Search the FAQ Archives

3 - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M
N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z - Internet FAQ Archives

RenderMan FAQ - monthly posting

[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index | Forum ]
Archive-name: graphics/renderman-faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 25 July 2008

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
This is the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list for the newsgroup.  Please review this FAQ
before posting questions to c.g.r.r.

You can find translations of this FAQ in the following places:
        Russian -
	Japanese -

Contents: (* indicates changes since last time)

  Q: Where can I get translations of this FAQ into other languages?
  Q: What is the charter for
  Q: What other newsgroups have closely related material?
  Q: Where is archived?
General RI Questions:
  Q: What is "RenderMan"?
  Q: Where can I find documentation on the RenderMan Interface?
  Q: What's the difference between the procedural interface and RIB?
  Q: What features are required in the RenderMan Interface?  What
     are optional?
  Q: What do I have to do in order to call my software "RenderMan
  Q: What implementations of the RenderMan standard are available?
  Q: Is PRMan a ray tracer?
  Q: What alternate bindings exist to support the RenderMan Interface?
  Q: What front ends (modelers, etc) support the RenderMan Interface?
  Q: What other net resources exist which are related to RenderMan?
  Q: Where can I get the Pixar videos?

	RI = RenderMan Interface, often refers to the spec document.
	RC = _The RenderMan Companion_ by Steve Upstill.
	SL = Shading Language.
	PRMan = Pixar's PhotoRealistic RenderMan product
	BMRT = Blue Moon Rendering Tools
	ARMan = _Advanced RenderMan: Creating CGI for Motion Pictures_,
		by Tony Apodaca and Larry Gritz.


Q: Where can I get translations of this FAQ into other languages?
Russian -
Japanese -

Q: What is the charter for
------------------------------------------------------------- is an unmoderated newsgroup
intended for the discussion of the RenderMan standard (e.g.
definition, semantics, usage, tips), the RenderMan Shading Language
(e.g. posted shaders, questions, tips), particular RenderMan
implementations, software that uses the RenderMan interface (e.g.
RIB-producing modelers, third party shaders), and comparisons,
comments and questions about RenderMan in general.

   This group is NOT intended for the distribution of images or RIB
files.  Large data or binary files should be uploaded to appropriate
FTP or web sites and announced on the newsgroup, but not posted

Q: What other newsgroups have closely related material?
-------------------------------------------------------		: computer animation		: algorithms for graphics	: the technique of ray tracing 	: visualizing scientific data		: programming NEXTSTEP
    alt.movies.visual-effects		: discussion of movie effects
    sci.image.processing		: technicalities of image processing		: pixel and image utilities

The FAQ's for these groups (and most others) can be found at

Q: Where is archived?


Q: What is "RenderMan"?

Here's the most brief explanation I could come up with:

    According to RI (3.1 spec, p. 3): "The RenderMan Interface is a
standard interface between modeling programs and rendering programs
capable of producing photorealistic quality images."

    RenderMan is in many respects similar to PostScript, but for 3D
primitives.  The goal is to provide a standard mechanism for modeling
and animation software to send data to rendering systems in a device-
independent way, and with minimal regard to the actual rendering
algorithms being used.  A particular RenderMan implementation may use
scanline methods (z-buffer, REYES), ray tracing, radiosity, or other

    An important aspect of the RenderMan Interface is the Shading
Language (SL).  SL breaks the restrictive paradigm of surfaces being
described by a small number of parameters (Ka, Kd, Ks, etc.).  SL
allows the user to write her own arbitrarily complex descriptions of
how lighting and shading should be computed.

Q: Where can I find documentation on the RenderMan Interface?

    The book _Advanced RenderMan: Creating CGI for Motion Pictures_ by
Tony Apodaca and Larry Gritz (Morgan-Kaufmann, 1999) is quite
comprehensive and is *the* bible for RenderMan use these days.
There's also web materials available from
You can order it from or also from your favorite
online (or brick-and-mortar) book store.

