Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Pixar releases OpenSubdiv

In a surprise move recently, Pixar has released open source code called Open Subdiv.

Directly from the website :

OpenSubdiv is a set of open source libraries that implement high performance subdivision surface (subdiv) evaluation on massively parallel CPU and GPU architectures. This codepath is optimized for drawing deforming subdivs with static topology at interactive framerates. The resulting limit surface matches Pixar’s Renderman to numerical precision.

OpenSubdiv is covered by the Microsoft Public License, and is free to use for commercial or non-commercial use. This is the same code that Pixar uses internally for animated film production. Our intent is to encourage high performance accurate subdiv drawing by giving away the “good stuff”.

The source code for OpenSubdiv is located on github and is entering open beta for SIGGRAPH 2012. Feel free to use it and let us know what you think through the github site.


Platforms supported: Windows, Linux, limited OSX.

While it is highly unlikely that this will end up in Blender at all it is a very interesting project, coming from a highly unlikely place to ever release anything to the public. Though Pixar has released papers and some shader source code to the public, nothing was expected to ever come in the form of a software library, so this is a welcome surprise to say the least.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pixar announces Renderman Studio 4.0

From the Pixar website....

EMERYVILLE, CA – (June 14th, 2012) Pixar Animation Studios today announced that effective immediately, RenderMan for Maya is to be combined with RenderMan Studio as a single premium software solution at the new price of $1,300 including a fully functional embedded renderer. This major product consolidation sets the stage for the impending release of RenderMan Studio 4.0, which will provide Maya artists and Technical Directors with the latest tools to setup scene data, lighting, and shader assets for film-quality final rendering.

RenderMan Studio 4.0 also introduces the latest rendering technology developed for the forthcoming RenderMan Pro Server 17.0, and showcases significant advancements in ray tracing for multi-bounce global illumination and ray-traced subsurface scattering, including a system of physically plausible shaders directly integrated into Maya and the Slim shader editor. With these new features, artists can maximize today's high performance multi-core architectures to create photorealistic images with minimal setup within the user interface of Maya. The process of shading and lighting setup has also been dramatically accelerated with new lighting tools, including the robust re-rendering technology used in "Cars 2" and "Brave" as well as progressive ray-traced re-rendering for rapid look development. With additional new capabilities such as Dynamic Shader Binding, expanded RIB archiving, and a new library of RenderMan materials for Maya, RenderMan Studio 4.0 is the result of the feedback from numerous VFX productions allowing Maya artists to easily create photorealistic images at the highest levels of cinematic quality in a comprehensive solution that can be configured to accommodate any VFX pipeline.

Upgrade Availability

RenderMan Studio 4.0 is compatible with Maya 2013 and earlier versions on Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. Upgrade pricing from RenderMan Studio 3.0 is available and existing RenderMan for Maya customers can upgrade to RenderMan Studio 4.0 for the same price as previous RenderMan for Maya upgrades. Student pricing is also available. Further details can be found on the new RenderMan website at https://renderman.pixar.com/. For direct assistance concerning sales, maintenance, operating system compatibility, evaluation licenses, or any other questions about Pixar’s RenderMan, please contact rendermansales@pixar.com.

About Pixar Animation Studios

Pixar Animation Studios, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is an Academy Award®-winning film studio with world-renowned technical, creative and production capabilities in the art of computer animation. Creator of some of the most successful and beloved animated films of all time, including "Toy Story," "Monsters, Inc.," "Finding Nemo," "The Incredibles," "Ratatouille," "WALL•E," "Up" and "Toy Story 3" the Northern California studio has won 29 Academy Awards and its 12 films have grossed more than $7.2 billion at the worldwide box office to date. Pixar's next adventure, "Brave" takes aim at theaters on June 22, 2012.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Aqsis 1.8 released

Aqsis 1.8 has been released as of Feb 29, 2012, a long awaited release build which brings some of the most exciting new features in this renderer in some time. Of these new features, the Point Based Global Illumination functions are the most obvious and anticipated. This release was not without it's problems however as the Windows and MacOS binaries were broken due to the move from FLTK to QT4, work is underway to fix this so expect a 1.8.1 patch release soon. The QT4 switch changed the GUI appearance only slightly, though in some tests Piqsl seems to respond much slower than it's FLTK predecessor, however the point cloud viewer program makes up for that. The PartIO library is a great addition as well, which will allow particle data to be used from various software such as Maya and Houdini. Despite the binary problems, this is one of the most exciting releases from the Aqsis team in years.

LONDON, UK - February 29, 2012 - Aqsis Team, the developers of professional open source rendering software, announced today the immediate release of Aqsis Renderer 1.8.0; its leading cross-platform 3D rendering solution adhering to the RenderMan standard.
This is the accumulative effort of many developers and community members around the world, resulting in an even more competitive solution.

