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Old 5th November 2006, 09:19   #1  |  Link
omion
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x264farm: distributed encoding

Well, after about a year of working on this, let's see how it works in the real world!

I have been making a parallel encoder for x264 which can be distributed across many computers in a network. I have not done any serious benchmarking for it, but it is faster than running it on 1 computer. It was designed to be extremely portable; the only things you need on most of the computers is the agent program (supplied) and x264. All the AVIsynth processing is done by a central computer. I have personally tested it running on a Windows x64 computer, a 64-bit Linux box, and an Intel Mac Mini.

The idea is similar to tobias's ELDER, but designed from the ground up to be used on the network. It also supports fun stuff like resuming encodes (sometimes with a big penalty, but it's better than starting over)

A few notes:
  • It is still a work in progress, so it will make a file called out_dump.txt in the encode directory containing a bunch of debugging stuff.
  • You really need a fast network, and at least one decent computer. I sacrificed network efficiency and scalability for ease-of-use and portability.
  • I find it very easy to use, but I'm a bit biased. There are probably many usability issues that still need to be worked out.
  • All the "config.xml" files in the downloads are for my setup only. You want to change all the options around to reflect your setup before you start it up.

Eh... I guess that's all for the announcement. Have fun!

Readme

DOWNLOAD VERSION 1.15:
  • WINDOWS BINARY (controller and agent)
  • SOURCE
  • (Agent binaries for OSX (intel) and 64-bit Linux are available on request. I can't build 32-bit Linux binaries, but it's pretty easy to do yourself)

You also need the following:
  • x264. NOTE: Currently, only builds done with MSVS will work with x264farm's controller-based encoding in Windows. I used to build my own, but I've found that Cef's builds work great so I've decided to stop making my own.
  • avs2yuv on the controller computer.
  • nice.exe for encoding with different priorities on a Windows machine. If you just want to use normal priority, just set <nice> to 0 and it will be ignored. (source. updated 2007-04-15)
when building from the source:
  1. You need OCaml, extlib, and xml-light
  2. Run "make" in the /common directory FIRST
  3. Run "make" in the /controller and /agent directories.
It's harder than it should be, but I haven't spent a long time polishing the build process

