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Should Animators Buy a Rendering Computer?

ben marvazi 2020

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"The computer is the most remarkable tool that we've ever come up with. It's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds"

Steve Jobs

As an animator, whether you're a freelancer or running your own studio, the question of whether to invest in a rendering computer is often on your mind. A rendering computer is a specialized machine designed to handle the resource-intensive process of rendering animations

While they can be expensive, they promise to significantly speed up your workflow. But is it worth the investment, especially when you're just starting out in the animation industry?

In this insightful blog post, we will explore the pros and cons of purchasing a rendering computer and help you make an informed decision.

Cover GIF by gfaught via GIPHY

What is a rendering computer?

Photograph of an animation rendering computer

Image by CG Director

A rendering computer, also known as a rendering workstation or rendering rig, is a computer system specifically designed to handle the computationally intensive task of rendering computer graphics. Rendering refers to the process of generating images, animations, or visual effects from a 3D model or scene by calculating and simulating the interactions of light, shadow, texture, and other visual elements.

Rendering requires significant processing power, memory, and graphics capabilities, as well as efficient cooling systems to prevent overheating during prolonged use. A rendering computer is typically equipped with a high-end CPU (central processing unit), a powerful GPU (graphics processing unit), ample RAM (random access memory), and a large storage capacity.

The Rendering Process 

bird character sitting at his rendering computer waiting for it to load

GIF by Kennysgifs via GIPHY

Rendering is the process of generating a final image from a 3D model. It's what happens after you've created your 3D scene and put all the models together in it.

You can think of rendering as something like baking a cake: first, you put all your ingredients together; then you put them into an oven; finally, when they're done cooking and cooled down enough to eat (or watch), you get to enjoy eating (or viewing) the finished product!

It is done on rendering computers using special programs called renderers that calculate how light will bounce around inside your scene based on its materials - and then they simulate how those materials would interact with one another in real life using physics algorithms called raytracing or photon mapping.

A Rendering Computer And Multiple Tasks

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GIF by AniDom via GIPHY

Rendering is just one of the uses for a rendering computer. A rendering computer can also be used for 3D modeling, video editing, CAD design, and gaming. If you are planning on doing any of these things on your own hardware, then it's best to buy a dedicated computer that is optimized for each task at hand.

If you want to save money and have more flexibility with software, you can rent it in the meantime, it might be something worth looking into before making an investment in your own hardware.

Rendering Computer - To Buy or Not to Buy?

woman sitting at her computer with her chin on her handing clicking refresh

GIF by juliaveldmanc via GIPHY

As an animator, whether you're a freelancer or running your own studio, the question of whether to invest in a rendering computer is often on your mind. A rendering computer is a specialized machine designed to handle the resource-intensive process of rendering animations. 

While they can be expensive, they promise to significantly speed up your workflow. But is it worth the investment, especially when you're just starting out in the animation industry? In this insightful blog post, we will explore the pros and cons of purchasing a rendering computer and help you make an informed decision.

Advantages of Owning a Rendering Computer

Photograph of an animation rendering computer with a screen, mouse, and keyboard

Image by Fudge

Time Efficiency

One of the primary reasons to invest in a rendering computer is the time efficiency it brings to your animation projects. 

Rendering can be a time-consuming process, especially for complex scenes or high-resolution projects. A dedicated rendering computer is built to handle these tasks efficiently, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your animation business, such as client management or marketing.

Improved Workflow

Owning a rendering computer can help streamline your workflow by allowing you to work on other tasks while your computer renders in the background. This separation of workloads can prevent your primary work computer from slowing down due to rendering tasks and help you maintain productivity.

Future-Proofing Your Animation Business

As technology advances, so do the demands of the animation industry. Investing in a rendering computer can future-proof your business, ensuring that you have the necessary hardware to keep up with evolving industry standards and client expectations.

Higher Quality Output

With a rendering computer, you can achieve higher-quality output for your animation projects. These machines are designed to handle complex rendering tasks with ease, allowing you to deliver better results for your clients, which can lead to higher-paying projects and a stronger reputation in the industry.

