I Get By with a Little Help from my... Thinkbox Support Team

Version: Anything Thinkbox related.

Introduction

Sometimes, we all run into a little trouble. And when we do, it's important to be surrounded by a group of people who are supportive and who will help us out when the time comes. The same can be true for rendering. Often, you'll be using a plethora of software, all of which needs to be licensed. You'll need to manage assets, operating systems, users, artists and file permissions. It's enough to make your head spin. Where do you even begin to start when things go wrong? Who do we turn to for support?

Enter the Thinkbox Support team!

The Support Team

The Thinkbox Support team are an awesome group of individuals who are dedicated to helping our clients resolve any issues they run into while using Deadline (or any other Thinkbox software). I sat down with Edwin Amsler (EA), the Head of Support at Thinkbox, to talk about how you can troubleshoot any issues that you run into, how to contact Support and what you need to provide them for the fastest service possible.

What is the role of the Thinkbox Support team?

EA: The Thinkbox Support team is here to help users be successful with the software we produce. Sometimes that's fixing issues or bringing up new features users ask about, sometimes that's answering questions, and sometimes it's setup help or demos. The depth of any of those can vary, but if people need help, we're here for them.

What is your goal as a team?

EA: Our goal as a team is to be able to answer anything that comes up from the community, and to do that we each have an area of expertise. I'm traditionally good at diagnosing low-level problems in source code, while others are experts in the cloud or just knowing the documentation inside and out. We review the tough problems daily with each other so we can help each other.

What can users do before they contact Support?

EA: Find a way to reproduce the error reliably. If it's an issue while rendering, trying the render manually on the render nodes is a great first step, and there is a Troubleshooting Guide available that explains how to do this. If you run into the error when you render manually, it probably means that it's a general error and not Deadline related. Of course we can still help out but it's worth contacting the software's support team to attack the problem from both sides.

In general, logs from the services that fail are great. For example, if Deadline is complaining while rendering a job, take a look at the Slave Logs and the Job Reports. It's even possible to save the Job Reports directly from the Job Reports Panel in the Deadline Monitor.

For Database errors, check out the MongoDB Logs. In addition, all of the Deadline applications have Application Logs that are very useful for troubleshooting errors.

Is there a list of known issues that people can check before they talk to you?

EA: Some common problem for specific rendering applications are listed in the FAQ Sections for Each Plugin. Error messages and meanings can be found in the Per-application Plugin Documentation as well. The Forums are also a fantastic resource, so searching for your issue there is often worthwhile.

How can users contact Support?

EA: There are three options really. The best is to e-mail us at support@thinkboxsoftware.com, and that is great for less urgent requests like "How can I do X?" or "Why does Y happen?". The second option is to give us a call here in Canada at +1-866-419-0283 and dial extension 2. This would be for urgent issues like licensing or farm-wide failures, or when the overhead of a back-and-forth conversation via e-mail would take too long. The final way is to post to the Thinkbox forums. We're on there all the time helping users, and our community of Deadline users often lend their expertise too. Just know that if you are registering for the forums for the first time, it may take up to a working day to be activated there.

What should users send you?

EA: The Deadline version number and steps to reproduce the error are a must. For any render issues, it's best to send a Job Report and a very simple scene that reproduces the problem. Send us a list of all the software, along with their version numbers, plus any and all plugins you're using. Also let us know which operating systems you are using. Archiving Jobs is also really important because it lets us test with the job itself instead of trying to recreate the original. You can archive a job from the Job Panel in the Deadline Monitor.

What are other services that the Support team provides?

EA: We really do try and help with anything that may come up. We have no official other services, but it never hurts to ask for things.

Conclusion

The kind people of the Thinkbox Support Team do a great job. They're really helpful and very knowledgeable. Sending them full logs and archived jobs will speed up their response time so that you can get back to it.

Hopefully, you'll never have to talk to them. ;)