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Graphics Software

Rendering Software Used In LoTR Goes Open Source 225

Posted by Roblimo
from the make-your-own-$50,000,000-animated-epic dept.
donglekey writes "The software used by Weta to output scenes to be rendered on the LOTR trilogy has been made open source under the Mozilla license. Called Liquid, it outputs from Maya to any Renderman compliant renderer. This is extremely good news as it may quickly become a standard in high end 3D, as well as greasing the wheels for Aqsis, a GPLed Renderman renderer."
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Rendering Software Used In LoTR Goes Open Source

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  • Pleasant Endorsement (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WeaponOfChoice (615003) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:50AM (#4489482) Homepage
    From the site: I've been trying to think about what I can do to distribute Liquid, because a lot of my time is spent working at my day job I feel like I'd be spreading myself way to thin to market, distribute and support a full production tool like Liquid. I've been looking at other means of distribution, either through another company, an open-development group or even open sourcing it. I've finally settled on OpenSourcing it, my hope is that those using it will contribute back any additions to the community.

    Nice to see. The more people who associate O/S with first class production companies (like WETA) and their work (LOTR) the better cred it'll have to the populace in general.
  • Give me an open source cave troll to play with!
  • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:52AM (#4489490)
    > Outputs Maya to RenderMan

    Cool. We got Blender. Next step, do we have free RenderMan compatible programs? Pov-Ray has been around for ages, but is it RenderMan compatible?
    • Argh, meant to say Renderman progs "beside" Aqsis.
    • by jabbo (860)
      Is this still around? I turned on my prof to this when I was working as a research assistant after college and he loved it. (better than Renderman at the time, in fact) Anyone know if it's still around and/or still free?

      BMRT was pretty spectacular for free software then.
      • by jabbo (860) <jabbo@NOsPaM.yahoo.com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:00AM (#4489515)
        Apparently Larry Gritz's BMRT is no longer distributed (or at least I couldn't find v2.6) and the links page suggests Aqsis.

        http://sourceforge.net/projects/aqsis/ [sourceforge.net]

        • Tear Rolling... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Bios_Hakr (68586) <xptical AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:20AM (#4489551) Homepage
          Down my cheek as I type this. I remember, back in tha' day:

          Before I joined the military, I loved building RC airplanes. But moving every 2 years makes having a big project impractical. I took up 3d modeling as a substitute.

          I started with the Rhino3d beta test. The problem was, Rhino lacked (and probably still lacks) a good render engine. So, I'd have Rhino open to my project, and BMRT ready to run in a command box. I remember the frustration of trying to figure out lighting and cameras as arguments to a command-line call of BMRT. Those were the days.

          It almost feels like being told a friend I haven't seen in years has died. I gots to remember to pour a swig from tha' 40oz on tha' ground for my fallen homie...or something like that.
        • BMRT got shut down on Copyright enfringement by Pixar.

          Exluna, the company that once distributed BMRT (prior to being acquired by NVIDIA), has its own commercial, proprietary system called "Entropy."

          Of course, BMRT was only distributed in binary form to begin with, but at least it was a cheap ("free") Renderman complient ray-tracer that was useful for learning the renderman system.
          • It wasn't copyright infringement, they didn't rip off lyrics. It was intellectual property infringement and it was because of Entropy and not BMRT. Pixar said Entropy used the same stochastic sampling method for anti-aliasing (very common, very documented, see Andrew Glasner's 1989 compilation of SIGGRAPH papers, one of which is on stochastic sampling by PRman author Robert Cook). This in itself is stupid enough, but the fact of the matter is that Entropy used a completely different analytic method of anti-aliasing and so the case had absolutly no basis whatsoever, and it was only because Pixar went after the founders of Exluna, Larry Gritz and Matt Pharr, personally that they didn't fight it.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      > do we have free RenderMan compatible programs?

      Read the post one more time :)
      *hint* Aqsis *hint*
    • by jabbo (860) <jabbo@NOsPaM.yahoo.com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:09AM (#4489530)
      but I looked into what happened with ExLuna/nVidia and Pixar, and here's the scoop...

      http://www.renderman.org/RMR/OtherLinks/blackSIGGR APH.html [renderman.org]

      As you will see on the page, Pixar made BMRT and entropy 'go away' in July of this year. So, it looks like that is why Aqsis is being suggested as the only remaining contender.

