Friday, May 30th, 2014 Posted by Jim Thacker

Pixar to make RenderMan free for non-commercial use


In a bold move, Pixar has announced that it is to make RenderMan free for non-commercial use when the next major update is released later this year. The developer has also cut the price of the current version to just $495.

One product, one sub-$500 price tag
The immediate result of today’s announcement is to eliminate the distinction between RenderMan Pro Server, formerly priced at $2,000, and RenderMan Studio, formerly priced at $1,300, in favour of a single product.

Since that product incorporates the old RenderMan Pro Server batch renderer, each $495 licence can be used interchangeably as a render node or user node, RenderMan business director Chris Ford told fxguide.

Users can change configuration on the fly, and for anyone buying over 25 licences, Pixar is offering discounted Peak Rendering Capacity Packages, providing extra “burst render capacity to meet production crunches”.

A response to Arnold and V-Ray?
It’s the third time Pixar has cut the price of RenderMan in four years, and in percentage terms, the biggest.

In his Q&A with fxguide, Ford notes that “all trends point to ever cheaper computing access on both physical and virtual platforms, with studios and individual artists requiring more and more rendering for a given budget”.

“This has become especially acute with the advent of physically based ray tracing,” he continues – an acknowledgement, perhaps, of the strides that raytracers like Arnold and V-Ray have made into high-end VFX.

That market used to be sole preserve of RenderMan, and today’s price cut, which makes the software less than half the price of either Arnold or V-Ray for Maya, looks like a signal that Pixar wants more of it back.

Free for students, educators and developers
In addition, Pixar has announced that RenderMan will become available free for non-commercial use – by which, Pixar includes the development of commercial plugins – when the upcoming version 19 is released.

The non-commercial version will be identical to the commercial one in all but the EULA – no feature limitations, watermarks, or time limits – and the fact that it’s only available as a node-locked licence.

Pixar won’t support users of non-commercial licences directly, but they will have access to Pixar-maintained support forums and online documentation.

That puts RenderMan in the hands of every student, teachers and third-party tools developer worldwide: a pretty useful thing if you’re trying to regrow your user base.

New specialised raytracing architecture
Also importantly, although overshadowed by the price cuts in early threads on community forums, the new release, expected “in the timeframe of Siggraph 2014” will feature RIS: a new modular rendering architecture.

RIS incorporates a range of rendering algorithms, including a unidirectional and bidirectional path tracer with progressive photon mapping, meaning that the new release will incorporate a specialised raytracing architecture alongside RenderMan’s traditional REYES architecture in a “single unified environment”.

The fxguide article has an excellent discussion of the differences between REYES and RIS – which Pixar estimates to be “2x to 10x faster than REYES in various situations”.

Price drop effective now, free version out this summer
RenderMan 19 is due out later this year, including the new free non-commercial licences. It will run on 64-bit Windows 7 and above, Mac OS X 10.7 and above, and Linux.

RenderMan 18 is available now at the new price of $495. Users on active maintenance and “recent purchasers” will be upgraded to version 19 when it ships, effectively upgrading old Studio licences to the ‘full’ version.

Read Pixar’s FAQs about the new pricing policy

Sign up for a free non-commercial licence of RenderMan when version 19 ships