In a somewhat surprising move, DreamWorks has followed in the footsteps of the Blender Organization. I say somewhat because DreamWorks animation has already made some strides into the open source space. 

If you’re not in the know, Blender is a 3D modeling, sculpting, and compositing program that’s completely free. As in zero dollars. Forever. And it’s gotten so good, it’s rivaling some of the industry standards like Maya and Adobe After Effects (although that’s a debate for another day). David F. Sandberg even used it on Annabelle: Creation to make some part of the title sequence.

Why This Is a Big Deal

The push to open up the MoonRay renderer to any and all creatives is a milestone that hasn’t been seen since Epic released Unreal Engine to the masses. Unfortunately, Epic still takes a cut even though you can use it for free. With MoonRay (and also the Arras cloud rendering framework) being released under the Apache 2.0 license, there are no strings attached. At least according to my basic understanding of the licensing framework.

So, why is this such a big deal?

MoonRay is an MCRT renderer that was developed by incredibly talented engineers and comes with an extensive library of physically based materials that were battle-tested on multiple productions. From the start, it was designed to focus on efficiency and scalability. It has no prior legacy code, so you won’t be bogged down with shoddy programming from when Windows 95 was the reigning king of operating systems.

Dreamworks_moonray_in_useCredit: DreamWorks

MCRT stands for Monte Carlo Ray Tracing. According to Wikipedia, it’s derived from a set of experiments that are “a broad class of computational algorithms that rely on repeated random sampling to obtain numerical results.” These are used in everything from science and law to engineering and computer graphics.

In computer graphics, these algorithms render scenes by randomly tracing samples of possible light paths. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but suffice to say, it’s one of the most physically accurate way of redoing 3D graphics. 

And it’s going to be free. This renderer was used on not only How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Croods: A New Age, and The Bad Guys, but also the upcoming Puss In Boots: The Last Wish. It’s like getting a chance to use Pixar’s RenderMan on whatever you’re cooking up in your basement.

DreamWorks The Croods a New Age'The Croods: A New Age'Credit: DreamWorks

The Importance of Open Source

Having MoonRay be part of the open source landscape means that any creative can dig into its code base (a bit like Blender) and evolve it to suit their needs. It’s not like DreamWorks is just releasing its baby out into the wild. With a community of creatives ready to help it grow, MoonRay can become something greater than it was in captivity. 

With so many programs stuck under the propriety umbrella of their companies, it’s incredible to see such robust technology being released to creatives. 

What do you think of this move by DreamWorks? Will you be using MoonRay in your project? Let us know in the comments!