Pixar is giving away rendering software used to make movies such as Toy Story. It will be free to use for non-commercial projects.
The RenderMan software is not only used for Pixar’s own movies but has been licensed to other studios for movies such as the Harry Potter series.
The software is designed for ray tracing and 3D rendering. It’s based around taking drawn images and not only recreating them in 3D form, but also simulating the way light interacts with the virtual 3D objects, for example shimmering or reflections.
The next edition of RenderMan should be released to coincide with SIGGRAPH 2014, a computer graphics conference taking place in August. Pixar says it will make the new edition available free of charge “for students, institutions, researchers, developers, and for personal use.” There won’t be any restrictions such as time limits or watermarks. You can register now and then download the software as soon as it is released.
Commercial users will still have to license the software, which will be a combination of a one-off $495 to buy one license and then $200 a year.
Before getting too excited, you should remember that Renderman alone isn’t going to be enough to make a movie. It’s not animation software and Pixar will continue to keep its animation software proprietary. Renderman also appears to have a reputation for being quite user-unfriendly, so it’s probably not worth downloading just to have a play about with unless you’ve already got some experience in the field.