    The official RenderMan Interface specification (now at release
3.2) is surprisingly readable for a standard document, but not in any
way a tutorial.  A must for any serious RenderMan user, it's available
online at Pixar's web site:

    _The RenderMan Companion: A Programmer's Guide to Realistic
Computer Graphics_, by Steve Upstill (Addison-Wesley, 1989, ISBN
0-201-50868-0) is an excellent introduction to the procedural API and
the Shading Language.  Unfortunately, it doesn't address RIB at all,
and the SL section is rather naive -- no antialiasing, relatively
simple shaders, etc.  The next step for the advanced user is
the Siggraph '98 course notes, described below.

    A more gentle introduction may be found in _Essential RenderMan
Fast_, by Ian Stephenson (Springer Verlag, 2003).

    "Rendering for Beginners" by Saty Raghavachary (Focal Press, 2004,
ISBN 0-240-519353, 384 pages) is another introductory RenderMan
book. This one contains all color images, and offers a thorough
up-to-date introduction to RenderMan via RIB and the RSL. A variety of
application areas are used to illustrate diverse uses for
RenderMan. There are even sections on global illumination and
painterly rendering. All files (RIBs, shaders, maps) for all
RenderMan-generated images (about 300) are online at the 'RfB' site,

    If you're interested in SL, or procedural shading in general,
check out _Textures and Modeling: A Procedural Approach_, by Ebert,
Musgrave, Peachey, Perlin, and Worley (Academic Press, 1994, ISBN
0-12-228760-6).  The second edition was released in 1998, and contains
updates and new material.  The book web site is

    There are several good course notes from courses taught at
SIGGRAPH conferences:
  Siggraph '90 course #18 - The RenderMan Interface & Shading Language
  Siggraph '92 course #21 - Writing RenderMan Shaders
  Siggraph '95 course # 4 - Using RenderMan for Animation Production
  Siggraph '98 Course #11 - Advanced RenderMan: Beyond the Companion
  Siggraph '99 Course #25 - (repeat with revisions of the '98 course)
  Siggraph '00 Course #40 - Advanced RenderMan 2: RI_INFINITY and
  Siggraph '01 Course #48 - Advanced RenderMan 3: Render Harder
  Siggraph '02 Course #16 - RenderMan in Production
Many of these are available downloadable in PDF form at

    Here are some other technical papers that discuss either the
RenderMan Interface or some of the technologies behind its

    Cook, Carpenter, and Catmull. "The Reyes Image Rendering
	Computer Graphics 21(4):95-102, 1987.  (Describes the rendering
	method that prman uses.)

    Gritz, Larry, and J.K. Hahn.  "BMRT: A Global Illumination
	Implementation of the RenderMan Standard", _Journal of Graphics
	Tools_, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 29-47, 1996.

    Hanrahan and Lawson. "A Language for Shading and Lighting
	Computer Graphics 24(4):289-298, August 1990.  (Describes SL.)

    Reeves, Salesin, and Cook. "Rendering antialiased shadows with
	depth maps", Computer Graphics 21(4):283-291, July 1987. (Describes
	the methods that prman uses to compute shadows.)

    Slusallek, Pflaum, and Seidel. "Implementing RenderMan--Practice,
	Problems and Enhancements."  Proceedings of Eurographics '94.
	(Describes their implementation.)

Q: What's the difference between the procedural interface and RIB?

   Two official bindings exist for the RenderMan Interface.  The first
is a procedural API, i.e. a collection of library routines callable
from an ANSI C program.  Those functions all start with Ri, for
example RiBegin().  The procedural API is explained in great detail in
_RC_ and in the RI standard document.

   The second binding is called RenderMan Interface Bytestream (RIB).
RIB is an ASCII (or binary) metafile format.  In general, there is a
one-to-one correspondence between the API calls and their equivalent
RIB directives.  RIB is useful for archival and later rendering,
rendering over a network, and hacking scenes by hand.  RIB is
unfortunately not documented in _RC_, but is exhaustively detailed in

   The usual way that RenderMan is used is for a program (modeler) to
make the procedural API calls.  The program is linked to a library
which, for each API call, outputs the corresponding RIB to a file.
That archived RIB can later be sent to a standalone renderer which
inputs the RIB and outputs rendered images.

Q: What features are required by the RI?  What is optional?

    The full list of requirements for a RenderMan-compliant renderer
is given in the RenderMan Interface Specification.

