Help

RayPump should be easy to use, no matter what kind of scene you are working on. However, using online service sometimes requires some extra-handling.

Inside:

  • general requirements/questions;
  • working with output files;
  • working with fluid simulation;
  • working with softbody and cloth simulation;
  • working with particle systems;
  • working with smoke and fire simulation;
  • tips on volumetric light effects;
  • cost & counters in details;
  • known beta issues;

 

 


General Questions

What Blender version is required?

RayPump works with most recent versions of Blender. It should also work with older versions and custom builds. For maximum compatibility check the Blender version Box - it shows Blender stable/develop versions that RayPump currently use.

What Cycles features are limited/not supported?

Following features are might be limited when using (default) GPU acceleration:

  • SSS (sub-surface scattering) shaders work on GPU only with Pro jobs and Experimental Feature Set;
  • volumetric shaders work on GPU only with Pro jobs and Experimental Feature Set;
  • OSL (Open Shading Language) shaders do not work with GPU jobs;

Note: you can force RayPump to use SSS, volumetric and OSL with CPU acceleration type but CPU speed/price is significantly worse. Option can be toggled in RayPump panel.

What operating system is required?

Any desktop operating system that runs Blender.

RayPump has been already used on thousands of computers with different operating systems, including: Windows XP 32-bit, Windows 7 64-bit, Windows 8, Ubuntu 13.04, Ubuntu 13.10, Linux Mint, Slackware, Macintosh Mountain Lion and Macintosh Mavericks.  

Do I have to prepare jobs, uploads, textures, ...?

No. RayPump is not a classic render-farm - it is Online Accelerator, so it accelerates your workflow.

Once the plug-in has been activated in Blender and RayPump app is running in the background, things are getting as simple as single mouse click.

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What is required to start Pro job (animation/big resolution)?

Animation and Static jobs require more than 100 Pro Render Points assigned to your account. Otherwise, you are limited to Free jobs only. Details about switching the job type described here.

Can the same scene be scheduled several times?

Yes, it can. The only restriction is a 'single upload' rule. That means, you should wait until the scene gets uploaded to the RayPump, before scheduling another job with that scene.

Warning message will be displayed in Blender, if you attempt to schedule a job, while previous upload is not finished, so no harm is done.

Does RayPump client have to stay opened?

Not required, but I'd suggest to keep it open to have a nice feedback of what is going on with your jobs. Clicking close button at RayPump window minimizes it to tray icon, to prevent accidental quit.

 You can safely close the Blender application, change current or open another scene files and schedule them to the RayPump.


 

Can I use multi-layer EXR output?

Yes. As a matter of fact, with Pro jobs you can select any static image format. Just set it in the Blender and schedule the job.

AVI and other movie formats are not supported for the simple reason - it is much better practice to render out sequence of the images and then mix it locally (e.g. inside Blender Sequence Editor).

 

Note: Multilayer EXR files tends to be quite big and can take a while to download

 

Can I get Render Layers as separate files?

By default Render Layers in single job will be rendered as single output file. So if the format supports layers (like EXR) you can use them. If you need layers as separate files, you can schedule separate jobs - one for each layer.

You can also use File Output Nodes - as explained below.

There's also some interesting post about working with multi-layered EXR and splitting them into separate files.

Does File Output Node works?

Yes, but only if you use "current path". Here's how it works:

Set your File Output nodes like this:

Now, once the RayPump renders out your job - you should get not only the render image but the whole structure:

Credits for this tip goes to Goordon - cheers!

 

Do linked files work?

Yes, linked files are supported.


 

Automatic fluid simulation

RayPump provides automatic detection and transfer for fluid simulation. All the Domain type objects are checked for folders. Content of those folder is transferred to the Farm, along with the scene.

