Issue: SIGGRAPH 2008 - Day 1


LOS ANGELES – Emeryville, CA-based Pixar Animation Studios introduced new version of its RenderMan Pro Server software at SIGGRAPH.  The announcement – V.14 – coincides with RenderMan’s 20th anniversary and introduces significant performance improvements, including accelerated raytracing, faster processing of large polygon datasets, optimized hair performance, faster AOVs and enhanced threading scalability.

New core features that facilitate the development of custom tools include a re-rendering mode for accelerated interactive shading and lighting, a new SDK for easy linking, a Python binding for simplified integration, user defined structures in the RenderMan shading language, an API for reading brick maps and a new format for point clouds.

Dana Batali, RenderMan development director, reflected on some of the tool’s top innovations from throughout the years, starting with the REYES algorithm, the ability to do motion blur and programmable shading. Other innovations include solving the challenges of creating true curved surfaces, creating an interface that talks to modeling and animation systems, and more recently, the addition of raytracing, ambient occlusion, subsurface scattering capabilities.

From a creative standpoint, several feature films exemplify the developments implemented into RenderMan over the years. Monsters, Inc., pushed the envelope in regards to hair. Both The Polar Express and Final Fantasy were challenging in terms of rendering. And Cars made heavy use of raytracing.

Ed Catmull, president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, says two things prominently stick out in his mind when he looks at how far animation has come. “Look at Batman,” he says, referring to the recently released Dark Knight, “there is CG all over the place, but you just can’t tell.” The other, he says, has to do with the shear scale of animation and visual effects, pointing to Weta’s work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

RenderMan 14 is compatible with Mac OSX,  Linux, Windows XP, Windows 64-bit and Windows HPC Server 2008. Upgrade pricing is available from RenderMan Pro Server 13.5.