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Sheep it! Free Distributed Render Farm for Blender

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Sheep it! Is a free render farm for Blender where Blender users help each other render their scenes. I talked to Pierre Allard, who is one of the driving forces behind this project.

How does Sheep it! work?

The project is simple : anyone can submit a Blender project (Cycles or Internal) into the farm, and everyone compute the project (you didn't need to install Blender).

To render, you just have to open the page "Get started" and let the Java applet doing the job. If you have a GPU, you can do the rendering by GPU. There is an order in the project queue : the members with more credits are prioritary. You get credits with rendering the projects of the others.

Why did you developer the service?

As Renderfarm, this is not a professional service, because it depends of the number of plugged computers. We're developing on our free time, and this service doesn't bring back money.

The motivation for this service is very simple... Clouclou (the other founder) needed this because he had a little computer but access to many big servers. So it was a simple personnal project, then couple of friends needed it, then he create a little website. Here I'm coming, I design a new website with more functionnalities, and present it into 2 or 3 Blender forums. Now, this is very stable, we have a lot of active members, and a big set of features coming.

How popular is Sheep it?

The renderfarm is open since 3 or 4 years, but is now actively in use since 6 months. We now have more than 1600 users.

500 000 images were rendered, 3000 projects were finished, and you have about 40 computers in average, with some peak with 90 computers.

How is Sheep it! Different from other renderferms, like Renderfarm.fi?

You don't need to download any software to compute, just Java and it's OK. A compiled version for your machine is automatically downloaded by the Java client.

Sheep it! is father than Renderfarm for "little" projects... It depends of the charge, of course. But I read a few tests of Renderfarm where renders has been computed in 2 weeks, and all of the renders in our farm are done in less than 1 week (it depend of the size of the project of course !). The credits are here to push the projects of the active members, so a project with 500 frames could be computed in a few hours if you already have computed a lot of projects before.

All the projects done in Renderfarm are "public" (as far I know, I tested many times Renderfarm but never get my render ?)

And now for the most important question: how did you come up with that name? :)

It was a suggestion by one of our members, when the project was in Beta. We liked the "tone" of this name, and found a beautiful explanation : "To sheep it is to follow everyone else when you don't know where you're going or what is happening. Derived from the term 'sheep', used to describe one who does what others do in an effort to fit in."

Applied to the render farm, you send a project and something somewhere is computing the project, but you didn't have any idea what's happening, you just get your project complete. Like using some "cloud" applications.

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  • http://MacroManJr.blogspot.com/ Brian Lockett

    I've said it once, I'll say it a million times:

    You can never have too many render farms.™ :)

    Welcome to my list of site bookmarks!

  • Spelle

    Give and receive concept :) Brian, agree with you - the more renderfarms, the better ecosystem.

    • Brian Lockett

      It's a beautiful thing, when you have options in life. :)

  • Tenebrael

    Great to hear about such a project. But I think it'd be good to earn some money to ensure the farm future. I think that it should be some way to just buy credits, without rendering. So You could buy credits with Your money or Your (rendering) time. It won't prioritize paying customers, but still it will bring money to the funders, so they can make Sheep it! even better.

    I know that it can sound evil in open source society, but let's be honest: more money means more ways to improve. Period.

    • Zauber Paracelsus

      Paying for credits may be a good idea (especially for those who would have trouble with donating render time), though it may have the unintended side-effect of reducing the incentive for people to donate rendering time on their computers.

      • Tenebrael

        It's easy to avoid. They can just make prices for priority rendering dependant on the number of the machines available. If there are lots of machines and little to render, the cost of renderhour could be smaller, and when there is a high traffic, it can be bigger. So deciding not to render on Your machine would also increase the value of a renderhour, which will in turns affect You. Simple and effective imho :)

  • http://esalberg.wordpress.com Elijah Salberg

    I've used Sheep it! before and it really works. It's awesome.

  • http://www.polosson.com/ Paul Maillardet

    Really great idea, I have tested it and it works very well! I recommend to everyone.
    Plus, the team even take time to answer your questions. You're awesome sheep it!!!

  • Zauber Paracelsus

    I'm rather skeptical of peer-to-peer rendering systems such as this. I see no problems on a technical level, but rather a personal/privacy level. The problem is that some less-than-honest users might be spying on the renders that others are doing. Even worse, they might swipe the final renders or the .blend files and then plagiarize them. And even worse than that, if they can identify who is requesting the render, they might be able to make an extortion or blackmail attempt if the render is meant to be private or has subject matter which would be embarrassing if made public.