    Basically, a RenderMan-compliant renderer should minimally provide
the following features:

	Complete hierarchical graphics state
	Orthographic and perspective viewing transformations
	Hidden surface removal
	Pixel filtering and antialiasing
	Gamma correction and dithering before quantization
	Produce images containing any combination of RGB, A, and Z at a user
	  specified resolution
	Support all of the geometric primitives of the standard (including
	   quadrics, polygons, bilinear and bicubic patches, trimmed NURBS,
	   and subdivision surfaces)
	Programmable shading of lights, surfaces, displacements, and
	   volumes with shaders in RenderMan Shading Language.
	Provide the ability to index texture, environment, and shadow maps.
	Provide the 15 standard light source, surface, volume, and
	   displacement shaders

    This is actually quite a lot -- you'll find few rendering systems,
free or commercial, which provide as many features as even the minimal
RenderMan requirements.

    In addition, RenderMan-compliant renderers may support several
optional capabilities.  Many of these features are very advanced, and
some rendering algorithms simply cannot support certain features, so
the availability will tend to vary from implementation to
implementation.  The optional capabilities include:

	Solid Modeling (CSG)		Special Camera Projections
	Multiple Levels of Detail	Motion Blur
	Depth of Field			Area Light Sources
	Deformations			Displacements
	Spectral Colors			Volume Shading
	Ray Tracing			Radiosity

Q: What do I have to do in order to call my software "RenderMan

    According to the RI spec, modeling programs that output RIB or
make the API calls may do so without a license, but must display
Pixar's copyrights as described in the spec.

    For many years Pixar claimed that a written license was necessary
for a renderer to accept the API calls, but as of the published
"3.2.1", the RI spec now allows anyone to make a compliant renderer.
There are still the usual copyright notices that such a program must
print or document.  Please consult the RI spec for details:

Q: What implementations of the RenderMan standard are available?

   A lot has changed in the past few years, now there are a plethora
of RenderMan-compliant (or mostly compatible, or somehow related)
renderers.  Here are the main players, past and present, listed
roughly in the order that they were made available to the public.  The
descriptions are supplied mostly by the authors, and the FAQ
maintainers makes no specific claims or guarantees about the features
or compatibility of the packages, nor should inclusion in the list
imply endorsement of any products (except where noted).  Lists of
RMan-compliant renderers (even more extensive than this one) can be
found at

   Pixar's implementation of the RenderMan standard is a product
called PhotoRealistic RenderMan ("PRMan", for short), now in version
15.  PRMan was used to render effects for The Abyss, Terminator 2,
Jurassic Park, Casper, Apollo 13, Contact, Starship Troopers, Toy
Story (Classic and II), A Bug's Life, Star Wars I, Dinosaur, and many
many other films.  See for details.
Various older versions of PRMan were sold as MacRenderMan, PRMan on
the NeXT computer, and RenderMan for Windows, but these are all

   The Blue Moon Rendering Tools (originally written by Larry Gritz,
then developed and maintained by Exluna) is probably the most widely
used implementation, in terms of number of users (it had thousands of
downloads *per week* in its heyday).  It supported ray tracing, global
illumination, caustics, area lights, full implementation of Shading
Language, volume and imager shaders, displacements, and other advanced
features, long before any other RMan implementations even contemplated
such features.  BMRT has been used (to varying extents) on several
film productions, including A Bug's Life, Stuart Little, Gone in 60
Seconds, Hollow Man, The Cell, and Woman on Top.  BMRT was
discontinued after Pixar sued Exluna and several of Exluna's founders.

