Deadline For After Effects

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What is Deadline?

Deadline is a render farm management program. It allows a single project file to be efficiently processed over multiple computers via the local area network. For this reason, Deadline requires all project files be organized and accessible on our network storage space, the R:\ render drive. For our farm we have a number of dedicated render machines and the lab computers. The lab computers are set up to render only when they are idle, so when someone starts using the computer, the frame that the computer is currently rendering will cancel so that person may properly use the computer. When a computer is not active for 15 minutes, Deadline will detect that computer and it will start rendering again.

Render Farm Preparation

Before you go about submitting your After Effects project to the render farm, consider these points:

  • The Render Farm is ideal for image sequences. Due to how the render farm functions, it is most efficient when it is rendering image sequences. Individual frames can be sent out to multiple computers at once, but a video file can only be rendered on one computer. If you have a video to render, then it is recommended to do a local render. Choose one of the silver fronted computers in the lab, those will give you the best render times.
  • No spaces in file or composition names. Remove all spaces in names for you project files, folders, composition names, and output files. Use_underscores_instead.
  • All comps must be uniquely named. If you have compositions that have the same name, then there is a possibility of errors when rendering.
  • Keep file names under 256 characters.
  • Keep your project organized. Use folders within After Effects to organize your footage, but don't make folders within folders within folders within folders etc...
  • Remove unused footage. Go to File>Dependencies>Removed Unused Footage to remove excess footage that you do not need for your render.

Submitting a Job

Step One - Copy All Project Materials To Render Drive

Render Drive Location
  • Open your After Effects project.
  • Go to File>Dependencies>Collect Files... and select "Collect..."
  • Navigate to the Render drive and create a folder with your first initial and last name (e.g. Cstrickler). Open that folder and save your collected project as your project name, no spaces.
  • Wait for the collection process to finish. Depending on how many assets your project has, this could take a while. To reduce the collection time, remove unnecessary footage from your project. Once it is finished, After Effects will automatically open your newly collected project.

Step Two - Prepare Your Render

  • Add the comp(s) that you want to render to the Render Queue.
  • Go to the Render Queue and select Output Module. Select an image file type (.PNG, .TIFF, .JPEG, etc...) and make sure that the "Use Comp Frame Number" checkbox is selected. Hit OK.
  • You must render an image sequence to make full use of the render farm; a video file will only be sent to one render node.
  • Select "Output To:" and navigate to your folder on the Render Drive. Name your file something descriptive (no spaces) and keep the "[#####]" in the file name (that is where the frame numbering goes). Below the file name, you can name the subfolder your sequence will be rendered into; make sure you don't use spaces! Your output location MUST be on the Render Drive, or your render will not work.

Step Three - Submitting Your Job to Deadline

  • Go to File>Scripts>DeadlineAfterEffectsClient.jsx. It will take a few seconds to load.
  • Name your job with your first initial and last name, class mnemonic, and scene/shot number. Please use underscores, not spaces. (e.g. "cstrickler_3DAN321_scene01_shot01")
  • Change the group to "after_effects."
  • Select "Use Frame List From The Comp."
  • Change "Frames Per Task" to 10. If you know your frames will take a long time (+10 minutes per frame), set this between 1 and 3.
  • Hit Submit at the bottom. A pop up will appear, warning you that the path for the output file does not exist. Do not worry, it will be created, it was the subfolder defined earlier. Click yes and your job will be submitted.

Step Four - Monitor your Job

Deadline Monitor
Once the job has been submitted, you can open the Deadline application "Monitor" to keep track of your job and about other activity on the farm. To open Monitor, Type "monitor" in the start menu. It is a green icon with a TV.
At this point you can close After Effects and let the computer idle, after 15 minutes the render farm will detect the unused computer and use it for rendering.
  • From here you can keep track of your render. The left panel is a list of all the jobs currently rendering and completed. If you click on your job, the panel on the right will let you know information about each frame.
  • Within 30 seconds your job should change from ‘queued’ to ‘rendering’, unless there is a long queue on the farm.
  • Your job may gather (many) errors, but it is most likely a computer that tried to pick up your job but was unable to render because it was missing a plugin or was interrupted by someone needing to use that computer.
  • If your job does not begin after a few minutes or gathers many errors without making progress, double check your project and render output and make sure they all are on the R:\ drive.
  • Notice a particular computer is consistently messing up your render? You can right-click on a frame rendered by the culprit and select "Requeue Tasks by *computer name*". A dialogue box with a checkbox will come up and ask if you want to blacklist the computer. Click the checkbox and hit "OK" and all tasks previously rendered by that computer will be redone, and that computer will be prevented from rendering your job again. If this happens, please email us at so we can take a look at that computer.
  • Do not delete jobs, we can use the error reports to troubleshoot what may be wrong with your render.

Failed Jobs

If your render is slow or producing undesirable results, you can halt your process in one of a couple ways:
Right click:
  • Suspend - This will pause the current job, but allow frames that are currently rendering to finish.
  • Fail Job - This will pause the current job, dropping everything.
Please only manage/modify your own jobs.
Do not delete jobs, we can use the error reports to troubleshoot what may be wrong with your render.

Main Reasons Render Jobs Fail

The 5 most common network rendering errors in order of frequency
  • 1. Files and folders located on the local scratch drive rather than on the render drive. This is by far the most common error. Please check your textures to make sure they are in the right location.
  • 2. Incorrect project paths (e.g. C:\ instead of R:\).
  • 3. Missing project files, especially textures.
  • 4. Missing plugins/scripts: Emily Carr must own all the plugins you are using , or be able to download them for free! Cracked plugins will not work!
  • 5. Inefficiently or bizarrely constructed scene files.

If the job keeps failing after you’ve ruled out all these things, please email