Software licensing for render farms

Software licensing can cause some of the biggest headaches during the process of building a render farm. Many manufacturers offer confusing options concerning render-only licences and unfortunately there’s also a lot of (often outdated) information scattered around the internet, which only serves to complicate matters.

SomRendering with Task Manager opene software packages, most notably After Effects, 3ds Max, LightWave and V-Ray offer unlimited render node licences provided that you have at least one full seat. While these are the easiest to license, don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because this is true of the host program, it’s true of its plug-ins too. For example, Red Giant’s Trapcode plug-in for After Effects ships with support for five render nodes – any more than that and you’ll need to buy extra licences.

Again there simply isn’t enough room here to cover every single piece of software and every plug-in but I will try to cover the larger software packages and a few plug-ins that deviate from the norm.

Maya: Maya can be fairly complex to license on a render farm. Autodesk offer the mental ray Standalone which can supplement the mental ray rendering technology found within Maya, however, this may not always be the best option. For every networked licence of Maya, you’ll get five Maya batch nodes, which are effectively five free licences of mental ray Standalone. So it actually works out far cheaper to upgrade any nodelocked licences of Maya you may have to network licences rather than buy five copies of mental ray Standalone for each nodelocked seat.

CINEMA 4D: CINEMA 4D offers a good range of options for network rendering. It’s designed to work with NetRender which is MAXON’s own solution for network rendering but can also be put to use via third party render managers such as Qube!. The Broadcast and Visualize versions of CINEMA  4D come with three NetRender licences per seat while the Studio version comes with unlimited licences. As MAXON do not offer NetRender licences as a standalone purchase, the only way to get more than three render node licences is to upgrade to the Studio edition. Thankfully though, one seat of the Studio edition will allow you to render all of your CINEMA 4D jobs from all of your workstations on a render farm.

As you can see, software licensing can be complicated. The best advice I can give is to make sure that you factor all of your plug-ins into the equation as this is the most prevalent problem I see when out in the field. If you want further assistance, give Jigsaw a call and we can demystify it all for you.

If you’ve got any questions about software licensing, leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you soon. You can also call us on 03332 409 306, email us at or see our entire 3D modelling and animation range at

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