      • Is Aqsis rewritten from scratch or did they somehow got hold e.g. of the BMRT code? If not - what happens with the BMRT code, will it simply be abandonned? If so this would be a sad reflection for our economy. Eliminating knowledge and intellectual property - that's bad :-/

        Thanks for any insights you can give me.
        • Beats me (Score:5, Interesting)

          by jabbo (860) <jabbo@NOsPaM.yahoo.com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @11:20AM (#4489953)
          I haven't touched a photorealistic rendering shader in 4 years. I just went on a tear and looked all that stuff up on Google. When I was working for the Viz group at Theory, my prof tried BMRT and liked it a lot (more than Renderman even) for producing full ray-traced renderings of eg. large molecules for the cover of Science, Nature, et. al.

          I played with BMRT and Povray a bit, povray kind of sucked (IMHO) but I didn't really have an application that demanded raytracing or NURBs and shaders.

          I don't recall BMRT being Open Source, just free, so I have strong doubts as to whether Aqsis could get a hold of the source for BMRT/entropy. Gritz et al. have families to support, houses to pay mortgages on, etc.; you can't expect people to just give away prime intellectual property in a vertical market. That's insane. What was nice with BMRT et al. is that they let you use the tools they built, for free, often advancing the state of the art in the process.

          I'm sure they have nice jobs with nVidia but it's a damn shame that Pixar sought to end their competition via Microsoftian fund-sapping lawsuits. Not very impressive.

          FWIW one of my friends works for WETA (used to work for ILM) and I will probably ask him whether Maya-to-Renderman is the de rigeur toolchain or if other toys are now used too. I wouldn't know.

          --t

          • Re:Beats me (Score:3, Informative)

            by malducin (114457)
            Well PRman is really widespread in the VFX industry for rendering, so you usually export from your 3D apps (Maya, Softimage, Houdini, etc.) to PRMan. At Weta Digital it's mostly Maya to PRman, as well as Imageworks, MPC and many others. Big facilties use more stuff. At Digital Domain they sometimes export directly from Houdini. At ILM they animate in Softimage and Maya, sometimes go from Softimage to Maya and there to PRMan (though they also have their own propietary renderes like for hair and particles).
        • Yes Aqsis was written from scartch. It has only been recent that Aqsis went opensource. BMRT was closed source but free, and now it's dead, gone for good as well as Entropy.
      • Wow.. And I just bought the Monsters Inc. DVD, so now I feel all icky.. Bad Pixar, bad! :(
      • BMRT was a great program, Pixar's behavior towards it was destructive (if tactically necessary, from the standpoint of a corporation seeing a free competitor poised to eat their lunches). But in the end, BMRT died because it was not open source, because there was a single point of failiure conveniently avaiable to be attacked.
        • But in the end, BMRT died because it was not open source, because there was a single point of failiure conveniently avaiable to be attacked.

          Do you say this because an open-source BMRT would have been open to public scrutiny, forcing Pixar to explicitly identify the infringing source code? Or because an open-source BMRT would have been well-distributed and dispersed, preventing the shutdown of a single distribution point?

          I might buy the first argument, but not the second.
          • In some senses the second point is true. Look at the illegal in America mp3 encoders and players. Or PGP had patent problems initially as well.

            I can't think of any case where an open source program was written but became completely unavailable because of patent problems.

    • > Cool. We got Blender. Next step, do we have free RenderMan compatible programs?

      Nope, first step is to make Blender as good as Maya or at least 3DSM. And this should not be particularily easy ...
      • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsnNO@SPAMearthlink.net> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @11:14AM (#4489934)
        Nope. This is a parallel operation. As soon as one part becomes open, those most interested in that start working on improving it. (I'm not claiming this is easy or quick. Merely that it starts happening.)
        Simultaneously, the next tool that is needed to extend the chain of tools (possibly more than one) starts being worked on by those who are most interested in THAT.

        At some point the chain of tools becomes complete, even though much of them need more polish. Then some people start using the entire chain of tools, so any glitches in the interfaces are worked on.

        Then you just keep on improving everything. Well, differnt groups are improving each of the parts ... it's too much for anyone to hold the entire thing in their mind.

        This keeps on forever, or until only maintenance is needed.

        This whole process can happen faster if commercial entities subsidize it. But the licenses MUST ensure that the entire chain remains forkable at will.

  • Hmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:23AM (#4489557)
    Browser of the year: Phoenix

    3D-modeler: Open Blender

    Kde has also a modeller Gui tool for pov

    Oh, it would be nice if Open source and Linux gets the graphic geeks of the apple community on the open source train...
    • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GigsVT (208848) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:20AM (#4489736) Journal
      Open source and Linux gets the graphic geeks of the apple community on the open source train...

      I don't know why you were modded down...

      Anyway, what gets me is that Linux and open source are getting all these 3D tools, but we don't even have the 2D tools necessary to operate a prepress environment based on Linux yet.