Disadvantages of Owning a Rendering Computer

bald man sitting in a chair at his desk pressing the keyboard to his non responsive rendering computer

GIF by FrameOrder via Tenor

High Initial Cost

One of the major drawbacks of investing in a rendering computer is the high initial cost. These specialized machines can be expensive, and as a freelance animator or small studio owner, you may not have the funds to make this purchase early on in your career.

Maintenance and Upgrades

Another concern with owning a rendering computer is the maintenance and potential need for upgrades over time. Technology moves quickly, and a rendering computer that was top-of-the-line a few years ago may become outdated sooner than you think. This can lead to additional costs down the line.

Space and Power Consumption

A rendering computer can take up a significant amount of space and may require additional cooling and power resources. Depending on your workspace, this might be a logistical challenge that you need to consider.

Learning Curve

Operating a rendering computer and optimizing it for your specific needs can involve a learning curve. This may require you to invest time in learning about the hardware and software components of your rendering machine, which could detract from other important aspects of your animation business.

Alternatives to Buying a Rendering Computer

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GIF by mrlewis85 via Tenor

Cloud-Based Rendering Services

If you're not ready to invest in a rendering computer, there are alternatives available. Cloud-based rendering services allow you to outsource your rendering tasks to powerful remote servers, giving you access to high-performance hardware without the upfront cost. 

These services often have a pay-as-you-go pricing model, allowing you to control your expenses based on your needs.

Collaborative Efforts

Another option for animators on a budget is to collaborate with fellow animators or studios who already own a rendering computer. Sharing resources can help you manage your rendering tasks without breaking the bank. Additionally, working with other professionals in the industry can provide you with valuable networking opportunities, which can be crucial for growing your animation business.

Renting a Rendering Computer

Jerry the mouse with his hand on his chin scratching it and thinking

GIF by olga_vladimirovna via Tenor

Renting a rendering computer is another option for animators who are not yet ready to invest in their own hardware. Several companies offer rental services for high-performance rendering machines, allowing you to access the technology on a temporary basis when you need it most. 

This can be a cost-effective solution, particularly for short-term projects or when you're testing the waters before committing to a purchase.

Factors to Consider When Making Your Decision

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GIF by mouse1194 via Tenor


Before deciding whether to buy a rendering computer, assess your current financial situation and consider your budget constraints. If you're just starting out and have limited funds, it might be more prudent to explore alternative solutions until you can afford to invest in your own hardware.

Project Requirements

The types of projects you work on and their complexity will play a role in determining whether a rendering computer is necessary for your business. If you primarily work on small-scale projects with low rendering demands, a rendering computer might not be essential. 

However, if you're working on high-resolution, complex animations, owning a rendering computer can provide a significant advantage.

Long-term Goals

Consider your long-term goals when deciding whether to invest in a rendering computer. If you plan to grow your animation business and take on larger projects in the future, a rendering computer may be a worthwhile investment. 

However, if you foresee your workload remaining relatively stable and manageable with your current setup, it may not be necessary to invest in a rendering computer just yet.

Balancing the Pros and Cons of a Rendering Computer

Boy on his rendering computer typing away and thinking with his tongue sticking out

GIF by EmzyFox86 via Tenor

Ultimately, the decision to buy a rendering computer depends on your individual needs, financial situation, and long-term goals. While owning a rendering computer has its advantages, such as time efficiency, improved workflow, and higher quality output, the high initial cost, maintenance, and potential learning curve can be deterrents. 

For those who are just starting in the animation industry, alternatives like cloud-based rendering services, collaboration, and renting a rendering computer may be more feasible until you're in a better position to invest in your own hardware.

If you're serious about building a successful animation business, consider joining our Animation Business Accelerator Program. This comprehensive program offers on-demand video lessons, fill-in-the-blank plans and templates, live mentorship calls, and a supportive community of like-minded animators to help you navigate the challenges of the animation industry. 

Also, don't forget to check out our blog on "How to Start an Animation Studio" for more valuable tips and advice on building a thriving animation business!

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