CHANGELOG:
1.15 (2007-10-26):
Added ad-hoc agent discovery (although disabled by default). Agents may be added while the encoding is running, even if they are not specified in the controller's config.xml file.
Ability to specify log file location on command line for both agent and controller.
Faster controller-based compression.
Changed the bucket-based agent cache to a single circular buffer.
Changed the default port from 50700 to 40700. This will only affect you if you re-use one of my example config files.
1.14 (2007-10-03):
Fixed an inconsistency with running x264 with spaces in the path.
Added the capability to change the avs2yuv executable in the config.xml file.
Add timestamps to the error messages and when the display was last updated (counting from when the program was started).
Show "~" for errors if there are aren't enough to display, and made the default number of errors displayed 4.
Doesn't update the FPS on the second pass if the encoding failed.
Properly handle dead agents on the second pass.
1.13 (2007-07-03):
Added the --batchmult option to help with one agent checking out a big job at the end and making everything else wait for it.
Added previous split points to the 1st-pass temp file. This means that encodes will start up faster after having been stopped.
Optimized the splitter to try to get the jobs out faster in the beginning.
1st-pass agents will now try to avoid working on jobs which may have incorrect start points, in order to minimize the number of re-encoded frames.
Put ETA display back for both passes. Note that the ETA given in the first pass measures the end of the first pass only, and is incredibly inaccurate.
Second pass GOPs are no longer encoded chronologically.
Completely redesigned first pass to be easier to work on.
1.12 (2007-05-30):
Added a heartbeat thread to each agent when agent-based encoding starts. Agents will send a signal to the controller every 10 seconds. If the controller does not receive a signal within 30 seconds, that agent is given up for dead. This should greatly reduce on the amount of stalled encodes.
Controller output is much more organized, and no longer prints huge amounts of scrolling garbage. The out-dump.txt files are just as garbage-filled as before, though.
1.11 (2007-04-28):
Fixed an overflow in the Matroska timecode calculation.
Second-pass equality check takes bitrate into account.
Changed the GOP layout from B-trees to red-black trees (not that anybody would notice the difference).
1.10 (2007-04-25):
Implemented per-pass compression, so that the first and second passes have different compression priorities
More precise file size (tunable with the --sizeprec option)
Ratecontrol handles extreme bitrates better
The --keeptemp option actually works now...
Minor sanity checks when writing the files
1.09 (2007-03-10):
Agent now deletes temp files which are older than a specifiied amount of time (by default 1 week).
Agent now uses niceness when both nice and piped input are being used.
2nd pass bitrate should be more accurate.
1.08 (2007-02-07):
Redesigned first pass. It should pick jobs more intelligently. The occasional problem with credits taking a very long time to encode is minimized.
More verbose garbage printed to the screen regarding the new first pass mode. It will disappear shortly.
Second pass should recover from x264 complaining about the minimum bitrate. Some jobs may fail a few times, but they will encode eventually.
The agent and config.xml format are unchanged.
1.07 (2007-01-05):
Fixed an issue with the controller computer rejecting network connections after an hour or so
Made some of the more pointless messages log-only
1.06 (2006-12-25):
2nd pass resuming works again (sorry, guys! )
Plugged the hole in the first pass which could cause frames which are being worked on to be re-encoded
Compression should be faster. There are no more checksums, and the compression loop is faster.
Fixed up the re-encode part to ask for confirmation instead of just quitting, and will just automatically restart if the old output file does not exist anymore.
Fixed a potentially major bug when the output files aren't written if the requested bitrate is below what x264 thinks is the minimum bitrate.
1.05 (2006-12-12):
Added optional compression for controller-based encodes. Currently extremely slow, though, in order to check for validity.
Added --nocomp switch to force compression off.
Added <pipe> setting to agent's config.xml file to locally pipe data to x264 in agent-based encodings.
Added tables in 2nd pass to show the performance of the various agents.
Controller now searches its own directory for avs2yuv.
Hid a bug involving the 1st pass splitter re-splitting ranges which are already allocated to agents not using controller-based encoding.
1.04 (2006-11-24):
Made agent-based encoding.
User-selectable number of agent cache buckets.
Added many ratecontrol parameters to the controller, and pass them to x264.
Lowered latency and memory usage due to sending data across the network.
1.03-152 (2006-11-20):
Fixed an error when the number of frames per second was an integer.
1.02 (2006-11-17):
MAJOR rewrite that honestly shouldn't have needed to happen.
Made the agent per-computer instead of per-core and fixed a bug with remote computers not getting enough data.
Controller only connects once per session, instead of once per job.
The code itself is much better-written.
Config file syntax completely changed.
1.01 (2006-11-09):
Made the --rerc option in order to change the re-ratecontrol frequency during the third pass.
Made the network more resilient to delayed-ACK problems.
Removed some of the more verbose printing (although everything is still in out-dump.txt).
Added simple FPS display (although it's buried in the debug info).
Fixed the batch length (now 5000, was 25000 but claimed to be 2500).
1.00 (2006-11-04):
Initial release. Rampant bugs and programmer hacks predominate.

WHEN REPLYING:
If you post really long chunks of text (like from out_dump.txt), use the [ code ] tag and it will make it scrollable. That will prevent the page from overflowing with a bunch of verbose garbage that x264farm likes to output
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Last edited by omion; 29th October 2007 at 23:50.
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Old 5th November 2006, 11:02   #2  |  Link
crypto
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What a cool idea. How do you schedule the tasks? Do you run a scene detection and distribute scenes for encoding?
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Old 5th November 2006, 15:26   #3  |  Link
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Wow, thanks for your effort in distributed encoding!
I gave it a quick try and didn't get it working.
The agent throws an error:
2006-11-05~15:12:13.01 Doing the following:
x264.exe --fps 10000000/333667 --pass 1 --stats "C:\agent-win32\tmp\0 893 969666.txt" -o NUL - 720x480
2006-11-05~15:12:14.34 Agent croaked with exception "Sys_error(\"Broken pipe\")"; restarting
2006-11-05~15:12:14.35 DOING!

