Automated render farm power management saves studios money

Straightface Studios reduces idle time to less than 1%; Duber Studios saves 60% on power costs in a year with Deadline’s Power Management feature.

Render farms, those large banks of networked computers dedicated to image rendering, consume an awful lot of electricity. One vendor of render management software, Thinkbox Software, added a power management utility to its flagship product, Deadline. Now animation studios using the feature are starting to report significant savings on electricity and related costs. The power management feature in Deadline controls machine startup/shutdown on render farms automatically.

Deadline’s home screen for render farm management. (Source: Thinkbox Software)

Seattle-based animation and visual special effects company Straightface Studios has 15 nodes and six artist workstations on its render farm. They have been using the Deadline power management feature for years, but realized its true impact when they turned it off for a month. During the 30 days when artists turned computers on and off manually, the amount of time that computers were on and drawing power but inactive (idle) increased by 200%, to 40% of all working hours.

“That’s five hours a day of wasted electricity,” said Straightface artist Gavin Greenwalt. “It definitely caught our attention. We thought that with a little tweaking of our power management policy we could get that down to 10%.” What the studio did was even more significant; they reduced idle times to nearly zero, down to .15% using Deadline.

Straightface Studios achieved significant savings when using the Deadline Power Management feature. (Source: Thinkbox Software via Straightface Studios).

Director and Technical Director Lukas Dubeda of Duber Studio in the Czech Republic had a similar experience. “Being a pipeline TD I’m obsessed with efficiency and effectiveness. With the Power Management feature in Deadline I estimate we saved at least 60% on power costs over the last year. Looking at the initial cost of our 10 render nodes, with that savings the entire Deadline studio license cost pays for itself within a year and a half at our studio.”

The Deadline Power Management feature enables studios to control how machines start up and shut down automatically based on sets of render farm conditions including job load, idle times, job queue and more. Deadline also monitors external room temperature via strategically placed sensors, shutting down or starting up nodes to stay within a particular thermal envelope and alerting administrators to environmental effects. “It’s the first line of defense when there are power and thermal issues in a studio environment,” said Thinkbox Founder Chris Bond. “If something like an air conditioning unit failure happens, Deadline can help keep you from toasting your render farm.”

Thinkbox first developed the power management feature as an internal plug-in when doing its own productions, then brought it into its commercial software product with version 2.0.