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Render Engines and Joy of legal obligations

First – I am definitely not trying to pass the buck here.  This decision rests purely with us, and I want to make it clear as to why.

If you are unknown to the problem, AE CS 5.5 introduced the requirement for adding your serial number if you wish to use the AE render engine that is included with every install of After Effects.  With previous versions, you could install that render engine on as many workstations as you wish, just as long as you had purchased 1 copy of the full version of AE.

Here’s the rub. As of CS 5.5, we are now required to pay a royalty on every install of After Effects – ANY version (that is not a trial) that can render out any of these licensed formats.  Now you can see the dilemma.

As an aside – this is why most other tools must charge for their accompanying render engine.

Therefore, a legal obligation is just that – an obligation.  To correct this, we must restrict the render engine to the license agreement of full AE. This means you can install a single license on 2 workstations – render engine OR full. I know this is not necessarily what you want to hear, yet we will commit to investigating alternative solutions for a future release.

S.

[ Update: Instead of responding to all your comments individually - please check out part 2 of this blog post. -S ]

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I’m not a user of After Effects (I’m a web developer) but I saw this blog posting and was curious. To whom does Adobe pay a royalty for AE?

[ Almost all products that are sold which can produce say an MPEG must pay royalty to different consortiums and companies who are the 'owners' of the format / codec. -S ]

Most other 3D applications charge a fraction of the cost of the full version for rendering
Why can’t adobe license after effects in render mode to cover the cost of the royalty?
This is only going to increase they level of piracy for your apllication.

Also why can’t Adobe in this day and age give customer the flexability of network licensing?
This would give Adobe customers the option to add rendering licenses easily.

[ We are definitely looking into options based on feedback for down the road. Stay tuned. -S. ]

Adobe, you should take another look at these other applications that have distributed network rendering. Let’s start with the major apps for CG, 3DSMAX is unlimited, Nuke is unlimited, Maya offers 5 Mental Ray Batch for each network license purchased, Lightwave is unlimited, Softimage is unlimited. Adobe…requires a license each and every node.

Adobe is looking at one thing on this move, and that’s money. The bad thing is if you have 10 nodes on a renderfarm that are used for AE, you are now required to purchase 10 copies of AE. Why would a studio do that when they can just switch to Nuke and only purchase one copy of that plus receive faster rendering? With a good queue manager such as Qube! you can now take advantage of Dynamica Allocation which is a BIG

Adobe…you’re about to lose some customers on this. This makes Adobe one of the most expensive applications to run on a renderfarm out there…this was absolutely a stupid move.

[ I agree that it is definitely not an ideal situation. That being said, we unfortunately had to make a tough decision for CS 5.5 due to licensing - hence the blog post.

Also For your example render farm - you would in fact only need 5 licenses (as AE can be installed on 2 workstations per license). In that case as well - I would recommend you contact us to help source the best possible options.

BTW - I completely disagree about the money statement (see above). I also think your math on 'unlimited' for other tools is false. Are you implying that unlimited is the same as 'simultaneous' (as in render farm)? Just saying. -S ]

The problem is not because you’ve introduced this to cover royalty repayments, but surely you wouldn’t have to charge full retail price again to cover these costs? What percentage of AE5.5 cost is royalty… Surely not 100%?? What about your own R&D and development costs… sounds like you charging users again for these to use on headless machines? Why was this not clear on your website. People are buying upgrades without knowledge of this unless they’ve looked at some obscure hidden URL link. Adobe has not negotiated a reasonable rate of royalty repayment.

Nuke is not free to network render, you have to pay for render licenses “nuke_r” but easy to setup.

Wow – that’s a bad move by adobe, if you ask me. I was telling my boss today about the situation (we have 8 Machines for Networkrendering) and he immediately asked me about switching to Nuke. Seriously, I grew up with AE and Love it. But I guess its time to find a new love…

[ As I have said, we are investigating alternatives for down the road. I am assuming you are not the only person working in AE since you have an 8 node farm? -S. ]

Why should I have to pay for licensing for formats I may never use? I hate patent (see apple) and license trolls…

At the base Render Engine install, remove any “offending” licensed formats and allow a user to buy packs of licenses for these said formats as they so choose. Other software like Nero does that whereby you by add-ons to their base software to cover the licensing for only the things you need.

Meanwhile other free or open-source formats can be used by everyone else with a FREE base Render Engine install. Problem solved. I’ll take a free Production Premium 6.0 when it comes out. :)

“I am definitely not trying to pass the buck here.”

…sounds like you are literally passing the buck and then some.

[ Really? Do you CHOOSE to live in accordance to the law? Or really would you just steal anything from anyone, if it weren't for those pesky rules? -S ]

I’ll worry about this when I get myself a render farm. :-P

Wow, just found out by starting up the render engine and not understanding what was going on. I’ve been using this since the early nineties… I’d be willing to pay a fee but surely not an entire license for a render engine….

