Network Rendering through the Internet: VPN 4 Dummies
By: Van-Lang Nguyen - aka "Goliard"
Origins :
I was recently converted into the "Pond" of Splutterfish [meaning I'm a brazil user now]. The normal Brazil artist bundle package gives the client (the buyer), three licenses - one is a workstation license (which has sole and unlimited access to the Graphical User Interface, GUI, as well as the ability to render) and two are renderfarm licenses. The key, here, to note is that the two RenderNode licenses allow any two machines that are currently networked to use the Brazil Renderer through Max's backburner network rendering solution.
The problem with this solution is that sometimes the user might want to use another computer to lower render times; however, that computer might be too far away to network. There are many situations that may call for this: internet community style projects, friends, 3d forum members, even high profile companies can make use of the home computers of their employees to render during idle periods.
One thing I have to say - Have to - is about the absolutely excellent quality of technical support that Splutterfish provides. When I came up into the support IRC room, I was almost immediately attended and helped. I found out that a few others had created a solution to my situation and that it seemed, otherwise, unprecedented. The solution called for was suggested by the "BigFish" himself, Scott Kirvan; he suggested Virtual Private Networking (VPN).
Now, over the past week and a half, I have gone to great lengths to read as much technical information (ie. white papers, articles, tutorials, etc.) only to find how incredibly easy it is... (Yes, I am still hitting myself for that).
Now on to the good part:
This technique can technically work on any 3D package that supports some sort of network rendering. This tutorial will be focused for the use of VPN in 3DS MAX (particularly R5); however, the first half of the tutorial will not be Max-biased and can be followed by any user of any package. On the other hand, the second half will be entirely focused in Max and Backburner. This method only applies to the Windows operating system (which is a trademark of Microsoft - blah). Users of Windows 95, 98, ME, and NT 4.0 will need the following file to use VPN's IPSEC protocol (don't worry about it, just download it if the above operating systems apply to you):
Download link:
To really be able appreciate the advantages of Virtual Private Networking, you'll need to fully understand how it works. At first glance, Virtual Private Networking may sound like some sophisticated corporate technology that is incomprehensible to laymen, it actually is... although, it was primarily developed for corporations, its perfectly understandable and usable to anyone.
The basic principle of Virtual Private Networking is the use of the existing internet connections to network two or more computers (or just one if you are bored and/or easily amused). The VPN connection can work with computers anywhere in the world as long as an internet connection is present. Anyone seeing the benefits yet?
Not only can network rendering be set up, but remote access can also be set up - remote access allows one user to control the computer of the other (as long as networked). Although there are malicioius possibilities, if the users are in accord, the controller can help the other and fix particular problems when they arise.
The use of VPN is not necessarily limited to broadband connections and can even be used by 56k modems (and lower though 56k is cheap as it is, if you are any lower, consider atleast 56k v.90).
Part 1 of 2

Setting up a Virtual Private Network Server is very simple:

Go to Start: Control Panel: Network and Dial-Up Connections (It depends on your Operating System): Make New Connection (as shown in the following picture).

Then, choose the following option :

(Accept Incoming Connections)
Next it will come up with a window called Devices for Incoming Connections, but these options don't matter, click next and you'll see the most important option called Network Conection Wizard:

This window gives the user the option to allow Virtual Private Connections - the key to setting up a VPN server. The next window is just as important:

This window allows the user to set the allowed users to access - it sets up only who can enter. Just click add and follow the directions. The next window gives the user options to install network components and protocols, for a barebones set up without complications, the default options are fine. The last window gives the user the option to name the connection - name it accordingly.
Setting up a connection to a Virtual Private Network is just as simple :
Go to Start: Control Panel: Network and Dial-Up Connections (It depends on your Operating System): Make New Connection (again)
Then, you'll presented with a similar window:

If it askes you dial a connection to the internet, you can tell the window to not dial the connection. The next window will ask for the Destination Address; here, you enter the target host name. Then just click next to continue, you can decide whether to allow its use for all users or just the one user. That should be the last window besides one that askes to name the connection; choose the name accordingly or set the default.

