Make your own Toy Story – Pixar’s RenderMan software is now free to download
If the idea of creating an 3D animated movie sounds like your cup of tea, then you’re in luck. Pixar, the animation studio behind such films as Toy Story and Finding Nemo, has made its industry-standard RenderMan software freely available for non-commercial use.
And no, this is no joke. Pixar really has released the full, unfettered latest version of the RenderMan software for everyone to download free of charge. The only limit is that if you do happen to make a Hollywood blockbuster, Pixar expects you to shell out for the full commercial license for £435.
As long as you abide by the rules, though, there are no ever-present watermarks or software limitations, and it’s also permitted for use in demos and showreels as long as you credit the RenderMan software.
What’s so special about Pixar RenderMan?
Besides Pixar’s own prolific output, it’s the very same software used for rendering the visual effects across pretty much every Hollywood movie release you care to mention – The Hobbit, Guardians of the Galaxy and classics such as Jurassic Park and Terminator II all utilised RenderMan to achieve the visuals you see on the movie screen.
In short, all the features that animation and CG professionals would expect are present and correct. There’s a dizzying amount of potential locked away in RenderMan; we spent most of our time at the London launch in a state of slack-jawed astonishment and utter confusion.
Suffice to say, 3D rendering buffs and fledgling animators alike will find plenty to get their teeth into, and Pixar was keen to stress just how far the software has come in recent iterations, with reduced rendering times and features being added and refined on a regular basis.
Getting to grips with Pixar RenderMan
Although we had hoped to be firing up Pixar’s Renderman software and knocking out animated blockbusters in a matter of hours, it’s worth mentioning that RenderMan isn’t a standalone application in its own right: rather, it’s a photorealistic rendering companion designed to be used in conjunction with 3D animation software such as Autodesk Maya and Maxon Cinema 4D.
Thankfully, though, both Maxon and Autodesk offer free versions of their software packages for students, so schools and budding digital artists can get stuck in without spending a penny.
And for those starting out or just looking to add RenderMan to their arsenal, Pixar has also announced a new Community section for its website, reachable at www.renderman.how, where members can watch tutorial videos and download community-generated textures, lighting rigs, scenes and shaders.
Pixar stated that 10,000 members have joined in the past week, and there are already some impressive examples of material shaders for emulating glass, mud, metal and different surfaces – the teapot below is an example of just one.
Pixar RenderMan: where do I sign up?
Ready to scare up the next (non-commercial) Monsters Inc? Then point your browser here and get cracking.