Cycles in action, in a video recorded by eMirage. Blender’s GPU-based raytrace render engine has just been released under an Apache licence, replacing its old, more restrictive GPL licence.
The Blender Foundation has made Cycles, the GPU-based raytrace rendering engine added to Blender in 2011, available under the Apache open-source licence.
Designed to attract development partners
The move is intended to make Cycles more appealing to commercial organisations – including large VFX studios and software developers – broadening the renderer’s developer base.
Previously, Cycles was distributed under the GNU GPL licence, meaning that any ‘derived works’ – including in-house software developed around it – had to be released under the same terms.
For that reason, most large VFX and animation studios are unwilling to use GPL-licensed tools. The licence also precluded the incorporation of Cycles into commercial software.
Giving back to the movie community
According to an announcement made by Blender developer Brecht van Lommel and Blender Foundation chairman Ton Roosendaal on the Blender developer blog:
“The design and purpose of Cycles always has been to work as an independent and reusable rendering engine. When Cycles was added to Blender two years ago, we decided to release it under GNU GPL first, specifically to ensure it would develop into a well-integrated production rendering system for Blender. With that target established well, it’s now time to find out how Cycles could work outside of Blender too.”
“With the release of libraries like OpenEXR, OSL, OpenSubdiv, Ptex and OpenVDB, which we use or plan to use in Blender, we think it would be nice to contribute something back under a similar permissive license.”
The Foundation remains “fully committed” to preserving Blender itself as a GNU GPL project.