    RenderDotC (RDC), written by Rick Lamont of Dot C Software, is a
RenderMan-compliant REYES renderer for Windows 95/NT, SGI, and Linux.
More information from

   The University of Erlangen's Vision project is an object-oriented
RenderMan-compliant renderer.  Information may be found at:
Also check out Philipp Slusallek's PhD about the Vision system,
available on the same site.  They're not terribly specific about
the distribution policy -- they seem able to distribute to "selected
institutions", but I don't believe they are widely distributing their

    Advanced Rendering Technology (ART) promises a "raytracer
on a chip" which is supposed to be compliant with the RenderMan
Interface.  Info is at:

    Aqsis is an open source RenderMan-compliant 3D rendering solution,
available for Windows, Linux, MacOS X and others (cross-platform).
Details from:

   From Scott Iverson, Siren (DOS only) and AIR (Windows) are
RenderMan-compliant, plus a few interesting extensions.
Details from:  (for AIR)

    3DLight is a RenderMan-compliant REYES renderer.  Available for
IRIX, Linux (Intel and PPC) and Windows.  Info from:
It also now comes with a Maya plugin (3Delight for Maya) with a
user-friendly interface to 3Delight as well as a customizable workflow
and a RenderMan MEL binding.

   Exluna, Inc.'s "Entropy" renderer was the commercial big brother of
BMRT (and in fact hails from BMRT's code base).  But that really
doesn't do it justice -- it was a very fast and efficient scanline
renderer that also supported ray tracing, global illumination, area
lights, caustics, and ambient occlusion (like BMRT, before most other
renderers were even close to such support).  Entropy was used on Star
Wars Episode 2, Stuart Little 2, Reign of Fire, Harry Potter 2,
Blizzard, Hero, The Returner, The Core, Matrix Reloaded, The Day
After, and many other films.  Entropy and BMRT were discontinued after
Pixar sued Exluna and several of Exluna's founders.

   Pixie, by Okan Arikan, is GPL'd and is available from:

   Gelato is a production renderer made by NVIDIA's Digital Film
Group, which was formed after the NVIDIA's acquisition of Exluna.
Although Gelato is not itself RenderMan-compliant, it has a plug-in
system for reading arbitrary scene file formats.  One such plugin for
reading RIB files is available free and open-sourced, and furthermore,
a RSL-to-GSL (Gelato shading language) translator is now also
available for free.  Links to both 3rd party tools can be found (if
you hunt a little) on the Gelato web site:

Q: Is PRMan a ray tracer?

   Starting with PRMan 11, released in late 2002, PRMan does do
ray tracing for secondary rays, much like Entropy and several other
RMan-compatible renderers had done for a long time.

   But before release 11, PRMan WAS NOT A RAYTRACER.  Environment and
reflection mapping were used for almost all the pre-2003 films that
used PRMan.

   For some films, ray tracing was used by using BMRT and PRMan
together The first such use was for 15 shots of "A Bug's Life."  (Look
for the glass bottles!)  The method, called the "ray server" or
sometimes "frankenrender", is described in the _Advanced RenderMan_
book, as well as in the BMRT documentation (release 2.4 and later).
Other films, have rendered mostly with PRMan but used BMRT, Entropy,
or possibly other renderers just for those objects or shots that
needed ray tracing (example: ILM used Entropy for the shots of the
queen's ship exploding in Star Wars Episode II).

Q: What alternate bindings exist to support the RenderMan Interface?

Java Bindings for RenderMan from Sean Cier are available from:

A Perl 5 binding for RenderMan available from Glenn Lewis:
Also, Ron Mayer has a page demonstrating the Perl binding at

"Terry" Python binding for RenderMan:

SnakeMan is another Python binding for RenderMan:
(some have reported that this URL is bad; try to find

The Python Computer Graphics Kit has RenderMan bindings:

Michael Johnson has "Adam", a Tcl binding for RenderMan:

Hardcore Processing has a set of Standard ML bindings (!):

If the "client libraries" (C-callable libraries that output RIB)
from PRMan or BMRT don't suit your needs, there's also one included
(with source) in Thomas Burge's Affine Toolkit:

Q: What front ends (modelers, etc) support the RenderMan Interface?

This information was supplied by many people, so it's hard to verify
its accuracy, and it certainly contains individuals' opinions.  Often,
this info comes from the companies supplying the products.  I do not
necessarily endorse any of the products listed, though if I find out
that any are particularly good or bad, I will note it.  The products
are listed in no particular order, though I've broken it into the
categories of: modelers, plugins or converters, and "other".  If you
know of other front ends or products which use RenderMan, please send
me a short paragraph and I will include it here.

