3 min read

Render me excited. Following the announcement that Pixar will be making available a non-commercial version of its 3D visual effects and rendering software, there’s a resounding buzz among the creative populace about the opportunity to play around with the RenderMan sandbox. Just reflect on that–you get to use the technology Pixar used to make Toy Story, Wall-E, and Monsters Inc., and that is responsible for the vast majority of incredible visual trickery of modern cinema. The thought of being able to recreate the astonishing visual environments and landscapes produced by Pixar’s cutting edge rendering software, recognized so unmistakeably around the world, is a mouth-watering prospect. I’m looking forward to messing around with the software and producing several poor man’s versions of Pixar’s most famous films. I’ll also make Cars into a good film. (Pixar is mobilizing lawyers right now to make us redact this.)

It’s not just the general availability that has people animated about RenderMan. Along with the free-to-all announcement were details about an overhaul of the software, which vastly enhances the rendering mechanics and capabilities. RIS is the fast new rendering architecture under the hood. It specifically enhances global illumination rendering and ray-tracing scenes, which work with heavy geometry. The classic rendering architecture, REYES, also remains available, giving artists the option to work with either. It’s a wonderful bonus that at the same time it has been made freely available, RenderMan has also been supercharged, giving amateur (and professional) visual effects artists an immensely powerful palette with which to develop animation projects. If you’re someone who’s never used animation software before, it’s probably like being given the keys to a Ferrari without having a driving license. And let’s be honest, that’s not an opportunity anyone would pass up, right?   

Threaded into this, the price for the commercial version of RenderMan has been slashed, which may give users who have developed animations with the free version the temptation to go a step further and purchase the paid product for the purposes of industrial distribution. If you have the inclination (and the expertise), you too could be producing the visual effects that have revolutionized cinema in the past 25 years or so. Okay, maybe I’m selling Pixar’s line for them, but this is a hugely progressive move for aspiring animators who will jump at the opportunity to experiment with the technology that is still blazing a trail. It’s potentially a gateway for people with creative talent and flair to showcase their abilities and get into the industry of animation and visual effects, whether that’s for cinema, television, or advertising. I’ve registered for a free license for when it’s made available in August. I may not ever be a VFX wizard but I am, like a vast number of others, nonetheless piqued with intrigue about the opportunity to try my hand with RenderMan—even if the end product is a mangled Ferrari.


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