Introduction:


The  "Add to render queue" button in the render panel permits to send a batch of Mistika render jobs ( .rnd files ) to external render managers, or to pass those files to user defined scripts.


Please note that this tool may require aditional configuration and it is not really necessary for simple cases. If what you want is to just render a batch of shots then you can simply load all of them and use this function in the render panel: 


- Mistika VR:  Activate the All Shots button in the render panel 

- Mistika Boutique: Activate Split By Segments 


In this way Mistika will render all of them one after the other, without the need of a external render manager.


But if you need more powerful render jobs management, then the Add to render queue  button is the right tool to use, in combination with a external render manager. This is explained in this document. 



Add to render queue - Main Purposes:


- To integrate with external batch manager tools and external render managers. These are specialized applications that permit to organise and process your render jobs in different ways. For example, render jobs can be added to render queues for posterior execution (for example during the night), change their priorities, stop / resume jobs as needed, automatic retry, manage error logs, etc.  They are also specially usefull in case of unstable systems or not very reliable, as  a failing job will not stop the ohers,  and failed jobs can be retried later automatically  


- To use a external render manager to render a single enumerated sequence (.dpx, .tiff, .jpg, etc)  in parallel in multiple computers  (with each node rendering different frames of the same clip)


- To use a external render manager to render a different movie file (.mov, .mp4, .mxf .avi. ..) on each render node. Movie files can not be rendered by parts (only  enumerated sequences can), but movie files for multiple shots can still be distributed by ordering one movie file to each render node.


- In dual GPU systems, it can be used to render jobs in one GPU (by launching a render manager on it) while you continue using the other GPU for Mistika.


- To trigger user scripts to automate production workflows, while passing them the Mistika render scripts ( .rnd files ). For example to send rnd files to Mistika Workflows product (which can render Mistika jobs and then perform other automated tasks with the rendered files)




Configuration in the Mistika side:


Currently there are two Mistika applications supporting this capability,  Mistika VR and Mistika Boutique.  (it also works for the linux version "Mistika Ultima". In this document, everything that is said for Mistika Boutique also works for Mistika Ultima)


Mistika VR


The Render -> Add to render queue button works both in Current shot and All shots modes. In the second case, a whole batch of Mistika render jobs ( .rnd files) is created first,  and then a set of command lines are executed for each of the .rnd files in that batch.  


Mistika Boutique


Depending on the Render->Split By Segments options the Render->Add to render queue button will create one .rnd per shot or just one .rnd for the whole selection , and then a set of command lines are executed for each of the .rnd files.  


Those command lines are stored in a configuration file,  runBatch.cfg, which can be configured in the File->Options menu (for the case of Mistika VR) or with the Render->Add to render queue->settings wheel (for the case of Mistika Boutique).  


The configuration menu provides a graphic interface to automate the integration with the most common batch managers: Mistika Ultima BatchManager, Mistika Workflows,  Uberware Smedge, and ThinkBox Deadline.  (so you don't need to type any command line for those)


You can also integrate with Mistika Workflows easily, a trivial method is to simply use the Watch Folders from Mistika Workflows to monitor new render jobs or the new media files that they produce, and then apply other actions to them (render, create multiple versions, deliver to client servers on internet , etc)


For more advanced usage or to integrate with other applications,  the user can put all the command lines that he wants to be executed in the runBatch.cfg, passing the path of each .rnd file to them and also any parameters requiring variable substitution (the full list of available variables is given in the configuration file as a reference).  




Supported batch managers:


A "batch manager" (or "render manager", the name depends on the intended purpose) is an application that provides batch processing for different jobs. In the case of "Render Managers" they also provide the capability to distribute render jobs between multiple computers, while monitoring their progress and managing all aspects about render nodes and render jobs. 


Most of these applications are agnostic about the actual render software, which needs to be installed separately. In this context, the actual renderer (vr or mistika)  can be connected to the render manager by providing a description of  its command line interface (CLI), which for the case of Mistika comes already integrated with some render managers but may require a manual configuration process for others (this is explained below).  


Once the render manager is also configured the user does not need to type any command line to submit render jobs, as the Add to render queue button will do it automatically. 


These are the render managers that are available by default:


- Mistika Ultima BatchManager ( send to Mistika Ultima ):  


It is the usual render manager that is available in all Mistika Ultima environments (these render farms are linux only, but you can still submit rnd jobs to them from any other platform ).  In these cases the Add to render queue button will create the Mistika render jobs ( .rnd files ) and it will copy them to a specified queue folder. This action is enough to submit render jobs to the Mistika BatchManager application, which is the one that will start the actual render processes.


The configuration file also offer parameters for "path translation", so it can replace local paths for the corresponding paths that are equivalent in the destination system before sending the .rnd job  (the complete instructions are in the runBatch.cfg file).  However, since v8.10 each Mistika installation also keeps its own configuration file with all the path translation pairs used in the past (when using the relink tool), so using the path translation in the runBatch.cfg file may not be necessary.  However you can use one or the other method as preferred.



- Uberware Smedge: 


It is a third party multi-platform render manager,  developed by Uberware. It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is probably the easiest render manager to setup, as it provides a lot of automated configuration. For that reason we have also tried to simplify our side of the integration as much as possible. 


Please note that Mistika does not include licenses for any 3rd party render manager. At the date of this document Uberware Smedge is free of cost for the first 4 systems, while additional nodes require to purchase Smedge licenses from Uberware. But please note that this could change over the time.


