering time for Monsters vs. Aliens is 40 million hours while Revenge of the Sith uses up a time of 6.6 million hours. For television visual effects, expectation is always between 30 minutes to one hour per frame even as multiple hours per frame are widespread for feature films. In spite of all this, how do studios get on with this development?
The solution lies in the use of render farms which are collections of machines with the definite purpose of rendering finished frames. Render farms make use of many dedicated processors for rendering in addition to the systems that animators use. For example, when Transformers 2 was produced, it was rendered using 5,700 processor cores and 2,000 cores in artists' machines.
The use of render farms is and should not be limited to 3D artists and large studios alone. Smaller studios and freelance artists can have theirs too since a number of editing systems encourage the use of extra machine called render nodes to accelerate rendering. This type of arrangement can be used for digital audio workstations and architectural visualization. As a freelance artist you can build a small farm to increase your productivity in contrast to working on a lone workstation.
But you will have to decide whether you will be buying a sophisticated system or you will step back a little a purchase a small number of additional systems that will be used as dedicated render nodes. A good number of 3D software and composition applications support network rendering capabilities and a lot of them have some form of a network rendering controller. As a result of this, you can manage additional nodes from your workstation and they can be run headless with no keyboard, mouse or monitor. Furthermore, by adding a Virtual Network Computing (VNC) client to each node, you can remotely manage them without spending more like adding a multichannel system keyboard, video and mouse (KVM) switch for distinct access to each of them.
Moreover, there are 3 ways to acquire a render farm; you can build it yourself, you can ask a builder to build for you and you can buy a pre-built box. The first option is the cheapest while the last option is the costliest. However, endeavor to confirm that the processors in your render farm are the same with the ones in your workstation as there can be disparity in rendering between processor architectures which can lead to disparity in your final rendered frames.
Get details of how to build a render farm at Fox Render Farm.