We're assuming that you would like to use crowdrender for something more complicated than the default scene, so in this post, we'll cover opening existing projects, edits and rendering in a little more detail. This post also assumes that you have two machines setup with blender running and crowdrender enabled.
We'll be using a scene from Aidy Burrows and Gleb Alexandrov's Space VFX series (don't worry, we asked if we could.... they did say yes!) as an example.
In our example we open the scene on our working computer after we connect to the second machine, opening files without the second machine connected also works.
Something important to note is that the first time you open a project, the blend file must be uploaded to the second machine, this may take some time if it is a large file. Once this is done, you'll see that the second machine is "Ready" as shown in the image above. This means that you are ready to render stills or animations! We did a quick still render with the result shown below.
What you can see in the image above is that crowdrender has rendered the still in two halves on our two machines and has combined them and loaded them into blender as a render result. This pretty much works exactly the same way as blender does when doing a normal render, that is on purpose as it means no distraction from your normal workflow. There are some important differences which we cover in this post.
Being able to render is great, but what if you want to make changes? One of the main motivations for building crowdrender was the issue of how to test and debug frames before commiting to a final render. A full test render of some key frames is a wise approach, but it is costly, and if there are changes to be made, due to bugs, or just a different direction in the work, or feedback from clients, then this process can be plain painful.
So, if you need to make changes, do you need to upload the file again after each edit? Crowdrender allows you to stream edits live between your computers so that you do not have to upload your file again and again. To be transparent, there are some edits which can't be treated this way, but they are typically to do with creating assets and setting up animation than tweaking.
As a guideline, if you are making changes to existing objects in the scene, this is streamed, if you are adding new objects, or duplicating or deleting existing objects, this is also streamed, but if you are modelling, adding textures (they need to be packed into the file as well, see this post on how we're lifting this restriction in the next major release), creating or changing animations, doing simulations, then this is not streamed and you will need to re-upload the file.
So how can you tell if you need to re-upload? There are two signs you will get, one is that your render looks weird, like someone has cut it in half with scissors and slide the pieces in opposite directions. The other is that crowdrender will report it cannot sync the data and it will look like the image below.
As you can see, when crowdrender detects this problem it changes the controls available to you for the second machine to give you only one option, "Manual Resync" which will re-upload the file. As you can see in this case, we have changed the keyframe from the last time we rendered and since this is not (yet) streamed, the second machine could not sync.
Happily pressing the re-sync button fixes that and away we go. The controls for the second machine return to "Ready" status and we can now render again. If this doesn't happen for you, then its time to "turn it off and on again". Restarting blender and re-enabling crowdrender (remember not to save your preferences with crowdrender enabled, a fix for this is coming though!) works 99.999999% of the time.
We can now render the scene using the "Render Still" button in the crowdrender panel and we have the following result.