Global illumination and software integration have been the primary focus for this release, with improvements including:
  • Point-based global illumination, providing bake3d()indirectdiffuse()occlusion() and texture3d() shadeop support.
  • Partio library integration, providing Houdini, Maya and PRMan compatible pointcloud support.
  • New pointcloud viewer application (ptview).
  • Qt library integration, providing native 64-bit support on all recommended platforms.
  • BSD licensing for all new code.

In addition, key feature enhancements have been made with improvements including:
  • Memory optimisations.
  • PNG read/write support.
  • Updated SLO interface, matching other renderer APIs.
  • Improved RIB parser, including precise syntax error reporting.
  • Reinstate command line support for frame selection using -frames and -framelist.
  • MinGW support.

Further information regarding the changes in this release can be found within the release notes distributed with the software.
Aqsis Renderer 1.8.0 is freely available to download from the Aqsis website, with installers for Windows, Linux and OS X:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pixar and Greenbutton reveal RenderMan On Demand

In 2010 Pixar had demonstrated RenderMan running on MicroSoft's Azure platform, as reported here http://www.blendertorenderman.org/2010/11/pixar-and-microsoft-cloud-rendering.html, however back then it was only a demo. As of Jan 19, this has become a real working service thanks to GreenButton, Pixar's RenderMan On Demand is now live and ready for all your rendering glory, for a price of course. To be fair .70 cents a core hour is really cheap, of course this is based off of third party information, mileage may vary.

So it looks like cloud services are becoming more and more common for the 3D industry, while there has been renderfarms that existed before in the sense of a traditional farm, the difference is that GreenButton is a cloud based service. The advantage of using cloud service rather than an in house farm is that there is no initial huge investment in hardware, you only pay for the use of other's hardware. The obvious reason for an in house renderfarm is that it is tailored to the studio, you have complete priority over jobs and it looks pretty impressive to the outside world. Smaller studios lack huge pockets though, so cloud rendering is far more valuable and attractive than investing that same amount of money on a few servers.

There is another method for us to render out frames without tying up our computers for hours or days on end; distributed computing. Distributed computing is also a way for Blender artists to make use of a renderfarm without having to spend a serious amount of money, in fact with Renderfarm.fi this is possible for free. Much of the well known distributed computing projects like SETI@Home are based off the BOINC platform, this is a distributed server-client system that has connected millions of computers worldwide all for the name of science. Why not take advantage of the same system for rendering and that is exactly what Renderfarm.fi does, it enables Blender users access to a large number of rendering nodes for free while also providing your computer as a rendering node for someone else's project.

This is a service that is based off of BURP, the technological framework for using BOINC as a distributed renderfarm, written by Janus Bager Kristensen. BURP started several years ago and works closely with Renderfarm.fi yet the two are completely different entities.

The question I have is, why not start something like this for Aqsis, or Pixie? Renderfarm.fi has done a very good job of marketing themselves and in all reality they do not even handle the actual rendering, that is taken care of by us BOINC users. In theory this kind of service could be started for Aqsis as well. Can Aqsis and Pixie be added to Renderfarm.fi, or even have a new website devoted to this? Can open source Renderman be turned into a cloud rendering technology? I believe it can, however I am not the most talented programmer in the world, so personally I would be a horrible choice for a developer. I have been looking at the code, not to mention that there has been some talk over forums with the BURP and Renderfarm.fi guys about supporting other external rendering software, it looks very possible to get Aqsis at the very least. The wall is of course the development of supporting this, as Blender changes these guys have to make changes in their own software, keep up BURP and Renderfarm.fi support and then fix things when it breaks, so this does cut into time and energy into other render engines. Not to mention the server itself needs to be pretty beefy, funding for the static IP and cost of hosting this, unless someone out there is willing to donate this. Would there even be enough interest to work on such a project? This obviously needs to be a project outside of BURP and Renderfarm.fi but in communication with so that if this works and tests well, then maybe it can be added to the Renderfarm.fi service.

The reason for this post is primarily because I used to be one of the biggest nay sayers against community based distributed rendering, claiming that too many technical factors outweigh the benefits but in the past year I have come to realize that maybe 5 or 10 years ago this was true, now it appears that this no longer is the case. When I first heard of BURP many years ago I thought that it was a neat project but would probably not work out in the end and look at how wrong I was about that, not only has this evolved into one of the only community based distributed render farms on the planet but has allowed every single Blender artist access to it, for free. That is an amazing feat and probably one of the greatest additions to the Blender community period, hence the reason this website has their logo graphic on the sidebar, these guys are awesome!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Cinepaint Developments

One of the most overlooked software packages in the Blender to Renderman arsenal has been given a new breath of air by the developers, Cinepaint 1.0 was released during the end of November (sorry guys). What makes Cinepaint so powerful and unique compared to it's parent GIMP is that it was designed for film work from the start, it is meant to handle 32-bit HDR images that are impossible to open in GIMP, which is why studios continue to use Photoshop among other things. After what seemed to be a very long stagnant period of lack of updates and uncertain future, Cinepaint has exploded into the scene again, even getting 3D World attention with an article, not bad for an open source software that was a fork of GIMP. At this time there is only a Linux source of Cinepaint and it has it's bugs, in fact version 1.1 is being delayed due to a nasty memory leak.