      So we have Gimp and Killustrator (or whatever they changed the name to after the lawsuit)... Gimp can't work in CYMK colorspace... I havn't tried Killustrator, but I doubt it comes close to the similar Adobe product.

      We have nothing that does what Quark does... we have a barely maintained OPI daemon, no open source trapping software that I am aware of... etc.

      The 2D prepress industry is probably many times larger than 3D... Why don't we have better software?
      • Re:Hmmm (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Reziac (43301)
        Simple answer: 3D is kewl and hip. 2D prepress is that nasty boring commercial stuff.

        I know this is a flip answer, but I suspect it's often closer to the mark than some would care to admit.

      • Re:Hmmm (Score:2, Informative)

        by phatvibez (518108)
        KIllistrator became Kontour

        Gimp, from what I have heard, will have CYMK capabilities in the 2.0 release along with a ton of other improvements...but who know's when this will actually get released.

        and check out Scribus"
        "is a simple desktop publishing program similar to QuarkXPress, Adobe PageMaker or Adobe InDesign"

        it's still fairly young in development but is pretty nice.

        Homepage [altmuehlnet.de]
        apps.kde.com entry [kde.com]

        I have already used it to create some pretty nice PDF files.

      • Better lawyers (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        "The 2D prepress industry is probably many times larger than 3D... Why don't we have better software?"

        Patents and copyrights. The prepress industry has happily allowed itself to standardize on patented Pantone technology and copyrighted fonts.

        The movie industry understands the value of ownership and control, since that's how they make their money. So they go out of their way NOT to get locked in to other people's property, if possible. When they do license patents and copyrighted materials, they negotiate better deals - if there's any extortion involved, they want to be the one's doing it.
      • by AJWM (19027)
        Actually we do have a lot of 2D tools available, if not exactly pre-press tools. Many of them were originally developed under Unix and Xlib rather than using the Gtk or Qt toolkits, so aren't part of either of the "standard" Linux desktops (although are certainly usable with same). Some of them are under oddball licenses (eg 'tgif' has free-as-in-beer and QPL type licenses).

        Examples: tgif, xfig, pstoedit, gnuplot, xgraph, fig2java, xv, and so on. I find tgif [usc.edu] useful for laying out EPS and PS files (you can draw and edit too), xfig [lbl.gov] is a nice general vector draw tool.
      • by ianezz (31449)
        The 2D prepress industry is probably many times larger than 3D... Why don't we have better software?

        Probably because there a lot more programmers and itches to be scratched in the 3D industry than in the 2D industry? After all, it was the 3D industry to put together Film Gimp [gimp.org] (The Gimp modified to handle 16 bits per channel).

        In order to have good programs, well, you also need programmers with a good experience in the field (something that I'd believe is quite rare in the 2D prepress industry, regardless of the huge userbase).

  • by sakusha (441986) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @09:55AM (#4489648)
    I fail to see why this is such a big thing. Most production houses use MTOR, which is bundled with RenderMan Artist Tools. You still have to use Maya and Renderman. This is kind of like having a Ferrari that uses 130 Octane fuel, and you proclaim you've invented a new type of hose to get the fuel from the pump to the fuel tank. But it's still just a hose, and the Ferrari and the Fuel still do all the work.
    • by plone (140417) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:14AM (#4489711) Homepage
      Exactly. All I see this program as being capable of doing is translating the Maya geometry and shaders into the Renderman REYES based geometry and shaders. MTOR already does this, and anyone that usually buys PRman (Pixar's implementation of the Renderman standard), will also get MTOR. Besides, the really cool effects on LOTR where done using Radiosity and global illumination, which at the moment is not supported by the Renderman standard.
      • by jabbo (860) <jabbo@NOsPaM.yahoo.com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @11:36AM (#4490011)
        I posted this in response to another thread, but there used to be a (slower) implementation of the RIB-standard scene rendering process called Blue Moon Render Tools. See here:


        http://www.dctsystems.freeserve.co.uk/rmanBasics.h tml [freeserve.co.uk]


        It was later commercially expanded into a faster program called 'entropy'. Exluna was a company that Larry Gritz and some coworkers from Pixar (Gritz joined and then left Pixar) founded. Apparently entropy was fast enough for commercial use (eg. LOTR-scale projects that required photorealistic scenes). Pixar did not like this. At all. The sequelae were as documented here:


        http://www.renderman.org/RMR/OtherLinks/blackSIGGR APH.html [renderman.org]


        Now this is probably not relevant to you if you're working at wetafx or ILM or other big shops, but it's still kind of a shame that, when a product came along that WAS able to compete with PRMan, Pixar chose to squash it with lawyers rather than innovation. I'm not claiming that the case was clear-cut, but the original lawsuit apparently lacked legal merit, and Pixar then went after the individual founders of the company in an effort to drain their resources, which is rather unimpressive.


