Overview

The Animation Lab is a special-purpose lab, intended for the use of students enrolled in the animation course sequence. It is located in Sieg Hall 329 and 332.

Hardware

  • 9 HP Z230 desktops
    (16 or 32GB RAM, single 3.6GHz CPU,NVIDIA Quadro K2200 video)
  • 7 Dell Precision T3600 desktops
    (16GB RAM, dual 3.6GHz CPU, NVIDIA Quadro 600 video)
  • 7 Lenovo Thinkstation E32 desktops
    (16GB RAM, dual 3.4GHz CPU, NVIDIA Quadro 2000 video)
  • 4 Dell Precision T1700 desktops
    (16GB RAM, single 3.4GHz CPU, AMD FirePro W5000 video)

A Wacom Cintiq 24HD tablet is installed in the animation lab, on driftwood. Three other workstations - sarge and fountain in Sieg 329, and deb in Sieg 332 - have UGEE tablets.

Installed Software

All animation-lab desktops are equipped with the following software packages, in addition to what is installed on other instructional-lab desktops:

  • Adobe CS6 Production Premium
  • Autodesk Maya 2016
  • Autodesk Maya 2016.5
  • Autodesk Maya 2017
  • Unity
  • Unreal Engine

Three licenses of ZBrush 4 are installed in the animation lab, on noodle, corruption, and driftwood.

The Animation Lab's Renderfarm

The animation lab has a group of four machines, collectively called the "renderfarm" that can be used to render images, offloading that task from student desktops. These four machines have sixty-four available slots for rendering.

Renderfarm Job Control via Maya

Pixar employees have written a Maya plugin which allows one to submit render jobs from inside the Maya application. Users must install the plugin files themselves. The setup process is simple and must be done only once (twice if the user is using both versions of Maya installed in the animation lab).

The steps for installation of the plugin are as follows:

  1. Terminate the Maya application, if you have not already done so.
  2. Determine which version of Maya - 2016, 2016.5, or 2017 - you wish to use for the plugin installation. VERSION in the following steps will either be "2016," "2016.5," or "2017".
  3. Visit camano.cs.washington.edu/tractor and download these three files: TractorRenderSpool.png, shelf_Tractor.mel, and tractorSpoolForMaya.py.
  4. Copy the TractorRenderSpool.png file to your MyDocs/maya/VERSION/prefs/icons folder.
  5. Copy the shelf_Tractor.mel file to your MyDocs/maya/VERSION/prefs/shelves folder.
  6. Copy the tractorSpoolForMaya.py file to your MyDocs/maya/VERSION/scripts folder.

If you are using multiple installed versions of Maya, you will need to perform these steps a again, but this time, the install paths should reference the other version of Maya.

Once installed, the "Tractor Spool For Maya" plugin can be accessed from the "Tractor" shelf in Maya.

File and Project Paths

All resources (textures, images, etc.) that are part of a shot must be place in an area that is available to all renderfarm clients. The paths to those resources in your Maya files must be formed in a platform-neutral and consistent manner.

The files that make up your shots must be located on the animation lab fileserver - antonia.cs.washington.edu in one of the following areas:

  /projects/instr/production1
  /projects/instr/production4
  /projects/instr/production5
  /projects/instr/capstone1
  /projects/instr/capstone2
  /projects/instr/capstone3
  /projects/instr/capstone4
and the file paths to those resources - you set this in your Maya file - should look like this:
  //csenetid/cs/unix/projects/instr/production1
  //csenetid/cs/unix/projects/instr/production4
  //csenetid/cs/unix/projects/instr/production5
  //csenetid/cs/unix/projects/instr/capstone1
  //csenetid/cs/unix/projects/instr/capstone2
  //csenetid/cs/unix/projects/instr/capstone3
  //csenetid/cs/unix/projects/instr/capstone4
 
respectively. The destination folder for images and other resources generated on the renderfarm must also be located on one of the partitions on antonia.cs.washington.edu. This path syntax must be used consistently in your Maya files, and is independent of the renderfarm client's operating system.

Resources located on machines other than antonia.cs.washington.edu, including animation lab desktops, are not available to the renderfarm. In specific, paths which begin with Windows drive letters, such as the following:

  O:
  Z:
  C:
  N:
will not work, and those paths must be corrected prior to rendering.

Additionally, please make sure your filenames do not contain spaces.

Using The Renderfarm

Pixar's Tractor software accepts render tasks from users, distributes them to available renderfarm nodes, and allows the user to track and interact with running render tasks. Tasks are submitted to the renderfarm through the "Tractor Spool for Maya" plugin in the Maya application, and tracked with a web-based interface.

Sending Tasks to the Renderfarm

Tasks - whether one frame or one hundred frames - are submitted to the renderfarm through the "Tractor Spool for Maya" plugin, located on the "Tractor" shelf in the Maya application. The plugin window looks like this (see below).

Several of the selectable items in this window will need to be set by the user:

  1. The value of "Tractor Engine Name" must be set to "tractor-engine".
  2. The value of "Style" must be set to "Remote".
  3. The value of "Job Server Attributes" must be set to "production".
  4. By default, the Maya renderer is used on the renderfarm. If you would like to use the "mental ray" renderer, the value of "Renderer" must be set to "Mental Ray".
  5. The "Environment Key" value will be filled in for you.
  6. Do not check the "Cleanup Job Script" or "Cleanup Temp File" checkboxes.

Other rendering parameters - frame range, output file type, etc. - can be set from within Maya, in "Window -> Rendering Editors -> Render Settings".

Monitoring Tasks on the Renderfarm

The "Tractor" renderfarm management system has a Web interface, accessible from the following link: http://tractor-monitor.cs.washington.edu/tractor/tv/. The initial screen - after a little tractor-themed load script - looks like this:

Enter your Kerberos credentials, and select the "Login" button. You'll be taken to the main "Tractor" window, shown below.

The icons in the top left of the window allow the user to move between job status, blade status, and preferences. Selecting one of the tasks from the "job status" view will bring up information about that job on the right side of the window. Graph nodes can be single- or double-clicked to bring up frame information and the logfile for that frame.

The "blade status" view is displayed by selecting the middle of the three icons described above.

Each machine in the renderfarm is shown here. The "Slot..." column refers to the number of concurrent render tasks a renderfarm machine can handle.

Misbehaving render tasks can be diagnosed, restarted, or deleted from this interface. Should problems with the renderfarm persist, please contact CSE Support.

Why Do My Render Tasks Fail?

Jobs sent to the renderfarm will occasionally fail to completely successfully render. The failed frames can be re-submitted for rendering by right-clicking on the job and selecting "Retry all error tasks" or right-clicking on a single failed frame and selecting "Retry."