Pixar’s Latest RenderMan 22.5 Revamped Houdini Plugin

Pixar Animation Studios’ tech team have unveiled RenderMan 22.5, featuring a completely rewritten RenderMan for Houdini plugin along with several important new features and performance improvements. These include a 10-15% speed boost for Adaptive Sampling Fixes, interactive displacement, interactive volume density and accelerated OSL developed in collaboration with Intel.

Pixar’s brand new RenderMan for Houdini plugin has been completely rewritten to support the latest interactive workflows in RenderMan 22. RenderMan’s greatly improved integration with Houdini includes interactive modeling, shading and lighting. Highlights include:

  • Full support for geometry: curves, points, volumes, meshes and packed primitives.
  • Interactive placement and deformation of geometry.
  • Interactive editing of lights and cameras.
  • Interactive manipulation of light filters.
  • Support for Material Builder shader networks using RenderMan’s shading nodes.
  • Interactive Render Region support.
  • Support for rendering to Houdini’s native mplay framebuffer and renderview.
  • Texture Manager – Automatic texture conversion to Pixar’s texture format.
  • Preset Browser – Collaborate with Maya and Katana by importing and exporting shaders, light rigs and HDRI maps.

Universal Scene Description (USD), Pixar’s open source file format & API for describing CG scenes & data in a ‘composed’ manner to facilitate concurrent workflows across multiple applications & artists, will soon become a “first class citizen” within RenderMan thanks to a closely collaborative effort between the two teams.

RenderMan USD Support – Near Term (June): Starting with USD 19.07 (a June release), a RenderMan Hydra Delegate will be available that will work with RenderMan 22.5. It will be a part of the github source code, so anyone will be able to compile it and use it wherever they are using Hydra. Out of the box this includes usdView, but in reality will be any tool built on top of Hydra. Pixar is working with ILM and MPC on this.

RenderMan USD Support – Long Term (Targeting late 2019): The ability to load USD archives in RenderMan similar to traditional RIB Archives. Supporting for rendering USD directly with RenderMan, i.e. with the command “prman myfile.usd”. These latter two will likely arrive in close proximity, but the final delivery date is still to be determined.

Pixar and Intel collaborated to bring hardware acceleration of OSL to RenderMan 22.5, which now provides fully enabled SIMD hardware acceleration of CPU intensive OSL operations. Previous experimental work on this capability has been significantly updated for production use at Pixar and is now enabled by default. Senior developers at Intel, Pixar, and Sony Pictures Imageworks collaborated on this important project.

This new OSL implementation includes parallel execution of the entire shading network on Intel’s SIMD hardware. It dynamically schedules concurrent operations on eight or 16 data points in a single CPU instruction depending on available CPU capabilities. These vectorized OSL capabilities are available in RenderMan today, and the source code is available upon request while the collaborators work to contribute it to the open source OSL project.

Pixar has seen up to 2x faster full renders and faster time to first pixel on production assets, with 15% average speedups measured on a variety of real scenes using the power of Intel Xeon Scalable processors with Intel Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel AVX-512 and AVX2).

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