Originally published December 4, 2019. Scroll down for news about the 23.5 update.
Pixar has released RenderMan 23.0, the latest version of its production renderer, which improves the interactive rendering workflow and updates the software's adaptive sampling system.
The Houdini integration plugin from RenderMan supports Solaris, the new look-dev and shot-layout toolset from Houdini 18.0 and the procedural dependency diagram from Houdini.
The free, non-commercial version of the software has also been updated and is available immediately.
Further improvements to the interactive rendering workflow
RenderMan 23.0 enhances the new interactive rendering workflow introduced in RenderMan 22.0 last year.
With the 22.0 update, the intermediate step of rendering in the old RIB format by RenderMan in interactive sessions has been removed and a scene can be edited without having to restart rendering.
In 23.0, the range of changes that can be made without rebooting has been expanded, including changing the resolution and "dynamically manipulating AOVs and LPEs", as well as making it easy to create Light Path expressions.
In addition, Pixar added a new Decidither option, which is designed to "reduce tearing by gradually refreshing the entire screen with a resolution-like effect" when working on heavy scenes.
A number of changes under the hood
Other changes include an update of the RenderMan adaptive scanning system, which now uses statistical variance to determine when to stop scanning a pixel, and which now works in perceptual space.
Pixar says the changes should result in "smoother noise levels" in an image.
RenderMan has also been updated to a newer version of the VFX reference platform, although it is the 2018 specification and not the newer CY2019 standard that was supported in the last few versions of Autodesk and Foundry.
The plugin API has also been updated so plugins need to be recompiled before they can be used.
Apart from that, the Pixar press release mentions the "extended support" for USD, Pixar's open format for the exchange of scene data between DCC applications.
However, the only change listed on the product website is the option to render to the USD Hydra viewport via the hdPrman plugin introduced with RenderMan 22.6. We'll update when we learn more.
The release material of RenderMan XPU, Pixar's new hybrid CPU / GPU rendering system planned for the “RenderMan 23 timeframe”, is also not mentioned. We'll update again when we hear more.
RenderMan for Houdini receives support for Solaris and the PDG
Outside of the core software, the Houdini integration plugin is significantly updated and supports the RenderMan Hydra delegate in Solaris, Houdini 18's new look-dev and shot-layout toolset.
The delegate allows RenderMan to be used as the viewport renderer in place of SideFX's Karma renderer.
In addition, RenderMan for Houdini offers "additional interactive display options, batch rendering options, RenderMan-specific geometry settings and … advanced settings for light sources when using Solaris".
The update also provides support for the Procedural Dependency Graph, Houdini's task scheduling and dependency management system, introduced in Houdini 17.5.
Users get Houdini TOP nodes for planning renderings, denoise and generating textures and RIB files.
The free non-commercial edition of RenderMan 23.0 is now available for download
In contrast to the last major updates for RenderMan, the free, non-commercial version of the software was not updated a few months later, but synchronized with the commercial version.
It is not watermarked or has limited functionality – although it times out every 120 days – and can be used for personal projects, research, and tool development, including commercial plugin development.
To download it, you need to register for a free account on the Pixar forum that entitles you to two node-locked licenses. Please refer to the Pixar online FAQ for more information.
An image from Pixar's upcoming Onward feature, used as a marketing graphic for RenderMan 23.1.
Updated January 24, 2020: Pixar released RenderMan 23.1.
The update adds a new roughness parameter to the PxrSurface material, which makes it possible to have separate roughness values for reflections and refractions in glass.
Maya users get a number of workflow improvements when working with Alembic caches, including the option to automatically save changes to RenderMan look files, as well as support for Maya 2020.
Original (left) and new treatment of surface shadows when using bumps or normal maps in RenderMan 23.2.
Updated March 5, 2020: Pixar released RenderMan 23.2. It is mainly a bugfix version, although BxDFs get a new optional parameter that leads to a “more even, more natural shadowing” with bumps or normal maps.
Six global lighting cards that were baked with the new RenderMan baking system from the Cornell box on the right.
Updated May 20, 2020: Pixar released RenderMan 23.3. It's a major update that supports backlighting for both 2D textures and 3D point clouds.
The changes will both restore the functions lost during the transition from the old Reyes pipeline to the new RIS framework from RenderMan and extend the original baking functions of the software.
As with ray trace rendering, lightpath expressions can be used to isolate any component of global lighting in a baking scene.
Recommended use cases include precomputing sample diagrams and baking lightmaps: either to optimize rendering in RenderMan itself or to generate assets that can be used in game engines like Unreal Engine.
It is still a work in progress and has some limitations: baking is not compatible with curves and is not incremental. Therefore, it cannot be used with the PxrVCM bidirectional path tracer or stop and resume rendering.
Other changes concern the support of macOS 10.15 Catalina and the rendering of packed USD geometry in the geometry context in RenderMan for Houdini. A full list of changes can be found via the links below.
Updated September 3, 2020: Pixar released RenderMan 23.4.
The update improves the checkpointing process and allows the status of an image to be saved at a number of intervals while it is being rendered. Broken renderings can continue at the checkpoints.
Updated November 3, 2020: Pixar released RenderMan 23.5.
The update introduces a new Euler method for calculating the motion blur in the event of deformation, which, according to Pixar, reduces preprocessing times and memory requirements compared to the old Reves method.
Network lights and emission volumes are now scanned according to the relative power over the surface or the volume, which should lead to noise-free images in a shorter time.
The Houdini plug-in supports the Solaris toolset, including support for AOVs, LPEs, and the new interactive crop and depth of field features introduced in Houdini 18.5.
Since we last updated this story, Pixar has also previewed RenderMan 24 and its new official Blender plugin.
Prices and availability
RenderMan 23.5 is available for 64-bit Windows 8.1+, MacOS 10.13+ and CentOS / RHEL 7.2 Linux. The integrations are compatible with Maya 2018.3+, Houdini 17.0+, Katana 3.0+ and Mari 4.5+.
New node-locked or floating licenses cost $ 595.
For a complete list of new features in RenderMan, see the online release notes
Read a full list of the new features in the integration plugins
Download the free non-commercial version of RenderMan 23 (registration required)
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