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.