New Features in Deadline (Released December 17, 2014)


Deadline 7 is the latest version of Thinkbox Software's scalable high-volume compute management solution. It features built-in VMX (Virtual Machine Extension) capabilities, which allow artists, architects and engineers to harness resources in both public and private clouds.

In addition to enhanced cloud support, Deadline 7 expands support for the Jigsaw multi-region rendering feature, which can now be accessed in 3ds Max, Maya, modo, and Rhino. Deadline 7 also introduces Draft 1.2, an update to Thinkbox's lightweight compositing and video processing plug-in designed to automate typical post-render tasks such as image format conversion as well as the creation of animated videos and QuickTimes, contact sheets, and watermark elements on exported images. Finally, Deadline 7 introduces a wealth of new features, enhancements, and bug fixes, which are detailed below.

Note that a new 7.0 license is required to run this version. If you have a license for Deadline 6.2 or earlier, you will need an updated license. In addition, the version of Draft that ships with Deadline 7 needs a new 1.2 license. If you have a license for Draft 1.1 or earlier, you will need an updated license.

Highlighted Features

These are the highlighted features in Deadline 7.0. See the complete Deadline 7.0 User Manual for the complete release notes.

VMX (Virtual Machine eXtension)

With VMX (Virtual Machine eXtension) built in and pluggable cloud support, Deadline 7 can interact with private and public cloud solutions out-of-the-box, including Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure and OpenStack, among others. The new Deadline Balancer application can start and shut down virtual instances on demand based on the jobs in the queue, the current budget settings, or other custom algorithms. Multiple cloud solutions can be used simultaneously, along with classic non-cloud rendernode and workstation rendering.

Updated to MongoDB 2.6.3

Deadline now ships with MongoDB 2.6.3, with version 2.6.1 being the new minimum requirement for Deadline 7. Deadline utilizes MongoDB’s new timestamp feature to significantly reduce the number of write queries performed during normal operation. Not only does this improve performance under heavier loads, but it also allows Deadline to support MongoDB’s Sharding feature. Sharding can be used to create a cluster of MongoDB instances, allowing the database server to scale horizontally by adding more nodes to the cluster.

Deadline’s Replica Set support has been improved as well. Previously, you had to specify each node in your Replica Set when specifying the MongoDB server name. Now, you can also include the Replica Set name.

Updated User Interface

Deadline’s User Interface libraries have been updated to Qt 5, and the Deadline applications now use Qt’s new Fusion theme for a more modern look and feel. The Fusion theme provides better scaling at larger resolutions, and it also provides more color contrast.

The Monitor also uses new progress bars to show the progress for jobs. The progress bars show the state of every task for the job, not just the complete versus incomplete tasks. This allows you to see the overall state of all the tasks at a glance.

Finally, updating to Qt 5 also addresses issues that Qt 4 had with Wacom tablets.

Python Upgraded to 2.7.8

Deadline now ships with Python 2.7.8. Note that this shouldn’t affect any existing scripts that you use with Deadline.

In addition, the Deadline applications no longer set the PYTHONHOME and PYTHONPATH environment variables for their current session. This means that any applications launched from a Deadline application will no longer inherit these modified variables, which should avoid compatibility issues if those other applications use a different version of Python.

Draft Upgraded to

Deadline now ships with Draft Note that this shouldn’t affect any existing Draft template scripts that you use with Deadline. Also note that if you are using Draft 1.1 or earlier, you will need an updated Draft license. Below is a list of what’s new in Draft

Python Version
- The Python version that Draft requires is now Python 2.7.

FFmpeg Version
- FFmpeg libraries have been updated to version 2.3.

OpenColorIO Improvements
- Use config.ocio and ColorSpaces / Roles to create OCIO color processors for color correcting images.
- Create OCIO color processors directly from your favourite LUT files... see for the full list of LUT formats supported.

ASC CDL Improvements
- A fully standard-compliant implementation of ASC CDL LUTs. (The clamping steps in OCIO’s ASC CDL implementation is not currently standard-compliant.)
- Added ASC CDL and OCIO lut example templates.

