Virtual Reality (VR) has quickly become one of the top artistic formats of the decade. With virtual reality becoming more accessible than ever through affordable headsets and the growing numbers of VR Cafes, 3D artists have been tasked with keeping up with the rapidly growing demand for content. The demand for VR has brought some of the greatest 3D challenges that the industry has seen so far.
Unlike video, virtual reality requires 360-degree environments and high-resolution 8k images that maintain the immersion of virtual reality. These requirements can have a massive impact on artist workflows, require extensive hardware upgrades and sometimes a total rethink of the artistic process.
Clearly, the complexity of VR content can be challenging to render, even on the best computers. However, cloud-based render farm and server rental services are offering ways to circumvent the limitations of local rendering by providing scalability, accessibility, and cost-effective ways to render, making them a valuable resource in VR production.
A render farm can handle complex rendering processes that would otherwise take significant time and computing power to render on an artist’s computer. This is important in real-time rendering for VR gaming and interactive experiences and in pre-rendered content for 3D films, videos, and architectural visualizations. The limits of what is possible in VR are always being pushed, and using a render farm can allow those limits to be pushed even further, allowing artists to generate some incredible content.
Render farms work by networking many computers together to form a high-powered “farm” that can quickly render images, animations, and VR content. By networking their resources together, render farms can handle far more complex renders than any single computer might typically be able to. Additionally, render farms let artists work on their local computers for other tasks while renders happen, saving valuable work time and reducing the everyday strain on their computers that rendering can give, extending the life of their machines. For these reasons, online render farm services have become essential to delivering 3D content for many artists and studios. If you want to learn more, you can read about it in our in-depth article about how render farms work.
These days, almost every 3D software is compatible with cloud-based online render services. From architectural applications like Revit or AutoCAD and all-purpose 3D tools like Maya or 3ds Max to real-time game development tools like Unreal Engine 5, cloud-based render servers allow artists to save money and expand their projects in ways that haven’t been possible before.
One of the fastest-growing fields within VR is real-time interactive experiences. With that growth, there has been an equal growth in the demand for hardware that can render the complexities that interactive 360-degree animations bring. Artists and developers have found many ways to reduce the need for high-powered rendering in VR but render farms offer a way to meet hardware demands without reducing render quality by moving the burden of rendering from artist and player computers to the cloud.
3D render farms can significantly help when rendering things like special effects for real-time VR projects. For example, Smoke, Fire, and Water Simulations are very difficult to render effectively in VR. With the industry’s push towards untethered VR devices like the Meta Quest, pre-rendering complex special effects has become standard. Cloud render services can perform these tasks with high-speed rendering and the capacity to handle extensive memory-intensive simulations, baking these rendered elements down to images and videos that can be reintegrated into VR scenes without significantly taxing the player’s computer or headset.
But perhaps the best use of cloud render farms in VR production is for pre-rendered films, cut scenes, and architectural walk-throughs. Pre-rendering full 3D videos can allow artists to disregard device limitations, instead focusing on delivering the best possible VR experiences. This approach can lead to visual experiences that would be otherwise impossible to view on consumer VR devices. For architectural visualizations especially, realism is vital for giving clients a convincing experience of what a space or building will look like. And in many cases, pre-rendering is the only viable solution for the level of realism needed to meet these expectations.
Alongside traditional 3D render farms that pre-render 3D images, cloud-based server rentals can offer much wider flexibility for VR production. VR content is notoriously difficult to produce because of the resources required to not only render but develop VR content. Virtual reality content requires an entire 360 environment, preventing artists from using many of the industry’s typical methods for optimizing projects, like culling off-camera objects or optimizing path traces. Full 360-degree scenes can stress even the best workstations if they can even handle the load at all.
Cloud-based servers are designed to solve problems just like this. Unlike render farms, server rentals allow you to customize a server for your needs fully. This extra flexibility means you can use the server for anything from a workstation, to a real-time rendering rig, to a fully customized render server. The options server rentals offer can be a major advantage when working with emerging technologies like virtual reality, where customer hardware or commercial render farm software hasn’t caught up.
For example, technologies like NVIDIA’s CloudXR platform allow studios to stream heavy VR content from the cloud directly to VR headsets. Allowing top-tier VR environments to be streamed from the cloud opens up a huge opportunity for artists to explore and develop VR experiences that are too complex for anything short of a render server.
In virtual reality production, 3D render farms, and cloud-based server rental services are crucial for efficiently processing large amounts of data and rendering images quickly. These services allow VR producers to access high-performance computing power without needing to purchase and maintain expensive hardware that may or may not even be available for purchase for artists.
In the future, online render services and server rentals will continue taking the workload off artist workstations and moving it to the cloud. With more studios turning to cloud-based approaches, the technologies are constantly evolving to meet demands. Virtual reality, in particular, is pushing the limits of cloud computing and is proving to be the perfect match for the computing needs that high-quality VR productions require.