    It's possible I'm just being paranoid, but paranoia doesn't mean the threats I outlined aren't likely. And the fact is that there's very little, if any, privacy in peer-to-peer stuff like this, and no real way to defend against dishonest users.

    I'm not trying to bash Sheep It or the work that was put into it. I'm just pointing out a sad reality that could cause problems down the line.

    • Adam K

      I just registered and tried it, and i don't think you have to worry about any of that, the blend file doesn't appear to be put anywhere on your computer, and you don't even see what is rendering, just a percentage. You can do to your account page and there is a list of your last 10 renders, but the thumbnail is very small (I'm guessing maybe 100 pixels wide) and you can't expand it or even click to save it, it just pops up to the side when your mouse hovers over the date and time you rendered it. Hope that helps ease your concerns about using it.

      • Zauber Paracelsus

        That's a bit better, though some questions remain. I'll be emailing the developers to see what they have to say.

    • TimH

      Really good point, even if there are no obvious ways to view or access the data as Adam said, there are some very smart people out there that can use packet sniffing and many other tools to capture data that you don't want them to have. So, for silly renders/anims and blender learning activities I think it's a great idea, but for that serious project you've spent a month on and want for your portfolio, I wouldn't chance it.

      • Zauber Paracelsus

        Aye, though I wasn't referring to packet sniffing. Java executables can be decompiled straight to usable source code, with class, function, and variable names intact. So, unless obfuscation is used, the source code of any java program (sans comments and source documentation) can be obtained for analysis very easily. Mono or .Net programs have the same problem as well, I believe.

    • Tenebrael

      It depends on what is the mechanism behind it. If the rendering process is divided betwean many machines, it won't be possible to retrieve the image, cause it will render on Your machine only, let's say, one single object (or even part of it). If You get any answers from developers, please let know here, cause that's really interesting.

  • Charles Guillory

    it be interesting to see a cryptocurrency based on renderfarms, where you get credit for the number of frames you produce

    • Christoffer

      Greedy people would just upload lots of quick empty projects, and nobody would render the heavy high-quality projects.

      • Charles Guillory

        I guess the people requesting the render would be charged some sort of fee- though there'd have to be some way to determine the complexity of the render(i.e. check the size, number of shader nodes,etc)

  • Gordon

    Unfortunately the website doesn't load correctly with my Google Chrome browser. It is mostly black. With Internet Explorer it works.

    • SheepIt RenderFarm

      Hello,
      The chrome issue should be fixed.

      • Gordon

        Well, it is... in one of my Chrome user profiles, not in the other. I cleared the browser cache etc. but somehow it doesn't want to work with my default profile. Strange...

  • jimbo45uk

    Seems to not work under OSX java is detected on my browser but the java applet does not load I downloaded the java applet to run it and it failed, I have the latest java update for OSX so it must be incompatible with Mac at the moment.

  • Muaaz Manzoor

    Hey I registered on sheep it render farm... But every time I try to participate to render in a project it says java not detected... I have installed and reinstalled java countless number of time but still the same error... Can someone tell me what is going on....

  • januz

    This is awesome. I love the idea, but I'm not a fan of running things in the browser. Can we get a .jar file to run in the desktop?

  • januz

    Cool! thanks

  • Ralmon Meril

    Nyah!!! Tried registering but unable because I turned off javascript (I hate javascript) so turned it on and start registering. Waiting for the confirmation email to come................................nada.

    Blah! Wasted time waiting. I will soon forget about it. Can't use it when it won't let me use it.

  • Gordon

    I'm trying to render things, but it seems to take forever. Although they say "You should keep the render time per frame under 20min (on a quad core machine)" on their homepage, I'm sitting here the whole day at work with the render client in the background, and by the end of the day I only got about 20% of one single frame (with an eight-core machine). And because I have to turn off the computer in my office when I go home, I never get anything finished and so I don't get any credits.

    It often starts with one frame that takes about 2 seconds (which doesn't give much credits), and then comes another one which takes about forever. Other days, the render client says "no jobs available, ging to sleep for 15 minutes" but there are lots of waiting projects displayed.

    And while the render client is running, I can't use Blender myself because it becomes extremely slow even when I'm not rendering anything, just modeling (if I even get to start Blender). I thought this to be a good idea, but I think I will give up on it soon because it's not working for me - I don't seem to be able to help rendering other projects and while trying I'm only jamming my own work. That's sad :-(

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