Rendering is the pivotal process in CGI of turning computer data into a sequence of viewable images; the render wrangler is responsible for monitoring and controlling the rendering process, while also managing rendering priorities based on the needs of department supervisors and production management. Render wranglers can work on projects from the pre-visualization stage until the project is delivered for compositing, working with the CG department. As an entry-level position, becoming a render wrangler can be a great starting point for those desiring a career in computer animation.
Life on the farm is always interesting for render wranglers. As supervisors of the rendering process, they are responsible for monitoring the render farm, whether that means just a few computers or hundreds. The data submitted by artists and from other departments must be managed and prioritized in order of importance by the render wrangler and assigned to particular computers for rendering. Organization is a large part of a render wrangler’s duties; he or she must manage materials as they come and go, name files when necessary, allocate them to the appropriate space on the server, and process them for transport to other facilities. Render wranglers must also be vigilant of the file space on the server and make sure that old or outdated renders are deleted and there remains enough space to continue working; backing up and restoring files is also a common task. It is the responsibility of render wranglers to ensure that the render process runs smoothly and is free of technical or other issues that may cause delays. If a problem is discovered, it is the responsibility of the render wrangler write a report on the issue and deliver recommendations to the artist or appropriate party; some wranglers can and do fix these issues themselves, though in larger CG houses this is uncommon. Because render wranglers have to move millions of files, knowledge of scripting can come in handy.
Skills & Education
While a degree is not required to become a render wrangler and appropriate and specialized training is sometimes enough, many are likely to have BS degrees in computer science, computer animation, or any variety of computer or art degrees. Programming expertise is a must; knowledge of the latest industry 3-D packages, as well as other applicable programs, is also common. Independent problem-solving, organizational, and managing abilities should be coupled with the render wrangler’s software knowledge and expertise. When combined with the ability to work well in teams and meet strict deadlines, there are few data they cannot wrangle.
What to Expect
As render wrangler is an entry-level position, you can expect to receive directions from a variety of superiors and work with many different personalities in all CG departments, from artists to resource managers. The main duty is to wrangle the cows—er, the data, to make sure that it is where it needs to be, healthy, and ready to move on to the next stop along the way. Many entry-level render wranglers shadow more senior wranglers for a spell before assuming supervisory roles. Rota systems, long hours, night shifts, low starting pay, and the often anti-social lifestyle of the computer geek should be taken into account when considering a job as a render wrangler, but it is a solid stepping stone into a great career in CG.
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