To connect to a VPN server:
Go to Start: Control Panel: Network and Dial-Up Connections (It depends on your Operating System): [Click the named connection (not the server, but the connection)].
After clicking the connection, a similar window will pop up:

From here, simply use the appropriate username and password and click connect.
Some notes to be mindful of :
* If the VPN server is running a firewall such as ZoneAlarm, the firewall will alert the user somehow and most likely ask the server user to accept the connection. Some firewalls may disconnect the user if the server does not accept the connection.
* Some broadband routers might not necessarily support IPSec, please check the specifications of your router to make sure IPSec is supported before trying.
* IPSec is supported by most 56k modems, please check to make sure before trying.
* Security is a big issue with Virtual Private Networking. To ensure the highest possible security, please choose passwords that are impossible to guess and that are not dictionary based words. Non-static passwords would be suggested; however, you can ensure total security by purchasing VPN routers. On the other hand, if you don't need high security, your current system will do fine.
Part 2 of 2
Before we begin:
This part of the tutorial relates to the use of Backburner - 3ds Max5's network rendering system - it will also show in particular with use of the Brazil Rendering system; however, it will still work with scanline - no problem. The system distributes data to networked computers for each computer to render a bucket, a frame, a clip, anything and saves it in a desired location.The drop in render times with each additional computer varies depending on the amount of data being sent, so if you do not have a broadband connection or higher, you may want to use something like the Brazil R/S to limit the amount of data to smaller buckets.
This tutorial assumes a VPN and/or normal network has been set up. If you do not use 3DSMAX R5, please follow the instructions provided in your manual - for Max5 users: additional information, of course, can be found in your documentation. But I've got cool pictures :-)
To set up a network rendering configuration among multiple computers, one needs to be set up as a manager and the others are servers. Both the manager and the servers can render, however, the manager is required to distribute the rendering.
PLEASE NOTE: When you run backburner for the first time, a small window will come up asking for settings, you can leave the default settings or look towards documentation if you need specific settings. Also, backburner will not let you render to an .avi [or .mov for that matter] file if you network render among a network of computers, you will need to save them as .jpg, .tif, .tga etc and create the video file in post production.
On with the show...
Configuring the managing computer:
On the managing computer go to Start: Programs: [Where your discreet folder is]: [Where your backburner folder is]: and click all of the three options: Monitor, Manager, and Server. The order should not matter as long as you get it all up and running:

The Monitor window:



The Monitor allows you to "monitor" the current tasks and renderings that will take place. The Manager basically logs everything that occurs and registers each rendering node to the managing system. The server tells the managing computer that that computer will lend a hand in rendering.
In the Monitor, click the connect button:

Then click the OK in the following window:

From here, the managing computer is all set!!!
Configuring the render slaves:
On the slave computer go to Start: Programs: [Where your discreet folder is]: [Where your backburner folder is]: Server.

Wow, that was hard!
Creating a network rendering session :
Load 3ds MAX R5.
Load the file you wish to render - make sure your settings and everything are exactly the way you want them. For example, please, in the render menu, please click save file and save it as a .jpg or .tga (or etc).
Go to the render menu - as shown:

Then, click net render - as shown below:

When you click render, you will be presented with the following window:

As shown in the above picture, click connect. This will connect the render to the managing system and allow you to distribute the task(s).
Like the follow picture, on the right side, a list of all the available servers will show up (in my case, only one does because I haven't installed MAX on any other system yet ;-).

Next, select the servers you wish to distribute the task to and click submit, as shown in the following picture (I took the long route):

In the monitor window, you will see something like the following:

Not long after, max will load (GUI-free) on each of the render node computers like so:

And the rendering begins!!!

I've put up a free animation that can be used to test the network render. I have a Brazil version and a completely un-brazilled version for those without Brazil. You will need character studio either way, however. In the non Brazil version, you will also need the E-Light maxscript found in my Poor Man's GI article. In the texture for the bullet (the reflective one), you will just need to redirect it to the lake map in your standard max maps - its under reflection: raytrace: environment. You won't regret it.