No special preparation for rendering fluids online is required - all you have to do is to bake your simulation and schedule job to the farm:

Optimizing transfer times

Fluid simulation tend to create lot of data, all of it has to be transferred to the Farm. Some things to keep in mind:

  • keep cache files in separate, clean directories for every scene;
  • you might manually remove outdated cache files;
  • avoid re-baking - it will cause to re-transfer lot of data (differential transfer won't speed up much in such case);

In simple example scene above, uncompressed fluid cache files took almost 100 MB. With outdated preview and final cache files, the directory took nearly 400MB!

 
results downloaded from RayPump - scaled down and converted to GIF using GIMP


Requirements for soft bodies and cloth simulation

To make simulation work with online rendering, simulation has to be baked first. Non-baked soft-bodies and cloths won't work properly.

Preparing the scene

Every object in scene with soft-body/cloth system assigned, has to be baked to disk before sending to the Farm. This can be all easily done inside Blender:

  • select the object with cloth/soft-body simulation assigned;
  • go to the Physics panel;
  • scroll down to Cache section (expand, if required);
  • click Bake button:

Baking simulation will increase amount of data that has to be transferred to the Farm. Despite that, once you've transferred the scene - further uploads should be faster, thanks to differential algorithms. Unless you re-bake the whole cache, other changes should be transferred quickly.  

Example scene, that uses both soft-body and cloth simulations:


scaled down and converted to GIF using GIMP

 

 


Requirements for particle systems

To make particles work with online rendering, every particle system has to be baked first. Particle system with non-baked cache won't work properly.

Preparing the scene

Particle system has to be baked to disk before sending to the Farm. This can be all easily done inside Blender:

  • select the particle emitter object;
  • go to the Particle panel;
  • scroll down to Cache section (expand, if required);
  • check Disk Cache option;
  • make sure to use Bake button:

Sending the job

Once the particle system is baked in cache, you can schedule your job, as usual. No additional tasks are required, all the cache files will be transferred to the farm along with the scene file.

In case of large particle systems transfer can take some time, especially for the first transfer. RayPump's differential transfer works with cache files as well, so following transfer (after some changes) should be much faster.

Results

Despite your animation can be rendered on many nodes, baked particle system will behave as expected. Here's small sample scene rendered using RayPump with particle system:

and downloaded result (converted to animated GIF using GIMP):


 

Requirements for smoke and fire systems

To make systems work with online rendering, every smoke/fire has to be baked first. Non-baked cache won't work properly.

Preparing the scene

Smoke/fire system has to be baked to disk before sending to the Farm. This can be all easily done inside Blender:

  • select the Smoke Domain object;
  • go to the Physics panel;
  • scroll down to Smoke Cache section (expand, if required);
  • make sure to use Bake button:

Sending the job

Once the system is baked in cache, you are almost good to schedule the job (cache files will be detected and transferred automatically).

However, current Blender version does not support Smoke and Fire simulation together with GPU acceleration. Thus, RayPump provides CPU mode, which is slower, but works with all systems.

Make sure to switch to CPU mode before scheduling:

No additional tasks are required, all the cache files will be transferred to the farm along with the scene file.

In case of large systems transfer can take some time, especially for the first transfer. RayPump's differential transfer works with cache files as well, so next transfers should be much faster, unless you re-bake whole cache from scratch.

Results

Despite your animation can be rendered on many nodes, baked fire/smoke will behave as expected. Here's small test scene result:

 
scaled down and converted to GIF in GIMP

 


How to handle volumetric lights?

In general, there are two ways of getting volumetric light effects with Cycles - hard way and smart way;)

Hard way - volumetric shaders

Cycles engine has implemented accurate volumetric shader. Volumetric shaders is pretty time consuming feature, plus some features are not fully implemented in GPU version of Cycles. In some complicated scenes getting volumetric right is the only option - but in case of subtle volumetric light effect, similar result can be archived much faster.

Smart way - faking volumetric lights effect

Requires little more effort at the beginning, but at the end you'll have nice, adjustable volumetric light effect done fast and noiseless. Most of computation can be done using RayPump acceleration - so we are talking about serious speed up to your workflow.

How it works?

