The Animation Lab is a special-purpose lab, intended for the use of students enrolled in the animation course sequence. It is located in Gates Center 143.


  • 5 HP Z230 desktops
    (16 or 32GB RAM, single 3.6GHz CPU,NVIDIA Quadro K2200 video)
  • 8 Dell Precision T3620 desktops
    (16GB RAM, dual 3.6GHz CPU, NVIDIA Quadro 600 video)
  • 10 "local build" desktops
    (32GB RAM, single 3.7GHz CPU, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 video)
  • 2 Dell Precision 5820 (32GB RAM, dual 3.5GHz CPU, NVIDIA Quadro P400 video)
  • 3 Dell G5 5000 (32GB RAM, single 2.9GHz CPU, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti video)

Wacom tablets, and ZBrush software, are installed on the following computers in the lab: driftwood, ruffles, dazzle, noodle, eleanor, granny, and springer.

Installed Software

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

  • Adobe Creative Cloud (use a personal AdobeID to log in to these apps)
  • Autodesk Maya 2020
  • Unity

To create a personal AdobeID, visit adobe.com,, select "Sign In" and then "Create an account." Do not use your UWNetID as the AdobeID username.

The Animation Lab's Renderfarm

The animation lab has a group of six machines, collectively called the "renderfarm" that can be used to render images, offloading that task from student desktops. These six machines have ninety-six 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. In the steps which follow, "VERSION" is "2020" - the currently installed version of the software.

The steps for installation of the plugin are as follows:

  1. Terminate the Maya application, if you have not already done so.
  2. Download these three files: TractorRenderSpool.png, shelf_Tractor.mel, and tractorSpoolForMaya.py.
  3. Copy the TractorRenderSpool.png file to your MyDocs/maya/VERSION/prefs/icons folder.
  4. Copy the shelf_Tractor.mel file to your MyDocs/maya/VERSION/prefs/shelves folder.
  5. Copy the tractorSpoolForMaya.py file to your MyDocs/maya/VERSION/scripts folder.

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

Please note: You need to save your Maya file before sending a shot to the renderfarm using this Maya plugin. Unsaved changes will not be sent to the renderfarm.

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:

and the file paths to those resources - you set this in your Maya file - should look like this:
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:

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 "Arnold" renderer, the value of "Renderer" must be set to "Arnold".
  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".

Please make sure that you've saved your Maya file before sending it to the renderfarm.

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."