The recommended installation procedure is as follows:


1 - First thing, make sure that all the render nodes are sharing a common storage volume for the source media files and to receive the rendered files. Check that Mistika can read the media files from those volumes and also render to the planed destinations from all computers, otherwise nothing is going to work properly on the next steps (except if you plan to use Smedge in the local computer only , which also makes a lot of sense as a powerful Batch processor ). 


2 -  In all the render nodes, install both Mistika and Smedge (you can find Smedge at  http://www.uberware.net/ ). 

Make sure that all nodes have the corresponding licenses as necessary, and test that they can render using Mistika as usual, without using the Add to render queue function yet (obviously, it does not make sense to try the integration functions with Smedge until Mistika is rendering correctly by itself).  


3 - (Optional): If you are not using Mistika default paths then you will need to modify the Mistika module for Smedge ( an example .psx file is  attached to this document, but it is also available in the "Modules" folder under the Smedge installation path and restart Smedge).


4 - To submit jobs:


- From MistikaVR, press  File->Options->BatchManager 


From Mistika Boutique: Render->Add to render queue->settings wheel (also available in MistikaConfig->BatchManager menu).


 It will offer several configuration options, just choose the one to Send .rnd jobs to Smedge


From that point, every time you execute the Add to render queue button it will submit the selected render jobs to Smedge.  


Note: The Smedge progress bar of each render job is based on counting the number of rendered files. As a result, enumerated sequences will show a smooth progression as it advances, but movie files will jump from 1% to 100% in one step. This is the expected behaviour in Smedge because a movie file is "just one file". However, you may still see the frame number being rendered in the metadata columns at the right of the progress bar. And if you need more detail Smedge also provides configuration options to show the actual progress bar of the renderer application and even its console output, although they are not visible by default.




- AWS Thinkbox Deadline:


The Deadline installation is not trivial and it requires system administrator skills to customize it, but once it is done configuring the Mistika plugin should not be complicated.  Example instructions for the integration with Deadline are here: 


https://docs.thinkboxsoftware.com/products/deadline/10.1/1_User%20Manual/manual/app-mistikavr.html


Please note that the MistikaVR plugin that comes with Deadline is just an example of a possible integration. There are more Mistika products, and the Mistika executable paths have changed since the original document above. Deadline requires to define the paths for each particular installation and specific Mistika product.  


For example you can start with the example and change the plugin paths to use the Mistika Boutique renderer rather than Mistika VR.


In the Mistika side you will need to change the paths appearing in this fileto suite your installation paths:


SGO AppData/MistikaProductName/runBatch.cfg


In the Deadline side, the example Deadline plugin for Mistika is just a python script plus some configuration files, located in this Deadline folder:


DeadlineRepository10\plugins\MistikaVR


And also the job submission script:


DeadlineRepository10\scripts\Submission\MistikaVRSubmission.py


They are all text files that can be easily modified, please check the Deadline documentation if you need more hep.    




Compatibility with other render managers and workflow automation tools:


In addition to Smedge and Deadline, the Add to render queue  function should be compatible  with any other render manager that permits to submit jobs by command line.  This is because the runBatch.cfg file permits to define the exact command line to execute  for each rnd job,  also passing the path to the rnd file and other common parameters in the command line (start frame, end frame, media paths, etc).  


However, in the other side of the connection the render manager will need a plugin or a configuration file to describe the command line interface (CLI) of each product that they support.  If your render manager does not have your Mistika product on the list or if you are integrating with your own workflow tools then you will need to make that missing piece.  For more details check the articles about Mistika CLI interface 




Support services and trouble shooting:  


A characteristic of most render farms is that they are based on a combination of products from different manufacturers. Then, in the case of problems the first thing is to isolate which product is creating the problem (logically, each of the providers can only help you with the configuration of their own products). We recommend the following procedure to find where the problem comes from and which support services need to be contacted:


- First thing check that all your network and shared storage volumes are working correctly on all computers before installing any render farm management software , as network and permission issues  are the most common source of problems in a render farm. 


Specifically, test that you can can access all source  files and overwrite render folders from all the computers without any permission problems.  If you detect problems on this preliminary tests then please contact your  system administrator, and do not continue with the next points until this part works perfectly. It is highly recommended to start with a working network and fully operational network drives before installing any render manager software on it, otherwise they may fail to execute any automated configuration provided by their installer tools,  and when you finally fix your network then you may end with a configuration mess that may need manual tweaking for everything.  


- If the problem has appeared at a later stage, then a useful test is to configure your local system as the only render node, and test the connectivity between Mistika and the render manager locally on that single node. 

 If the integration between Mistika and the render manager works well on each computer  but not when you add them all together then the cause of the problem is probably a network problem or a security issue. In particular, check that all your computers are discoverable in the network, as many render managers will use that function. (for example in the case of Windows make sure to activate Network Settings->SharingOptions->Turn on Network Discovery).  And make sure that the firewalls and antivirus software are not blocking any necessary connection (if possible, deactivate them for a while and reactivate them when it works)


- Once the above problems are discarded,  check if Mistika can render normally on each render node using the shared network drives (without using Add to render queue or any render manager yet). 


- Once that Mistika standalone render is working well in all computers using the shared volumes then the only piece that is left is the render manager configuration. That should be the last piece to be installed and configured,  and their documentation and support services will be the ones to be used  for this purpose.