Your final images will be mix of two layers - standard Cycles rendering (done without volumetric shaders whatsoever) and additional volumetric light layer, done in Blender Internal.

Sounds complicated? Actually - it is pretty easy to setup. As nice addition, strength of the effect is adjustable in the post-processing phase.

Cycles Scene

This is simple test scene. Nothing fancy, just rotating Suzanne with glowing eyes :) But we want those eyes to utilize some volumetric lights!

Rendering this scene it is most time consuming part - so, of course, I recommend RayPump to do the job! Meanwhile you can setup the second layer scene.

 

Blender Internal Scene

All the geometry in this scene is linked objects from Cycles scene. This way every change you make in Cycles scene will be instantly transferred here. Resolution is the same, rendering engine changed to Blender Internal. We render only Halo layer. The spot light is the actual only local object. It requires Halo effect turned on, with Step value > 0.

Rendering this scene is fast and noiseless. It can be easily done on your local computer. Meanwhile RayPump will get your Cycles renders. Once all the images are ready, all you need is to mix it down.

 

Adding volumetric layer

We'll use the Blender to mix the layers down. Nothing fancy - on the top of Cycles images we put the volumetric layer. It should have blend type of Alpha Over. You can adjust volumetric strength by setting Opacity.

Set your output format to whatever you want, for final video H.264 codec will be fine.

 


 

What's the price per hour?

Render Points are designed to manage costs quick and easily, but at the end it all comes down to the server time used by your job.

Current BETA II version offers three price ranges for 1 hour of single GPU work

  • Essential - €1.39;
  • Extended - €0.99;
  • Ultra - €0.84;

Every range offers different Render Points amount to buy - Essential are micro-packs, while Ultra offers the most Render Points in single buy.

Example (based on that scene):

RayPump render time [minutes] GPU used 1xGPU time [hours] price (Extended pack)
4.3 8 (4.3 * 8) / 60 = 0.57 (over half an hour) 0.57 * €0.99 = €0.56 

 

You can always quickly check the price of the job expressed in Render Points and Euros, by hovering the job entry with the mouse:

 

What exactly can be done for how much?

You'll find some nice examples in SceneLab - together with the source blend files, speed and cost information. This should give you a good overview of the speed/cost ratio. Downloading and testing the exact same scene on your local CPU/GPU set (or other render farms, perhaps) will give you a firm start point.

Here you will find some more details about how to estimate local speed ratio.

How it compares to local rendering cost?

There's an interesting cost comparison between local power consumption and the RayPump price, made by GreenJello. Turns out that RayPump can be actually cheaper than your local rendering!

You can make such calculation for your own system using this calculator.

Can I get Render Points without paying?

Yes, there's a lot of places to start: check for example "Payback Renders Gallery" or "RayPumped movie project". You can always get some extra Render Points for "positive activities": forum support, open projects, developing help.  

How to estimate render cost?

There's no 100% accurate way to estimate cost. But it can be approximated quite well with following techniques:

 

  • provided test scenes can give you a speed-up factor, when you render them out locally and compare times;
  • similar jobs usually have same cost e.g. animation frames, corrected scenes etc;
  • Free jobs can help to estimate costs:
    • schedule scene as Free type;
    • when ready, check it's "cost" in Job Manager;
    • of course - since it is Free job - your account is not charged;

You can also make some assumptions:

  • doubling samples number should roughly double the cost;
  • doubling resolution will increase cost about 4 times (2*2 for x and y dimension);

As a bonus, once you upload your scene to test it with Free job, it can be almost instantly used for Commercial jobs - smart uploads will take care of minimizing the network traffic.

What is the stress-test?

UPDATED: current (second) edition of RayPump service does not use stress-test at all. Instead, we use daily Free Render Points for every registered user. 

How Render Points system works?

Check the details at the Buy page.

How much Render Points is required?

If you want to start a new Pro job, you'll need at least 100 Render Points:

However, job in progress can exceed that limit, using every single Render Point available.

What if job costs more Render Points than I have?