        So the point is that, for a time, there WAS an alternative to PRman for big (cinematic) projects, and Pixar used lawsuits to bury it.


        D'oh.

      • by malducin (114457) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @11:50AM (#4490073) Homepage

        Ehhhh, First LOTR was rendered with the standard Photorealistic RenderMan, they didn't use radiosity or global illumination.

        Second you don't get MTOR automatically, it's part of the RenderMan Artist Tools (RAT). You can also buy PRMan separate with no RAT, after all why would you need RAT in render nodes.

        Third over 90% of movies VFX are rendered with PRman and most of the time with no GI of any kind, for over 15 years that PRMan and Pixar came to being. That's what good lighting TDs do. GI is not the be all end all for movie VFX production work.

        Fourth, Pixar announce this past SIGGRAPH that PRMan 11 will support GI via photon mapping, which included many interesting new shading language calls. This seems to have been in response to Exluna's Entropy before it's demise:

        Pixar Announces Ray Tracing and Global Illumination in RenderMan® Release 11 [pixar.com]
        New RenderMan Shading Language Functions [deathfall.com]
        On RenderMan 11 - Interview with Dana Batali from Pixar [3dfestival.com]
        • This seems to have been in response to Exluna's Entropy before it's demise [...]

          I keep hearing this claim. Don't you think that it might also have something to do with the entry of Blue Sky Studios (and their ray tracing/GI renderer) into the feature animation club?

          • No, because Blue Sky uses CGI Studio as their renderer and has no plans to sell it.
            • The software market is not the only market that Pixar competes in.

              Remember that the commercial version of PRMan is exactly the same one that they use to make their own movies. Unless someone with an awful lot of money wanted raytracing and GI, there are only two reasons why Pixar would add them. 1) They wanted another check-point for the "product features" list, or 2) They wanted to use it themselves. Given that there is someone else making feature animations now with a GI-capable renderer, the latter is the more likely explanation (IMO).

              • by malducin (114457) on Monday October 21, 2002 @01:03AM (#4493412) Homepage
                Not quite. Everyone, except Pixar, uses the same version. Pixar has more advanced development versions in use. Case in point, deep shadow maps, presented at SIGGRAPH 2000, were used in Monster's Inc. for Sully's hair. But the commercial version has no deep shadow maps implementation until version 11 (to be released Q4?). SO they did have a more advenaced version than everyone else and in over 2 years made no mention of implementing it on PRMan. Who knows what else they had in house with no immediate plans to incorporate into the commercial release.

                The other thing, well did you really miss the or notice any GI absence problems in Monster's Inc. Animated films are very art directed. One example, say you wanted to modify where a shadow falls without altering the compositon of the rest of the elements. With raytrcing and other such GI solutions it would be difficult or at leats much more than say in a renderer like PRMan wher you can generate the shadow map independently or even use a paint program. A specific example is Geri's glasses in Geri's game. The refraction you see there is not realistic, it was cheated to make his eyes look bigger and angelic. A raytacer would have put something else, not what the director intended.

                As I mentioned Entropy was quicly catching up to PRman to the point where major Pixar clients were starting to use it. ILM needs a raytracer for specific techniques, like generating reflection maps, handling HDRI, and the all important occlusion maps used since Pearl HArbor and JP3. From what an important ILM VFX supervisor mentioned they were excited about a RenderMan renderer where they could combine the best of both worlds, the speed, flexibility and robustness of REYES plus the specific features of GI.

                I doubt Ice Age had anything to do with it. After all PDI uses some sort of A-buffer scanline renderer as far as I know with no GI, or at least none for quite some time. Shrek looked fantastic basicly with no GI either. The lighting philosophy of both these places doesn't hinge on having GI on the renderer.

                But you are also right, they might have the best of both worlds to compete, not only on their coomercial products, but on their animated movies. Last SIGGRAPH at the photon maps course, one of the presenters was a guy from Rhythm and Hues, so I guess their propietary renderer might get GI. I also saw people frmo ILM, PDI and a whole other studios. So maybe in the end or in the future you are absolutely right. Just to many facts and changes to deal with ;-).
                • I agree that so far, Pixar films have not used, and did not need, GI. Pixar also concedes that PRMan version 11's GI/ray tracing support will not be ready for "prime time". It's only a matter of time, though. Animated movies with ray tracing and GI are being done for the first time now, and Pixar had better have a good implementation of both ready for when it does finally become an issue. That, IMO, is why they're putting it in now.

