Attention young animators: Pixar to give away its 3-D software, RenderMan

Love Pixar? RenderMan created those iconic Toy Story scenes. Now, Pixar plans to give away RenderMan to aspiring animators.

Disney Pixar/AP
'Toy Story 3' scene: From left, Jessie, voiced by Joan Cusack, Buzz Lightyear, voiced by Tim Allen and Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks are shown.

Pixar Animation Studios will help students of the trade and tech educators learn how to use its Academy Award-winning RenderMan software as a goodwill gesture to accompany the release of the new paid version that’s due out in August.

“Non-commercial” users (anyone who will use the new program for the purpose of personal learning, experimentation, research, evaluations, and the development of tools and plug-ins for RenderMan) will be able to download the $495 program for free by going to the RenderMan website.

Buying the program ensures that you get the complete software package with “no watermarks, no time limits, and no reduced functionality” – the usual price paid for “free” versions of software. Pixar is not the first company to release high-end software in the hopes of hooking students early on. Adobe, Microsoft, and Apple often offer a discounted education edition. But you can't beat Pixar's new price tag. 

The upcoming release of RenderMan also includes new ways for creating and sharing animation tools.

"This truly brings the future of fully photo-realistic ray-traced rendering to RenderMan” says David Hirst, global head of lighting at the visual effects company MPC, in a press release. “We did tests with the production assets from one of our latest movies and were completely blown away by the speed and how interactively we could preview and render these assets. The [features in this software are] going to change the way we work, with more scalable rendering and faster results.”

Currently, users of the 3-D design programs Maya, Houdini, Cinema 4D, and Katana have options for adding RenderMan to their work, which opens up new easy-to-use tools designed by Pixar and other programmers, says Pixar Animation Studios spokesman Chris Wiggum in an e-mail.

“Our noncommercial software is something we’re hoping most Maya artists can use to help improve their shading and lighting with the new artist-friendly RenderMan,” Mr. Wiggums adds.

RenderMan is also great for scientific visualizations, such as some created by NASA for rendering data from custom datasets.

Once this freebie is available in August, students will be able to design their own animations with these high-end tools.

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