Don’t Ditch, Repurpose: Building a 3D Render Farm from Old Workstations

by Chad Ashley

Remember that clunky workstation that you’ve been piling laundry on in the corner? The one collecting dust bunnies faster than it’s churning out renders? Don’t put it on Facebook Marketplace just yet! It, along with its retired buddies, could be the key to unlocking a hidden superpower: a DIY 3D render farm.

This is something I do every time I upgrade to a new Puget Systems PC. My previous workstation goes right into our little DIY render farm and sits at the ready to tackle all our rendering needs.


Why Build Your Own Render Farm?

Think of a render farm as a team of tireless workers, toiling away on your heavy-duty renders while you keep creating, animating, and rendering. It’s not just about efficiency, though. Here’s what a DIY farm can do for you:

  • Spread the Load: No more waiting impatiently for renders to finish. Distribute them across your mini-farm, keeping your main PC free to keep on creating uninterrupted.
  • Faster Turnarounds: Client changes? No sweat! Crank out revisions in record time with multiple machines tackling the render.
  • Cost-Effective Powerhouse: Skip the expensive cloud render farms and unleash the rendering beast within your old machines.
  • Keep it Local: If you or your clients are nervous about sending precious scene files up to a cloud rendering service, building a mini-farm might be just what you need.


The Drawbacks: Not All Sunshine and Rainbows

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. Building and managing a farm requires:

  • More Software Licenses: Each machine needs its own software licenses, which can add up.
  • IT Headaches: Juggling multiple machines means troubleshooting hardware, software, and network issues.
  • Power Bills: Get ready to heat up your office and potentially rack up some expensive electricity bills. But hey, at least you’ll save money on your heating bills.


Sleep Better at Night: Enter Thinkbox Deadline

Thinkbox Deadline is a godsend for managing your render farm. It acts as a conductor, orchestrating renders across your machines, prioritizing tasks, and keeping everything humming smoothly. Plus it’s free (up to 10 render workers)!

I was intimidated the first time I set up Deadline to work with Cinema 4D, but they’ve really improved their setup process and I got my mini-farm set up in about 45 minutes! Check out their comprehensive documentation to get started.


Ditch the Bare Bones, Embrace the Feature-Rich

Most 3D software have basic render queue managers, but they’re often bare-bones and clunky. I tried for years to get Cinema’s render queue to work consistently, but I often came in the next day to failed jobs. Not fun. Once I got Deadline set up I was able to finally sleep well at night while the workers chugged away at my renders. A few of my favorite things about Deadline:

  • Orchestrated Efficiency: Thinkbox Deadline acts as a conductor, distributing renders across your farm, prioritizing tasks, and ensuring optimal resource utilization. No more wondering which machine is free or juggling renders manually.
  • Flexible Control: Fine-tune your render pipeline like a maestro. Set dependencies between tasks, prioritize urgent jobs, and even manage resource allocation on individual machines, all within Deadline’s intuitive interface.
  • Real-time Monitoring and Insight: Keep your finger on the pulse of your farm. Deadline provides detailed reporting on render progress, resource usage, and machine health, letting you identify bottlenecks and optimize performance.
  • Manage More Than 3D: Deadline can manage all sorts of rendering. Even After Effects and Black Magic Fusion!


Power Up Your Farm with Puget Systems

Our little farm is 100% made up of Puget Systems PCs and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Extremely well built and battle-tested. It would be a shame to retire our older workstations to the closet. Puget Systems builds premium workstations specifically designed for creative professionals. They’re Greyscalegorilla’s PC of choice for a reason!


Staying current with 3D hardware ensures you’re harnessing the latest rendering tech, giving you an edge in speed, quality, and efficiency. Check out Puget System’s workstation options and find the perfect fit for your needs and repurpose your current machine and get your mini-farm started today.


So, before you hit the eject button on your old workhorse, consider grabbing a new Puget Systems workstation and giving your old PC a new lease on life. With a little DIY spirit and the right tools, you can transform those dusty relics into a powerful render farm, fueling your creativity and taking your 3D work to the next level. Remember, sometimes the best resources are the ones already at your disposal. Now, go forth and render!


1 Comment

  1. DarkGhostJanuary 21, 2024 at 8:53 am

    I have 2 xeon e5 2011v3

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