WebM Improvements
- Added support for WebM files (vp8 video codec, vorbis audio).

EXR Improvements
- Improved error message when trying to open an exr file that doesn’t exist.

Unicode Improvements
- Draft now supports unicode filenames and text annotations!
- Note: We need to modify the library so that unicode strings aren’t mangled in the Deadline/Draft boundary, but once they’re in, Draft handles them properly.

Licensing Improvements
- Draft Licences are now more flexible! Most Draft features require only that a license be present. Actual checkout of licenses now happens only while videos are being encoded or decoded.
- "Lost connection to license server" no longer pops up dialog boxes on Windows.

Mono Upgraded to 3.8

Deadline now runs against Mono 3.8 on Linux and Mac OSX, which helps improve stability. In addition, the Mac OSX version of Mono is now 64-bit. This new version is bundled with the Linux and Mac OSX Client and Repository installers.

Mono Included in Linux Installers

Mono is now installed automatically as part of the installation procedure on Linux. It is installed to the Deadline installation folder, and won’t impact any existing Mono installations. Now Mono no longer needs to be installed manually on Linux prior to installing Deadline.

Updated Slave Licensing Model

When running multiple slaves on a single machine, they will now share a single license instead of needing one license per slave instance. In addition, the slaves will only hold onto their license while they are rendering. When they become idle, they will return their license.

Customizable Styles for Deadline Applications

The new Styles configuration panel in the Monitor options allows you to customize the color of the Deadline applications. Simply specify a palette color and the User Interface will automatically use lighter and darker variants of that color where necessary. In addition, the font style and size can be configured as well. Finally, you can export styles and share them with other users.

New Batch Property for Grouping Jobs

A new Batch property has been added to jobs that allows jobs to be grouped together in the Job List. All jobs with the same Batch name will be grouped under that Batch name, and the Batch name can be expanded or collapsed to show and hide all the jobs, respectively. Jobs in the same Batch will also be grouped together in the Job Dependency View. Finally, the properties for the jobs in the same Batch can be modified by simply right-clicking on the Batch item in the Job List or the Job Dependency View.

New Graphs in the Monitor

New graphs have been added to the Monitor. The Jobs panel can show pie charts based on the job pool, secondary pool, group, user, and plugin. The Tasks panel can show graphs representing the task render times, image sizes, cpu usage, and memory usage. The Slaves panel can now show bar charts that show how many slaves are in certain pools and groups. The Job Reports panel can now show a pie chart that shows the percentage of errors generated by each slave.

Customizable Default Layout for Panels in Monitor

A default layout for panels in the Monitor can now be saved, and when a new panel is opened, it will use the saved default layout. So now you can set up your favourite default layouts for the Job list, Task list, etc and not have to worry about setting them up again when you open new panels.

In addition, you can now save the layout from a panel to disk and load it in again. This allows you to share a layout from your Monitor with someone else.

Job Dependency Improvements

Job dependencies are now more flexible than ever. Individual dependencies can have notes attached to them, and they can also have their own overrides for the Frame Offset and Resume On... settings.

The Job Dependency view in the Monitor has also been updated to show these per-dependency settings. In addition, there is now a new feature in the Dependency View that allows you to test the dependencies and see which ones pass and which ones do not. Finally, the look of the nodes in the Dependency View have been updated.

Limit Improvements

Limits are now much more flexible than they were before. Previously, one Limit Stub per Slave was used up when a Slave rendered a job that required that Limit. This is still supported, but now, a Limit can be configured so that one Limit Stub per Task is used up, or one Limit Stub per Machine is used up.

The per Task option is useful if you are rendering with an application that requires one license per instance, and you are rendering more than one concurrent task at a time. The per Machine option is useful if you are rendering with an application that only requires a single license per machine, regardless of how many instances are running on that machine.

Improvements to Pool and Group Management

The Slave list in the Pool and Group Management dialogs can now be filtered, and all columns in the list are now available. In addition, you can now right-click on specific slaves in the Slave list in the Monitor to modify Pools and Groups for the selected slaves only.

