How to harness remote rendering computers across the Internet using Dropbox with this Internet Rendering with LightWave 3D ScreamerNet LWSN Step-by-step Tutorial. LightWave 3D ScreamerNet LWSN communicates between a network controller, such as DreamLight Constellation, and the LWSN rendering nodes by simply reading and writing commands to and from a pair of job and ack text files. As long as the controller and the render nodes have read/write access to the job and ack command files as well as to the content directory and the output directory they can participate in the render farm, no matter where they are located, even if they are located anywhere across the Internet. This can be quite useful for small scale independent filmmakers who may wish to harness the rendering power of any extra computers that may be available in multiple locations such as between work and home studios.
Dropbox provides a very simple way to securely share content across the Internet and may be used to share the content directory, command directory and output directory for ScreamerNet LWSN.
In this step by step internet rendering tutorial we’ll be using two computers over the Internet via Dropbox, both Mac OS X Macs or both Windows PCs. LightWave’s built-in Network Render controller does not remap Mac/Win paths so all computers must be the same platform when using LightWave’s built-in network controller, so we’ll start there. When using the new DreamLight Constellation network controller, which does remap Mac/Win paths, you can add cross-platform render nodes after completing this tutorial as detailed in the DreamLight Constellation Cross-platform DreamLight Constellation tutorial.
Internet Rendering with LightWave 3D ScreamerNet LWSN
Step by Step How To Tutorial Contents
- Download and Install the FREE LITE DreamLight Constellation, DLI_SNUB-Launcher & DLI SuperBalls Content
- Setting up Dropbox for Internet Rendering
- Setting up the ScreamerNet lwsn Config File
- Drag-and-drop Launching LWSN Nodes with DLI_SNUB-Launcher
- Drag-and-drop Network Rendering with DreamLight Constellation
- Advanced Internet Rendering Through a Secure ssh Tunnel and vnc Screen Sharing
Download and Install the FREE LITE DreamLight Constellation, DLI_SNUB-Launcher & DLI SuperBalls Content
The following step-by-step Network Rendering with LightWave 3D ScreamerNet LWSN tutorial shows how to render DLI_SuperBalls, the sample scene (and prebuilt content folder) that is included with the FREE Lite version of DreamLight Constellation & DLI_SNUB-Launcher, using LightWave 3D ScreamerNet LWSN in batch/network mode (-2) on Mac OS X or Windows.
- Download the DreamLight Constellation bundle which includes the FREE LITE versions of DreamLight Constellation, DLI_SNUB-Launcher and DLI_SuperBalls pre-built sample content folder.
- After downloading the DreamLight Constellation.zip file, unzip the file by double-clicking it on Mac OS X or by right-clicking on it and selecting Extract All…
- Drag the DreamLight Constellation application & DLI_SNUB-Launcher application files from the unzipped folder to your LightWave 3D applications folder where Layout and Modeler are found:
/Applications/NewTek/LightWave3D_2015.2on Mac OS X or
C:\Program Files\NewTek\LightWave_2015.2on Windows. Enter an administrator’s username and password if prompted. You may then create an alias/shortcut to place on your desktop or elsewhere if desired. While DreamLight Constellation & DLI_SNUB-Launcher can actually be run from anywhere, they will automatically locate the default settings from LightWave Layout’s config file more easily when run from the LightWave3D folder.
- Copy DLI_SNUB-Launcher to the LightWave folder on each render node as well. Because we’ll only be running DreamLight Constellation on the host computer you don’t need to copy DreamLight Constellation to each render node, but it won’t hurt anything if you do.
- Go to Dropbox, download and install the FREE Dropbox on the host and remote computers.
- Follow the Dropbox instructions to set up a FREE account if you don’t already have one.
- Install and set Dropbox to place the
Dropboxfolder in the home folder on all the computers and log them all in to the same Dropbox account.
- Copy the
DLI_SuperBallsprebuilt Content Folder from the DreamLight Constellation content to the
Dropboxfolder in the host computer’s home folder to make it accessible via Dropbox. Rename the DLI_SuperBalls folder to
NetContent. Renaming the folder is not required, but is useful for this Content Folder so that you can leave it in the Dropbox and simply put content inside it that you wish to share with all your Dropbox connected computers. This way you don’t have to keep resetting the Content Folder path in all the connected computers when you want to render a different project. Just copy/move the content into this shared NetContent folder in the Dropbox to automatically share it with all your render nodes.
- You can simply log into the same Dropbox account from each remote rendering computer or if you need to have different Dropbox users access the Content Folder then you can right-click the
NetContentfolder and select Dropbox->Share This Folder… from the popup menu. Then enter the email addresses of everyone you’d like to share the Content Folder with to invite them to share the
There are a few settings that are stored in the LightWave 3D Layout config file that are used by ScreamerNet LWSN for batch/network mode -2 rendering. The first is the Content Directory which ScreamerNet LWSN will read from the config file if not overridden in the command line or by drag and drop in DreamLight Constellation at the time of rendering. Another config setting that may be used by ScreamerNet LWSN is the Command Directory, but we’ll be using the defaults in DreamLight Constellation and DLI_SNUB-Launcher which automatically default to the Commands folder inside the Content Folder which we just set. The other two settings are the Segment Memory Limit and the Multithreading settings. The defaults for these are, Segment Memory Limit: 1024 MB and Multithreading: Automatic. Those defaults are usually fine so changes to those two are optional. For more information see Managing LightWave’s All Important Config Files.
- Launch LightWave 3D Layout.
