Monday, March 18th, 2019 Posted by Jim Thacker

Autodesk unveils Arnold 5.3 with Arnold GPU

Autodesk has unveiled Arnold 5.3, the latest version of the VFX-industry-standard production renderer – and the first to feature Arnold GPU, its long-awaited GPU rendering system.

The update, which goes on show at GDC 2019 this week, is due in public beta on 20 March 2019.

Other new features include improvements to adaptive sampling, the Standard Surface shader and random walk subsurface scattering; and expanded support for the MaterialX standard for look dev data.

The latest GPU production renderer based on Nvidia technology
Arnold GPU is one of the longest-awaited changes to Arnold’s feature set, with many users having hoped that GPU rendering would be introduced as part of Arnold 5.0.

While early prototypes were based around OpenCL, the production version uses OptiX, Nvidia’s GPU ray tracing framework, which became free for commercial use in 2017.

The move makes Arnold the latest production renderer to opt for a proprietary Nvidia rendering technology – and therefore require a Nvidia GPU – over open standards.

The prototype for RenderMan XPU, RenderMan’s upcoming hybrid CPU/GPU rendering system, was built in OptiX and CUDA, Nvidia’s GPU computing API, and Redshift and OctaneRender exclusively use CUDA.

Arnold GPU is also “optimised to leverage RTX technology”, Nvidia’s hardware implementation for the DirectX Raytracing API, available in its new Quadro RTX, Titan RTX and GeForce RTX GPUs.

A ‘first taste’ of GPU rendering, aimed at interactive lighting and look dev work
Autodesk is pitching Arnold GPU as a “first taste of GPU rendering” focused on interactive lighting and look development work for “artists and small studios”, rather than full-scale final-frame output.

The announcement on the new Arnold website – to which original developer Solid Angle’s old site now redirects – describes it as supporting a “set number of features”.

The documentation for Arnold 5.3 isn’t live, so we can’t yet say exactly what is currently supported, but the blog post namechecks arbitrary shading networks, SSS, hair, atmospherics, instancing, and procedurals.

Other new features: better adaptive sampling, SSS and support for MaterialX
Other new features in Arnold 5.3 include “major” improvements to the adaptive sampling system and new Standard Surface shader introduced in Arnold 5.0.

There is also an update to the random walk subsurface scattering system introduced in Arnold 5.02.

Support for MaterialX, the Lucasfilm-created open standard for look development data, has been extended, giving users the option to save a shading network as a MaterialX look.

Other changes include workflow improvements to the Operator framework, and better sampling of Skydome lights. We’ll update if we get more technical details.

System requirements and availability
Arnold 5.3 will become available in public beta on 20 March 2019. The standalone renderer is available for Windows 7+, RHEL/CentOS 6+ Linux and Mac OS X 10.8+.

Arnold GPU will be available in “all supported plugins” – that is, those developed by Autodesk itself: 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, Houdini, Maya and Katana.

The software is now rental-only, with subscriptions starting at $65/month or $615/year.

Read more about the new features in Arnold 5.3 and Arnold GPU on Autodesk’s product site