Most network rendering engines can access the cmd line functions of multiple software packages and run their rendering engine without requiring costly licensing. (For Example, After effects, Combustion, Maya, 3dmax, etc.) As long as you have a workstation license you can install and operate these on as many Rendering computers (slaves) as you’d like. Other Software, and namely plug-ins, require licensing, and make a distinction between Slaves, and workstation functionality. Plug-ins like Mental Ray, Render man, Final Render, Trapcode, Vue, and Dreamscape, require licenses for each slave, and sometimes per processor in the slave. You can imagine with 3 workstations and 23 slaves, each containing 2 cores, and 8 processors the cost can start to get a little extreme.
So the above mentioned software providers are leaders in the industry, and even with the proper licensing, there can still be hick-ups in the installation of the software onto the slaves, and getting all of the tools to talk with each other and work properly. That’s if you were working in a flat screen. Most of the above mentioned tools were developed to be primarily used on standard flat image. Take into account adding a level of complication like Full dome rendering, and you’ll find yourself with even a larger set of hurtles to overcome. There is a wonderfully active group in the full dome community. They’re busy creating tools, and plug-ins to make our work flow easier and more streamlined. The main issue is these tools are free and generally work as Workstation only mode, and quite often software version specific. Some major software providers are acknowledging the full dome application of their product and have looked at these tools and started to integrate them into their products. Hopefully this trend will continue, and accelerate as full dome video becomes more popular.
As a content creator on a small staff, one spends a vast majority of their time making sure the slaves are doing their jobs. Sometimes its easier to do things on a workstation, but it can take an awful amount of time.