This is Sick (in a Good Way): Create a Render Farm with Apple’s Compressor

by Hugh BrownstoneLeave a Comment

Compressor now offers Terminator/SkyNet-level computing in the form of a render farm: the ability to harness the power of multiple networked computers – not just drives – to parallelize CPU-intensive tasks. Yeah, OK: maybe not exactly SkyNet. Yet.

Hawaii filmmaker and planet5D reader Jeff Orig dropped us an email with pretty interesting — if esoteric — news: he’d discovered that Compressor now offers a “super simple way” to create a render farm.

And he proves it, too, with a blog post and sub-8 minute video showing precisely how it’s done.

So what’s the big deal about a render farm? It’s the promise that in the same way one can dramatically speed up disk-intensive tasks by using RAID arrays and distributing the data across multiple drives, one can dramatically speed up CPU-intensive tasks by distributing computing tasks across multiple computers – like rendering video files.

In Jeff’s case, this means using a pair of MacBooks and a second pair of Mac minis.

But it’s not all roses, as Jeff acknowledges on one issue in particular: it doesn’t play nicely with FCPX’s “send to Compressor.” If you have a solution, he – and we – would like to hear it. [bctt tweet=”Sick in a good way: Apple’s Compressor Allows Render Farms”]

We reached out to Jeff with a couple of follow-up questions around specific configurations and performance gains. We were (and weren’t) surprised to learn that his computers are networked together via WiFi only, though of course cabled Ethernet would be even faster.  We weren't surprised at all to learn that it’s still early days in exploring this capability, so Jeff couldn’t quantify for us actual performance gains.  Not yet.

Still, this is pretty freaking cool — and we have no doubt that we'll be seeing more of this kind of functionality over time.

Create a Render Farm with Compressor

How to Create a Render Farm with Compressor to Distribute Processing Across Multiple Macs.

This used to be very difficult to set up but it is much easier now. Check out this quick tutorial to help speed up your transcodes in Compressor.

Check out our website at

The Easy Way to Create a Render Farm with Compressor

Via Orig Media:

I have tried this before on older version of compressor but it was super complicated and we only got it to work once. I had pretty much given up on getting it set up. But we had a bunch of renders we had to do and someone asked me about it on Sunday, so I gave it another look yesterday. And lo and behold, the geniuses at Apple have made it super simple to set up! Thank you, Apple!

This is a way to create a render farm or distributed processing. Basically, Compressor will break up a video into multiple pieces and send it out to the various computers and cores to render that piece of video. Then once it is rendered or transcoded it gathers all the pieces and reassembles it back into one video.

If you don’t feel like watching the video, just: (But just watch the video, it’s way easier to see)

1. Go into Compressor’s preferences and in My Computer turn on “Allow other computers to process batches on my computer.”
2. Click on “Shared Computers” in the lower left click the plus button
3. Do this to all the computers on your network that have Compressor installed that you want to add to the render farm.
4. Change “Untitled” to “All” or something that you’ll recognize
5. Click on that group and you should see all the computers that have sharing enabled.
6. Check all the computers that you want to add to that group
7. Then when you add a file to be transcoded, in the lower right next to the “Start Batch” button, there is a choice to “Process On.” Click on the drop down and you should see your group.
8. Select your group. The click “Start Batch”
9. Then it should distribute the processing
10. Note: as of FCPX 10.1.3 and Compressor 4.1 this feature is not enabled within FCPX using the Send to Compressor feature. When I try to send from FCPX to Compressor, the group I set up is greyed out and not selectable. Maybe I am missing something. If so, please let me know in the Youtube comments.

It’s totally perfect yet, but it is getting there. I am very excited about this option. Especially since it seems like you can install Compressor on pretty much every machine you have. I am not sure what the limit is but we have not reached it.

I truly wish the send to Compressor feature from FCPX supported this since we do most of our transcode/renders as output from FCPX. But I will take this for now. Thanks again, Apple!

Read this article at Orig Media “The Easy Way to Create a Render Farm with Compressor”

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)

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