Wow, that's some excellent work! How long does it take to produce a character like that for you?
Yep, that's what I've been figuring out, mental ray is great. I have an o300 on the way for some rendering horsepower.
I hope to set it, and a few other sgi's to render, and I use the octane with V8 cards for modeling. I have maya 2009 on the pc, and
honestly I prefer the responsiveness, and simplicity of 6.5 on IRIX, so far anyway. (Obviously I dont have a multicore xeon with nvidia quadro.)
I've taken it up as a hobby to start producing some pretty scenes in maya. Modeling, and photo-realistic rendering always interested me when I was younger, and I drooled over the sgi's that did it. I used various packages under windows and linux (Rhino3d, Autocad, 3dsMAX, inventor), but now I can own those dream computers! Hopefully I can develop some useful skills as a benefit. Not to mention its a fun way to put sgi's to work!
You seem like the right person to ask: Any tips, tricks / good reading for setting up distributed rendering with mental ray? I find myself quite comfortable with modeling, I am currently working at understanding the finer details of shading and texturing to produce my desired surfaces. Understanding the "shading networks" in maya, and all its endless possibilities is a tough task for me, but also very rewarding when I can produce exactly my desired effect.
Haha, I doubt my "creativity" will ever pay the bills, but its always been a goal of mine to be proficient in modeling/rendering as art and creative form. I did the CAD and drafting stuff in school, much easier for my left dominant brain to handle.