This is the controller config.xml
<config>
<temp>C:\controller-win32\tmp</temp>
<agents>
<agent name="local">
<ip>192.168.0.1:50722</ip>
</agent>
</agents>
</config>

And the agent config.xml:
<config>
<temp>C:\agent-win32\tmp</temp>
<!-- <affinity>01</affinity>-->
<port>50722</port>
<x264>x264.exe</x264>
<nice>00</nice>
</config>

starting the controller with this cmd
controller.exe -b 1500kbps --avs test.avs -o test.mkv

I'm using the latest x264 build r598A
If you need more information, just tell me.
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Old 5th November 2006, 15:52   #4  |  Link
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Sounds exciting. Suggest you, or someone else consider running through a hypothetical setup using 2 or 3 windows XP PCs. PC-master, PC-slave1, PC-slave 2 in a step 1,2,3 format

Once I can get it working, perhaps I could do a how-to that the average Joe-tooluser like me could follow.

My set up is 7 XP machine on a gig backbone, with the master being a OC'ed 4.5 Gh Intel D930, slave1 - hyper-threaded 3.2 P4, slave 2 - Athlon XP 3200, plus various others along those lines. I'm happy to help others if you can help me get going.
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Old 5th November 2006, 18:01   #5  |  Link
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crypto View Post
What a cool idea. How do you schedule the tasks? Do you run a scene detection and distribute scenes for encoding?
@Disabled:
I forgot to mention one thing: x264 compiled for Windows with gcc won't work currently. I made a build with MSVS that should solve your problem.

There's nothing special about my build, it just uses straight SVN. You can get build 598 here

@crypto:
Basically, that's how it works. For the first pass, the video is broken up into large segments, where the last frame is determined by a simple scene-detection algorithm. The second pass is split up by scene, which is already known since they're in the stats file.

@DDogg:
I made a test with my one computer, and x264farm was actually around 15% slower than not using it, due to all the overhead. Unfortunately, all of my computers are different, so I can't make a scalability test, but I have noticed that even adding my wimpy Core Solo Mac Mini makes it faster than just one computer.

It would be nice if somebody did some tests with it. However, note that, by default, x264farm will re-encode 5% of the scenes that came the farthest from the ratecontrol prediction. Anybody interested in a comparison should turn that off with "--3ratio 0"



In terms of setting up, it is a bit difficult. Here's what I would do:
1. Copy the agent directory to any computer that you want doing the encoding.
2. On each computer, make as many copies of the config.xml file as you have cores (dual-core computers should have 2 different xml files, etc...)
3. Edit the config files to point to the right x264 executable, and each one must have a different port.
4. Run the agent on each computer, once for each config file, with "agent --config <some_file.xml>"
5. Extract the controller directory to the main computer
6. Edit the controller's config.xml file to point at all the agents you have running. You need to know the computer's IP address and the port that you assigned each one.

After that, the setup is done. Now you can start encoding. The basic command line is:
controller --first "<first_pass_options>" --second "<second_pass_options>" -b <target_bitrate>kbps --avs <input_file.avs> -o <output_file.mkv>

Look at the HTML file included in the release for what you should and shouldn't include in --first and --second.
Also note that the -b needs to be in the form "-b 123kbps" or "-b 123%", where the second form indicates a percentage of the first pass bitrate to use.
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Last edited by omion; 5th November 2006 at 19:01.
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Old 5th November 2006, 18:30   #6  |  Link
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Many thanks for the x264 build, its working now.
I tried encoding a file on the host and on my laptop with your framework and it kinda worked. The laptop only got used about 20% of the encoding time, but its slow as hell anyway. I sometimes get the error 'Agent croaked with exception "End_of_file"; restarting' on my laptop, that might be the reason for it not being used that much.

And I can't start a second encode of the same file without deleting the tmp files manually.