Also, additional lists of related products and tools can be found

Modelers & Animation Systems which can output RIB natively

   Side Effects' Houdini system (modeling & animation) has very
good RenderMan support (both PRMan and BMRT).  It also includes the
ability to create shaders *within* the program by a visual means and
export out the shader source for tweaking and compiling.  [ed. note -
I have heard great things about this package.]  Details at:

   Rhino is a Windows (NT or 95) based NURBS modeler which recently
added RIB support.  Their site has a free beta available for download:

   A related tool is RhinoMan, a rendering plug-in for several
Renderman based renderers including PrMan, AIR, RenderDotC, 3Delight
and Aqsis. It includes fully customizable RIB export, user options,
GI, and material asssignments.  (

   Also check out J. Aberg's page with tips on using BMRT with Rhino

   Steve May at the Ohio State University has written an animation
language ("AL"), inspired by the Menv system that's used at Pixar.  It
has great RIB support and is programmable in some very interesting
ways.  It runs on Linux and UNIX platforms and provides a complete,
procedurally-oriented interface to PRMan and BMRT.  More info is
available from:

   AC3D is a 3D modeler by Andy Colebourne.  It's polygon based, but
does extrusions, revolutions, etc.  It's quite nice, runs on Linux,
SGI, Sun, and now Windows, and demo versions are available as
shareware.  And it outputs RIB, among other formats.  More info, and
downloading the software, available at:

    Vertigo's Animation Machine software (modeler & animation system)
has very nice support for RenderMan output, but it's only a polygon
based modeler.  You can generate RIB files or render directly.
Vertigo comes with the prman runtime library linked in for integrated
rendering, or you can buy Vertigo bundled with prman.  Their phone
number is 604-684-2113.

    Macromedia's MacroModel's was a spline-based modeler for Mac and
Win, with pretty good RIB export.  But it's now defunct.  So it goes.

    3DReality from Stone Design Corp. (505) 345-4800
Runs on NEXTSTEP.  A little long in the tooth and has some quirks, but
it's built of dynamically loadable bundles and offers a very accesible
API for adding your own shapes, tools, etc. Reads and writes RIBS just
fine. Really, really good academic discounts and very friendly tech

   Amapi 2.05 is mainly a modeller that is fairly good for creating
characters.  It uses NURBS, Splines and Polys.  Intuitive interface
unlike any.

   Alias PowerAnimator (also for SGI), versions 5 & 6, output rib,
NURBS including trim curves.  [ed. note: Alias's RIB output is
notoriously mediocre.]

   Intuitiv'3d from Intuitive Systems, Inc. tel: 415-852-0245
fax:415-852-1271,  Runs on NEXTSTEP.  Sports a
terrific interface but is rather slow.  Great realtime previews of
lighting and shape, so-so modeling tools, great shader manipulation,
including "MetaShaders" which store surface, color, displacement and
lighting shader info in a single entity.  Reads RIBS but saves to its
own proprietary format (.i3dw)

   solidThinking - - For Windows and OS X, this
industrial-strength modeler from Italy approaches Alias in its power
and refinement. Great modeling tools including NURBS, control of every
RenderMan parameter, fast and smooth manipulation of objects and
lights. Reads and writes RIBS, among many other formats.

   Breeze Designer is a 32-bit 3D modelling and design tool for
Windows NT, Windows 95 and Win32s with exports for the Persistance of
Vision raytracer, RenderMan, and VRML.  Breeze Designer is still under
developement, and updated are posted regularly. The beta latest beta
version is available from the above location. All beta's are
distributed as copyright freeware.

   Pixels:3D (formerly the Valis Group's Pixel Putty Solo) runs on
MacOS X and older versions on Mac OS classic.

   Alias Sketch 2.0 for the Mac is a spline and polygon surface
modeler which supports NURBS but does not have shader support.  Price
is around $600.

   Autodesys form*Z is a CAD modeler on the Mac and Win95/NTwhich goes
for $1500.  Polygons, CSG, and spline meshes are supported.  No direct
shader support.

   VIDI's Presenter Professional for the Mac ($1500) is a
spline/patch-mesh based modeler with excellent RenderMan support; you
can manipulate shader parameters and everything.  More info at:
There's also a site at
which contains more info and some useful shaders.

