Here is a really great tutorial video on how to get started rendering using the LightForge Render Network.
A basic written guide to rendering on the render.LightForge.cc Network
Before we begin there is a basic check list we want you be aware of.
First off, certain antivirus and malware or ransomware detection software has been found to cause problems with our software and service. If you run into any problems, this is the very first thing you should check and likely be required to temporarily disable while using the software.
Secondly, during submission to the render.ligthtforge.cc network, you need to ensure you have ample hard drive space on both your local c:\ drive or system drive and where you wish rendered frames to return to. If you run out of drive space in either case you will run into problems. Please ensure you have the appropriate amount of storage required for scene packaging through our software components and for the frames to be uploaded back to you. If you need more information regarding this please let us know.
Now onto the basics of getting started!
Creating an account
Before you can access the LightForge Render Network and download our software, you must create an account using this link.
We recommend that you use an extremely strong password and an email address that you can easily access that has recovery options such as gmail or hotmail or outlook account. Certain ISP emails may have problems with our domains and either block us from sending emails to you or immediately send them to a junk folder. It’s not us, its them. Make sure you whitelist our lightforge.cc domain in your email client.
Once you have signed up for an account you will be sent a verification email from our system to the email address you entered. This may take up to a few minutes to arrive in your mail client. If that amount of time passes and you have not received your verification email, it could be the victim of an spam filter. Please check yours to ensure this is or is not the case. If it is, please continue on. Otherwise, please contact us with details of the incident from the address you used to create the account and we will investigate and resolve the situation as quickly as possible.
This verification email is important as it contains a link confirming your credentials and allow you to login to the website in the next step. These credentials are also the same for use later with our software that connects you to the LightForge Render Network.
At this time, you will only be able to download our software if you have an account.
Logging In to the Dashboard
Once you have clicked on the “Verify Email” link in the email that you were sent from our system, you will be able to log into the Dashboard.
The Dashboard allows you to do a few things but is rather minimal. That is by design. Our software is where all the action happens but the Dashboard is the only place where you can purchase Render Credits, change your credentials or download our software. For your convenience, our software has buttons on it that will bring you back to the Dashboard any time you need to do these things but will still require you to login using the current credentials you have set.
If you do change your credentials, such as your email address or studio name, you will need to make those changes in the LightForge Render Cloud-UI, which is what connects you to the the LightForge Render Network or LightForge Service (LFS for short, more on that at a later date). Please remember this and we suggest you do it immediately so as to not forget about it the next time you run the software and try and log in using old credentials. It is required that they match exactly otherwise you will get an error when attempting to connect. Save yourself the hassle and do it now, test it by connecting and be confident you are ready to rock.
Purchasing Render Credits
The first thing you are going to want to do is purchase some Render Credits. Please not that Render Credits are non-refundable and that at this time we are unable to provide any trial period credits. To purchase render credits, simply click on the “Render Credits” text on the left hand side. You will then be presented with a menu similar to the image below.
When you have entered in your desired amount you will be presented a total and can hit the “PURCHASE” button. This action will take you to the payment processing section which at this time is handled by Paypal. Please note that you do not have to have a paypal account in order to purchase Render Credits.
Before you do make a purchase we recommend you read this section in full so you understand what a Render Credit is and how it is used in the process of submitting a job to the LightForge Render network.
Please click here for more information.
Once you complete your Purchase of Render Credits, they will show up under your profile. This may take a few minutes before visibly doing so in your Dashboard. At this point you can download our software.
Downloading and Installing the LightForge Render Network Cloud-UI
By returning to the Home area of the Dashboard, you will be presented with buttons indicating what they are in terms of software download items for Windows and MacOs.
Reading from left to right they are as follows:
LightForge Cloud UI for Windows (Installer)
LightForge Cloud UI for MacOS (Installer. This is a 64bit application, we planned ahead!)
We recommend that you download our software from these links and save them to a spot on your hard drive where you can easily get at them, like your desktop. Next, run the appropriate version for your operating system and follow the on screen instructions including reading the licensing terms and agreeing to them. The installer is very lightweight and fast but be on the look out for any warnings pop as they may contain additional instructions in certain scenarios.
Once complete, you will find that you now have an icon on your desktop similar to the one below.
When you run this application for the first time, you will need to understand a few things.