I will not go out and benchmark this tool, as I don't have that powerfull machines here.
if you provide a linux 32bit build, I might try it at the university some time. But then I realise it still needs avisynth I do not have there, so I need to host it on a laptop...

*edit*
I just tried to encode with my laptop being the only client, and I get the same error as before and its not encoding the whole time, I would say the laptop is idle about 30% of the encoding time now.

Last edited by Disabled; 5th November 2006 at 18:33.
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Old 5th November 2006, 18:53   #7  |  Link
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Disabled View Post
Many thanks for the x264 build, its working now.
I tried encoding a file on the host and on my laptop with your framework and it kinda worked. The laptop only got used about 20% of the encoding time, but its slow as hell anyway. I sometimes get the error 'Agent croaked with exception "End_of_file"; restarting' on my laptop, that might be the reason for it not being used that much.
That error's actually OK... sometimes. I think it happens when the controller connects, realizes there's nothing to do, and disconnects. It sounds like you have something else going on, though.

Quote:
And I can't start a second encode of the same file without deleting the tmp files manually.
If you want to do the same encoding on the same file, it should reuse the temp files (in order to properly resume). If you really want to start from scratch (like for testing), use the --restart switch

Quote:
I will not go out and benchmark this tool, as I don't have that powerfull machines here.
if you provide a linux 32bit build, I might try it at the university some time. But then I realise it still needs avisynth I do not have there, so I need to host it on a laptop...

*edit*
I just tried to encode with my laptop being the only client, and I get the same error as before and its not encoding the whole time, I would say the laptop is idle about 30% of the encoding time now.
I don't have an easy way to make 32-bit binaries with my Linux box, so I think you'd have to see if someone else can build it.

Now, when you say it's idle, does it do a job for 30% of the time and wait for the other 70%, or does it say it's doing something but it's only using 30% of the CPU?
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Old 6th November 2006, 05:17   #8  |  Link
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Disabled View Post
Wow, thanks for your effort in distributed encoding!
I gave it a quick try and didn't get it working.
The agent throws an error:
2006-11-05~15:12:13.01 Doing the following:
x264.exe --fps 10000000/333667 --pass 1 --stats "C:\agent-win32\tmp\0 893 969666.txt" -o NUL - 720x480
2006-11-05~15:12:14.34 Agent croaked with exception "Sys_error(\"Broken pipe\")"; restarting
2006-11-05~15:12:14.35 DOING!

This is the controller config.xml
<config>
<temp>C:\controller-win32\tmp</temp>
<agents>
<agent name="local">
<ip>192.168.0.1:50722</ip>
</agent>
</agents>
</config>

And the agent config.xml:
<config>
<temp>C:\agent-win32\tmp</temp>
<!-- <affinity>01</affinity>-->
<port>50722</port>
<x264>x264.exe</x264>
<nice>00</nice>
</config>

starting the controller with this cmd
controller.exe -b 1500kbps --avs test.avs -o test.mkv

I'm using the latest x264 build r598A
If you need more information, just tell me.

I'm having the same problem, and I've replaced x.264 with the correct version from this thread. Here is my output:
---------------------
D:\TEMP\agent-win32>agent --config config.xml
Started up the print mutex
Using config file ".\config.xml"
Temp dir: "D:\\TEMP\\cpu1"
Affinity: ""
Port: 50722
x264: "x264.exe"
nice: 10
Connecting...
Listening...
DOING!
Got a connection from 127.0.0.1:1287
Doing stuff
Doing the following:
nice -n 10 x264.exe --bframes 3 --b-pyramid --direct auto --filter -2,-1 --subme 1 --ana
lyse none --vbv-maxrate 25000 --me dia --merange 12 --progress --no-psnr --fps 24000/1001
--pass 1 --stats "D:\TEMP\cpu1\0 1298 6414bb.txt" -o NUL - 1280x608
x264 [warning]: VBV maxrate specified, but no bufsize.
x264 [info]: using cpu capabilities MMX MMXEXT SSE SSE2

