A decade in 3d Computer Graphics is no small stretch of time. The scope of 3d rendering across industries today is leaps and bounds of what it was ten years ago. Despite the incredible advancements in 3d production software, render engines, and third party services one problem remains unchanged - developing trust, comradery, and loyalty between provider and client, and within a team. Time undoubtedly lends itself to progress, but there are some things that are either there from the start, or not at all.
GarageFarm.NET is a company that started from a small team of enthusiastic individuals bent on providing a reliable render farm service, starting with a handful of computers and a strong belief in the importance of heart, and the human touch.
This is their story, as told by one of the core members of the team, Lucas Bazyluk.
I joined GarageFarm.NET in 2013 and came from a very different industry that had nothing to do with CG. In fact, I was clueless about the CG industry and 3D as a whole. I learned about it on the job. Because I was never actually part of the industry it wouldn’t be fair for me to speak about it.
What I can say though is that the CG industry was definitely smaller. However, the need for rendering power hasn’t changed that much. Rendering 3D sequences has always been the artists’ nightmare and I believe it still rings true. High-quality 3D work often demands high rendering power, and even though hardware gets faster and cheaper, the quality of 3D animation also gets higher and more realistic, and thus render times get longer.
The legend goes that GarageFarm.NET started in a garage back in 2010 out of Tomek and Minhee’s home. They pulled money out of their savings to buy some rendering hardware. They taped the parts together and offered their computers as a service to the market niche that was very much underserved at the time. At first, it was a way for them to help out the 3D community that needed computing power to render their 3D animations. It then turned into a business as more and more people were interested in using their rendering machines.
As mentioned earlier, I joined GarageFarm.NET the first half of 2013. My way of securing a job at GarageFarm.NET was rather unconventional and it never crossed my mind back then that it could possibly lead to where I am now.
I first was hired as a contractor for a one-off translation job to help with translating legal documents from Korean to English and Polish to Korean. While being a translator I got interested in the business side of GarageFarm.NET and made a decision I wanted to get involved. I gathered the courage and I asked for a job as a marketer. Turns out GarageFarm.NET was thinking about hiring someone and I got the job.
Since then I’ve leveled up and graduated multiple times from being a part-time marketer, biz ops manager, project manager, customer support manager, product manager, marketing manager, and part-time UI designer. The rest is history.
This is a big question.
Without a doubt, the journey was very bumpy. Early days were particularly tough for us because we were a small business trying to make ends meet and all that without investors’ money. We’re in both hardware and software business which is the type of business that is particularly capital intensive. It was always a tough call whether to reinvest money back into hardware to increase our capacity or hire more people and pay the bills.
As years went by and we gained a reputation for being a reliable render farm provider and one that is more affordable than other existing solutions and one that is also offering real human support, our business started transforming. We gradually hired more people; people who are specialists in their respective fields to help us improve and grow.
On a personal level, business growth meant I needed to grow too and I had to acquire more skills and get more competent in new areas. Every time we doubled our revenue or so I would take on different responsibilities to try to accommodate the change and to sustain the growth. At a certain point, I would find myself doing less work in the trenches and more managerial and strategic work. Managing projects and leading teams has become a more predominant and prevalent aspect of the job. In a way, I do miss the old days when I was the one who had to get his hands dirty. I don’t miss the financial hardship though and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
The industry is changing and we need to adapt accordingly. GPU technology and GPU rendering are making a splash. It means we need to adjust our offering as well and embrace the demand for GPU rendering. Real-time render engines are slowly becoming a feasible option to replace traditional render engines. With that comes the inevitable risk that render farms won’t be quite as needed as they are now. It will take time though.
Our answer to an ever-evolving industry is expanding our service offering and diversifying. We launched a GPU server rental service called Xesktop 2 years ago. It serves a different subset of the market and it complements our render farm service. A new product we are working on now is a 3D asset store. The 3D industry is rapidly growing especially now that the barrier of entry is much smaller thanks to better and more affordable tools. Artists will always need 3D assets to produce more quality work at an even faster rate.
Expanding our product line ensures we stay relevant and it helps us sustain growth despite the changing industry.
In 10 years we might have even more products to offer. We want to be part of an artist’s toolbox one way or another. We want to help artists become more independent, sophisticated, and technologically superior without spending thousands of dollars on tools and training.
Motivation is often ephemeral and fragile. I don’t disregard it because I think we need it but I don’t consider it the best tool available.
What I believe works is making sure people are happy at work. That basically means they like the people they work with and they enjoy one another’s company. Also, they like their work environment. Most importantly, they like their job.
Putting people in the right roles, balancing comfort with challenging work, making sure people are a good cultural fit in the first place are key aspects of creating a happy workforce.
Ultimately, my job is to help the company grow. It may take various shapes and forms. It may also mean I need to adapt to what’s currently required of me and I might need to take on new roles and new projects.
Building and managing teams are one of the significant contributions. Improving current products and helping build new ones is also a major contribution.
Contributing to business strategy and long term growth planning would also fall under current activities.
3D is a very broad subject which takes a lot of time to master. Rendering is that one part of the pipeline that is technical and where many things could go wrong. Rendering on a render farm is even more complex. As a 3D artist or a designer, I’d rather not have to deal with technical problems only If I could choose. I would leave software and applications to do that for me so that I can focus on creating.
What if the complexity of all the pieces in software make the final process somewhat unpredictable and maybe even unreliable? What if a looming deadline and anxious clients are too much to handle? Relying on technology alone and one’s own skills in those moments won’t cut it at times. We have both - technology and people who are experts. People are a key element in solving problems. Situations that are non-standard, occur under pressure, and require immediate attention, cannot be solved by technology alone. It’s the people behind the technology who solve problems.
We knew from the early day that reliable, responsive, and always available support is what makes or breaks a product or service like ours. It is still true today.
Many times in the past we’ve had the experience where we needed help with rendering and we needed a helping hand with the service while help wasn’t there. We don’t want our customers to experience that. We don’t want them to struggle.
When you come to GarageFarm.NET and use any of our products, we hope you will feel like you are home. We want you to feel safe, relaxed, and taken care of. Most importantly, we want you to feel like we are your business partner. A partner you can rely on and trust. If that’s the impressions our customers have, it means we did our job well.
And that, according to Lucas is our story so far as GarageFarm.NET. To learn more about our render farm, have a look at what our CEO and founding manager have to say, and a more general overview of our history. Thanks for listening, and as always, Happy Rendering!