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Batch Rendering with ScreamerNet lwsn Mac,
Mastering LightWave ScreamerNet (lwsn) for Mac OS X

Previous Contents 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 8 9 Next [Next: Basic Network Rendering]

Batch Rendering with LWSN Mac

Batch rendering enables you to queue up multiple scenes all at once and render them unattended. Batch rendering is similar to network rendering except the same Macintosh is used as both the host and the rendering node, without any network. In the case of multi-CPU/core/thread Macs, you can run multiple instances of ScreamerNet lwsn on the same Macintosh, each using a portion of the total available CPUS/cores/threads. This can turn a single Mac into a self contained render farm.

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LightWave’s Built-in Network Render Controller

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LightWave Layout comes with a basic Network Rendering control panel that enables you to perform basic batch and network rendering. It is sufficient for occasional use, but if you intend to do heavy duty network rendering in a studio production environment, you’ll find the investment in a third party network controller well worthwhile. We use the 3rd part OSX ScreamerNet Controller along with our own DLI_SNUB-Launcher to configure and run our in-house DreamLight render farm and will cover OSX ScreamerNet Controller’s use later when discussing advanced network rendering.

The built-in ScreamerNet Network controller is sufficient for simple batch rendering. It’s also quite useful to use when troubleshooting a 3rd party controller. If you’re having trouble using a 3rd party controller, you can try a render test using the built-in controller in Layout to make sure your ScreamerNet lwsn render farm is set up properly and rule out any problems with the 3rd party controller or network issues. I’ll cover Layout’s basic built-in network controller here and use it for the simple batch rendering examples to follow.

Running the ScreamerNet Network Rendering Control Panel

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The Network Rendering control panel is opened in LightWave Layout by selecting:
Render->Utilities->Network Render.

Network Rendering Panel

When the Network Rendering panel is open and rendering, LightWave Layout can’t be used to do anything else. A trick you can use to get around this limitation is to make a duplicate copy of Layout and rename it something like LW-RenderController. Then you can use the LW-RenderController copy to control your batch rendering and still launch the original LightWave Layout to work on something else while the batch render continues. When doing this you should disable the Hub. That way you won’t have two copies of LightWave both trying to synchronize things through the Hub, which could potentially cause problems.

Render Node Controls

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Command Directory: The folder where the ScreamerNet lwsn job# & ack# communication files will be stored. The Network Rendering controller doesn’t actually contact the ScreamerNet nodes directly, it simply creates job# text files and writes simple commands to them. ScreamerNet nodes constantly poll for their job files and execute the commands they find within. The nodes then write a reply into an associated ack# text file which the Network Rendering controller continuously polls to monitor the node’s status. As such the host Mac and render nodes will need read/write permission for the Command Directory folder. For further information please review Managing LightWave’s All Important Config Files: Command Directory.

Command Directory, Maximum CPU Number and Screamer Init Controls
Maximum CPU Number:
Enter the maximum number of ScreamerNet lwsn render nodes to attempt to control through job# & ack# files.

Screamer Init: Attempts to contact and initialize all the currently running ScreamerNet nodes.

ScreamerNet Status: The text field to the right of the Screamer Init button shows the current overall ScreamerNet status.

CPU list: The top list on the panel shows all the currently running ScreamerNet lwsn render nodes that it has detected and is communicating with, their type (MachOMac for Mac nodes), which scene they are rendering, if any, as well as their current status.

CPU List
Screamer Render:
The Screamer Render button at the bottom of the panel starts the ScreamerNet lwsn nodes rendering the first scene.

Screamer Render, Cancel Render & Screamer Shutdown buttons
Cancel Render (Escape Key):
Stops the Network Rendering controller from issuing new render commands and writes an abort command into each job# file. It doesn’t actually stop the ScreamerNet nodes from rendering any frames currently in progress, unless you used the -t Time Check Interval on the command line. You may only cancel a render when the ScreamerNet status reads “Waiting for CPUs to finish rendering.” If you need to cancel a render during any other time, for instance during a crashed ScreamerNet scene load, you may need to force quit LightWave Layout with Command-Option-Esc. Then quit all remaining ScreamerNet nodes by closing their Terminal windows. You may then start everything back up again and try again.