Suspend Tasks

Deadline now supports the ability to suspend and resume individual tasks. This can be useful if you want to postpone or skip the rendering of specific tasks.

Slave Scheduling Improvements and Idle Detection

Deadline’s Slave Scheduling feature has undergone a major overhaul. Previously it was part of Power Management and controlled by Pulse, but now it is a standalone feature that is controlled by the Launcher application that runs on every Client machine. This means that Pulse is no longer required to use the Slave Scheduling feature.

There are also new features that have been added to Slave Scheduling. If a slave is scheduled to start on a machine, a notification message will now pop up for 30 seconds indicating that the slave is scheduled to start. If someone is still using the machine, they can choose to delay the start of the slave for a certain amount of time. Another addition is the new option to enforce the slave schedule. If enabled, the Launcher will keep restarting the slave if it is shut down during a period of time that it is supposed to be running.

Finally, Slave Scheduling can now be configured to launch the slave if the machine has been idle for a certain amount of time (“idle” means no keyboard or mouse input). There is also additional criteria that can be checked before launching the slave, including the machine’s current memory and CPU usage, the current logged in user, and the processes currently running on the machine. Finally, this system can stop the slave automatically when the machine is no longer idle.

Note that Idle Detection can be set in the Slave Scheduling settings, or on a per-slave basis in the Slave Settings dialog in the Monitor. It can also be set in the new Local Slave Control dialog so that users can configure if their local slave should launch when the machine becomes idle.

Job Dequeueing Mode

Slaves now have a new Job Dequeuing mode that controls which jobs a slave dequeues based on how the job was submitted. By default, a slave will dequeue any job, but it can be configured to only dequeue jobs submitted from the same machine that the slave is running on, or submitted by specific users.

The Job Dequeuing Mode can be configured in the Slave Settings dialog in the Monitor. It can also be set in the new Local Slave Control dialog so that users can configure if their local slave should only render their own jobs, or if they want to help another user render their jobs.

Local Slave Controls

The Monitor and Launcher applications now have a new dialog that can be used to control the slave running on the local machine. It can be used to start and stop the slave, or connect to the slave’s log. This is useful if the slave is running as a service on the machine.

In addition, you can set up the slave to launch if the machine has been idle for a certain amount of time (“idle” means no keyboard or mouse input). It can also stop the slave automatically when the machine is no longer idle.

Finally, the slave’s Job Dequeuing Mode can be configured here. By default, a slave will dequeue any job, but it can be configured to only dequeue jobs submitted from the same machine, or submitted by specific users. This is useful if a user wants their slave to only render their jobs, or they want to help another user render their jobs.

Note that the Idle Detection and Job Dequeuing Mode settings can also be changed by administrators for all slaves. In addition, the Local Slave Controls feature can be disabled by administrators if they don’t want users to be able to control their local slaves.

Render As User

A new option has been added to Deadline to render jobs with the account that is associated with the job’s user. The account information can be configured in the Deadline user settings. On Windows, the user’s login name, domain, and password are required. On Linux and Mac OSX, just the user’s login name is required, but the Slave must run as root so that the Slave has permission to launch the rendering process as another user.

Improved Slave Statistics

Additional statistical information is now gathered for individual slaves, including the slave’s running time, rendering time, and idle time. It also includes information about the number of tasks the slave has completed, the number of errors it has reported, and its average Memory and CPU usage. Like job statistics, Pulse does not need to be running to gather this information.

Pulse Redundancy

You can run now multiple instances of Pulse on separate machines as backups in case your Primary Pulse instance goes down. If the Primary Pulse goes offline or becomes stalled, Deadline’s Repository Repair operation can elect another running instance of Pulse as the Primary, and the Slaves will automatically connect to the new Primary instance.

Note that when multiple Pulse instances are running, only the Primary Pulse is used by the Slaves for Throttling. In addition, only Primary Pulse is used to perform Housecleaning, Power Management, and Statistics Gathering. However, you can connect to any Pulse instance to use the Web Service.

