Pixar Sets First-Ever Collaboration Pact for Renderman

The Foundry's Katana lighting software to be bundled, tested with Pixar's crown jewel

Before it became the most admired brand in showbiz, even before “Toy Story,” Pixar’s first commercial triumph was a software app: Renderman. In the years since, Renderman has remained one of the company’s crown jewels and a staple of  visual effects and animation production.

But in a departure for Pixar, the animation studio announced Tuesday at the Siggraph conference in Anaheim  that it will work closely with software developer The Foundry during development and testing of future versions of Pixar’s RenderMan, and the two companies will collaborate on development of Katana, The Foundry’s digital lighting software. The agreement marks Pixar’s first-ever formal collaboration with another company on future development of RenderMan.

The “strategic collaboration” will also see the two apps bundled for retail sale. Each copy of Katana sold will come with a license for RenderMan. Under the pact, the companies are developing and testing the two software apps together, to ensure they work seamlessly. Pixar used Katana and RenderMan together on the short “The Blue Umbrella,” released with “Monsters University.” The collaboration not only improved the way the two apps work together, but helped The Foundry add new features to Katana.

Katana was originally developed by Sony Pictures Imageworks and is now developed and distributed by The Foundry. Starting immediately, Katana buyers will get a full RenderMan license, along with a base set of shaders and free Katana batch render licenses. All in, the bundle represents a $6,600 savings over the value of the apps and licenses when sold separately. 

Popular on Variety

“The opportunity to collaborate with the mighty Pixar is an awesome collaboration to have,” The Foundry’s chief scientist Simon Robinson told Variety

Katana requires rendering software in order to turn its data into images. Visual effects and animation studios that use Katana typically pair it with either RenderMan or another renderer. However future Katana and RenderMan will now be developed and tested together. Chris Ford, RenderMan business director for Pixar, said that while the focus for RenderMan will continue to be animation and visual effects for the highest levels of the features business, “as the market expands, smaller studios want to have confidence that they have a solution that is developed and tested together.”

Ford said future versions of Renderman will adjust to ever-increasing resolutions and definitions, such as 4K, and on pushing the boundaries of photo-realistic lighting.

However enthusiastic Pixar is about the collaboration, don’t look for Pixar to turn over RenderMan to The Foundry or any other third-party developer, said Ford. “(RenderMan) is inextricably part of the soul of the studio,” said Ford. “It enables us to develop a solution that is tested and stressed by the visual effects community. And if Pixar didn’t have that ability to stay in touch with the latest developments, it’s hard to see how we could stay ahead of the game.”

More Digital

  • Andy Gaudin - VideoAmp

    Ad-Tech Platform VideoAmp Hires Andrew Gaudin as Chief Legal and Privacy Officer

    VideoAmp, which operates a platform for optimizing cross-platform video advertising, hired tech-industry veteran Andrew Gaudin as chief legal and privacy officer. Gaudin will oversee the company’s global legal and privacy affairs and is tasked with leading privacy compliance initiatives. He brings more than 30 years of experience to the role, having served in legal roles [...]

  • Brand Storytelling 2020 Sundance

    Sundance 2020: Brand Storytelling Lineup Set for 5th Annual Media and Marketing Event

    Brand Storytelling is returning to Park City this year to host its fifth annual media and marketing event at the Sundance Film Festival, with a lineup of keynotes, panels, screenings, music performances and more. Launched in 2016, the company’s “festival within a festival” at Sundance will again bring together execs from major brands with media [...]

  • Game of Thrones

    ‘Game of Thrones’ Sweeps Parrot Analytics’ 2nd Global TV Demand Awards

    MIAMI —  “I must check it out. I’ve been hearing a lot about the show,” host Carson Kressley (“Queer Eye”) joked at Parrot Analytics’ 2nd Global TV Demand Awards as “Game of Thrones” swept two of its biggest plaudits: Most In-Demand TV Series in the World, along with Most In-Demand Drama Series. The awards ceremony  [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content