Saving time using Compressor and Qmaster


“How can I get my computer to finish tasks in less time?” Sound familiar?

As a Final Cut Studio user, I’ve spent countless hours transcoding my final edits into the output files used to create DVDs and web and iPod videos.

Like many video editors, I would be thrilled to work on projects using state-of-the-art workstations and super-fast hard drives. At present, I don’t have funds to purchase more advanced hardware. Consequently, I am constantly looking at other ways to complete video production tasks more efficiently using the tools that I already have.

For instance, I spent weeks trying to figure out how to set up a simple “render farm” at my office. I currently own three Macs: a MacBook Pro, which is my main workstation; an Intel iMac, which I use as a file server; and a PowerBook G4 that is usually turned off except for rare occasions when I’m testing a PowerPC or Classic application on behalf of a client.

From reading Apple’s product literature, I knew that it was possible to speed up the QuickTime and MPEG-2 rendering processes in Compressor by configuring Qmaster to link and aggregate all the CPU horsepower that is available over my Ethernet network (a setup that Apple refers to as a cluster). Creating a cluster, however, is not a Plug ‘n Play process and required me to do a great deal of research and testing.

Qmaster is Apple’s queuing and distributed processing technology. Compressor relies on Qmaster to queue and distribute audio and video transcoding tasks. As reported on other blogs and tech sites (including mine), Qmaster and Compressor are prone to connection failures and their reinstatement usually requires reinstallation from the Final Cut install disc.

Begin the Qmaster configuration process by defining your cluster controller and client workstations. The controller is a video editing workstation that is usually configured with the full suite of Final Cut apps and is used to parcel out rendering jobs to itself and to client machines.

You’ll need a 100 Base-T or faster Ethernet router with enough ports and cables to accommodate your clustered computers. Avoid using wireless clients as a member of your cluster, as their network connections are prone to dropouts that can cause problems during the queuing process. In addition, temporarily disable the firewall on your client machines.

To join the cluster, your Macs should have at least a G4 processor and should be running Mac OS X 10.3.9 or higher. Setup and implementation involve the following sequence of events:

1. Networking the computers.
2. Installing and configuring Qmaster on all cluster machines.
3. Defining the Cluster Storage location used to store temp files created during the queuing process that can be accessed by the controller.
4. Setting up Qadministrator.
5. Sending jobs to the clusters.

Several web articles describe the setup process in detail. I noted slight to major variances in the content materials. The Macworld article was highly instructive and included helpful screen shots.

Speed up Compressor tasks
http://tinyurl.com/3rzxm3 – Macworld.com

Setting Up a Cluster for Compressor
http://tinyurl.com/4hc6x2 – Apple Discusssions

Apple’s Compressor and Qmaster – Fixing the ‘Unable to connect to background process’ error dialog problem
http://tinyurl.com/4dheg9 – Richard BF’s blog

Network Rendering Made Easy
Part One–Compressor Basics
EditWell newsletter July 2008, Vol. 2 No. 12
by subscription only (Peachpit Press)

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1 Comment

Filed under Apple Software

One response to “Saving time using Compressor and Qmaster

  1. Pingback: Setting Up A Proper Final Cut Editing System | Firm Reliance Media

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