Screamer Shutdown: Quits all ScreamerNet nodes, when they finish rendering their current frames, or possibly sooner if you used the -t Time Check Interval on the command line. To otherwise force quit a ScreamerNet node before it finishes rendering a frame, bring it to the foreground and close its Terminal window.

Scene List Controls

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The scene list in the Network Rendering panel can not be modified while anything is currently rendering. This is the single greatest limitation of the built-in controller. You must stop any renders in progress (Press Cancel Render or the Escape key) before you can add or remove scenes from the list. Then you’d need to figure out which was the last frame rendered and re save the scene that was rendering with a new render frame range, and then create a new scene list before restarting ScreamerNet again to continue rendering. The lack of scene list control is one of the biggest reasons to upgrade to a 3rd party network render controller if you intend to do heavy network rendering.

Scene List

Clear List: Clears all scenes from the scene list.

Add Scene to List: Adds a scene to the end of the scene list.

Remove Scene: Removes the scene located at the top of the scrollable list display, not necessarily scene #1. To delete a specific scene, drag the scroll bar until the scene you wish to delete is located at the top of the list display. Then press the Remove Scene button.

Before adding a scene to the scene list you must make sure it is properly set up as explained previously. You can’t modify the render range, the output destination or anything else about the scene with the built-in controller, though you often can with 3rd party network render controllers.

Step-by-step Mac ScreamerNet lwsn
Batch Rendering Example

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Here’s a step-by-step example of how to render two scenes from DLI_SuperBalls, the sample content folder that is included with the FREE Lite version of DLI_SNUB-Launcher, using ScreamerNet lwsn in batch/network mode (-2) on the Macintosh. After downloading and unzipping DLI_SNUB-Launcher, copy or move the DLI_SuperBalls content folder to the current user’s Documents folder. This example uses two ScreamerNet lwsn instances running on a 12-Core/24-Thread Mac Pro.

Setting up the ScreamerNet lwsn Config File

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In this example we will use the default Mac OS X config file location of: /Users/username/Library/Application Support/Newtek/LightWave/11.0/
For more information see Managing LightWave’s All Important Config Files.

  1. Launch /Applications/NewTek/LightWave3D11.0/Layout.
  2. Set the Content Directory with Edit->Set Content Directory...
    Navigate to and select: /Users/username/Documents/DLI_SuperBalls/
    This assumes you have placed the DLI_SuperBalls folder in your user’s Documents folder .
    See Content Directory for more information.
  3. Open the Render->Utilities->Network Render panel.
  4. Click the Command Directory button.
    Navigate to and select: /Users/username/Documents/DLI_SuperBalls/Commands/
    See Command Directory for more information.
    Command Directory button on the Network Rendering panel
  5. When asked to initialize ScreamerNet, click No. (We just want to save a new config.)
  6. Set the Maximum CPU Number to 2. This tells the controller how many nodes to look for.
  7. Open Render->Options->Render Globals and set the Segment Memory Limit to at least 32.
    See Default Segment Memory for more information.
  8. Click Yes when asked if this should be the new default setting, or it won’t be saved.
  9. Click the Render tab and set Multithreading to half the available threads on your Mac. Because I’m on a 12-Core/24-Thread Mac Pro and will be running two lwsn nodes on this Mac I’ll set it to 12 Threads. See Multithreading for more information.
    Multithreading Setting on Render Options panel
  10. Quit LightWave Layout to save the config file.

Setting up the Scenes for ScreamerNet lwsn Batch Rendering

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The output render destination is stored as an absolute path in the scene file, even if the destination is inside the content directory, therefore you need to set the output render destination any time you move a scene to a new Mac.

For more information see Successful Scene File Preparation for ScreamerNet.