                  PDI's renderer (at least the one used on Antz and Shrek; they're rewriting it for the next film) does not use GI but it does support ray tracing. Pixar used a small amount of ray tracing (with BMRT, no less) in A Bug's Life. So this feature, at least, will almost certainly be used more over the next decade.

                  Incidentally, I used to work for Dot C, so I have a pretty good idea what people want from Pixar's competitors. :-)

          • by malducin (114457)
            Nope, because Blue Sky's, and PDI's renderer for that matter, were not commercial products. They use in house renderes.

            On the other hand Entropy was a commercial product much cheaper than PRMan (about 1/5 or 1/4 of the price). It was primarily geared towards small studios and 3DMax users, but many of the big studios used it at least a little bit, including ILM, probably Pixar's most important customer. It was even used in one small sequence on Attack of the Clones, and from a recent posting by Larry Gritz apparently it was also used in Reign of Fire and Stuart Little 2. I'm sure Pixar didn't like that.

            Also at past SIGGRAPH you could hear some complaints that not enough was done to improve PRMan, and Exluna was much more responsive and much quicker on their innovations. One example is how Pixar didn't implement deep shadow maps (which came out from a paper they presented at SIGGRAPH 2000, used in Monsters Inc., but it won't come out until PRMan 11). While Entropy lacked some features they were making fast progress and in some instances apparently surpassing PRMan. Actually if you look at PRMan 11's list of features you get a feeling much of the new stuff is things Entropy had, some even have claimed that PRMan 11 has included some Entropy specific extensions, though I can't verufy 100%.

            It's too bad this debacle happened. You have to wonder if Pixar will sue Colin or someone for providing a tool like Liquid. On the other hand hopefully Thad Beier from Hammerhead will just show how senseles some of this patent software business is.
    • by MegaFur (79453) <{moc.nzz.ymok} {ta} {0dryw}> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:58AM (#4489868) Journal
      If it were really "just a hose" the software, Liquid, would look like this: | (pipe symbol)

      Even if it's only a converter, studying its source would make it easier to learn the formats of the file types it converts from and to. Even if you could get specifications for those formats from somewhere else (I don't know if you could or not), it would still be easier with source. If someone were going to start their own project and they wanted to do stuff with Maya or Renderman files, Liquid would probably be the place to start.

      At the same time, you're probably right that it's not such a big deal. But hey, that's slashdot for you. ;-) We could be at WW III and all they'd care about is whether or not the soldiers' head-mounted cameras were running Linux.
    • Not true.

      RenderMan is not like POVRay. It's an algorithm neutral interface between modellers and renderers. The idea is that whether your renderer is a REYES-esque scanline renderer, a raytracer, a Monte Carlo radiosity raytracer or whatever, your file should still work.

      That means that sometimes the modeller has to do a lot of work which in some renderer algorithms would be done for you. For example, in a REYES renderer, reflections are done with multiple render passes, just like in OpenGL. The modeller has to emit RenderMan code to do these multiple passes. In a raytracer, this would be done for you, but you would have to retain all of the scene geometry in memory, plus you lose coherency. (Most animation/visual effects scenes do not use raytracing for this reason. It's just too damn slow for "real" scenes.)

      That's one reason why good Maya -> RenderMan interfaces are worth quite a lot of money (MTOR is US$3k).

      Aqsis [aqsis.com] is a GPL'd RenderMan-compliant REYES renderer. Liquid is now open source. All it takes is a good open source modeller (disclaimer: I don't know if Blender is "good" enough for this kind of use) and we're in business.

  • by SilverSun (114725) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:34AM (#4489782) Homepage
    Can somebody try to explain the connection between the various applications?
    What are the specific tasks of Maya/Blender/Liquid/Renderman?
    What does Liquid do, what is not already included in tools which come with Renderman?
    What role plays Blender?

    Cheers, Peter
    • by mav[LAG] (31387) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @11:17AM (#4489945)
      Very simply: Maya and Blender are modelling packages where the geometry of models and scenes is created. Liquid is a tool to export the work you do in Maya to a RenderMan-compliant format.
      Renderman itself is just a standard which defines a couple of things including which functions a compatible renderer must provide and what a bytestream sent to a renderer looks like. Pixar's renderer is called PhotoRealistic Renderman (or PRMan for short). The main reason the final output of a RenderMan-compatible renderer surpasses Maya's and Blender's built-in output routines is that textures and surfaces and lighting can be defined by shaders. These are little C-like programs which calculate what a given pixel will look like based on its position, lighting and so on.
      This is roughly the order of creation:
      1. Model your geometry in a tool like Maya or Blender
      2. Export it to a RenderMan Interface ByteStream format (.RIB) using MTOR or Liquid for Maya or a python script for Blender
      3. Write or buy the shaders you need to define your textures, surfaces and some forms of lighting
      4. Run a RenderMan-compatible renderer on the RIB file to produce a picture which has potentially the same quality as that of Toy Story or A Bug's Life
      5. Wait several days if your scene is very complex :)


