Pixar Animation Studios said RenderMan version 23, which it released today, features enhanced support for Pixar’s Universal Scene Description (USD) format and integration with SideFx Houdini 18 — including Solaris, Houdini’s new USD-based visual editor for lookdev, layout and lighting using USD.

Headline features include native support for OpenVDB version 5.2, better support for Alembic and GPU caching workflow, and command-line USD rendering.

Pixar said facilities using RenderMan with multiple applications — Houdini, Foundry Katana and Autodesk Maya are all supported — can now use USD to improve collaboration, with the ability to share animated geometry, materials and lights.

There’s an emphasis on iterative speed this time around, with improvements to interactive rendering that mean users see changes immediately. It’s now possible to change resolutions dynamically, without restarting a render. AOVs and LPEs can be edited dynamically. And a new Interactive Refinement mode seeks to streamline look development by speeding up first-pixel rendering when working on heavy scenes.

Notably, adaptive sampling has been rethought and improved, Pixar said. A new approach to adaptive sampling that relies on statistical variance means that noise levels should be more consistent across an image, resulting in fewer renders with noisy regions. But there are many more changes, and Pixar said users may need to rethink their adaptive sampling defaults.

But what if you don’t use Houdini, Katana, and/or Maya? Pixar said it is pursuing integration with Maxon Cinema 4D and Blender, among other tools, sometimes through third parties.

System Requirements and Pricing

The new RenderMan has upgraded system requirements to go along with the enhanced features. It now requires CPUs that can run the full SSE4.2 instruction set (Intel Core i7 “Nehalem”, Intel Atom Silvermont core, AMD Bulldozer, AMD Jaguar and later processors), along with a minimum of 4 GB of RAM.

RenderMan costs $595/license, and each floating license provides access to either the artist interface or the batch renderer. (Node-locked licenses are also available.) Studio pricing and payment packages are available for users requiring more than 25 licenses. A maintenance option is $250/year. Various cloud vendors offer usage-based cloud licensing, and rental and short-term burst options are also available, Pixar notes. Non-Commercial RenderMan is also available today. It is exactly the same as standard RenderMan, but licensed for strictly non-commercial use worldwide.

RenderMan: renderman.pixar.com