   FastCad 3D by Evolution Computing; 437 South 48th Street, Suite
106; Tempe, AZ 85281; Phone: (602) 967-8633.  FastCad 3D is a 3-D
modeling system capable of producing a RIB file for rendering with a
program like Pixar's Renderman for Windows.  This DOS program can
produce 3D models quickly due to the fact that it is written in
Assembly language.

   DesignCad 3D for the Mac and Windows ($500) is a polygonal surface
modeler which outputs RIB.  Supports CSG.  No direct shader support.
More information from

   VisLab 3D Animation Software by Engineering Animation Inc.has a
full renderman interface.  Normal rendering is done entirely in
hardware, but everything can be automatically piped over to prman, or
written out as an .rib file. Both hardware and prman can also be
combined in the same scene. The interface is really great.  Contact:
Engineering Animation Inc., 2321 North Loop Drive, Ames, IA 50010,

   Poser 4 is a human shape and pose modeler from Curious Labs Inc.
(now owned by e Frontier) which supports animation, clothing, and
exchanging body parts with various 3D objects.  It runs on Mac,
PowerMac, and Windows.  It can export RIB.  Details can be found at (note: the RIB export was fixed by a patch
which had the unfortunate timing of coming out right before BMRT's
path convention was changed to UNIX-style, thus exported RIB files
will require hand editing where texture maps are called)

   ThreeD, by Kieran Jones is a scene modeler that runs under NEXTSTEP
and supports RenderMan.  I haven't tried it, but it's available for
FTP from
You can contact the author at

   ShellyLib2.0, a shell-shape-generator which outputs RIB (among
other formats). is available from

   VTK, Bill Lorensen's OO scientific visualization toolkit, can now
output RIB.  It's not really a modeler, but if you're into SciVi, you
may think this is very cool.  See

   PhotoSynthesis 1.0 is a primitive modeler that has full support for
RenderMan on PowerMac platform. Rendering features include automatic
reflection and shadow generation, softbox reflections, and easily
set-up Depth of Field blur. Shaders are fully supported with unique 3D
cursor that replaces Up/At Vector. Exports RIB file format.  Full
featured NURBS, Boolean Operations and 3DMF File Import/Export will be
available in Spring of '97. Available directly from Silver Creek
Software.  For more information call 888/880-0551, e-mail, or see their WWW site at

Ayam (formerly known as Mops), from Randolph Schultz, is a free
modeling environment which can write RIB files.  It's available
precompiled for SGI, Linux, and NT.  The home page is:

"Shade" is a modeler/renderer that, among other things, claims to
be able to export its object models as RIB.  It runs under NT.
More details are available from:

Julian Fong has written "L2RIB" (
which converts Lego (yes, the toy) models created with LDraw
( into RIB files.

Molecular dynamics: VMD (Visual Molecular Dynamics),
and Chimera, formerly MidasPlus, from
both can render using Renderman or BMRT, or output RIB.

Silo, a 3D modeler with RIB export/render options is available

Converters & plug-ins for modelers

   Pixar's new MTOR product is a Maya plugin that produces excellent
RenderMan output, just as ATOR was for Alias.  Also includes
compositing software and a system for distributing rendering jobs
across a network.  Details available directly from Pixar.

   DriveMan from Gestel Italia converts IGES and Alias Wire files
to RenderMan, for use with either PRMan or BMRT.  There's both
a freeware version and a more complete commercial version.
More information from:

   SoRender is a freely distributed interactive graphical interface
from Softimage to the RenderMan standard.  The interface is currently
composed of eight tools that are all written as plug-ins to Softimage
and are built on Softimage's DKit.  Features Include: Interactive
Previewing of RenderMan rendered images from within Softimage;
Interactive tools for working with shaders and adjusting parameters;
Tools to make working with shadow maps and environment maps easier;
Shader Keywords to facilitate parameter animation; Support of both
PhotoRealistic RenderMan and BMRT; Access to all tools from within
Softimage; Support of motion blur.  SoRender can be obtained at

  A MentalRay-to-RenderMan converter:

   WaveMan, a Wavefront-to-RenderMan conversion tool, is available
from Minds Eye Graphics (, 804-643-3713).

