19 Mar 2013, 9:39 a.m.
This is our first blog post and we thought "let's write about something epic." We had a good look around at what might pique your interest and although the pink micro-scooter we use for getting around the office is pretty awesome – yes, it is, really - it simply isn't incredible enough. So there was only one option with enough awesomeness to impress you... our render farm.
Clients often ask us how we achieve photo-realistic renders quickly, efficiently, and in-budget, and we tell them.. it's the farm, baby! It all started a year ago with a few old PCs rescued from the loft of our office, then cobbled together to facilitate the grunt work that characterises modern graphics rendering.
But things do change in a year, massively so in our case. Our projects have become vastly more complex – read awesome – so we need hardware that can keep up with the breakneck pace of our development. Enter the farm, as it’s affectionately known. This silicon beast’s beating heart is a 20-node server. But simply calling it a 20-node server would constitute a grave injustice, you see. Each node harnesses the very latest Intel Xeon-based firepower and solid-state drives for uber-quick file accesses, for starters, and with all these cores supported by over 500GB of high-performance memory it’s, well, rather tasty and almost worth its weight in gold.
We could use it for searching for aliens or debunking obscure scientific theories, but, instead, it sits in its own air-conditioned room and patiently waits to be fed large rendering projects. An air-conditioned room, you say? Well, the beastly farm’s original location meant it quickly turned a room into the office sauna and although it was nice to chill out – rather oxymoronically - in a bathrobe while we rendered, David (aka Boss Ross), wasn't best pleased and made us dismantle the rack and move all 20 nodes to a more suitable, cooler location.
In all seriousness, readers, it's something we're all really, really pleased with and it's more than proved its worth to us and our clients on multiple occasions. So much so that we’re actively seeking to expand the farm even further. We can monitor the status of renders and manage queues remotely. We even built our own Raspberry Pi PC to send text alerts to the tech team if the room heats up too much. Being a bunch of geeks at heart we are big fans of all the flashing lights on the front. Just turn out the lights, stick on some music and you’ve got your own private club known as The Server Room.
So if you have a motion-graphics/rendering project that no-one else can help with, maybe you can work with the BOXFX creative team!