Aside from the issues here are some of the things that Cinepaint users might expect to see in the future as described by Robin Rowe


CinePaint Multi-bit Image Engine

CinePaint will continue to have a multi-bit engine. Some programs support deep paint by setting bittishness at compile time. You can have an 8-bit or a 16-bit core in ImageMagick, for example, but not both. It depends upon how ImageMagick was compiled. CinePaint has a true multi-bit engine where bittishness is chosen at runtime depending on the needs of an image. When you open a JPEG, CinePaint will allocate 8-bit channels for it because that’s what the image holds. When you open a 16-bit TIFF, it will allocate 16-bit channels.

At present, CinePaint supports unsigned 8-bit, binary fixed point 16-bit, half float 16-bit and float 32-bit. That’s a lot of flexibility in channel allocation, but not quite as much as we’d like. OpenEXR files may contain unsigned 32-bit channels and TIFF may have unsigned 64-bit channels. It would be nice to be able to open those in CinePaint without a loss of fidelity.

Comic Book, Anime and Fashion Illustration, Heads at Any Angle

Adding to ideas expressed in an earlier story, it would be nice to have an interface that supports pulling images from a library of art created by the artist, such as having a character’s head drawn at many different angles. This would enable an artist to quickly drag in previously drawn elements to quickly build an illustration. It would be nice to be able to mirror clone when half of a face is drawn in order to quickly draw the other half.


There’s a lot that could be done to make architectural drawing easier. One would be a cross-hatch brush that would draw parrallel lines at a fixed separation locked to the background position so that drawing later with the same brush will line up perfectly. The angle of the cross-hatch would be a setting on the brush. Another important brush for architecture would be a perspective brush that draws straight lines according to the horizon specified by the artist for the picture. At zero degrees it would become a railings brush and have no crossing lines. There could also be brushes that draw boxes with proper geometry per the background horizon. There could be a clone brush that copies with perspective, whether it’s drawing bricks or a window that needs to be repeated across a building.

Roto and Tracking

Adobe After Effects has an excellent auto-roto feature that will separate foreground objects from their background. Surprisingly, Photoshop does not. It would be nice if CinePaint had auto-roto. It’s not surprising that Photoshop doesn’t have tracking and image stabilization like After Effects. It would be nice if CinePaint did.


There’s a plug-in for painting colors from a similar photo onto a B&W image. Would be nice to have that type of thing as a standard clone brush feature.

Slides and Sequences

CinePaint’s flipbook can be used as a PowerPoint-style slide presenter. That could be further developed. While you can load a sequence of numbered images in CinePaint, there’s no way to save that sequence as a sequence. It would be nice if it would.


In addition to the architecture brushes already described, it would be nice to have brushes that draw borders and to paint Apple-style liquid buttons. It would be nice to have a bucket brush that bucket fills but will not seek out through gaps smaller than the size of the brush. It would be nice to have a “sloppy” setting on the brush the can exaggerate or reduce the jitter with which a line is hand drawn, something like in Smart Sketch. There could be brushes that draw flowers or any randomly repeating “image tube” as in PaintShop Pro. As the brush paints it lays down the next image (or flower) in the tube. Another nice brush would be a human pores brush that adds pores to portraits that have been magnified.


It would be nice to have a magnifying glass like Apple Aperture.


It would be nice to support such things as keeping accounting data for the time spent working on an image.

Vector Graphics and Type

Artists seem to agree that moving between Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop is inconvenient, that we’d rather do to one app to paint. However, mixing vector graphics and rasters gets messy. A solution is to put vector objects, including type, in a separate layer.

Adjustment Layers and Nodes

It would be nice to have adjustment layers, that is, layers that dynamically enhance the image below instead of changing the layer with a filter. Layers and nodes can be thought of like waves and particles in physics. They’re two ways of looking at the same thing and yet seem quite different. It would be nice if CinePaint displayed nodes.


CinePaint has supported many scripting languages, but it hasn’t been a satisfactory user experience. Preferably, CinePaint would record macros/scripts implicitly and at all times like Apple Shake. That would be a better solution than the Adobe Photoshop macro recorder that requires the user to decide when to record a macro first. Taking scripts a step further, it would be nice to have a text-based way to create image files. For example, to be able to quickly snap together a color bars image from a text description of the sizes and colors of the bars.


CinePaint has a flipbook movie player, but no sound. It would be nice to have JACK support so external JACK-compatible sound tools like Traverso would play in sync.

High Fidelity Color

CinePaint has a RGBA color space by default. Work’s been done to support advanced color management and other color spaces such as CMYK in CinePaint. It requires a domain expert in the printing industry to really get this right. Enhancements provided by a German open source developer have been difficult for CinePaint users to comprehend. To advance in this area we first need a color expert who speaks English, someone who can explain to me what we really need in the color interface and who can test that we got it implemented right.


Sorry for the lack of updates in recent months, my personal life has been quite filled with obligations.