  1. Launch /Applications/NewTek/LightWave3D11.0/Layout.
  2. Use File->Load->Load Scene... to load the first scene:
    DLI_Superballs/Scenes/DLI_LW11-SuperBalls-Anim.lws

    from the current user’s Documents folder.
    1. Click Yes if asked if you’d like to change the Content Directory when loading the scene.
    2. Open Render->Options->Render Globals.
    3. Verify or set the following render range fields on the General tab:
      • Range Type: Single (That’s the only range type compatible with lwsn.)
      • Render First Frame: 1
      • Render Last Frame: 10
      • Render Frame Step: 1
    4. Click the Output tab.
    5. Click the RGB Files button.
    6. Verify that DLI_LW11-SuperBalls-Anim is set in the Save As: field.
    7. Navigate to the DLI_SuperBalls/Renders folder.
    8. Click the Save button to accept the changes and dismiss the dialog.
    9. Set the RGB Type pop-up menu to LW_TGA32(.tga)
    10. The RGB readout should now read DLI_LW11-SuperBalls-Anim_0001.tg...
    11. Save the scene.
  3. Use File->Load->Load Scene... to load the second scene:
    DLI_Superballs/Scenes/DLI_LW11-SuperBalls-LowRes.lws

    from the current user’s Documents folder.
    1. Click Yes if asked if you’d like to change the Content Directory when loading the scene.
    2. Open Render->Options->Render Globals.
    3. Verify or set the following render range fields on the General tab:
      • Range Type: Single (That’s the only range type compatible with lwsn.)
      • Render First Frame: 1
      • Render Last Frame: 1
      • Render Frame Step: 1
    4. Click the Output tab.
    5. Click the RGB Files button.
    6. Verify that DLI_LW11-SuperBalls-LowRes is set in the Save As: field.
    7. Navigate to the DLI_SuperBalls/Renders folder.
    8. Click the Save button to accept the changes and dismiss the dialog.
    9. Set the RGB Type pop-up menu to LW_TGA32(.tga)
    10. The RGB readout should now read DLI_LW11-SuperBalls-LowRes_0001....
    11. Save the scene.
  4. Quit LightWave Layout.

Drag-and-drop Launching the ScreamerNet lwsn Nodes with the FREE DLI_SNUB-Launcher Lite

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Rather than typing ScreamerNet lwsn command lines manually by hand, you may use the Aqua 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.

DreamLight Interactive ScreamerNet UB Launcher Update

DLI_SNUB-Launcher™ is an XCode Aqua GUI front end to interactively configure and launch LightWave 9, 10 & 11+ ScreamerNet UB lwsn instances for standalone, batch and network rendering. Download your copy today!

Created by the author of Creating a 3D Animated CGI Short
& Mastering LightWave ScreamerNet (lwsn) for Mac OS X
Michael Scaramozzino - LightWave 3D Artist Profile.

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  1. If you haven’t already, download the FREE Lite version of DLI_SNUB-Launcher to your host Mac and unzip it, but don’t launch it yet. It defaults to look for bin/lwsn in the same folder it’s located in, the first time DLI_SNUB-Launcher is run. If you do run it before placing it in the proper folder, then you can launch it and just click on the lwsn Path button to choose the correct path to the bin/lwsn application.
  2. Drag DLI_SNUB-Launcher to the /Applications/NewTek/LightWave3D11.0/ folder.
  3. Launch DLI_SNUB-Launcher, and configure it as follows:

DLI_SNUB-Launcher Batch Render Settings

    • Verify that the proper path is set in the lwsn Path field:
      /Applications/NewTek/LightWave3D11.0/bin/lwsn
      If it’s incorrect, just drag the LightWave3D11.0 folder or the bin folder to the lwsn Path button and it’ll find the proper path for lwsn.
    • Verify that the Config Folder path is correct:
      /Users/userx/Library/Application Support/NewTek/LightWave/11.0/
      If it’s incorrect just drag your Config Folder to the Config Folder button. Note: On Mac OS X 10.7 Lion or later the user’s Library folder is hidden, so you can use the Finder’s Go->Go to Folder... menu command with ~/Library in the text field to get you your user Library folders.
    • Drag the DLI_SuperBalls folder to the -d Content Folder button so that it reads:
      /Users/userx/Documents/DLI_SuperBalls/
    • If the bottom drawer is closed, open it with the Open Batch Render Settings -2 button.
    • Drag the DLI_SuperBalls/Commands/ folder to the Command Folder button:
      /Users/userx/Documents/DLI_SuperBalls/Commands/
    • Set the node numbers as follows: First ScreamerNet Node #: 1 Through Last Node #: 2
    • Click the Launch ScreamerNetUB Nodes button to launch the ScreamerNet nodes.
      DLI_SNUB-Launcher will open two windows in Terminal and launch two lwsn nodes. The nodes will start outputting: Can't access job file. repeatedly. This is normal because the network controller has not yet created the job# files to communicate with the nodes. If you see a DVView error about it being a wrong architecture, you can ignore it. It’s a known 64-bit issue that should not interfere with your rendering.

