I’m a fan of Deadline. I don’t think that’s a secret. I use it for my own studio, TeaspoonVFX. I promote it at the studios that contract me. I’ve used it on big feature films, on little museum pieces and on personal animation projects. I’m using it as I write this to render out a substantial Nuke composite. But what is new in Deadline 8.0?
Well, the game-changer for me is that Thinkbox has set up an e-commerce site to manage software license rentals. You see, I only have a couple machines at home to render on, so my Deadline requirements are minimal. But every so often, I have to render something huge — by tomorrow. Deadline has had tools to quickly and easily spin up cloudbased servers on Google, Amazon and Microsoft — and 8.0 provides even easier step-by-step procedures — but now you have 20 render boxes! And there’s you (or me), with a meager two-box license (which is free, BTW ... you can use Deadline for free if you only have two machines). So how do you bring your new farm into the mix?
Thinkbox allows you to log in, and start your meter running for the extra Deadline licenses for the cloud slaves, billed out at a per-minute rate. You aren’t billed when the slaves aren’t rendering. They call this Usage Based Licensing. This is great for small houses or freelancers who don’t need a hundred machines per month. They just need it now, for eight hours. But it’s also good for big studios with thousands of slaves who need more! Yes, I’ve seen it happen.
“Oh-ho!” you might say, “I don’t have enough Maxwell licenses for my 20 new cloud machines.”
Thinkbox has made some deals with third party providers to issue UBLs to go along with your Deadline licenses. Iray, Nuke, Katana, Maxwell, Mental Ray, RealFlow, Redshift, V-Ray and Yeti are just a sampling of software available now — more to come, I’m sure. And don’t forget Thinkbox’s other software, like Krakatoa and Sequoia. Yeah, you can rent those, too. By the minute. You can essentially fill up your Nuke tank with Nuke gas, and when you use Nuke on the farm, you can keep compositing until the gas runs out. And then you refill it!
The other improvements are important, but not quite as sexy. You can securely log in to remote farms without a VPN, or mount repositories locally (repositories are the things that store all the jobs and are controlled by a Mongo Database). The Deadline Monitor (where you watch your jobs) has had some recoding in C++ to speed up response time, and longer processes are pushed into the background so the Monitor remains responsive. Just to name a couple updates under the hood.
Anyway, I’ll be looking at some other farm managers soon. I’m sure they’re great. Deadline just happens to be my biased favorite.
To stay with a GPU-accelerated theme, we move over to the latest release of Maxwell Render (version 4.0), from NextLimit, the people in Spain who brought us RealFlow!
Maxwell has been around for quite a while — a bit over a decade since its public release. It just hasn’t been given the credit it deserves among the bevy of render engines. And maybe it got a slow start because its foundation is all about physical accuracy — and back in the early aughts, physical accuracy came at a price. It was beautiful, but slow. And productions need beautiful, but fast, if not completely accurate. As it matured, and CPUs got faster, and you could fit more of them into a machine, Maxwell became more viable as a production tool.
With Maxwell Render 4.0, they leap over to the GPU to speed up production and rendering dramatically, sometimes by a factor of ten. The progressive renderer will be familiar to V-Ray, Mantra, etc., users as the image starts rough and just continues to get more and more refined. But now it’s being helped by your NVidia Card — yeah, one downer for the Radeon and OSX guys, Maxwell is diving into the OpenCL code, so not as much benefit for y’all.
And GPU rendering isn’t the end-all/be-all. You don’t get a benefit with highly complex light transports (indirect lighting, sub-surface scattering, etc.), neither does it work very well with larger scenes because the RAM limitation on graphics card doesn’t allow you to store the scene on board for rendering. Also, GPU currently only supports a limited number of AOV, so ... if you want all the things, then CPU is the better option.
That said, you definitely get a payoff in speed while prototyping the lighting and lookdev before switching to the CPU for fine-tuning before final renders. And speaking of fine-tuning, NextLimit has released a standalone version of Multilight for free! Multilight has previously been bundled into Maxwell Studio. It reads .mxi render files from Maxwell and stores the light from discrete light sources and combines them together. With the use of sliders to control the light contribution as well as camera settings, you can audition tons of light setups to show clients — a boon for architecture, for sure. The interface for the standalone is sleek and clean and easy to pick up. It would be terrific to export the settings of a client-chosen image back to Maxwell for final renders (or maybe there is; I need to hunt around a bit more).
NextLimit has revamped its online materials brary with a curated set of more than a thousand optimized Maxwell materials for users to grab and download. Searchable and filterable, the library should be able to get even the beginnerest of beginners a jump off point for making pretty pictures.
Overall, it’s a good release for a beautiful product. A little sad about some of the GPU limitations, but a few solutions are on the roadmap, and some will just have to wait for larger capacity GPUs. Todd Sheridan Perry is a visual-effects supervisor and digital artist who has worked on features including The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Speed Racer, 2012, Final Destination 5 and Avengers: Age of Ultron. You can reach him at email@example.com.
some fetching extras: The Humans That Brought You Pets, Animals Can Talk: Meet the Actors, All About the Pets, Hairstylist to the Dogs, The Best of Snowball, “Lovely Day” lyric video, Hot Dog sing-along, Brian the Minion on Pets, Go-Pro: The Secret Life of Pets, Sing Trailer, and three mini-movies to get your tail wagging. Jordan Peele as show-stealing wolves. Special features for DVD, Digital, Blu-ray ($35.99), Blu-ray 3D and 4K ($44.95) include Storks: Guide to Your New Baby, The Master: A LEGO Ninjago Short, music video for Jason Derulo’s “Kiss the Sky,” deleted scenes, outtakes and directors’ commentary. To quote Pigeon Toady: Brah! ray ($49.99), which packs in worlds of extras (you can find a full list on AnimationMagazine.net) as well as selections from The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series included as a special gift while supplies last. For once, we’re telling you to “get bent” as a piece of friendly advice.