This has been a very useful feature…. I’m a one man shop with a couple of machines. I have to work on location. The only way to operate now is to revert to a lot of activating and deactivating till I’ll probably be blocked and call adobe, again…

At least come up with a reasonable charge for the render engines, meet your consumers half way opposed to this over the top fee! I would be happy to pay a small amount for each node so giving adobe more income as things expand but at the moment I am forced to look at other alternatives. It’s too big a jump!!!!!!!!

I’d be more than happy for a “format crippled” render engine, how many people are rendering to any sort of MPEG format on a render farm anyway? If I’m doing distributed rendering i always do a tiff sequence, and then convert to QuickTime later for ease of use.

Reality is that if I’m going to have to pay full price for a render node, I won’t.

This feels like an ill thought out knee jerk reaction from Adobe.

The situation where you could upgrade your render farm and lose the ability to render AE without significant extra expenditure may be just about acceptable if it was made clear before the upgrade. At present that isn’t the case, this information is hidden away and only discovered by many people after they have made the upgrade.

Also +1 for the bad taste at having to pay full price or even half price if you factor in the 2 installations per license for a render node.

Come on Adobe, offer a render only license or network licensing or both.

I think this move will make those with render farms seriously reconsider their use of AE and that’s a shame.

Just a word of response to your comment “I also think your math on ‘unlimited’ for other tools is false. Are you implying that unlimited is the same as ‘simultaneous’ (as in render farm)?” – in the case of Lightwave … Newtek Lightwave gives 999 free render nodes PER LICENSE, making Lightwave’s network rendering effectively unlimited. These render nodes are per host, not per CPU, can be delineated by thread (i.e. if you have some 48 core machines from AMD, each machine can render 48 seperate instances of a Lightwave job simultaneously if you have the RAM for it).

As for the licensing issue for a renderfarm… you DO know that most people don’t render actual video / movie files over the network, right? It’s all done as single frames and then combined after all the frames are done. I have a 100+ node renderfarm and I never render MOVIE files, I ALWAYS render FRAMES which are then compressed back into a video file after everything’s done. The render cost for complex projects is always the computation of your composition PER FRAME.

In the case of Autodesk products, the renderfarm licensing comes from the RENDER ENGINE – you have to pay for the usage of Mental Ray and Vray – NEVER for the codec being used because the only codecs being used are for single frame renders. Newtek’s Lightwave has its own render engine, and will render to every single frame format type for free. JPEG, TIFF, TARGA, EXR, you name it.

Anyway, the licensing seems to be easy to solve; simply don’t enable movie rendering for a rendernode unless you pay an extra fee for it. Surely your engineers know how people use renderfarms.

What about a “Lite” version of the render engine? Would it be possible to have a version of the render engine that will render using a limited selection of codecs? Maybe render to a image sequences? Just a thought…

If MPEG licensing is the issue, why can’t Adobe just switch off that one feature when network rendering without a license? People that need a good-sized render farm will not be rendering movie formats anyway, they will be rendering individual frames in formats that do not require licensing.

I want to add that I think this is a bad business decision by Adobe. After Effects has fallen far behind Nuke in many areas and the gap is going to continue to widen. But one of the reasons people stick with AE is that it’s far cheaper, especially the render nodes. Under this model, an After Effects render license will actually be more expensive than a Nuke one. If people are on the verge of switching, this will push them over.

Please can I urge Adobe to embrace network float licensing systems. Adobe will never be able to de-value crack software as your software is too sought after and it’s initial price point is always going to be too high. Therefore, embrace network & node locked licensing schema such as Flexlm. Give your licensed customers an easier life! Now if you could just solve deploying software updates on large network deployments automatically and silently, I would be happy!

I just wish the render engine was more refined! I have a bunch of servers (I used to own an ISP and when I sold it I kept a couple of 1u dual processor pc’s)

I want a program I can install on the farm machines and just have AE do all the work for me as far as sharing the load between my workstation and the farm machines

This discussion is all well and good, and I agree with everyone that paying full price for a render only version of the software is more than ridiculous. What is even more frustrating and disturbing is that while it appears here that using After Effects in a render farm environment is ok, there is absolutely no way to get any support. I have seen a rash of reports of aerender processing a job just fine, then hanging at a prompt and not closing for 10 or more minutes. I called for support, waited on hold endlessly, got hung up on once only to be told that there is no support for aerender. If I want support I will have to render through the gui application. Now why on earth would I pay full price for that kind of support!! If there is someone from Adobe who has an answer to this issue please respond. I can’t use my render farm now as it is far too slow.

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