New Events and Asynchronous Job Events

New events have been added to the Event Plugin system. The first is the OnHouseCleaning event, which triggers whenever Deadline performs Housecleaning. This allows you to set up event plugins to do custom cron-job style operations within Deadline.

In addition, there are four new events that trigger when a slave changes state: OnSlaveStarted, OnSlaveStopped, OnSlaveRendering, and OnSlaveStartingJob. As an example, an event plugin could be written to have slaves automatically add themselves to Groups when they start up based on some custom criteria, or an event plugin could be written to have slaves perform maintenance checks when they become idle.

Finally, there is now an option to process many types of job events asynchronously. The benefit is that job events will no longer slow down batch operations in the Monitor (for example, deleting 1000 jobs will be much faster if you are using event plugins because those events will be processed later). These job events are queued up in the Database and Deadline’s Pending Job Scan will process them at regular intervals. Because they are placed in a queue, they will still be processed in the same order that they were triggered. Note that if this option is enabled, some events are still processed synchronously, like the OnJobSubmitted and OnJobStarted events.

Auto Configuration Overhaul

The Auto Configuration feature has undergone a couple of significant changes. The first is that all Deadline applications can now pull the Auto Configuration settings, instead of just the Slave. This means that Auto Configuration can now be used to automatically configure workstations, not just render nodes.

The second change is with how Auto Configuration works. Previously, all Auto Configuration settings were pulled from Pulse. Now, only the Repository Path is pulled from Pulse, and the other settings are pulled when the Deadline application connects to the Repository. The benefit to this is that most of the Auto Configuration settings will work without Pulse running.

Finally, Auto Configuration rule sets can now be enabled or disabled, so you no longer have to delete a rule set if you want to remove it temporarily.

Region Awareness

Regions can now be configured in Deadline, and users and slaves can be assigned to a specific region. Currently, this is useful for Path Mapping, and allows you to map paths differently based on the region that the users or slaves are in. Note that when VMX launches a slave, it will automatically be added to the region associated with the cloud provider settings.

Grid-Based Script Dialogs

New grid-based functions have been added to the DeadlineScriptDialog class which makes it easier to create custom dialogs. Instead of setting the width and height when adding new controls to a row, you can instead add them to a grid and indicate which row and column the control should go in. Optionally, you can also indicate how many rows and columns the control should occupy. By being part of a grid, the controls will now grow and shrink dynamically based on the size of the dialog and the size of the font.

FTrack Integration

The Deadline/FTrack integration enables a seamless render and review data flow. When Deadline starts a render, an Asset Version is automatically created within FTrack using key metadata. When the render is complete, Deadline automatically updates the created Version appropriately – a thumbnail image is uploaded, components are created from the Job’s output paths (taking advantage of FTrack’s location plugins), and the Version is flagged for Review. In doing so, Deadline provides a seamless transition from Job Submission to Review process, without artists needing to monitor their renders.

Jigsaw for Maya, modo, and Rhino

Jigsaw, which was previously only available for 3ds Max, is now available for Maya, modo, and Rhino. It gives you more control over the tiles and/or regions that you are submitting to Deadline. This feature uses Thinkbox Software’s Draft library to assemble the final image instead of the old TileAssembler.exe application. Note that Draft requires a license, so contact Thinkbox Sales if you don’t already have a Draft license.

Submission Script Installers

Submission script installers can now be found in each application folder in the Submission folder in the Repository. These allow for most of the submission scripts to be installed automatically, instead of having to manually copy over files.

Support for Salt and Puppet

Application and Event plugins have been added to support the Salt and Puppet automation applications. Jobs can be submitted to the application plugin to update software and machine configurations on specific machines, while the event plugins can be used to update all of your machines when the slave running on them becomes idle.

Updated Application Support

Support has been added for After Effects CC 2014, Arnold for Houdini, Cinema 4D 16, Corona, Fusion 7, Nuke 9, Realflow 2014, and SketchUp 2015.