      Disclaimer: I am not a professional rendering artist/shader writer/modeller, but I have played around with all three to produce some amazing results. It's great fun to get into - but to make any progress you need serious CPU cycles.
      Excuse me, Aqsis compilation just bailed with some error...
  • by JFMulder (59706) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @11:53AM (#4490087)
    they unsed in the movie so we can render final scenes from the movie ourselves so we don't have to wait another 2 months to see the movie.... unless it makes more than two months to render the scenes themselves on my own computer...
  • Ask Slashdot... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by schlach (228441) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @12:10PM (#4490163) Journal
    Ok this is only tangenitally on-topic, but...

    I have been (no more than) a 3d-tinkerer ever since Quake was released, periodically fooling around with whatever 3d packages I can find to learn and experiment with, for my enjoyment only, and maybe producing something I can shoot. When blender was GPL'd, I took a look at it, and with today's story, I have downloaded the non-commercial version of Maya. I have about a bagillion questions.

    - Are the tools discussed today (Aqsis, Liquid) compatible with the NC version of Maya, or do they require the Pro version? Will I even need them for less than professional rendering?

    - Are there things that blender cannot yet do that Maya can that I might conceivably use as a hobbyist?

    - Is the level of user support, tutorials, manuals, etc. for blender comparable to that of Maya? From a cursory examination, it appears that Maya has several tutorials and discussion forums [aliaswavefront.com] on the Alias [aliaswavefront.com] Community website, and tons [google.com] of active community websites.

    - blender [blender.org] may eventually rival the community size, but I don't think it has yet. The blender "documentation" [blender.org]
    appears to be incomplete or incorrect, and comes with this disclaimer: This document is at the current state meant as a example how a possible way of organising and writing documentation could look like. It contains many old and obsolete information especially in terms of license and publishing rights. I have found a few tutorial [ingiebee.com] sites. I have heard that the learning curve is steep, and without a lot of documentation, that kind of worries me.

    So, to all who have some experience with one or both of the packages, which do you think will provide the most satisfying hobbyist experience? Power to do the things I will probably want to do, useful learning of 3d modelling, and usefulness of produced files (I noticed the Maya non-commercial version of the "Kompleet" package watermarks its files and is not compatible with the commercial version file-formats), and especially overall enjoyment of the activity.

    If you know of any good learning resources for any of the tools, please post them. Thanks from all us 3d newbies...
    • Re:Ask Slashdot... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tinrobot (314936) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @12:31PM (#4490258)
      I review 3d software and hardware for a number of magazines, including CGW. I also own a small animation studio. Suffice to say, I've seen most of the packages out there.

      I'd say the question is a no-brainer -- learn Maya. There are so many resources available for someone willing to learn - college courses, books, online tutorials, etc. Maya is also very robust, with nifty particle systems, super easy character setup, and much, much more. Blender is cool and holds promise (even more now that it's been GPL'd) but the level of support and size of the community is much smaller at this point.

      If you're just learning Maya for the fun of it, don't worry too much about whether the free version supports PRMan (which costs $thousands, btw) Maya's renderer is pretty good if you take the time to learn it -- most artists render in Maya, not PRMan -- only the uber-high-end stuff does that.
    • Disclaimer: I work for Alias|Wavefront but my opinions are my own. I am not authorized to speak on behalf of the company.

      The non-commercial version of Maya ( referred to as Maya Personal Learning Edition ) is a full version of Maya Complete with the following exceptions.

      - Uses a different file format from the commercial version.
      - All rendered output has a watermark on it.
      - There is no 3d-party plugin support.

      Due to lack of plugin support, tools like Liquid will not work. The Maya Personal Learning Edition is basically intended to be used to learn Maya and not intended to be used for any real work.
    • Re:Ask Slashdot... (Score:3, Informative)

      by donglekey (124433)
      The free trial version of Maya does not support plugins, so Liquid will not work with it.

      I have said it many times and most people (not you specifically of course) refuse to believe that Blender is not even in the same world as Maya. No way no how, there is absolutly no comparison. The differences are too extreme to list and I wish I could give more examples, but it isn't one big thing, it is many little concrete things, like driven keys, nurbs tools, subdivision surface tools, customizable interface, particles handling, hardware buffer rendering, and on and on and on. It is also big abstract things, like node based architecture, ( or object architecture like Softimage or 3D studio), and underyling scripting language called MEL, which is the foundation of Maya.