Agent croaked with exception "Sys_error(\"Broken pipe\")"; restarting
DOING!
Got a connection from 127.0.0.1:1290
Doing stuff
Doing the following:
nice -n 10 x264.exe --bframes 3 --b-pyramid --direct auto --filter -2,-1 --subme 1 --ana
lyse none --vbv-maxrate 25000 --me dia --merange 12 --progress --no-psnr --fps 24000/1001
--pass 1 --stats "D:\TEMP\cpu1\0 1298 5a6db2.txt" -o NUL - 1280x608
x264 [warning]: VBV maxrate specified, but no bufsize.
x264 [info]: using cpu capabilities MMX MMXEXT SSE SSE2

Agent croaked with exception "Unix.Unix_error(An existing connection was forcibly closed b
y the remote host.
, "recv", "")"; restarting
DOING!
---------------------

I don't think it's an x264 setting as it looks as though it's starting. I'll try without the VBV maxrate and see what happens.
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Old 6th November 2006, 05:44   #9  |  Link
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That sounds sort of like something went wrong on the controller side. Does the controller output say anything about an error or exception?
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Old 6th November 2006, 05:44   #10  |  Link
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By removing the --vbv-maxrange stuff it got much further, I have two machines, one with dual cpu and one with dual core (controller running two agents also). It kept sending all frames to one machine, so I added "--batch 2500 --split 250" and it sends data to the other machine, but my two local agents both die with:

DOING!
Got a connection from 127.0.0.1:1453
Doing stuff
Doing the following:
nice -n 10 x264.exe --bframes 3 --b-pyramid --direct auto --filter -2,-1 --subme 1 --ana
lyse none --me dia --merange 12 --progress --no-psnr --fps 24000/1001 --pass 1 --stats "D:
\TEMP\cpu1\0 12720 31d72a.txt" -o NUL - 1280x608
x264 [info]: using cpu capabilities MMX MMXEXT SSE SSE2

Agent croaked with exception "Sys_error(\"Broken pipe\")"; restarting

So now I'm kinda stuck...any ideas?

Here is my avs:

LoadPlugin("D:\$VIDEO_WORK$\bin\AviSynth Plugins\DGDecode.dll")
LoadPlugin("D:\$VIDEO_WORK$\bin\AviSynth Plugins\TIVTC.dll")
MPEG2Source("Hero.d2v")
Crop(16,134,-16,-142)
TFM(d2v="Hero.d2v")
#TDecimate(cycleR=3)
TDecimate()
LanczosResize(1280,608)


Here is my controller startup line:

controller -b 4500kbps --first "--bframes 3 --b-pyramid --direct auto --filter -2,-1 --subme 1 --analyse none --me dia --merange 12 --progress --no-psnr" --second "--ref 3 --bframes 3 --b-pyramid --weightb --direct auto --filter -2,-1 --subme 6 --trellis 1 --analyse all --8x8dct --me umh --merange 12 --progress --no-psnr" --avs "D:\$VIDEO_WORK$\WORKING\Hero.avs" -o "D:\$VIDEO_WORK$\WORKING\Hero-farm.mkv" --batch 2500 --split 250 --preseek 5 --config config.xml
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Old 6th November 2006, 05:48   #11  |  Link
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Here is the controller output:

edited...

Notice the error:
> LOCAL CPU 2 LOCKED SPLITTER_LIST_MUTEX FROM EXCEPTION "Unix.Unix_error(_, \"send\", \"\")"

Last edited by ChrisBensch; 6th November 2006 at 06:44.
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Old 6th November 2006, 06:38   #12  |  Link
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So the local machine croaks, but the agents on the other machine work as expected? That is strange.

Try out this controller, and see if that helps. If it doesn't, see if the line
Code:
Local CPU 2 sent 4096 bytes
occurs between the lines
Code:
Local CPU 2 sent first pass options
> LOCAL CPU 2 LOCKED SPLITTER_LIST_MUTEX FROM EXCEPTION "Unix.Unix_error(_, \"send\", \"\")"
Also, the error line should now give a number where the underscore is. If the error still occurs, write back with that number.