It is important to note that our LightForge Render Cloud UI is smart. It will automatically download any updates for itself as well as any of the 3D host plugins you should require. If we update our software in any way it will handle it on its own the next time the application start ups or notify you while running. While we test these updates internally for functionality and stability, we encourage you to report any problems you may encounter.
You may be required to run this application in administrator mode for it to function properly. If you need help with this please contact your system administrator for guidance. If you are the system admin, which is likely, simply right click on the icon and choose “run as administrator”.
Make sure you are using the same credentials, exactly as they are in the Dashboard on the website, when you attempt to log into the LightForge Render Network via the Cloud UI. There is a point of confusion how ever that may catch you off guard!
Unless you have created additional accounts in the DashBoard on the website, your username is: administrator
3D Host Plugin Setup – PART 1
As we mentioned above, our LightForge Render Cloud UI is smart and should handle automatically, most of this next step on it’s own.
The LightForge Cloud UI, during the installation process, automatically searches for 3D host programs on your hard drive including different versions of the same product. From there it will place LightForge Render plugins, which are in the case of LightWave3D 11.6.3 to 2019.1.4 currently consists of 3 Python Scripts, into a directory for loading and use in your 3D Host. Since we are LightWave3D based first and foremost and always will be, we use it as our example in this step. For other products, documentation on this step will be expanded on in the future.
If found, The LightForge Cloud UI, starting with support (officially) for LightWave3D 11.6.3 and up, will place the LightForge Render plugins into the following examples below.
LightWave3D 2015.3 Example:
LightWave3D 2019.1.4 Example:
On a mac these will obviously be different than windows but will follow the same pattern.
As you can see above, the paths are almost identical with the exception of the version number of LightWave3D that you have on your drive. The installer will drop the plug-ins to each installation that you have on your system that it finds on the C or main system drive in these common default installation paths. In the event that it can’t find these locations, you will be prompted to take the appropriate actions.
As mentioned, the plugins it installs are python scripts and there are at this time, 3 of them. They are the same file names on Mac and PC and are as follows:
cloud_ui_inapp_lightwave.py (Primary Plug-in, only this one needs to be loaded into Layout)
lfs_pixel_data.py (support file)
squidnet.py (support file)
We are pointing this out to you for a couple of reasons.
For those of you running redirected configs for your LightWave3D Layout icons on your desktop or run your copy of LigthtWave off of a network drive, you are going to need to know where they are so you can find them and copy them over to the appropriate location that is required by your setup. For now at least this requires you do this by hand outside of our software on initial installation but we are working to make this possible during the installation step as an option or if the installer cannot find such paths by default during the system drive scan it does for detecting 3D host programs we support.
Another situation where this information comes in handy is if you screw up your config files for whatever reason and need to load them again, you now know where to find them. However that’s another scenario where the installer comes in handy and we had you save it to a safe location for future use. Remember, it is always going to be available to you through the the DashBoard. It’s our goal to actually automate the next step as well but for now it may have to be done manually in some situations. If for any reason you need to acquire these plug-ins for advanced set ups please contact us.
This process is going to seem very familiar to you if you are an experienced LightWave3D user or have ever installed another 3rd party plug-in before. The process is similar for Mac users, but for the moment the Windows process is described and again we are using LightWave3D for our example as it is our primary focus and always will be with everything we do.
3D Host Plugin Setup – PART 2
As stated above, it may be required to manually add our plugins to your copy of LightWave3D Layout. This is pretty easy to do.
First, locate the following directory for which you want to use with the LightForge Render Network.
LightWave3D 2019.1.4 Example:
If it doesn’t exist, create it and place the 3 python scripts inside of it.
Next, open up LightWave Layout and add “cloud_ui_inapp_lightwave.py” to your plug-ins.
Here is in example below:
It is important to note that the other two python scripts are support files for the main “cloud_ui_inapp_lightwave.py” plug-in and are not required to be added must be present in that directory. If you attempt to add them you may get an error on loading. Once loaded, we want to create a nice handy menu item button that will give you push button functionality for scene submission directly from layout.
Host Plugin Setup – PART 3
To add a menu and button to layout, hit “Alt+F10” or under the “Edit” menu in select “Edit Menu Layout”.
Create a new group under the “Main Menu” item list. Rename it to “LightForge”. Here is an example below.
