A sneak peek at Pixar’s RenderMan 24

(Source: Pixar Animation Studios)

Pixar’s RenderMan 24 was announced at RenderMan Art & Science Fair 2020 that took place virtually last week. In a live webinar, Wayne Wooten, RenderMan Software Development Manager, Pixar Animation Studios, talked about new features of RenderMan 24. This release will have a new official integration plugin for Blender. Pixar’s new combined CPU and GPU rendering system, RenderMan XPU, will also be a part of the release. Lama, a new layered material system developed by Industrial Light & Magic and toolset for generating non-photorealistic renders, Stylized Looks, have been added to RenderMan 24.

The users were very enthusiastic and eager to know about the latest release. As the new features were being unveiled in the presentation, so were the queries, which were answered by RenderMan team from Pixar Studios. Following are some Q&A from the presentation “What’s new in RenderMan 24.”

Question: Where would RenderMan fit in a VFX pipeline?
Answer: Everywhere! While, of course, it is for Lighting, we have customers who use it throughout the pipeline, for example, after a cloth + hair simulation is done for more accurately check for intersections. Customers will configure it for less detailed renders so they can check for foot/ground plane contact after the animation, etc.

Q: Is it possible to edit RenderMan 23’s files in RenderMan 24? Are they compatible?
Yes, they are compatible.

Q: Any plan for RenderMan on 3ds Max?
  No current plans to announce. We are always evaluating the DCC support roadmap based on feedback from commercial users, and 3ds Max is certainly a candidate. Please let us know more about your use case at [email protected].

Q: Are there any plans to make RenderMan XPU available for the non-commercial version?
No plans at this time. Note that we currently plan to offer XPU to schools who are recipients of RenderMan Educational Grants.

Q: Does XPU support dual Nvidia RTX cards like rtx3099 with NVLink?
A: In RenderMan 24, the XPU renderer will only support one card at a time, no NVLink yet.

Q: Will XPU be supported on macOS?
Unfortunately not with the RenderMan 24 release. As of RenderMan 24, XPU requires CUDA and NVIDIA support, which isn’t available on the latest macOSes and hardware.

Q: Why RenderMan 24 will not support macOS High Sierra anymore? CUDA doesn’t work on 10.14.
RenderMan XPU in version 24.0 will only support Nvidia cards (Maxell level and above) due to the reliance on CUDA. We have a good relationship with Apple, and evaluating how a port can be accomplished is on our roadmap. We are always interested in hearing from commercial users about their use cases.

Q: Is there a reason why you wouldn’t render final images with XPU?
XPU continues to evolve as a renderer. For RenderMan 24, it will be best suited to interactive look development workflows. It hasn’t yet had the effort put in for handling thousands (or more!) lights yet. AOV support won’t be there either. So it really depends on what you’re trying to render. But we can’t yet say “use XPU for ‘all the things’.”

Q: When RenderMan stop crashing in every new version of Houdini?
Starting with RenderMan 23.4, we are shipping support for multiple simultaneous versions of Houdini. The challenge is that in order to get as high of an interactive rendering experience as possible, we must integrate with Houdini at a very low level. As SideFX changes things, this introduces instability to all 3rd party renderers. But starting with v23.4, we’re able to better address that by shipping support for multiple production versions of Houdini.

Q: Is there any plan to implement “material overrides” for RenderMan materials like what Vray has?
A: It is a great feature request, but unfortunately isn’t something we’ll be delivering for RenderMan 24.

Q: Will the new Blender RenderMan become a permanent edition to the existing suite of RenderMan bridge tools or is it just a test for now?
We plan to maintain it like the other integrations. Significant API breakage or other incompatibilities can always delay releases of course … just like the other DCCs.

Q: Does LAMA work with stylized rendering?
It should, given that Stylized Looks are driven by patterns mostly, and not directly by Bxdf implementation. Everyone should attend the Stylized Looks session for more details!

Q: Is there an upgrade path or tools to transition current PxrSurface shaded assets to Lama?
A: PxrSurface and Lama live side-by-side in RenderMan 24, so anything you have in PxrSurface will continue to work. Beyond that, we don’t have any plans for an automated upgrade path between the two.

Q: Is there support for user-defined lobes in LAMA?
Yes, you can output each lobe to user lobes (U1, U2, etc.).

Q: When will RenderMan 24 be available for download?
We will enter in beta early December and we plan to officially release RenderMan 24 first quarter 2021.

Q: When can we get a more robust built in AOV and render output define manager for Katana?
This is a good suggestion. It is an area that we know needs to be improved. We’ve been working with Foundry on improved AOV handling. Going back and creating an easier way to specify AOVs in Katana is still on our to-do list.

Q: When can we have realtime tools? For VR, AR or VP?
A: Depends on what you’re looking for! RenderMan supports the ability to bake both arbitrary pattern networks to simplify shading down to just a texture lookup, which allows you to use those textures with realtime tools. We’ve also recently added the ability to bake in lighting to textures so that they can be used within real-time environments. As an example, we used these features to help us create the AR RenderMan Teapot this year.

To know more about RenderMan XPU and RenderMan 24, watch on-demand presentations here.