For weeks, I’ve been busy with work. With looming deadlines on the horizon, I focused on completing my tasks like a horse wearing blinders. I work as a 3D modeller on kids shows at an animation studio here in Halifax. This has been my career for over 12 years.
Recently, I received a tweet from Mike of the East Coast Creative Collective. He told me that Pixar Animation Studio, the makers of Toy Story, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles and etc. announced they are releasing their proprietary rendering software RenderMan for free. I asked myself, “Could it be true?”. But I dismissed the news, thinking that the free version of the program would have some of the professional level features unavailable.
A few days later, I received a Facebook message from my oldest brother David about the same news. I scoured the Internet for confirmation. All of my favourite tech and animation websites reported the official press release from Pixar: RenderMan will be offered free for non-commercial use. And, the price of using the commercial license will be reduced from thousands of dollars to just $495 U.S. This is really big news!
When working in Computer Graphics (CG) Animation, models of characters, environments, and props are built in a 3D modeling and animation package like Maya, 3D Studio Max or Blender. Once the models are created, colours and textures are added to the models. The models with the colours and textures are animated. Visual effects like smoke, fire or lasers will be composed and added, if required. The newly created scene will be lit before being shot by a virtual camera. Once the scene is completed, all of the components need to be brought together to produce a finished picture. This process is called, “rendering.” Maya has its own built-in rendering software. But, Maya and other 3D animation programs can use external render programs like RenderMan.
Pixar’s animated films have touched the hearts of many through brilliant storytelling, beautiful visuals and amazing animations of characters. Pixar brand is recognized for producing high-quality animated feature films as well as being a pioneer in computer graphics field. Their RenderMan program is the cream of render softwares, an industry-standard for 25 years.
By offering RenderMan for free for non-commercial use, Pixar is allowing aspiring animators to learn the software in anticipation of entering into an Animation or Visual Effects career. Even with the commercial license priced at $495 U.S., it’s an affordable price for freelancers, and small to mid-size businesses. This is the same software that rendered the animated frames for all of Pixar’s films. This is why it’s a big deal.
So, you COULD use a free 3D animation software like Blender to create your animations. Then you COULD use the free RenderMan license to render your animations. And, you COULD submit your animation to a NON-COMMERCIAL, artistic festival like Nocturne or similar NON-PROFIT, educational showcase. Oh, the possibilities are endless!
The new version of RenderMan, under the new pricing scheme, will be available in August in time for this year’s big Computer Animation festival SIGGRAPH. For more information about RenderMan, go to: http://renderman.pixar.com/view/renderman