Since you had at least 100 RP at the start - RayPump will credit more expensive job. It will get rendered and put in safe place and you should buy additional Pro Render Points to clean the overdraft of your account.

 

Note: you won't be able to download any results with negative Render Points (account overdraft)

 

Once it's fixed, results are ready to download.

How animation counts the jobs?

Every Animation type of  job renders out a sequence of several frames (instead of a still image). If you schedule longer sequence - whole animation gets divided to several jobs, e.g.: animation 238 frames long will schedule to the RayPump as 24 (rounded 238/10) jobs.

 

Note: animation job set will render images to the same destination folder. You will download a complete sequence (238 frames in above example) to a single local folder, just as you'd expect from local rendering, making things much easier for making local post-production.

 

How to manage long animations?

Usually as normal jobs, but sometimes longer animation requires additional handling, for example when all Pro Render Points are gone in the middle of the work. In such cases RayPump holds your unready jobs for at least 24 hours, so you can decide what to do.

Here's example:

  1. Very long animation jobs starts (despite you have only 426 Render Points left):

  2. As many as possible jobs get done and the Stand by message is displayed:

  3. Now, you can decide if you want to cancel pending jobs or charge your account with more Render Points.
    In second case: a) charge account b) click 'Refresh' button or reopen the RayPump Client c) you rendering will resume:

  

My renders are still noisy, what can I do?

Unfortunately, render farms are not magical cure for bad light or wrong scene setup :) Things will run faster here, but you should always be aware how "renderer friendly" your scene is. Some good tips&tricks can be found at Blender Wiki, or simply googled out.

If the scene contains lot of noise on your local computer, both in preview and test renders, despite high sample count - it's a first sign that something is going wrong, so you should investigate scene's settings.


 

Known issues and solutions

RayPump has been tested out well, but we know it is not yet perfect. Below you'll find some common problems and suggested solutions.

 

Scene saving

Pressing RayPump button saves current scene. Reason to do that is not to alter scene data you are currently working with. This is not optimal and will be fixed in future.

Possible invalid file names and paths 

RayPump should handle UTF-8 correctly, but it is wiser to keep things simple - especially because operating systems and Blender itself have issues with UTF-8.

Unhandled signs in password

As users reported, using '#' in password can lead to problems connecting the service. Issue will be fixed with next upgrade, but so far please avoid '#' sign in password.

Firewalls and limited networks

Some firewall might block RayPump form data transmission. If that occurs to you, temporary turn off your firewall, check if that helps. If yes - unblock ports 873, 5015.

Some public networks, hot-spots do not allow to use services on non-standard ports. Keep that in mind traveling with RayPump :)

Busy networks

You should turn off other applications that heavily use internet connection, like torrent clients, cloud storage etc.

Big transfers under Windows

Some users report that sending big files (few hundreds MB) under Windows sometimes fails. To solve this problems tweak the upload speed (using limiter in Options).

Unpacked cache files

Not all external files are taken in count by RayPump. Currently the baked particles, fluid, cloth and softbody simulation should work.

Pose Mode

Before scheduling the job to the render farm, you should switch to Object Mode. In particular the Pose Mode will generate error and block scheduling the job.

Animated textures

Image sequences or movie files use in textures do not get packed inside blend files. This causes problems with remote rendering. The issue is partially solved with upcoming version of RP add-on. You can try out experimental version. More information about that case at the Forum thread.

Linear sample count 

Make sure to set the Square Samples off and set the samples number properly . Otherwise you might get fast and noisy results from RayPump (it will switch turn off Square Samples automatically).

Payment process might have delays

In rare cases instant purchase transaction notifications got delays. In such case, your Render Points are not updated immediately. Please use the feedback box, giving your email address/ account name. I'll react as fast as possible.

 

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Questions?

The best place to find help is Help and Forum sections.

Alternatively, contact by e-mail. I'll be happy to answer.

Blender version used by RayPump

Blender (stable): 2.75a
RayPump Server: 1.170