To establish the Blender to Renderman pipeline as a viable computer animation option for individuals, students, small studios, universities and the curious alike without having to invest thousands of dollars into software alone. Our goal also is to prove to the professional industry that this software is capable of handling large scale productions and that with enough training can be used for any task, commercial or film. Our goal also is not to replace current studio pipelines, an investment like that cannot be replaced with this open source alternative. Instead the goal is to prove that with minor hardware investments, this can be inserted into an existing animation pipeline with little effort and a bit of networking skills. To help support smaller studios that want to use the Blender to Renderman pipeline. To help users that want to get into this technology without having to spend thousands of hard earned dollars on software, nobody wants to feel the regret of spending a small fortune on something they may not wish to work with later on down the road. Using open source tools people, studios and more can save a part of their budget for something else, or at the very least experiment with them without restrictions.
What is Blender to Renderman?
RenderMan is not so much a particular software, in which case we would be talking about Pixar's RenderMan and in many cases this is where the confusion sets in. In our instance it is the Renderman Specification, or RiSpec, which is a graphics standard they developed in the late 1980's. This is the form of scene files, RIB, and shader source code, which can be compiled and rendered by any RiSpec compliant software, be it commercial or open source. Both use functions and calls that were defined by Pixar, so on a basic level these files can be rendered using different programs, including Pixar's RenderMan and vise versa. There are instances where certain renderer's cannot do a function while others can, though in order to be fully compliant with the RiSpec they have to do be able to do at least the following :
- Hierarchical graphics state
- Orthographic and perspective viewing transforms
- Depth-based hidden surface elimination
- Pixel filtering and antialiasing
- Gamma correction and dithering before quantization
- RGB, A and Z output, in any combination and any resolution
- All the standard primitives and associated variables
- Programmable shading using the RenderMan Shading Language (SL)
- Texture maps, environment maps and shadow maps
- All the standard shaders (implemented entirely in SL)
Blender is hands down the best open source 3D animation program and as time has proven, is only getting better. Over the past 5 years several developers have been using Python to work with the RiSpec, each generation of tools getting closer to a professional level of use. RIBMosaic has proven to be a huge hit, in fact was the turning point for this small group of developers and artists. Blender 2.5x has changed the playing field a bit, with new addons from other authors since the API changed, it also has given rise to a complete refactor of RIBMosaic as well.
Beyond just the Blender and RenderMan part, our group also looks through the entire visual pipeline, as everything from modeling to rendering can be edited, or even viewed using a Renderman renderer, long before the final frames are even ready for completion. This is sometimes required as little details can vastly affect performance and appearance. Understanding visual effects and animation pipelines encompass all aspects, this too is part of our work in the open source world. From color management, point cloud visualizations, shader editing, and even compositing, all of it can be part of the Blender to Renderman pipeline.
Who We Are
We are just a small group of people that have a love for RenderMan, that also love Blender and have the desire and drive to continue this path. Some of us are developers, some are artists but we all share a desire to use these two technologies and to help others who wish to learn as well. Most of us do not make any income on this, we do this because we can and we want to, most of us have day (or night) jobs to pay the bills and do this when we have a free chance.
We do not force our views on others though, we respect others for their choices in softwares, we know more than many that RenderMan is not for everyone and at times can be quite difficult to work with. We have no ill will towards the Blender developers or users, in fact we applaud them in their work for being able to make Blender the way it is and improving on it continuously. We never will make a claim that RenderMan software is any better than any thing else, we understand that different people wish to use what they want and as a group we will not speak badly of anyone or any software. We made this choice to work with RenderMan, we respect others that wish to use other software, it is your choice. We do not engage in forum wars over software, we know every software has it's pros and cons, commercial or open source, we do not ever say X is better than Y because of Z. It is an unethical practice frequently encountered on the internet, so we choose to stay out of that and instead focus on making this effort the best it can be.
Thank you all for the support, without your help we would not be where we are today!