May 31, 2014

Hone Your VFX Skills for Free with the Non-Commercial Version of Pixar's Renderman

RendermanIf you admire the animation of Pixar and are interested in getting your hands on the same software that they use to create all of those adorable characters (and not so adorable ones too, I guess), you are in luck, my friend. Due to a pricing restructure, the powerful VFX/3D rendering program RenderMan will be available for non-commercial use -- for free -- containing literally every single feature and capability of the commercial version, giving users (mostly) free rein to cut their teeth on the program free of charge. Continue on to find out when and where you can download it!

So, why is Pixar and Disney doing this? Well, part of the reason is because of a new price restructuring for RenderMan ($495 per licence for commercial version -- down from $1300). However, Pixar and Disney explained their reasoning in detail on the non-commercial RenderMan FAQ page:

This is a strategic and long-term commitment by Disney / Pixar to the advancement and dissemination of the production industries most advanced rendering technologies and the interchange of assets in common formats. First, RenderMan going forwards will be the conduit through which applicable rendering technologies developed within Disney / Pixar research will be channeled into the public domain to establish a common platform for production, research and development, trials and experimentation, learning, and other applications. Second, it is Pixar’s belief that limitations on software access have become a brake on the development of the production industry, and that universal access and a set of common standards and practices can only stimulate greater growth and development. Third, existing trial and evaluation methods of providing access through watermarked or time-expiry licenses are unsatisfying for proper evaluation. The resources and technology now being invested in RenderMan are of superior quality and will continue to anticipate the needs of film production imagery as Pixar has over the past 25-years. Providing RenderMan free for non-commercial usage represents the commitment of Disney / Pixar that RenderMan is the long-term film rendering standard.

RenderMan is an industry standard that has been used on every VFX Oscar-winning film of the past 15 years. According to the RenderMan site, the software's strengths are listed thusly:

  • Photorealism: Pixar's RenderMan is capable of producing highly realistic images with a system of physically based shaders and lights.
  • Performance: Render the largest scenes with efficiency.
  • Quality: Create the highest quality images possible with features like advanced filtering and true 3D motion blur.
  • Control: The RenderMan Shading Language and Pixar's 3D data format (RIB) offer many opportunities to develop solutions for any type of creative challenge.

RenderMan supports Mac (Snow Leopard, Lion, and Mountain Lion), Windows (Windows Vista and Windows 7, and Linux (gcc 4.1 and glibc 2.5 or higher).

So -- "non-commercial" -- what's that about? Pixar and Disney define it as "any usage of RenderMan that does not involve direct commercial use to generate profits." You can use it for things like evaluations, student projects, experimentation, research, development of plugins and other tools to be used with RenderMan, or to simply practice and familiarize yourself with the program. The cool thing, though, is that if you just so happen to make something amazing with the non-commercial version that you want to use commercially after the fact, all you have to do is email Pixar and they'll get you registered as a commercial user.

The non-commercial version of RenderMan will be released at the same time version 19.0 of the commercial version is released, which will be based on the SIGGRAPH 2014 time frame, so, sometime around August. So, if you're interested, (if you're wanting to get into VFX graphics, just take a look at all of the films that used it -- it's an industry standard) you can register here and will be notified when it's available.

Links:

[via The Mac Observer]

Your Comment

28 Comments

the only shop (besides Pixar) to use this is WETA. Everybody moved on to something better. C'est la vie

May 31, 2014 at 10:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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palu

I don't get it.

May 31, 2014 at 11:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tom DoP

ILM uses it

May 31, 2014 at 12:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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ilm went Arnold. There are still some houses using Renderman but the new kid on the block is Arnold. Second is Vray. If you want to learn a overly complicated renderer, then do it. But years and years of negligence of solo artists and refinement of user friendliness shows, that's why they are doing this move. And btw, Renderman alone won't get you anywhere. It's just a renderer...

May 31, 2014 at 1:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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mariano

I understood that ILM select renderers on a per project basis and there were valid reasons to be selecting a dedicated path tracer over the one in prman? Reasons that, according to this article are being addressed.

http://www.fxguide.com/featured/rendermanris-and-the-start-of-next-25-ye...

May 31, 2014 at 2:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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nobody

Yes, but the pure fact that they use Arnold as the main renderer now alone speaks for itself. Mental, Vray or Lightscape (in 1997's "Twister") were used on certain shots, elements or just certain render passes but never as the main beauty renderer for the majority of shots. And they've joined a lot of other big names like SPI, Framestore, Whiskeytree etc.

May 31, 2014 at 2:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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mariano

So only Pixar, ILM and WETA use this, in your opinion, inferior product. Considering they are the consensus game changers when it comes to CGI and VFX, I would say if it works for them, it is more than likely sufficient for anything the nofilmschool crowd is looking to use it for.

May 31, 2014 at 12:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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CoolHandLuque

here, here

May 31, 2014 at 1:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Matt

I'm sure not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth.

June 1, 2014 at 3:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Lloyd

The reason those studios still use it is for historical reasons (and honestly ILM barely uses it...they are all about Arnold/Vray these days). They have created a lot of infrastructure that support it. Renderman is a great deal more difficult to use than the new hotness of Arnold and Vray. You can get amazing results out of the box whereas Renderman requires a lot of programming of shaders to get anything decent. They have lost a lot of market share and are in a death spiral...hence the price cut and free non commercial use.