I must admit, I don't really know why it's dying, but I think I can figure it out given enough time (and patience!)


PS. You can delete the controller output now. I copied it to my computer, and I don't think anybody else will be able to comprehend it
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Old 5th November 2006, 20:47   #13  |  Link
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@omion
great work, but this wouldn't work with ABR 1pass encodes would it ?
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Last edited by CruNcher; 5th November 2006 at 21:14.
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Old 5th November 2006, 21:28   #14  |  Link
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Disabled View Post
I'm refering to the "laptop is the only agent" situation now. The CPU on the laptop (on the controller as well) is idle for about 30% of the time and completely busy the rest.
I'm not sure if I read the (messy) log correct, but I think after an idle phase the above mentioned error is shown and then it continues to encode.
I just started a second run to verify the results.
I did two tests with both machines running an agent, the first time the laptop was used just once, the second time I noticed four phases the CPU was maxed out on the laptop.

Well perhaps I will look into compiling the source myself. My Linux box is actually faster than the laptop I'm using

*edit*
Now it happened again. Both machines were idle for about 2 minutes, then the "End_of_file" Error and after a few secs its encoding again...
2 minutes... weird. That sounds like a network issue. Are they connected wirelessly?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CruNcher View Post
@omion

is this only working for a 2pass encode ?
Yup. It's only 2-pass because that's all I use It would be quite difficult to turn it back into a 1-pass, as both passes are set up quite differently.
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Old 5th November 2006, 21:39   #15  |  Link
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Quote:
Originally Posted by omion View Post
2 minutes... weird. That sounds like a network issue. Are they connected wirelessly?
Nope, 100% pure old fashioned 100Mbit Local Area Network
In addition to that I would say there was no traffic at all during that time... (doing a third run...)

*edit*
The controller sends Data to the agent. The Laptop starts encoding and it finishes ("Exited 0") on the Laptop. The Agent then shows "lap recieving stats" for a little over a minute. And then contines with "lap done recieving stats", but the Agent then shows the EOF exception and continues to encode...
I guess I'll send you the whole log. I have the feeling the "revieving stats" message is just once in the log file, while "done receiving stats" is seven times, and I counted five idle times...
Encoding time: 20 Mins, with about 5 mins idle

Last edited by Disabled; 5th November 2006 at 22:02.
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Old 15th April 2009, 11:30   #16  |  Link
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There is a command line encoder profile you could use.
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Old 24th July 2009, 19:47   #17  |  Link
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Hello, I have a few questions...

What build of x264 do you all reccommend to use with x264farm? Or at least, what was the final build before the revision to the .stats file was committed?

Also, does the server computer also have the ability to render? Could I theoretically run a controller AND an agent on the same PC?

Thanks!
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Old 6th November 2006, 08:45   #18  |  Link
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CruNcher View Post
@omion
great work, but this wouldn't work with ABR 1pass encodes would it ?
I agree: Great work omion

And maybe it is useful for you guys that I throw a windows cluster mode for ELDER into the ring as well
It's just that I leave 2pass x264 encoding to ominon for the time being But ELDER beta5b will feature a distributed x264 crf mode.

edit: ELDER beta5b is out now -> http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.ph...465#post718465

Distributed abr is not more work so I can do it for beta5c if you insist, Cruncher

bis besser,
T0B1A5
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Last edited by 708145; 6th November 2006 at 12:04.
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Old 5th November 2006, 22:49   #19  |  Link
pyrates
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Is there a way to distribute the avisynth script as well or does that still need to be worked on just one pc only for now? Because the one I use is quite processor intensive but gives awesome results.
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Old 6th November 2006, 01:39   #20  |  Link
omion
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I had initially made the program to distribute everything, but that requires being able to have the input files available to all computers, and also to have AVIsynth and all the filters available to all computers.

Synchronizing all the computers and especially making it work with non-Windows computers proved to be just about impossible. It was far too much work for its usefulness, so I basically got rid of it as soon as I got it working.
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