Who is the greatest band ever: The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? What is a better computer: Mac or PC? Coke or Pepsi? Dogs or cats? The only guarantee of opening up a discussion like this is a lot of heated debate, workflow bias, and perhaps even more confusion for the rendering newcomer.
Ask a bunch of experienced digital artists – which renderer should I use? Get ready for a zillion answers. The latest raytracing algorithms will never save weak animation, stretched textures, or poor lighting, just as the latest version of Microsoft Word won’t make someone a better writer. Hendrix could still blow an audience away on a hundred dollar amp.
Rendering engines are just tools – and like every tool, they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. If an artist adheres to only one technology or process, it severely limits their potential solutions when problems arise. What weapon should you bring the battle? Every single one you know how to use, and keep looking for more! So as long as we got that out of the way, let’s dive in to the render pool!
The big daddy of rendering engines, and not without reason. With 25 years of development under its belt, Pixar’s Renderman has become the measuring stick by which all other renderers are measured. This is the one that started the whole animation renaissance we’re enjoying today. One of the vast reasons Renderman is employed by so many studios and continues to sit in the crows nest of the advancing industry is that it isn’t designed by committee. A great many contribute to changing needs and influence the final result, but Pixar’s Dana Batali makes the final calls and keeps the ship on course.
Some of the features that make Renderman so powerful:
Speed and Memory Handling.
You can throw boatloads of geometry, shaders and lights at this program and it takes it in stride. It does this with what Pixar calls REYES– Renders Everything You Ever Saw. This means Renderman is intelligent enough to disregard occluded objects in your scene so you don’t waste memory.
Ever wonder how they made all those piles of trash Wall-E would sift through? Displacement maps on top of displacement maps, all user controlled. You’re going to need a smart engine to handle a planet full of junk and not fill your server farm with smoke and sparks!
Smart Motion Blur.
In general if you want to slow your complex renders down to a crawl, just hit that motion blur button. In many rendering engines, camera shutter blur is calculated after everything else is – meaning you still have to generate solutions for complex shaders, lights, etc. Not Renderman. It can speed up this process by knowing how fast an object is moving, how much blur will be applied, and calculating the finer details after that. Result: highly customized, motion-blurred objects rendered much faster!
Hair and Fur.
Hair and fur is usually a post effect created after the initial render pass. Not so with Renderman. With Pixar’s riCurve, hair and fur can be rendered as geometry, which gives the artist increased freedom for anti-aliasing, motion blur, deep shadows and more – all during the full rendering phase.
Also with UV-less Ptex paint support, LODs (Level of Detail) from camera and a wealth of other artist-centric features, Pixar’s Renderman is the originator, leader, and pioneer of 3D rendering technology.