      Professional 3D programs have lots of documentation. I GUARANTEE learning Maya will be easier than Blender. Companies depend on people learning their software well and using it to its fullest extent. Piracy comes into play here, and it is pretty much not something the companies worry about on an individual level, because it increases mindshare. If you want to learn 3D, you have to pirate software, it just works like that. Professionals ( eighther at studios or freelance ) buy the software when they use it professionally, because it is well worth it , is the legal thing to do, and is the right thing to do. No one cares if you pirate Maya to learn it.

      If you want to get into 3D, go get Maya 4.5 (and a 3 button mouse). Load it up, watch the intro movies and you will be navigating around in no time. Then, hit F1 to see all the wonderful tutorials it comes with and you will be able to go through and learn all the features of the program easily. To take it further, practice sculting or go and get a book on cartoon animation, or lighting, or photography. Softimage XSI is also very easy to learn, although there is not as much documentaion as Maya. Learning the features is easy, learning the artistic side is hard. But it's great fun.
    • Quick word about the blender docs - there problem there isn't that there is not enough of it, there is too much.

      There are tons of tutorials (from NaN but mostly from the community), user and technical docs assmebled over several years of NaN's existence as well as the two books. As far as I remember, not all of this is available at the moment, it's in the process of being organized in some fasion and made available at blender.org; basically it should be coming in a usable form fairly soon.

      (btw, I don't think they Blender Foundation got the rights to the second book, which is a shame, but I do believe the person who wrote it (the name escapes me) will be working on new docs.


  • Its a plugin? You still need Maya and Renderman? Which as far as I understand are horrendously expensive... so what does it really matter there is a free plugin?
    • by malducin (114457) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @01:26PM (#4490514) Homepage

      Yes, Liquid only allows you to connect (seamlessly) Maya to a RenderMan renderer. PRMan is U$5000 per license. RAT is even more expensive. Maya Complete now is U$2000, but Unlimited is U$7,000:

      Pixar software price list [pixar.com]
      Maya store [aliaswavefront.com]

      As you can see from the list prices with Liquid you are partially subsituting RAT, which is $8,500. Specifically you are substituting MTOR which is the bridge between Maya and PRMan, You would still miss on things like Alfred, Slim and It.

      Why it does matter is that now small studios or even artists can afford a Maya to RenderMan bridge. Potentially they could combine it with cheaper alternatives like RenderDotC, AIR or 3Delight on the renderer part, and something like Smedge for distributing the rendering jobs. So potentially it could be easier to save the cost of RAT for artists workstations. Also if a studio has in house tools, they could potentially integrate them easier since the code for Liquid will be available.

      • Thanks for your reply (and for taking it seriusly). I don't know much about hiend rendering, but obviously that's one heck of a saving.
    • Grow up a will you kid! Just because you know what the hell they are talking about doesn't mean we all do! It was a perfectly legitimate question!
  • The author of Liquid stated on his website:

    I've built quiet a few tools over the years, anything from little scripts to manage renders to water simulation plugins. Over time I'll place information about the tools here as well as make some available. Since getting a Mac my mind has been on overdrive, thinking about what new things I can put together - OS/X has such a nice development environment.
  • this has been news for at least a week now, and still, nothing is available on the website or sourceforge.
    the cvs tree is empty.
    forums empty.
    if it weren't for LoTR being rendered with it, I would consider this vaporware...
  • by donglekey (124433) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:12PM (#4490701) Homepage
    I would have replied earlier, but I just got up and didn't realize that my story had been accepted. Many people are wondering why having a connection from Maya to the Renderman rendering standard is a big deal and it's a very valid concern.

    First of all I will say that I have known about Blender for quite a while, and while it does share many of the basic features of other high-end software (basic being the key word), it really is not acceptable to use for anything except as an intoduction to 3D. The magic 4 programs that are used for professional 3D are Lightwave, 3D Studio Max, Softimage | 3D and XSI, and Maya. They are very well architectured, very fast, and very elegant to use. There are many others but these are the programs that are used to make 90 % of the 3D CGI out there.

    Maya does have Renderman output, but it is abysmal and not suitable for anything but experimentation. I have used it to test Renderman shaders and I still needed to edit the actual .rib file ( the file containing the frame description, which is plain text) by hand. This wouldn't be practical on a scene containing anything more than a sphere and two lights.

