CGI Rendering

Creating your own Blender render farm using thousands of GPUs


This example will walk you through the set up of a complete cloud rendering solution for GPU rendering using Blender on CoreWeave Cloud. We will utilize node affinity rules to select the type and quantity of hardware we use for our render, and even pass in a custom artifact to our container. When done, you will have a web based file management solution for asset upload and downloading render output, and a highly parallel workflow template to launch your render jobs!

Persistent Volume Claim

We will need a place for all of our render assets and outputs to reside, that is accessible to multiple workers and other services in our namespace. To do this, we will create a shared filesystem Persistent Volume Claim. We've set the resource storage request to 100Gi in this example, but feel free to adjust as necessary.

apiVersion: v1
kind: PersistentVolumeClaim
name: shared-data-pvc
storageClassName: sharedfs-hdd-replicated
- ReadWriteMany
storage: 100Gi # 100GB total volume size

Once this is created and saved (we named ours pvc.yaml), run the following to create your claim:

$ kubectl apply -f pvc.yaml
persistentvolumeclaim/shared-data-pvc created

We now have a shared filesystem of 100GB, named shared-data-pvc that we can utilize throughout our rendering example!

File Browser Service and Deployment

Because we are attempting to create an easy to use service to render our Blender animation, we will also quickly setup a web based file management platform to upload and download any assets and render output we have. For this, we will be using the open-source utility File Browser.

To get our web based platform running, we have to create both the application deployment, as well as a service with rules on how to deliver the application to the outside world.

Our deployment is going to use our shared-data-pvc storage volume as its data directory, and we are going to name it filebrowser for reference in our service in just a minute.

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
name: filebrowser
replicas: 1
app: filebrowser
app: filebrowser
- name: filebrowser
image: hurlenko/filebrowser:latest
- containerPort: 8080
name: webui
- name: data-storage
mountPath: /data
- name: data-storage
claimName: shared-data-pvc

We've saved our deployment as filebrowser-deployment.yaml. To launch the deployment, run:

$ kubectl apply -f filebrowser-deployment.yaml
deployment.apps/filebrowser created

To check to see if our pod has created successfully, run:

$ kubectl get pods | grep filebrowser
filebrowser-5fddbbf864-8jbpm 1/1 Running 0 3h10m

Once we have our application deployed, it's time to make it accessible outside the cluster. To do this, we will launch a service linked to the deployment while grabbing an IP address from the CoreWeave Cloud public IP pool. Our service file is pretty simple, and looks like:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
name: filebrowser
annotations: public default
app: filebrowser
type: LoadBalancer
externalTrafficPolicy: Local
- port: 80
protocol: TCP
name: webui
targetPort: 8080
app: filebrowser

We've saved our service file as filebrowser-service.yaml and launch the service by:

$ kubectl apply -f filebrowser-service.yaml
service/filebrowser created

Next up is to find the public IP of our service:

filebrowser LoadBalancer 64.xx.xx.xx 80:32765/TCP 3h16m

Let's now browse to the EXTERNAL-IP as listed in our services, and we should be greeted by a login screen!

Default username/password is admin/admin. You should change this...

Let's get something to render!

For this example, we want to render something that quickly shows the power available on CoreWeave Cloud, so we're going to take one of the typical Blender benchmarks, BMW_27 and upload the unpacked file bmw27_gpu.blend to our root path in the File Browser.

Our BMW file is there, we are ready to go!

Creating our render workflow!

This portion of the example assumes that you've already setup your Argo CLI tools by following the steps available here:

Our workflow file is going to do a few things for us:

  1. Define the parameters of the overall job, including the file to render, the frame range, how many frames to render per pod, and the maximum number of parallel pods.

  2. Auto-generate "slices" to render in parallel on each pod.

  3. Define what type of hardware we would like our job to be executed on.

  4. Supply the Blender commands and pass in a custom python script to ensure we render on GPU.

Some of the workflow steps in here are a little advanced, so we've commented them where possible. If you don't understand it immediately, don't worry, it will only take a few times interacting with Argo to pick it up.

