About RenderMan for Maya

About RenderMan for Maya


RenderMan for Maya is a fully integrated Maya-to-RenderMan bridge package, providing three powerful components for turning your assets into pretty pixels. By design, it can do so out of the box, or there are methods and mechanisms in place to allow you to tailor the software to your specific needs, extending the package by creating specialized shading templates, targeted passes, custom display drivers, and more.

RenderMan for Maya is comprised of three basic tools. General information about each tool is provided in the appropriate section of the documentation. More technical information - scripting, advanced shading techniques, customization - is covered in the Developers' Guide section. This page is intended to give you a Big Picture look at the software, covering the basics and pointing you to important information that will enable to you to get everything you need from RenderMan for Maya.

The RenderMan Tools

RenderMan for Maya

RenderMan for Maya is a fully-integrated Maya-to-RenderMan bridge, including a plug-in version of Pixar's RenderMan renderer. It provides easy access to RenderMan features via either a Maya-centric workflow (including Maya-style shading nodes, etc.) or in conjunction with the other RMS tools. As a bridge, it also connects Maya and RenderMan Pro Server, through its RIB-out functionality and advanced integration with the renderer. RfM provides seamless access to RenderMan's speed, power, and stability for Maya users, who can maintain a simple, Maya-centric workflow, or take advantage of the plugins' flexibility to create an optimal, customized pipeline.

RfM now offers access to both modes (or "renderers") of PRMan: the tried and true RenderMan/Reyes mode and the new RenderMan/RIS mode, introduced in PRMan 19.


(Note that Slim is only available in RenderMan/Reyes mode.) Slim is a powerful, extensible tool for creating, manipulating, using, and reusing RenderMan shaders, offering a PRMan-centric alternative for building materials. Users can construct RenderMan shaders by interactively combining modules into networks, editing their parameters, and previewing the results, all without writing any code, or they can create custom templates, library palettes, or scripted solutions tailored to their production's needs.


"it" is a robust framebuffer/render view window, offering complete floating point support and a powerful and flexible catalog, as well as a fast and powerful imaging tool that is capable of production-qualilty image manipulation and compositing usually found only in high-end standalone products. Thanks to its integration with the plugin and an all-new Python scripting interface, "it" gives users the ability to incorporate sophisticated post-render image operations into their rendering pipeline.

RenderMan Features


RenderMan for Maya supports advanced rendering features that are not native to Maya. Because these advanced features are not supported directly by Maya, RMS provides its own techniques for creating and controlling these effects. These techniques are usually as simple as attaching and configuring RenderMan-specific attributes to geometry, lights, and/or materials.

Here are some features provided by Pixar's RenderMan:


PRMan's RIS mode is a new way of rendering, designed to be fast and easy to use while generating production-quality renders. Global illumination works out of the box and interactive rerendering provides rapid iteration for artists. The new mode supports many of the same features as traditional RenderMan but introduces a wholly new shading pipeline. Users should consult the RIS Users Guide and the RMS-RIS Quick Start for more information on this new rendering paradigm.

Shadows & Light

Geometric Area Lights

RMS 18 introduced Geometric Area Lights, a powerful new way to create physically accurate lighting while optimizing sampling budgets and, in turn, performance. PRMan's geometric area lights support gobos, portals, and blockers, as well as light-linking, groups, per-group AOVs, and IES profiles.

Area Shadows

RMS supports a sophisticated method for producing Area Shadows, via either ray tracing directly into a scene or via tracing deep shadow files. Ray-traced Area Shadows are faster than traditional ray-traced shadows, while traceable deep shadows offer similar results with a lower memory overhead, leveraging rasterization and texture caching.

Global Illumination

Sometimes called "Indirect Illumination," RenderMan for Maya supports Global Illumination effects, subtle diffuse shading effects that are created by sampling the lighting of a scene many times from a given point. This technique can yield highly realistic results. Occlusion, which merely samples the "coverage" of a point (and is cheaper than Indirect Illumination), is also supported.

Deep Shadows

Deep Shadows are a feature-rich shadow map that supports transparency and volumetric data. Deep shadows can also be pre-sampled. Deep Shadows have the following advantages over traditional shadow maps, which make deep shadows ideal for fur or when shadowing any collection of small, semi-transparent objects. Deep Shadows allow:

  • Semi-transparent shadows
  • Colored shadows
  • Motion-blurred shadows
  • Multi-sampling
  • Fewer animation artifacts
  • Subtler, better-looking shadows


Volume Rendering

RMS includes PRMan's first class volumetric rendering capabilities, enabling the creation of volumetric effects, including Maya's Fluid Effects, with full PRMan support - motion blur, RSL, depth map support (for Deep or Area Shadows), etc.

True Curved Surfaces

Tessellation settings are never an issue with RenderMan when rendering NURBS and subdivision surfaces. Since RenderMan renders true curved surfaces, NURBS and subdivision surfaces will never have faceting artifacts. Maya's tessellation mode settings are simply ignored and the benefits of RenderMan are immediately realized.

Constructive Solid Geometry

RenderMan for Maya provides functionality for CSG Boolean operations on geometric surfaces - computed in the renderer. Constructive Solid Geometry (CSG) allows two (or more) objects (or groups of objects) to be combined in a number of ways, creating complicated geometry and special effects.


Subsurface Scattering

RenderMan for Maya supports subsurface scattering, an important effect for realistically rendering translucent materials, like skin, flesh, fat, fruits, milk, marble, and many others. Subsurface scattering is responsible for effects like color bleeding inside materials, or the diffusion of light across shadow boundaries. RMS 4 includes support for ray-traced subsurface scattering, introduced in PRMan 16.2.

Secondary Outputs

RenderMan for Maya supports secondary outputs (AOVs, or Arbitrary Output Variables), which can be any arbitrary information contained in a shader.

Custom RenderMan Shaders

Custom RenderMan shaders can be imported for use with RMS. This allows full exploitation of the expressive RenderMan Shading Language, providing a higher level of control than what is possible using the Maya Material Editor. Note that custom RenderMan Shaders must either be written (coded), or authored in a tool, such as Slim.

Ri Procedurals

As the foundation of a RIB-based pipeline, RenderMan for Maya supports all manner of procedurals. Additionally, RenderMan for Maya provides simple support for procedurals via a MEL script attribute either on a shared geometric attributes node or directly on a transform or shape node.

You can find simple examples of using procedurals with RenderMan for Maya in the Tutorials section of the documentation. Please see the tutorial Custom Geometry.

Down the Pipe(line)

RenderMan for Maya is one piece of a potentially sophisticated production pipeline. In order to get your work from script-to-screen you may need more, and that is where Tractor and RenderMan Pro Server enter the picture. By implementing RMS in concert with Tractor and RPS, users can achieve a seamlessly integrated rendering workflow from desktop to renderfarm.


Tractor is a system for distributing tasks from queued jobs across a network of compute servers. It includes a central queueing mechanism, a remote execution server, a monitoring subsystem, and a browser-based user interface. Tractor was designed as a high-performance replacement for Alfred and can be used in any work distribution capacity, but it is particularly well-suited for managing a RenderMan for Maya-to-RenderMan Pro Server pipeline.

Tractor is provided as a separate, standalone product, with its own documentation.

RenderMan Pro Server

RenderMan Pro Server is the foundation of a high-performance rendering pipeline. It provides standalone implementations of the renderer and its corresponding rendering utilities as well as access to APIs that allow savvy users to extend functionality. As the core technology, RenderMan Pro Server is the font from which all pixels flow.

Like Tractor, RenderMan Pro Server is available as a separate, standalone product.