Boots Commercial uses Tractor Dispatcher

A few weeks ago I worked on a commercial for Boots using mostly open-source tools, includand Gimp and Blender, with the new Cycles renderer.
While Cycles can produce beautiful images, like with most physically plausible renderers those images tend to be quite noisy. There are several tricks to reduce the amount of noise in Cycles, but one of the most effective is simply increasing the amount of samples. Unfortunately taking lots of samples is very time consuming, and render times can quickly go through the roof. Fortunately, I did a test early on in the project, which got rendered quickly. Though unfortunately once I got closer to the final materials and lighting, a lot of noise had crept back in the picture, mostly in the shadow areas and due to reflective materials. I did some tweaking, but eventually had to turn up the sampling and render times shot through the roof, to a point where it was unfeasible to render the commercial on a single workstation.

Fortunately, just a couple of weeks earlier I had hacked together a render dispatcher for Pixar’s Tractor render manager, that we use at Storm Studios.  Having 20 machines at my disposal for rendering, rather than one, was a complete life saver on this project. Since I finished work on the commercial, I’ve cleaned up the code a little, and added a few more features to the dispatcher. If you happen to have access to a render farm running Tractor Engine, you can grab the addon here and try it for youself.

December 13, 2012

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