Next, search for the plug-in in the upper left text box of this menu by typing in “SquidNet for LightWave Plugiin”. You will see it appear the more you type. Once you have located this, drag and drop that plugin from the “Command” area over to the “LightForge” menu underneath. It come in named “LightWave Aware Custom Plugin”. We want to change that to something more appropriate that also fits on the menu bar making it easy to read. In our example below and we suggest this for all users, to choose something short and simple like “Submit Render” or “LightForge Submit”.
Once complete, your menu should look something like this in the image below.
Note how Layout now has a tab menu called “LightForge” at the top of the Layout Interface and there is now a nice handy button called “Submit Render” on the navigation pane on the far left at the bottom.
For those of you who are not too swift on creating these menus yourself we have included a .cfg file that will allow you to import our own “branch” into the LightWave3D Layout configuration.
This file is called: LightForgeRender_Branch.cfg and can be imported just like any other branch into layout.
We are now a big step closer to submitting your first render job to the LightForge Render Network!
At this time it’s probably a good idea to close layout so that your config files are written to with these changes, and possibly back up your configs (which is never a bad idea).
Launching the LightForge Render Cloud-UI
If you haven’t already done this as suggested in early steps it’s time to launch the LightForge Render Cloud-UI. It’s simple to do, simply click the LightForge Render Network Icon and you will be presented with an application similar to this image below.
Launching a render job from LightWave3D Layout (Versions 2018.x to 2019.x).
Int this example are going to use LightWave3D 2019.1.4 although any version from 2018.0 and up will work. The reason why we are not using a version previous to 2018 such as 2015.3 or 11.6.3 in this example is that our plug-in does not yet full work with those versions. However you an still submit jobs to the LightForge Render Network via our Cloud-UI which we will show you later. This also comes in handy for doing “batch” jobs or submitting “headless” (no LightWave3D needed) if your material is properly prepared and ready to go.
The first step in launching a render job from LightWave Layout is grab a neat scene you have set up for rendering!
In our example we are going to use a model of the International Space Station, bake some radiosity, put a few OpenVDB cloud in the shot and rendering it in stereoscopic using LightWave3D’s native stereoscopic camera functions. The reasons for us doing this are to demonstrate that all of these functions are working and how to make them work with ease using LightForge.
Let’s get some happy fluffy clouds in there first.
Using the standard issue OpenVDB loader in LightWave3D as of 2018 and up, we need to make sure of one thing. Where to put them in our content directory. For LightForge we decided to establish a standard ourselves and that is that for submission to the LightForge Network, your OpenVDB files need to be in a folder in your content directory called “OpenVDB”. That’s it. You can have them in sub-directories if you like as well under that but the use of OpenVDB at the second level is essential.
Example that works! GOOD!
Example that doesn’t! VERY BAD!
Now that we have that out of the way, Radiosity is next.
Same thing really but we ask that you create Radiosity caches specific to your shots and not stuff them in together with other caches. One shot, one set of cache files for it and only it.
Here is an example:
Be advised that LightWave 2018+ doesn’t like having the .cache extension specified for it so when you go to save your cache files, just call it “myradcache” and leave it. Layout will do the rest.
Next, set your image buffer savers!
WARNING! DON’T USE THIS DUMB BUTTON IN LAYOUT!
Ok now that we have that subject out of the way regarding the silly “feature” which breaks render farms, render controllers and workflows all around the world, across the board and should be off by default rather than on…
You can choose a path for you images to be saved to. as you normally would and should at this time The best (only) choice is a folder outside of your content directory such as x:\myproductionrenders\ISSrenders\ISSrenders_Shot_01_R01
The reason for this is we don’t want to submit our finished renders to the network in a loop now do we?! Nope. So make sure they are saved outside of your content directory.
Since this is a stereoscopic shot for demo purposes, set your stereoscopic settings appropriately in your camera panel.
Next, save your scene and then hit the ‘LightForge Submit” Button on your Layout menu that we set up earlier.
YOU HIT THE BUTTON! EMPIRES WILL FALL!
Rendered Images return directly to your rendered image output folder
That’s pretty much it for submitting a job from LightWave3D Layout from 2019.1.4. It’s identical for LightWave3D 2018+ as well and likely LightWave3D 2020 when it comes out.
When we have our plug-in working for 2015.3 and 11.6.3 versions it will also be similar. In a couple of days we will show you how to submit a job using the “batch” style method which will work from 11.6.3 to LightWave 2019 and beyond!
If you have questions, hit us up on the forums or contact us via email.