   Animal Logic sells plugins for both SoftImage and 3D Studio Max
that output to RenderMan and BMRT.  Details about SoftMan and MaxMan
Details can be found at:

   Lost In Space makes a product called Siren which converts SoftImage
scenes into RIB files.  Info is available from
Siren converts Softimage 3D scene and model files into RenderMan RIB
and shader files. Siren 2.0 works only on SGI's running IRIX 4.0.5 or
later. It can read Softimage 2.66 scene/model files. SiRen only has a
comandline/scripted interface, but is now being upgraded to a point
and click version 2.1.  To run siren you must have a copy of the
Softimage Developers Kit.  US$2000 per license, bulk discounts
available. 30% discount for educational institutions. Source licensing
is available. Siren + Renderman deals available.  Pay for Siren2.0 and
get a free upgrade to Siren2.1 when it is released.

   There is a 3D Studio to RIB converter by Alex Segal on the net, see for details.

   Envisions Solutions sells Envision-It, which converts DXF to RIB.
Not a modeler.  Sells for around $200.

   Okino Computer Graphics, Inc. has two products called the 'NuGraf
Rendering System' and 'PolyTrans', which include Renderman export
capability. It can convert from DXF, 3D Studio, Lightwave, OpenFlight,
IGES 5.3, Wavefront, SoftImage and many more (the latter 3 formats
allow output of trimmed NURBS to Renderman in a clean form). Output of
animation data from Lightwave and 3D Studio to Renderman will follow
in v2.1 of PolyTrans. A demo and other info are available from the WWW
site: Contact: 905-672-9328
905-672-2706 (fax).

   Viewpoint Datalabs has a product called InterChange (formerly
Syndesis InterChange) for Windows and SGI, that converts between more
than fifty 3D file formats, including Softimage, Alias, LightWave, 3D
Studio and many others.  It can export geometry to a simple RIB file.
For info, see:

   Cow House has a free converters from Inventor2.0 and VRML to
RenderMan & BMRT.  For details, see:

There's a plugin for Moray (a modeler for POV-Ray) that will output
Only geometry is exported, and only for the simple primitives.
Details at:

   LtoR is a plugin for NewTek's Lightwave 3D to output RIB.  The web
page is in Japanese, but the software reportedly works fine and has
its UI in English.  The software home page is:

   Another Lightwave-to-RIB converter is CeX3D.  It's commercial, but
a demo version is available at

   LightMan, by Tim Dapper, is a LightWave plugin that exports to
RenderMan-compliant renderers.  Info can be found at:

   Light-R is a LightWave 7&8 plugin for Windows that exports LW
camera, lights (with shadow maps) and polygons into a sequence of RIB
files, ready to be used by a RenderMan renderer.  Light-R needs many
features to be considered complete but now is more than just a
prototype. The polygons have attached a simple matte shader with color
information but not smooth normals. I've been testing generated RIB
files with Aqsis, 3Delight and AIR.  It's available from:

The Cornell Theory Center has an extension to Data Explorer
( that exports for BMRT (and
presumably for other compatible renderers).  Info from:

   Mike Hough has written a RIB export plugin for Hash Animation
Master '99, available from:

   Another Hash Animation Master plugin by Nicholas Yue is
available at

  POVman, a POVray patched for using RSL, is available here:
There is an old compiled version for X11 here :
Some time ago Yvo Smellenbergh of the POVray development team ported
it to MacOS classic as well. This is no longer linked from his site
but still exists there.
There is also POV2RIB,  a little tricky for some to build since it
real ANT and not Java ANT as some modern Linuxen have :

  BlenderMan is now old, but works in Python 2.3 and supports
Aqsis, BMRT, Entropy, and PRman.
Blend2Pixie is a modification of the same exclusively for Pixie.
  BToR (BlendertoRenderMan) depends on Python CGKit but is current and
ongoing developement, and seems the most used.
BtoR SVN :
BtoR ZIP download :
BtoR Aqsis wiki page :
  Since the forum would not make a subforum for
Blender to RIB/Renderman projects and discussion, Ted Gocek set up his
own forum for this:
  There's a new, actively-deveoped Blender-to-RenderMan exporter
currently in beta:

