Pixar's 3D rendering software, RenderMan is set to be given away for free for non-commercial use. The firm, which usually charges $500 (£300) for individual licenses, is releasing the newest version of the product later this year.
Recent competition from rival animation programs, such as VRay and Arnold, is likely to have prompted the move, with the company also reducing the price of the software for commercial use. RenderMan, which has been used on such films as Toy Story and The Lord of the Rings, has played a key role in the entertainment and visual effects industries for over 25 years.
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A Pixar statement declared that the company would release the software for free "without any functional limitations, watermarking, or time restrictions. Non-commercial RenderMan will be freely available for students, institutions, researchers, developers, and for personal use."
The announcement and the unveiling of the latest version of RenderMan was made in London, which has become the centre of the worldwide visual effects industry. Chris Ford, Pixar's business director, stated that the decision not to charge for the software was the "most important announcement concerning RenderMan in over a decade."
Lee Danskin, technical director of Escape Technology, explained that prior knowledge of animation software would be required to use the program, as RenderMan is "not something you can just pick up and start using." Despite this, Danskin welcomes the move and expects the software's user base to grow as a result.
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The latest version of RenderMan is set to be released before the Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interactive Techniques conference in August. Anyone interested in downloading the software can register their interest via Pixar's RenderMan site.