Yes, that’s pretty much the industry-leading rendering software behind numerous animation blockbusters yours for free as long as you’re planning non-commercial use.
The give away of RenderMan (which the company stresses is fully free and comes "without any functional limitations, watermarking, or time restrictions") was unveiled in London as part of the launch of the latest version of the RenderMan software, one which the company is bigging up in no small measure as a “generational shift”.
“Non-commercial RenderMan will be freely available for students, institutions, researchers, developers, and for personal use,” said a statement. “Those interested in exploring RenderMan’s new capabilities are invited to register in advance on the RenderMan website to access a free license for download upon release.”
Release is expected around Siggraph 2014 in mid-August and certainly the new software seems to make some significant advances. Headline is an entirely new modular rendering architecture called RIS that Pixar describes as a highly-optimized mode for rendering global illumination, more specifically for ray tracing scenes with heavy geometry, hair, volumes, and irradiance with both world-class efficiency and in a single pass. This sits alongside various feature and performance enhancements, physically-based, artist-friendly workflows, and RenderMan’s traditional REYES architecture, meaning that the software now offers two rendering modes within one unified environment.
"This truly brings the future of fully photo-realistic ray-traced rendering to RenderMan” said David Hirst, Global Head of Lighting at MPC. “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 RIS based integrator is going to change the way we work, with more scalable rendering and faster results.”
Pixar also says that RIS represents a conduit through which applicable advanced research from within the Walt Disney organization can be channeled into the production industry, which could lead to some very interesting developments down the line.
And you get to play with all this in the comfort of your own home. Even if you wanted to buy it though and monetise all those hours of animating and raytracing, it wouldn’t break the bank as Pixar has dropped the commercial per seat license price to $495. This is the latest stage in a journey which has seen it drop from $3500 per seat in 2010 as the result of a more competitive market, with both VRay and Arnold having made impressive inroads into the industry recently.
Free though changes the game entirely and, nigh on quarter of century after it was first released, almost guarantees a flow of new animators coming into the industry already experienced in using the program. All in all, not a bad move...