kind: Workflow
generateName: render-
entrypoint: main
parallelism: 10 # Maximum number of parallel pods to run (pods x gpu limit = total GPUs)
activeDeadlineSeconds: 864000 # Cancel operation if not finished in 24 hours
ttlSecondsAfterFinished: 86400
parameters: # These parameters are available as variables throughout our template.
- name: filename # The location of our blend file, /data/ is the root directory of our Filebrowser app
value: '/data/bmw27_gpu.blend'
- name: sliceSize # How many frames to render per pod, let's set it to 1
value: 1
- name: start # Start frame of entire sequence to render
value: 1
- name: stop # Stop frame of entire sequence to render, let's render 10
value: 10
- name: outputLocation # Location to write the output to
value: "/data/output/bmw27_gpu/"
- name: data-storage
claimName: shared-data-pvc # Mounting in our shared data PVC
tolerations: # This is here so that our generate slices script only runs on a CPU node.
- key: is_cpu_compute
operator: Exists
templates: # This defines the steps in our workflow.
- name: main
- - name: slice # Step to generate frame ranges "slices" to run on each pod.
template: gen-slices
- - name: render
template: render-blender
- name: start
value: "{{item.start}}"
- name: stop
value: "{{item.stop}}"
withParam: "{{steps.slice.outputs.result}}"
- name: gen-slices # This is our custom slicing script that runs as bare code in a python container.
image: python:alpine3.6
command: [python]
source: |
import json
import sys
frames = range({{workflow.parameters.start}}, {{workflow.parameters.stop}}+1)
n = {{workflow.parameters.sliceSize}}
slices = [frames[i * n:(i + 1) * n] for i in range((len(frames) + n - 1) // n )]
intervals = map(lambda x: {'start': min(x), 'stop': max(x)}, slices)
json.dump(list(intervals), sys.stdout)
- name: render-blender
labels: render
- name: start
- name: stop
artifacts: # Artifacts are directly mounted inside the container for use by our program.
- name: blender_gpu # We are mounting a python script that ensures all GPUs are used for our render.
path: / # The python script will be mounted at / and accessible by Blender.
data: |
import bpy
# Set GPU rendering
bpy.context.scene.cycles.device = 'GPU'
bpy.context.preferences.addons['cycles'].preferences.compute_device_type = 'CUDA'
# Force turn off progressive refine, since we are not in viewport
bpy.context.scene.cycles.use_progressive_refine = False
# Enable all available GPUs
for devices in bpy.context.preferences.addons['cycles'].preferences.get_devices():
for d in devices:
d.use = True
if d.type == 'CPU':
d.use = False
# Disable placeholder frame files
bpy.context.scene.render.use_placeholder = False
# Force process to over-write existing files
bpy.context.scene.render.use_overwrite = True
retryStrategy: # It is important that we define retry logic, in case Blender fails. It fails sometimes. Out of nowhere.
limit: 1
image: nytimes/blender:2.82-gpu-ubuntu18.04 # We are using the Docker container graciously provided by NYT.
command: ["blender"]
workingDir: /
# These are the command line arguments that will be supplied to our Blender process, including the python script above.
args: [
"--engine", "CYCLES",
"--factory-startup", "-noaudio",
"--use-extension", "1",
"-o", "{{workflow.parameters.outputLocation}}",
"--python", "",
"-s", "{{inputs.parameters.start}}",
"-e", "{{inputs.parameters.stop}}",
resources: # This is where we request our pod resources.
memory: 8Gi # Requesting a minimum of 8GB system ram
cpu: 1 # Requesting a minimum of 1 vCPU
cpu: 2 # Requesting a maximum of 2 vCPU 4 # Requesting 4 GPUs
- name: data-storage # Mounting in our PVC as /data so it's accessible to our pod.
mountPath: /data
- matchExpressions:
- key:
operator: In
values: # This is where we identify what GPU type we want to run on.
- GeForce_GTX_1070_Ti
- GeForce_GTX_1070

Retry logic is best-practice when running rendering in parallel. Due to the constant advancements in CGI rendering platforms and GPU compute, sometimes these things break for no reason, and retries defined in your Argo workflow template will ensure you aren't hunting for lost frames.

Our completed workflow file, which we will save as blender-gpu-render.yaml is now setup to render, in parallel, using 10 pods of 4x GeForce GTX 1070(Ti) GPUs. Let's see if it works!

To start our render, we do:

$ argo submit --watch blender-gpu-render.yaml

Immediately after this command is submitted, you should see the Argo command line kick into high-gear, showing the inputs and the status of your workflow. At first, it may show Unschedulable warnings, but that's just because Kubernetes is evicting idle containers and getting your systems ready to run.

After about 1 minute you should see a screen that looks like:

Name: render-sjf6t
Namespace: tenant-test
ServiceAccount: default
Status: Succeeded
Created: Fri May 29 22:26:01 -0400 (2 minutes ago)
Started: Fri May 29 22:26:01 -0400 (2 minutes ago)
Finished: Fri May 29 22:28:12 -0400 (now)
Duration: 2 minutes 11 seconds
filename: /data/bmw27_gpu.blend
sliceSize: 1
start: 1
stop: 10
outputLocation: /data/output/bmw27_gpu/
✔ render-sjf6t (main)
├---✔ slice (gen-slices) render-sjf6t-2863198607 3s
└-·-✔ render(0:start:1,stop:1)(0) (render-blender) render-sjf6t-1206241518 1m
├-✔ render(1:start:2,stop:2)(0) (render-blender) render-sjf6t-2071804633 1m
├-✔ render(2:start:3,stop:3)(0) (render-blender) render-sjf6t-2756225068 1m
├-✔ render(3:start:4,stop:4)(0) (render-blender) render-sjf6t-2726811839 1m
├-✔ render(4:start:5,stop:5)(0) (render-blender) render-sjf6t-3220888738 1m
├-✔ render(5:start:6,stop:6)(0) (render-blender) render-sjf6t-3319286957 1m
├-✔ render(6:start:7,stop:7)(0) (render-blender) render-sjf6t-577269840 1m
├-✔ render(7:start:8,stop:8)(0) (render-blender) render-sjf6t-3336690355 1m
├-✔ render(8:start:9,stop:9)(0) (render-blender) render-sjf6t-3980468470 2m
└-✔ render(9:start:10,stop:10)(0) (render-blender) render-sjf6t-2756728893 1m

This shows the status of your 10 frames being rendered on 10 different GPU instances with 4x GTX 1070(Ti) each. You can now browse to your File Browser site, and you should see a fresh folder outputs with sub-directory bmw27_gpu that is filled with your 10, freshly rendered frames!

So, what did we get with all this effort? We got ourselves a beautiful, CGI generated BMW demo file:

With just some small changes to the Argo workflow we just built and used, you can now run your Blender GPU rendering on thousands of GPUs simultaneously!