Rendering the Batch with LightWave Layout’s Built-in Controller

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For more information see Using LightWave’s Built-in Network Rendering Controller.

  1. Launch /Applications/NewTek/LightWave3D11.0/Layout.
  2. Open the Render->Utilities->Network Render panel.
  3. Verify that the Maximum CPU Number is set to 2.
  4. Click the Screamer Init button.
  5. Click OK when the dialog appears stating: 2 available ScreamerNet CPUs were detected. You should now see both ScreamerNet nodes write LightWave command: wait. and sendack: Ready to the Terminal windows. You’ll also see two CPU’s of type MachOMac listed in the Network Rendering panel with a status of Ready.
  6. Click the Add Scene to List button and add the scene:
    DLI_SuperBalls/Scenes/DLI_LW11-SuperBalls-Anim.lws
  7. Click the Add Scene to List button again and add the scene:
    DLI_SuperBalls/Scenes/DLI_LW11-SuperBalls-LowRes.lws
  8. Hit the Screamer Render button and the ScreamerNet nodes will begin rendering frames.
    Network Rendering panel ready  for batch render
  9. As each frame is finished, it will be written to the output directory that was set in each scene. DLI_SuperBalls/Renders/
  10. If you wish to stop the rendering before it is finished, press the Escape key while the Network Rendering panel is in the foreground, then hit the Screamer Shutdown button. This will stop rendering new frames and will quit the ScreamerNet nodes once they finish rendering their current frame. If a ScreamerNet node crashes during loading a scene, the Network Rendering panel may remain waiting for the scene to load and may not recover. In such an instance you can force Quit LightWave Layout with Command-Option-Esc. To quit a ScreamerNet lwsn node before it finishes rendering a frame, bring its Terminal window to the foreground and close the window.

Manually Launching the ScreamerNet lwsn Render Nodes in Terminal

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Another way to configure and launch the ScreamerNet lwsn nodes is to manually type the command lines necessary in Terminal. For a much easier and far less error prone method to configure and launch the ScreamerNet lwsn nodes, just use the drag-and-drop method outlined previously - Drag-and-drop Launching the ScreamerNet lwsn Nodes with the FREE Lite Version of DreamLight Interactive’s SNUB-Launcher.

For more information see Utilizing LightWave’s Mac Command Line Parameters.

  1. Launch /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.
  2. Type the following into the terminal command line, all on one line, substituting your actual username. Then press the return key.
    "/Applications/NewTek/LightWave3D11.0/bin/lwsn" -2 -c"/Users/userx/Library/Application Support/NewTek/LightWave/11.0/" -d"/Users/userx/Documents/DLI_SuperBalls/" "/Users/userx/Documents/DLI_SuperBalls/Commands/job1" "/Users/userx/Documents/DLI_SuperBalls/Commands/ack1"
  3. It should identify itself as CPU number: 1 in the terminal window.
LWSN Conlose output
  1. Open a new window in Terminal.
  2. Type the following into the terminal command line, all on one line, substituting your actual username. Then press the return key.
    "/Applications/NewTek/LightWave3D11.0/bin/lwsn" -2 -c"/Users/userx/Library/Application Support/NewTek/LightWave/11.0/" -d"/Users/userx/Documents/DLI_SuperBalls/" "/Users/userx/Documents/DLI_SuperBalls/Commands/job2" "/Users/userx/Documents/DLI_SuperBalls/Commands/ack2"
  3. It should identify itself as CPU number: 2 in the console.
  4. Both lwsn nodes will begin reporting: Can’t access job file...
    This is normal until LightWave Layout’s ScreamerNet lwsn creates the job files. If you see a DVView error about it being a wrong architecture, you can ignore it. It’s a known 64-bit issue that should not interfere with your rendering.

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