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Sneak peek: see Arnold’s new toon shader in action

Thursday, March 8th, 2018 | Posted by Jim Thacker

Autodesk has posted a recording of a webinar with Arnold development manager Frederic Servant showing upcoming features in the renderer, including the new toon shader, and support for MaterialX and USD.

The webinar itself took place last December, but since the only releases of Arnold and its integration plugins since then have been hotfixes, the information in it remains up to date.

A run-down of the key features of Arnold 5.0 and new shaders in 5.01 and 5.02
In the video, Servant runs through the key features of last April’s milestone Arnold 5.0 release, the subsequent 5.01 and 5.02 updates, and a few of the new features planned for later in the 5.x cycle.

We’ve already covered the features in 5.0, including OSL, new sampling algorithms, and new physically accurate Standard Surface, Standard Hair and Standard Volume shaders: for details, see our original story.


New features in Arnold 5.01 include improved mesh light sampling, which you can see at 16:20 in the video, plus good-looking thin-film iridescence and Polymesh as Volume effects (29:40 and 36:50).

There is also a more general-purpose AOV shader system (44:20) which, among other things, enables artists to fix settings for Cryptomatte ID matte generation globally, rather than on a per-shader basis.

Arnold 5.02, the latest update to introduce new features to the renderer, added a random walk subsurface scattering shader (31:30) and a dedicated car paint shader (39:00).


Coming in future 5.x releases: deprecation of old shaders, new toon shader
Of the changes announced for upcoming releases, the first is simply the deprecation of the old Standard, Volume Collector, Hair, Skin, alSurface and alHair shaders, which is planned for Arnold 5.1.

Scripts are available to convert each one to its current equivalent when updating legacy scenes.

More significantly, the video also shows off the work-in-progress toon shader, which is being developed in conjunction with several Japanese animation studios, and is being driven by their production needs.

As well as anime-style character rendering, the video – the relevant section is at 40:20 – shows the shader being used to create more technical renders of hard-surface models and stylised illustration effects.

Lee Griggs, in-house artist and technical author for Arnold, also has some nice examples of these on his blog: you can see them here and here.

The video doesn’t give a specific version number in which the toon shader will be rolled out, but Servant suggests that development is fairly well advanced.

Also coming in future: support for MaterialX, USD and new Bifröst procedural functionality
Finally, the video concludes with a brief run-down of other planned features, including support for MaterialX, Lucasfilm’s open standard for rich material data, and USD, Pixar’s open scene description format.

There’s also a clip of Arnold working with Maya’s Bifröst fluid solver (49:00) – while Bifröst is already supported via the MtoA plugin, Servant says that Arnold will support the new “procedurality” due in future.

Read more about the webinar on Autodesk’s AREA community site

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