Other Tools

   RenderWrapper (RW) is a simple Tcl/Tk script for conveniently
setting the parameters for the rendrib, rgl, and rendribv renderers
from BMRT.  It provides a GUI for rendering single or multiple frames
in wireframe, polygon, and photorealistic modes. RW runs on Unix and
Windoze95/NT systems.  It is FREE and can be downloaded from:

   The Affine Toolkit by Thomas E. Burge contains a number of RIB
filters and massagers, including binary RIB dumping and conversion
utilities, utilities to parameterize NURBS in RIB files by arc length,
polish up RIB files generated by Alias, etc.  More info and download

   Cinema Graphics is now selling a product called "Shade Tree"
which is a dataflow system for writing RenderMan shaders.  Info

   Pixar used to sell Showplace for the Mac and Typestry 2 for the
Mac and PC.  They're nice little programs if you can get your hands
on them, but Pixar no longer sells these.

   WavesWorld, a set of UI, modeling and animation objects available
atop NEXTSTEP, available via
An object oriented framework consisting of two "kits" of objects and
lots of examples, WavesWorld is based directly atop the RenderMan
interface.  Wave has also made available a Tcl binding for RenderMan.

SLER is a Python and GTK2 Shader creator and editor, basically
Shaderman and Shrimp. Documentation is minimal and in Russian. It is
available currently only via CVS thus :
  cvs -z3
  co -P sler

Q: What other net resources exist which are related to RenderMan?

   Tal Lancaster of CalTech (now a TD at Disney) has set up a
Repository" for dissemination of shaders, RIB files, etc.  Among other
things, this site has pointers to just about everything else that has
RenderMan related stuff. Here's the URL:

   Pixar's RenderMan home page:
Most of the site is now available only to registered PRMan licensees.

The Ebert, et al. book _Texturing and Modeling_ (mentioned earlier)
has an FTP site with the examples from the book, including RenderMan
Shading Language source code:

Similarly, Stephen May used to teach a course on digital lighting
at Ohio State.  A Shading Language tutorial and student projects
can be found at these addresses:

   Geomview is an interactive 3D geometry (in the mathematical sense)
viewing program written at the Geometry Center.  It can export RIB.
URL is

   Doug Ward has a site that's about using VIDI Presenter 3D.  If you
look on: (select the shaders button on
the frame) you'll find some shaders and other goodies that may be
useful even if you don't use Presenter.

Tips on using Houdini and RenderMan together are available from:

RenderMania, maintained by Simon Bunker, is another collection of
links and useful information about rendering and production, and in
particular things related to BMRT and RenderMan:

Shaders, textures, models, and so on are available from TurboSquid
(  There are a bunch of RenderMan shaders
compiled for both PRMan and BMRT available for $10 each.

Malcolm Kesson has course notes on using RenderMan available at
These course notes and Cutter, a very useful Java based self contained
suite of RMan utils, including a TCL intepreter, web/documentation
browser as well as RMan, BMRT, Air, 3Delight, Pixie, Aqsis and user
defined rendererer tools, is now at http:/

Alexei Puzikov runs a Russian web site dedicated to RenderMan-related

Q: Where can I get the Pixar videos?

Pixar's animation video (which contains Luxo Jr, Reds Dream, Tin Toy
and Knickknack) is available directly from Pixar.  The cost is $25.00.
Just call 1 800-888-9856 or 510-236-4000.  The tape is available in
both VHS NTSC and PAL formats.

The Pixar shorts were released by Disney Home Video as "Tiny Toy
Stories".  You should be able to find them at your local video store
for around $10.

Recently, Pixar shorts have been made available in quicktime format on
their website, at:


This FAQ was mostly written and maintained by Larry Gritz, who wishes
to thank the contributions of: Antoine Durr, J.J. Hoesing, Steve
Hollasch, Michael B. Johnson, Joshua Kolden, Andrew MacRae, Nino
Mendolia, David Milner, Pohl Longsine, Steve Weintz, and others.

Please send comments, additions, gripes to: lg AT larrygritz DOT com

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index ]

Send corrections/additions to the FAQ Maintainer:
Larry Gritz <>

Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM