Thinkbox Helping Studios Save On Power Usage
December 1, 2011

Thinkbox Helping Studios Save On Power Usage

LOS ANGELES — Thinkbox Software ( reports that studios are saving significant electricity and related costs by using the Power Management feature in its Deadline render management system. By controlling machine startup/shutdown on render farms automatically, Deadline helps studios reduce idle time, power and cooling costs.
Seattle-based animation and VFX company Straightface Studios has 15 nodes and six artist workstations on its render farm. They have been using the Deadline Power Management feature for years, but realized its true impact when they turned it off for a month. During the 30 days when  artists turned computers on and off manually, the amount of time that computers were on and drawing power but inactive (idle) increased by 200 percent to 40 percent.

"That's five hours a day of wasted electricity," said Straightface artist Gavin Greenwalt. "It definitely caught our attention. We thought that with a little tweaking of our power management policy we could get that down to 10 percent." What the studio did was even more significant; they reduced idle times to nearly zero -- .15 percent using Deadline. "What I realized is that when we were using a 'free' solution in the past it was really not free. It cost us time because we had to babysit the farm and send artists down the row hitting power buttons. It didn't have the features or flexibility we needed, either. Combine the time and the benefit of Deadline's features with the actual dollar savings we get through power savings and it's so clear - Deadline pays for itself many times over."

Director and TD Lukas Dubeda of duber studio in the Czech Republic had a similar experience. "Being a pipeline TD I'm obsessed with efficiency and effectiveness. With the Power Management feature in Deadline I estimate we saved at least 60 percent on power costs over the last year. Looking at the initial cost of our 10 render nodes, with that savings the entire Deadline studio license cost pays for itself within a year and a half at our studio. And that's not even a value we calculated when we chose Deadline. We got it because of its ease of integration, use of Python, open architecture and feature set. The power savings is just a tangible benefit on top of all that."

The Deadline Power Management feature enables studios to control how machines start up and shut down automatically based on sets of render farm conditions including job load, idle times, job queue and more. Deadline also monitors external room temperature via strategically placed sensors, shutting down or starting up nodes to stay within a particular thermal envelope and alerting administrators to environmental effects. 

"It's the first line of defense when there are power and thermal issues in a studio environment," said Thinkbox Founder Chris Bond. "If something like an air conditioning unit failure happens, Deadline can help keep you from toasting your render farm." Bond noted, "We actually developed the Power Management feature as an internal plug-in when we were doing our own productions. As our clients needed more rendering and faster delivery, we had to keep bringing more power and more air conditioning into the building - this tool was built to help us economize for our own studio. We brought it into the commercial code with Version 2.0 and have been thrilled to see how it's helping Deadline users. I feel really good about our contribution to saving energy overall."