Easy Setup of a Server for SheepIt Render Farm

If you already know about SheepIt and just want to get to setting up your server then jump to the Setting Up the Server section below. If you’re new to Blender 3D or SheepIt here are the basics. Rendering 3D animations can be very time consuming, even on the most powerful computers with the latest GPU or CPU. That is why render farms exist. Basically, a render farm is a network of computers that work together to render each frame of an animation. SheepIt is a free render farm with computers made up of people around the world who make their computers available to render Blender projects. When you render other peoples’ projects, you get points to use for having your own projects rendered. The more points you have the higher priority your projects get.

There are a couple of ways to approach setting up a server for rendering on SheepIt. You can use one or more Virtual Private Server (VPS) or you can run a computer you physically have available to you. I should note that there are some pretty good options out there that you can use for free for a while. Google Cloud Compute offers $300 credit for your first year. Another one is Vultr (if you use my referral link, you’ll get $50 credit and also be helping me out). Setting up those services is outside the scope of this guide but Google Cloud Compute and Vultr have plenty of documentation to help you set that up if you choose to.

Getting Started

You are about to learn how to set up a Linux or Mac computer to run the SheepIt client in the background. In the end you’ll be able to use this as a render server on SheepIt. This guide assumes you already have access to a shell/terminal whether it is the computer right in front of you or one you’re accessing remotely. If you want to just get to rendering, feel free to checkout the TLDR section. Now! Lets get started!

Log in to the computer you’ll be using to run SheepIt. For a Linux system, be sure to install the blender and default-jre packages which will automatically install all additional packages that are required. Alternatively you can install the required packages (libXi6, libxrender1, libXxf86vm1, libXfixes3, libmvec-dev, default-jre). On Debian based systems use the following command to install blender and default-jre. On other Linux distros you’ll need to use whatever package manager your system has.

sudo apt install blender default-jre

Once you have the packages installed, download the SheepIt client.

wget -O client.jar https://www.sheepit-renderfarm.com/media/applet/client-latest.php

Running the SheepIt Client

You can run the client with all of the default settings using the command below. To make sure the client keeps running even after you close the shell you need to first run screen. Enter the screen command into the shell. Then run the SheepIt client using the command below.

java -jar client.jar -ui text -login [your username] -password [your password]

Once the SheepIt client is running, you can hit Ctrl+d to detach from the screen session. You can now close or disconnect from the shell and SheepIt will continue to run. If you want to re-attach to that session, you can do so any time by logging into that computer and typing screen -r.

Fine Tuning

In some cases its best to tell the SheepIt client how many and which resources to use. This is especially true when running it on a remote system because, in some cases, it will help reduce crashes. It is easiest to create a startup script. This way you don’t need to remember the command each time. The startup script I use is available on GitHub but you can easily download it using the command below.

wget -O start.sh https://raw.githubusercontent.com/flipjargendy/sheepit-quick-client-run/master/start.sh && chmod +x start.sh

Now use a text editor to edit the file that was just downloaded. The file is named start.sh. The command below will open the file in a text editor called nano.

nano start.sh

If you’re running this from a VPSĀ  or any cloud server without a GPU the default settings should suffice but you will need to enter your username and password. Instead of a password, you should create a key instead. A key only allows access to render for your account. Using a key is far more secure than putting your password into a script.

To create a key, log in to SheepIt, then from your user profile on SheepIt, click the “Key” tab.

Once you have added your username, key, and any other modifications you would like, hit Ctrl+x to save the file. Then press y to agree that you want to overwrite it. Finally, hit Enter to commit the save. Now you should be ready to run the client and start pumping out some projects. If you haven’t already done so, type the screen command in and then start the client using the command below.

./start.sh

You should now see output from the SheepIt client. It should start downloading a project and begin rendering it. Now you can sit back and watch the frames fly! Enjoy!

TLDR

If you don’t care how to set it up and just want to get to it, here you go. Just copy and paste this in to the terminal of the machine you want to run SheepIt on.

wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/flipjargendy/sheepit-quick-client-run/master/start.sh && chmod +x start.sh && nano start.sh && ./start.sh

What do you think?