Friday, April 26th, 2024 Posted by Jim Thacker

Pixar releases RenderMan 26.1

Originally posted on 9 April 2024, and updated with details of RenderMan 26.1.

Pixar has released RenderMan 26, the latest major update to its production renderer for visual effects and animation work.

RenderMan 26.0 extends RenderMan XPU, the software’s GPU/CPU render engine, adding support for light linking, new light and camera properties, and adaptive sampling.

In addition, the AI denoiser can now be used interactively in Blender and Katana, Stylized Looks has been updated, and the software now supports VFX Reference Platform 2023.

The integration plugins for Blender, Houdini, Katana and Maya have all also been updated.

Support for adaptive sampling improves performance of RenderMan XPU.

RenderMan XPU: support for light linking, more camera properties, and adaptive sampling
Unlike Pixar’s recent major releases, RenderMan 26 doesn’t add any entirely new toolsets, but it does extend several of the key features from those releases.

The most significant changes are to RenderMan XPU, the hybrid GPU/CPU renderer added in RenderMan 24, which now supports a much wider range of lighting and camera features.

That includes all of RenderMan’s analytic light types, light filters, and shadow and light linking; plus camera shutter controls, and tilt shift, lens aberration, and split diopter properties.

You can see a list of the remaining features not supported in XPU here, including mesh lights, the Lama layered material system, and some less standard geometry types.

Performance has also been improved, with support for adaptive sampling speeding up renders.

In addition, Pixar says that interactivity in scenes with many lights is now significantly better, making XPU better suited to shot layout as well as key lighting.

Progressive Pixels, XPU’s interactive refinement mode, now supports fractional iterations, making it possible to tune performance still further.

Stylized Looks: new Canvas layer, artistic toon mode and more line rendering controls
The Stylized Looks non-photorealistic rendering toolset, also introduced in RenderMan 24, gets a workflow-focused update, including a new Canvas layer and better organization of AOVs.

The Stylized Control system gets a new artistic toon mode – which, unlike the existing toon shading, is not physically based, expanding the range of stylization available.

The line rendering system gets new color remapping and filtering controls, the latter making it possible to render smoother lines.

AI denoiser: support for interactive denoising in Blender and Katana
In addition, the AI-trained denoiser introduced in RenderMan 25 for RIS, RenderMan’s CPU-based final-quality render engine, is now available interactively in Blender and Katana.

Support for interactive denoising in Maya and Houdini will follow in future releases.

Pixar describes the interactive denoiser as capable of removing noise on images with very low average sample counts and as being “predictive of” the output of the full offline denoiser.

Performance improvements, render statistics and pipeline integration
Under the hood, performance of both RIS and XPU has been improved, particularly when working on scenes with many instances, and when reading in textures, particularly EXR textures.

RenderMan’s statistics system has also been updated, with a new standalone stats portal application for interacting with the data it generates.

For pipeline integration, RenderMan 26 now follows the CY2023 spec for VFX Reference Platform, and support for Python 2 has now been deprecated.

Pixar also plans to remove its old deep texture format in the next release in favor of DeepEXR.

A still from Pixar’s animated feature Inside Out 2, used to promote RenderMan 26.

Updated 26 April 2024: Pixar has released RenderMan 26.1.

It’s primarily a bugfix update, but it adds support for OpenVDB caching in RIS, speeding up renders of volumetric effects where the same VDB grid is used many times.

Price and system requirements
RenderMan 26.1 is available for Windows 10+, CentOS/RHEL 7.2-7.9 Linux and macOS 10.15+. The plugins are compatible with Blender 3.0+, Houdini 19.0+, Katana 5.0+ and Maya 2022+.

The Maya plugin is currently only available for RenderMan 26 on Windows, with Linux support to follow in a future update.

RenderMan XPU is supported on Windows and Linux. It requires a NVIDIA Pascal GPU or newer.

New node-locked or floating licences cost $595. There is also a free non-commercial edition of RenderMan, which has also been updated to version 26.1.

Read an overview of the new features in RenderMan 26 on the product website

Read a full list of new features in RenderMan 26 in the online release notes

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