June 6, 2014 at 3:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Bob

Wow, only the top FX houses use it! So that's...what exactly?

June 2, 2014 at 10:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Muh

Is a GPU renderer like Octane Render http://render.otoy.com/ much worse than Renderman or Arnold ? I keep hearing that the industry is staying away from GPU rendering for now, but I don't understand why.

May 31, 2014 at 1:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Saied

You can't keep very much geometry in the GPU ram. Any hero character or just dense environment exceeds the available ram. But there are some development in this area, it's going to be interesting!

May 31, 2014 at 2:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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mariano

It would be really nice if octane implemented texture streaming (or even mega textures) like video game engines have. After the limitation of video card ram the biggest limitation of octane render right now is that it is doesn't handle displacement maps or motion blur. That will change with their soon to be released 2.0 update. I think unbiased renderers like octane are absolutely the future because they render light exactly the way it behaves in the real world and can be run in parallel so renders can be made in a fraction of a second using a cloud service like the ones on octane's amazon cloud workstation.

Motionblur test (instancing to handle the trees, grass, etc) Looks pretty good I think.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLyhma-kuAw

Here is a workflow showcase of the remote cloud rendering service
http://youtu.be/uRdSxZtUpFk?t=12m34s

May 31, 2014 at 4:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dan

Hey guys, if you want to hone your VFX st

May 31, 2014 at 6:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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CGFanatic

sorry, accidentally hit "submit" too early.
As I was saying, if you don't like the regulations Pixar is sticking on the non-commercial version of RenderMan, my personal favorite CGI/Rendering software is a free one called Blender, which has a photorealistic renderer called cycles.

May 31, 2014 at 6:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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CGFanatic

Blender sucks.
It has the most annoying GUI in the whole universe.... and beyond.

Blender is reason why we better spend money on tools, that have a intuitive handling.

June 1, 2014 at 7:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Tom DoP

Yea, Blenders' interface for modeling is really annoying right now. But... the new 3D tracker is pretty great. And the FBX data goes into a better app like C4D for and adding models/lights and rendering.

June 1, 2014 at 5:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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bwhitz

Just because you don't enjoy or have entered a world beyond blender doesn't mean it sucks. I learned to edit on VCRs, and then iMovie, and now have a career and work on nearly every NLE out there depending on the job. Now kids/adults have access to blender for free and can learn many valuable lessons with it. Its a great learning program, and beyond that, I've seen some amazing pieces created with it. This is just a camera debate now, so I'll deuce out this goose.

June 3, 2014 at 9:54AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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seth

If you put in the time to learn the interface you won't have to spend money on expensive software that can do the same thing. I first started with Blender when I was 13 and the interface has vastly improved since then.

June 6, 2014 at 8:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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or you could use the Apprentice version of Houdini - that has a renderer called Mantra that is amazing.

June 1, 2014 at 10:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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goldfarb

I can finally make my Toy Story 4 fanfic come true!

May 31, 2014 at 8:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Henry

I can't believe the comments on this website lately. Renderman is still largely used in the VFX industry, not only at Weta , ILM or Pixar as stated above, there are tons of others large and medium studios using. With that said, Arnold has been gaining some terrain in the last 3 years and I believe the price drop is to keep up with the competition. GPU render is the future but it's still far away to be fully implemented for serious vfx work if you're dealing with anything but hard surfaces, if you need to render fur, skin or fluids for high level stuff forget about it.

However I don't think Renderman is for most of the people who read the blog, you need some technical skills to harness the power this renderer, like writing a shader for instance. Most home users would do better with Vray, Octane or even Arnold for having a faster learning curve. Renderman for years has shaped the industry, there are tons of professionals out there who are hired just to work with Renderman (shader writing, pipeline, develop).

But in the end... It's free now, why not give it a shot!?

May 31, 2014 at 9:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Marcus

writing your own shaders = POWER
if you're just doing CG as a hobby anything that you're using is fine...
personally I think Houdini is the way to go for home use.

June 1, 2014 at 10:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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goldfarb

Does someone can explain me the difference between VRay or Arnold versus the default renderer of C4D R15 ?

June 1, 2014 at 7:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Etienne

Etienne, check these articles out....gives a good overview of all the major renderers.

http://www.fxguide.com/featured/the-state-of-rendering/

http://www.fxguide.com/featured/the-state-of-rendering-part-2/?ua=ipad

June 5, 2014 at 9:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Nick

Renderman has a nice photo-realistic render engine, but you need to know how to properly used it to get good results.

I prefer simpler packages, and Octane is a good one for us Lightwavers. Unfortunately Vray is not available for LW yet, I would like to try it eventually. Here's a video I made using the sample scene from Octane in Lightwave using a humble Quadro FX3800:

https://www.youtube.com/edit?video_id=4jD26gGUhYU&video_referrer=watch

Unfortunately I don't think it could render my Milkyway galaxy model, but LW does a decent work with it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUpTnklTWZ0

June 8, 2014 at 1:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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"RenderMan is an industry standard that has been used on every VFX Oscar-winning film of the past 15 years"

That's just not true at all.

June 30, 2014 at 5:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Matthew