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Aug
21
Autodesk Backburner Set-Up
Posted by Thang Le Toan on 21 August 2015 12:26 PM

What is Backburner?

Backburner  is a free software that comes with 3ds Max that allows you to render either animations or single renderings across a network.  It allows you to take advantage of the CPU power of many PC’s on your network to accomplish the task of rendering a single image or many images.  A user can render an image by automatically breaking it up into smaller parts and divvying up the work to many PC’s to work on instead of just one.

Why do I need this?

A small animation at HD quality can take a very long time to render.  A typical HD rendered frame may be 1280×720 resolution, an may take from a few minutes to several hours to render but since every second of animation requires 30 frames (ie. 30 fps) you can see that when you multiply the rendered frame time by 30 for each second of animation the time it takes to render the complete animation increases very fast.  Just as a single high resolution still image may require 5000×4000 pixels and take a single PC 8 hours or more to render.  By dividing up the image or animation you can considerably cut down the overall time it takes to render.  You can also load up the render queue with alternate views, materials, or multiple render passes.  You can also render to this using other Autodesk products like Maya, and composite, etc.  Presently Autodesk Cloud has restricted 3ds Max users from rendering directly to the Autodesk cloud for free, although there are several other Cloud rendering services available just not for free.

Overview of how it works:

Backburner consists of the Backburner Manager, Backburner Monitor, and Backburner Servers (or render nodes).

Backburner Manager:

A small executable program that runs on a PC on the network, it can be run on any PC on the network including a render node, although it’s not advised.  This software receives render jobs from the client, which it then distributes to the render nodes on the network. The Backburner Manager maintains status information about its network of Backburner servers. It also maintains a database of submitted, active, and completed jobs.  If a render node (server) fails it also will redirect the failed servers’ job to another available server.

Backburner Monitor:

A small program that can be run on any PC on the network to see and control the Queue of jobs in the manager. this can be run on any PC on the network and there is also a web based version available.

Render Nodes:

A Render node is a PC that runs (Backburner server) a network version of 3ds Max, and actually renders a job.  Only CPU and RAM are used from this PC, a high-end graphics card is not needed nor is a monitor even needed.

Network Folders:

You need to setup a common area so all Backburner servers can load the map textures from.  You also need a common area that Backburner can write out files to.  Setup a Shared network folder to work from on a network drive.  There will be 2 main folders the first will be named Textures, this will have many sub-directories containing the maps and material libraries. The second folder will be named Renderoutput, this will be where all network rendered files are written to.  Assign these drive letters T: (Textures) and R: (Renderoutput), this makes it easier on a network that may be 10 directories deep to not have to use the entire name in each file mapping.  Each PC that is running Backburner Server must have Read-Write access to these folders!

3ds MAX Mappings:

In the Materials editor make sure that all materials that are being used are in the shared directories otherwise renderings will fail because they won’t be able to find the correct maps.  Open up the Configure User paths under Customize menu and add the paths to the network texture maps  so that the map files can be found automatically.  A faster way to do this if you have a lot of directories that need to be added to the list is directly type in paths in the 3dsmax.ini file.

Configure user paths…

Menu.  Edit 3dsmax.ini

Deployment method:

Standalone or Render Farm.  A standalone version can be run in the background while a user can still work in on other programs.  However, most renderings use 100% of all the CPU cores (yes, multi-core multi-threaded cores can be utilized).

Step 1:  On one of the PC’s on the network render farm execute the Backburner manager. (Shown Below)

This starts up “Wiretap” in either 32 or 64 bit mode.  I recommend using the 64 bit version so you can address more ram at render time.  You may run either 32 or 64 bit PC’s, but all render nodes must be 64 to be seen by a 64 bit Manager.  So all 32 or all 64 PC’s (can’t mix them), and this of course is dependent on your operating system on each PC.

Step 2: On each Render Node you must have the Backburner Server executed.  So assuming you have all Windows 7 (64 bit) PC’s, execute Backburner server 2013 on each PC.  Go to the windows Start menu, All Programs, Autodesk, Backburner, Server (Shown right).  Do this for all render nodes.

Note: All PC’s should have the same version of Backburner running on them (in this case 2013). This will bring up the following dialog box. (Shown below).  It should say “Registration to IP Address of the PC running Manager, in this case 192.168.0.103 accepted”. This means it found the manager on the network and is ready to receive a render job.

Back on the Manager PC, you should see a message “Successful registration from PC name”, in this case Aquaman. (shown below)

Step 3:  Call up 3ds Max from one of the PC’s and click the Render setup button (hotkey = F10). (shown below)

Select the Renderer you want to use, in this case “NVIDIA mental ray“, also click on the arrow button to the Right of the Render button.  Select “Submit to Network Rendering…“.