    This is important because it encourages standards and it encourages open source. By far the area that Linux is penetrating the fastest is the high end computer graphics market. Large studios have made sweeping conversions, not just on render farms, but on workstsations. Softimage 3D and XSI now run on Linux as does Maya. Almost every software based compositor out there runs on Linux (the exceptions being After Effects and Combustion). Many studios that have proprietary software are porting it to Linux. ILM , Digital Domain, PDI, and Weta have very big investments in it. Being open source helps, but open source is not the reason it is there. This tool being open source is one more piece of the puzzle as far open source penetrating large graphics studios. High end studios will be going to sourceforge to get a tool that they may end up depending on to get the job done. Some will start becoming active in its development, and this is very good. Its sets a precedent for releasing proprietary tools into the OS world. There are many extremely skilled programmers working in 3D.

    More importantly than open source being furthered however is that it encourages standards. There are many Renderman compliant renderers out there, (Renderman is a frame description standard) Pixar's own implementation, Photorealistic Renderman is the most popular one. Most people just use the internal renderer of the software package they are using because the only standard for going between a 3D package and a renderer is Renderman, and a plugin is needed to facilitate that. Until now all of the choices were very expensive (somtimes more expensive than Maya itself believe it or not). Now that this part is free, people may start to see the benefits that come along with having a standard in place.

    Aren't those graphics applications still ungodly expensive? Yes and no. Maya is now at $2000 USD for the base version (everything you need is there) which is one hell of a deal. Don't I still need Pixar's PRman? Yes and No. It is not the only Renderman renderer, but it is the best. It is sold alone or with many tools to go between Maya and itself (more expensive). If someone uses Liquid, eighther way they are saving alot of money and getting a production proven tool.

    So is the entire pipeling Free? No, of course not, but that isn't the point. Open Source getting into 3D graphics studios is a very good thing, and this is a pretty cool step in the right direction. You want open minded people who just want to get the job done, and use the very best tools for their situation? That's 3D, perhaps overall one of the most intelligent and dynamic industries out there. They do their own thing and that's why Linux is taking over and OS can too, it just has to meet extremely high quality standards.

    P.S. No Hollywood is a hyprocrite crap today please. Visual effects and computer graphics as a whole is so far removed from the issue that making a connection between the MPAA and a visual effects house just shows how little you know about it, and it isn't fair to the people working in the 3D industry.
  • Good for some (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tolldog (1571) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @03:26PM (#4491043) Homepage Journal
    Thats great, but I don't know how many studios will really take advantage of it.

    Any studio that is working on a feature film will use solutions with tech support. When you are spending millions of dollars to make a film, it is worth spending a couple million to make sure that it really does get done.

    For people with Maya that want an indexpensive solution, use the native renderer or possibly look at MentalRay. I used the native renderer in a feature film and it held its own (Jonah: A Veggietales Movie [jonahmovie.com]). Sure there were a few issues, but that is where tech support and documentation comes in. We would not have been able to finish without the help of Alias|Wavefront.

    If you want to see how well it can do, go into the theater and watch it. Which, btw, was fully rendered on Linux boxes (if that is more of an incentive for us geek types to go).

    -Tim
  • by Jasin Natael (14968) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @04:26PM (#4491315)
    I seem to remember a recent /. article on how you can already perform near-renderman level rendering at incredible, up to half real-time speeds on an ATI Radeon 9000, with the new 128-bit floating point datatypes. Now all we need is a renderman plugin for (insert favorite encoder) to go straight from these files into MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 files by way of the video card.

    Production-Quality rendering all around! No more waiting days upon days for a distribution-quality movie file. Next year, preview your work in real time, full-quality! w00t!
  • This is great! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Graph-X (618532)
    If only to poke PIXAR in the eye over its treatment of Exluna and BMRT. I love PIXAR, but they seemed very predatory in their treatment of Exluna, and now they have denied BMRT to the world. How long will it be before they restrict the Renderman Spec itself? If memory serves, you have to get permission (or at least notify) PIXAR when you make a RIB-compatable renderer. In any case, you can at least save some money by not buying MTOR, and, since it is OSS, you can re-write it to support any custom features you may need for your production. Also, if PIXAR should become more restrictive, you can re-target the export for a different renderer. If I were to feel bad for anyone, it would be animal logic, since this will comepete with their MayaMan product. But since it is unlikely to support automatic conversion of Maya shading networks to RIB, they will probably maintain their market. You will still have to write your own shaders with Liquid (or use the defaults.)
  • I'm not a 3D junkie or anything, but can someone provide a quick summary (or a link to one) describing what the difference between Renderman, Maya, 3DS, Blender, and Pov-ray is? I thought they were all just rendering tools in their own right... Which ones of these are modellers and which ones are renderers? Oh, and if ya mention google in your reply, i'll smack ya. :)

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