RenderMan, Lightwave, and Clarisse..

Pixar: RenderMan 25

Pixar’s RenderMan version 25 has been released. This new version features improved speed, quality, and scalability. With a new state-of-the-art Denoiser and XPU advancements.

This release represents a major leap forward in Pixar’s core rendering technology. The cornerstone of this release is an advanced Denoiser from Disney Research which uses machine learning to significantly accelerate the rendering process. The RenderMan Denoiser is a completely new denoising technology developed by Disney Research, which was built using training data from Disney, ILM, and Pixar. The Denoiser can significantly reduce render times for both feature animation and VFX, while delivering images of the highest RenderMan quality.

This denoiser replaces the current offline denoiser in RenderMan that was developed by Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS). Pixar’s RenderMan Denoiser uses machine learning to remove noise from partially converged images with high accuracy and temporal coherence, resulting in a final image that is nearly indistinguishable from fully converged images. This advanced denoising technology is reliable as it has been developed by Disney Research and used in production at Pixar, WDAS, and Industrial Light and Magic, where it has been proven to be highly effective. The AI Denoiser stands out in preserving complex, intricate details that could otherwise be lost. The new Denoiser in RenderMan 25 can be applied to any type of physically based rendering, or animated sequence of frames, as long as the necessary AOVs are written out (which is an automated process). It is especially useful for scenes with complex lighting or fine geometry like hair that would normally require a high number of samples to achieve. However, the very powerful and creative RenderMan Stylized Looks is currently unsupported.

Pixar’s state-of-the-art rendering technology, XPU, has also reached major new milestones, including volume rendering, full support for secondary passes, and faster interactivity. RenderMan XPU is a CPU + GPU hybrid renderer that lives alongside RenderMan RIS. It uses both the CPU and GPU together to give artists faster renders. RenderMan XPU brings greater interactivity to artists. Artists will be able to more quickly iterate and see their results with RenderMan XPU. While RenderMan XPU is not the same as RenderMan RIS, the pictures that you can render with XPU are representative of what you can render with RIS. In a major milestone for RenderMan 25. XPU can now efficiently render complex volumetric effects such as fog, fire, clouds, etc. With the addition of volume aggregates, XPU can render volumetric effects in a physically accurate manner while delivering fast performance on modern CPUs & GPUs.

Disney and Pixar’s “Elemental”

XPU can also render secondary passes for compositing, just like RenderMan’s other renderer, RIS. XPU supports all the same AOVs, LPEs, and output options as RIS, so artists can use it to generate the passes they need for compositing and other post-production tasks. While RenderMan XPU is a general-purpose renderer, it does not yet have all of the features of RenderMan RIS, but it has a strong role in LookDev, and it clearly demonstrates Pixar’s commitment to fast iteration and continued fundamental rendering development.

Disney and Pixar’s “Lightyear”

RenderMan artist tools for Autodesk’s Maya, Blender® Foundry’s Katana, and SideFX Houdini have all been comprehensively updated for version 25, including support for the VFX Reference Platform 2021.

All Pixar & RenderMan Images are © Disney/Pixar


In a surprising move, LightWave 3D now becomes LightWave Digital under the new management of Andrew Bishop and Jo Moore.  Andrew Bishop is now the Creative Director of the new LightWave Digital company and Jo Moore, is the LightWave Digital CEO. Moore comes from outside 3D/VFX having previously had a career in Banking, Technology, and Consulting. Together they have assembled a UK-based leadership team to develop the 3D animation system and deliver a new reinvigorated software for the LightWave community.

By 3D LightWave artist Jet Cooper

LightWave, was first developed by NewTek and then acquired by Vizrt Group in 2019. It has a long history of being a high-quality 3D application for creatives to deliver impressive animation efficiently, and cost-effectively. As users themselves for over 25 years, Bishop and his team have a vested interest and commitment to upgrading the software for its customers around the globe. Bishop has always been passionate about LightWave and when the opportunity arose to acquire the software, he leveraged his network, to pull together a unique team. They include experienced LightWave specialists, Donetta Colboch, Elmar Moezler, and Jack “Deuce” Bennett.

Commenting on the divestiture of LightWave, Michael Hallén, CEO of Vizrt Group commented that “we did not make this decision lightly, but the aim has always been to ensure LightWave 3D has a future with a team that has a strong desire to breathe new life into the technology, bring more value to users, and usher in the next generation of 3D graphics for film, animation, and VFX,”


After over a decade, it appears that Clarisse and CNode are discontinued. In 2012 reported that French start-up Isotropix, with its product Clarisse iFX, was attempting to change the industry. Clarisse aimed to change the way CGI pipelines work, via the central mantra of reducing the amount of time from any interaction to the machine starting to render final images. At that time the company was focused on the minimum time to first-pixel output in any situation.

The company found strong success with DNEG adopting it and the product being the backbone of their 3D, especially in the area of Environments. In 2014 then Double Negative adopted Clarisse iFX – for look dev, lighting, and rendering. It was used successfully in many films from Godzilla to Bullet Train, as well as TV series such as Foundation. Recently DNEG apparently decided to stop using Clarisse, and as their major lighthouse account, this no doubt strongly influenced the decision.

Black Hole in Apple+’s Foundation made with Clarisse at DNEG

The company posted on Reddit that Isotropix is pivoting to a new opportunity. “All Isotropix products are now end of life and no longer available for purchase. The development of Clarisse and CNode is discontinued.” The company posted details about maintenance contracts and stated that “we thank you for being a part of Isotropix’s journey and for your support over the years.” It was signed “The Isotropix Team”

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