You will then see this dialog box.  Hit the Connect button, and a list of Servers will pop up. In this case Aquaman is the only server.  If you want to divide up a single frame and send to your render nodes you’ll need to select “Split scan lines” option, and define an overlap (shown right: Strips setup)

Click on the Advanced button.  There are sever options to set up here but most important is the Submit Job as 64 bit. You can also set the amount of time you are willing to wait for the job to load and render.

* Make sure that the Scene is saved to a shared network folder (all render nodes must have read-write access to this!)  Also make sure that all texture maps, IES lighting files, XREF’s, proxy files, and plugins are available on a shared network drive.   It’s a good idea to 1st test a rendering locally an make sure that it renders fine before submitting it to the network.  Click on submit, this will load the scene into the Back burner manager.

Backburner Monitor:

Start Backburner Monitor if you’d like to check the status of the job queue.  Click the windows Start menu, All Programs, Autodesk, Backburner, Monitor (Shown below). Click on the Connect Button on the top menu. this lists the status of the jobs, each Server and any errors.  you can also delete jobs, rush jobs, change priority of jobs, etc.

Final Notes:

Setup problem usually are a result of inadequate network rights or anti-virus software blocking a port.  If you experience setup problems I suggest set admin rights for the user and disable any anti-virus software.  Once the render farm is running turn these things back on one at a time.

Cheers,
Bill

 

Bill McKown is Synergis’ Visualization expert. Having joined the company in 2011, his prior employment involved CAD design, 3D renderings for both architectural and interior design projects, and training and supporting for all the products associate with these. Bill has a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Arts in Education and additional certifications in Computer Animation and Autodesk solutions.


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Aug
21
Revit 2016's New Physical-Realistic Rendering Engine
Posted by Thang Le Toan on 21 August 2015 01:21 AM

Dan Stine, CSI, CDT
Registered Architect and Author

The 2016 version of Revit that was just announced has a number of new features, several of which have already found their way into Revit 2015 for subscription customers via the 2015 R2 update. One unique feature in the 2016 version is the new Autodesk Raytracer rendering engine. Well, technically parts of this feature are already in the RaytraceVisual Style. The technology has been enhanced and incorporated into the Rendering Dialog for 3D views. This article will cover what is new and different about this new rendering engine for high quality still images from within Revit.  At the end, we will also take a quick look at a new tool which creates a Section Box around the selected elements.

The images shown in this article are from:

  • North Dakota State University (NDSU) graduate student, Logan Diehl
  • Interior Design Using Autodesk Revit 2016 by Daniel John Stine and Aaron Hansen

Physical Based Rendering

Physically based techniques attempt to simulate reality; that is, they use principles of physics to model the interaction of light and matter. In physically based rendering, realism is usually the primary goal. This approach is in contrast to non-photorealistic rendering, which strives for artistic freedom and expressiveness. The result is less tweaking and fewer parameters to get the correct results. For example, the Autodesk engine does not have the Daylight Portal option found in mental ray.

Rendered scenes are based on physically accurate lights, materials, and light transport (i.e., Global Illumination). There is a clear trend towards physically based rendering as seen from CPU and GPU manufacturers as well as Games and other rendering engines (e.g. Maxwell, Octane Render).

Given the fundamental differences between the two rendering engines, it is not a good comparison to take a model/view that has been optimized for mental ray and render it in Autodesk Raytracer.

Autodesk Owned Technology

Some readers may be surprised to find out that the current rendering engine in Revit, called mental ray is owned by NVIDIA – the graphics card company. In addition to Autodesk likely having to pay to use this technology, they are not at liberty to change or enhance it. The new Autodesk Raytracer engine is owned by Autodesk and can be modified and enhanced as needed to parallel other changes in Autodesk’s offerings. This new technology is also available in AutoCAD, Navisworks and Showcase.

CPU Based, not GPU

For stability and scalability, this new engine is CPU based, rather than relying on the graphics card’s GPU and memory which has been popular for rendering engines. The contemporary high-end Intel cards have Ray Trace functions used by Autodesk Raytracer to streamline compute power and improve performance. Other CPUs are also supported. The process is scalable from laptops to large HPC clusters, with the ability to handle complex scenes and lighting. Similar to mental ray, when a rendering is being processed, all the cores of the CPU are being pegged at 100%.

The Autodesk Raytracer can use more than sixteen CPU cores, which had been the limit for rendering in Revit 2015 (as per Autodesk’s website). This makes the new Autodesk engine very fast! For example, the first image below (Figure 1) only took 3 minutes to render with the following settings: Medium, 150dpi and Interior Sun and Artificial Light. Compare the detail in this image with the next one (Figure 2), rendered using the mental ray engine which took 2.75 hours with the following settings: Medium, 300dpi and Interior Sun and Artificial Light. The two images are fairly comparable in quality despite the significant time difference.