- Set the Content Directory with Edit->Set Content Directory… Navigate to and select:
Dropbox/NetContent/Or you may simply load any of the DLI_SuperBalls scenes and answer Yes when asked if you’d like to change the Content Directory to the detected Content Directory. This assumes you have already placed the DLI_SuperBalls folder in your user’s
Dropboxfolder and renamed it NetContent. See Content Directory for more information.
- OPTIONAL: Open Render->Options->Render Globals and set the Segment Memory Limit to at least 32 MB or leave it set to the default of 1024 MB. See Default Segment Memory for more information.
- Click yes when asked if this should be the new default setting, or it won’t be saved in the config file.
- OPTIONAL: Click the Render tab and set Multithreading to the number of cores/threads that you would like to use up to the maximum number of threads on your computer. This can be useful if you want to reserve some horsepower so that you can perform other work on the same computer while it’s rendering in the background. Or simply leave it set to the default of Automatic to have it use the maximum available threads. See Multithreading for more information.
- Quit LightWave to save the config file to disk.
Mac OS X default Config Folder path:
Windows default Config Folder path:
- Repeat this process on each computer that will be rendering to create a config file on each computer.
Rather than typing ScreamerNet LWSN command lines manually by hand, you may use our drag-and-drop GUI utility, DreamLight SNUB-Launcher, to interactively build the command lines and launch ScreamerNet LWSN with a Mac friendly drag-and-drop-dead-easy™ interface, even on Windows.
- Launch DLI_SNUB-Launcher on each computer. Check and set the lwsn Path field and Config Folder field if necessary, as outlined in the Batch Render Quick Tutorial.
- Click on the Registration checkbox or readout to enter your registration license to enable more than one LWSN render node, or you may test the local and remote render nodes in the tutorial individually one at a time, each set up as node #1 using the FREE LITE version instead.
- In DLI_SNUB-Launcher on the each computer, turn on the Content Folder checkmark and drag the
Dropbox/NetContent/folder to the Content Folder button or field.
[NOTE: LightWave 3D ScreamerNet requires content to be in a properly structured Content Folder according to very specific rules. If you are having problems getting your own scenes to render across the network please verify that you have a properly structured Content Folder.]
- Also Open Batch Render Settings and drag the
Dropbox/NetContent/Commands/folder to the Command Folder button or field. Set the First ScreamerNet Node # field to 1 and click the Launch ScreamerNet lwsn Nodes button to launch LWSN in Terminal/Command. On the second computer set the First ScreamerNet Node # field to 2 and click the Launch ScreamerNet lwsn Nodes button to launch LWSN in Terminal/Command.
[NOTE: For best results the Command Folder should be located within the Content Folder so all nodes have access to it and it gets remapped properly if you wish to use any of the Content Folder remapping features for remote or cross-platform render nodes.]
Host Mac OS X Content Folder:
Host Mac OS X Command Folder:
Rather than using the somewhat limited options built-into LightWave Layout (Network Render panel or Render-Q), you may use our drag-and-drop network render controller, DreamLight Constellation, to interactively configure and manage ScreamerNet LWSN rendering with a Mac friendly drag-and-drop-dead-easy™ interface, even on Windows.
- Back on the host computer launch DreamLight Constellation. Open the Preferences Panel. Drag the
Dropbox/NetContent/Commands/folder to the Command Folder button or field. Turn on the Content Folder checkmark and drag the
Dropbox/NetContent/folder to the Content Folder button or field. Turn OFF the Remap Remote checkmark because the path to the Content Folder in Dropbox is the same on all render nodes. Click the OK button.
Mac OS X Command Folder:
Mac OS X Content Folder:
- This will initialize the nodes which should both show up in the Node Queue. Set Node 1 to Local by turning off the Remote checkmark and set Node 2 to Remote by turning on the Remote checkmark. This will reinitialize the nodes each to use the proper content folder path for each of the local and remote nodes.
- Drag the DLI_SuperBalls-Anim.lws scene file onto the Add Scene button or the Scene Queue to open the Scene Panel. Then drag the
Dropbox/NetContent/Renders/folder to the RGB Output Folder button or field and click OK.
[NOTE: For best results the RGB Output Folder should be located within the Content Folder so all nodes have access to it and it gets remapped properly if you wish to use any of the Content Folder remapping features for remote or cross-platform render nodes.]
- This will add the scene to the scene queue and begin rendering.
- Once you have the render nodes running on the remote computers of the same platform you may then add cross-platform render nodes as outlined in the DreamLight Constellation Cross-Platform Network Rendering Tutorial.
It can be extremely useful when setting up and managing network rendering over the Internet to use screen sharing so that you can directly access any available Macs in off-site locations. Mac OSX has built-in screen sharing software that may be used on a local area network or across the Internet. For added security and easier routing through any firewalls you may first set up a Secure Shell (ssh) tunnel through which you can run the VNC connection. Once the tunnel is open you may also direct Mac OS X’s standard file sharing through the same secure tunnel if you’d rather connect your LWSN nodes through the tunnel rather than using Dropbox. While Dropbox is a very easy way to set up secure sharing it could be somewhat inefficient if you are running many nodes on the local area network as well as a few remotely over the Internet because it has to send everything, text command files, scenes, assets and rendered frames, out to the central Dropbox server even when transferring files between nodes on the local area network.
More information and specific examples of setting up a secure ssh tunnel for ScreamerNet LWSN rendering across the Internet is covered in the network rendering chapter of my book: Creating a 3D Animated CGI Short. The chapter includes information about secure vnc screen sharing and port forwarding through your router and firewall as well as using Mac OS X’s built-in spaces to help manage a complex network rendering workflow.