Figure 1. Autodesk Raytracer rendering completed in 3 minutes.



Figure 2. Mental Ray rendering completed in 2.75 hours.

 

Increasing the Autodesk Raytracer settings to Best and 300dpi takes 11 hours (Figure 3).


Figure 3. Autodesk Raytracer rendering completed in 11 hours.

In comparing the three images, the difference can be most obviously spotted by the quality of the light and shadow on the table in the lower right corner of the scene.

Highly Dependable

Perhaps the best thing about this new engine is that it works when the mental ray engine does not. For example, Logan’s current thesis project, shown in the image below (Figure 4), was rendered using Autodesk Raytracer in Revit 2016. This project has a massive adaptive component-based space frame and glass roof assembly. This same model will not render at all using the mental ray engine – even with the lowest settings. I am not sure if it is a limitation with mental ray or how it is implemented within Revit, but that really does not matter to me. What matters is that one works and the other does not.

The testing done around this same project showed mental ray used nearly all 16GB of system RAM while Autodesk Raytracer peaked at about 5GB. Also, due to the “physical” nature of the process, portions of the rendered image will appear within minutes.


Figure 4. Model by NDSU graduate student, Logan Diehl.

 

Material Color and Quality

In my experience, the selected colors and materials tend to shift too much when rendered using the mental ray engine. For example, the first image below (Figure 5) shows a carpet material from Shaw flooring used in a Revit material. The second image (Figure 6) shows how the carpet material was rendered in the Autodesk Raytracer engine. The same scene was then rendered in mental ray (Figure 7). The color is more accurate in the Autodesk Raytracer engine.


Figure 5. The raster Image used in the renderings below.



Figure 6. Autodesk Raytracer rendered scene with settings: High/300dpi/2 hours.



Figure 7. Mental Ray rendered scene with settings: Low/300dpi/3 hours.

Another thing to notice in the two images above is how Autodesk Raytracer handles specular materials better—compare the aluminum finish for the curtain wall mullions. Also, a common issue with the mental ray engine is a blotchy look on walls. This does not appear to be an issue with the Autodesk Raytracer engine.

How It Works

Using the new rendering engine is very easy as it is totally integrated into the existing Revit rendering workflow. Figure 8 shows the only obvious change to the Rendering dialog when it is first opened. The default option selected is NVIDIA mental ray for each view.


Figure 8. The Rendering dialog in Revit 2016.

Selecting the Autodesk Raytracer engine changes a few of the options in the Quality and Background drop-down menus (Figure 9). The Quality option only has four settings: Draft, Medium, High and Best. The Background option has three settings: Sky, Color and Image. The ability to customize the quality settings is not available. Likewise, there are no options for simulating clouds. The steps for setting the Color or specifying an Image for the Background are identical to the mental ray engine.


Figure 9. The Quality and Background drop-down menus if the Autodesk Raytracer engine is selected.

The only other change in the Rendering dialog is the Exposure Control dialog (Figure 10). Ideally, these settings should not have to be adjusted as often due to the physically accurate nature of the rendering engine. However, when adjustments are needed, the scene has to be re-rendered. This is different than the mental ray engine where clicking Apply will instantly update the rendered image while still on screen.


Figure 10. The Exposure Control dialog.

Once the rendering starts, the familiar Rendering Progress dialog appears (Figure 11). The only difference here is there is no row to list Daylight Portals as when using the mental ray engine.


Figure 11. The Rendering Progress dialog.

It should be noted that Revit still does not support Absolute Photometry which represents an LED light source. I believe this relates more to fundamental Revit functionality rather than the rendering engines.
When exporting a PNG file for a mental ray rendering, the background is transparent. This is not the case with the Autodesk Raytracer engine.

New Selection Tool

Another cool visualization-related tool in the new Revit 2016 is the Selection Tool found in the View panel on the Modify tab. Simply select some elements in the model (as shown in Figure 12) and then click the Selection Tool icon. The result is a Section Box applied to your default 3D view (Figure 13).


Figure 12. Selecting a portion of the model.

 

 

Figure 13. The 3D view is sectioned to show only the selected elements.

Conclusion

With the new 2016 release, rendering in Revit is making a step in a new, and I think better, direction which should make the process of developing presentation materials directly in the application faster and more realistic.

I hope to be able to present some of these new features as well of the cool new Archvision Entourage workshop tools at the inaugural Revit Technology Conference in Asia—which will be in Singapore.


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