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stwert 14-05-2015 04:00 PM

Teaching a renderer to new 3D students
I will likely be teaching an intro Maya course at my university this fall. It will cover modelling, texturing, and basic lighting and rendering. Then they move into an advanced course (that I taught this spring) to learn animation, rigging, dynamics, etc. There seems to be an increased trend in our industry away from mental ray, which has been taught for the last several years.

Is mental ray still worth teaching or should I teach them something else? Remember they are new to materials, texturing, lighting. I am leaning towards Renderman, because it just seems simpler and more artist-driven, but I haven't delved too deep into it yet. I particularly like the incremental sampling mode with PRMan that allows a novice to almost immediately see the effect of their adjustments. Then again, maybe I should stick with what I know best.


1) Once they get into the industry, will they be able to pick up another renderer if it is being used? What core skills and knowledge will they need at this stage, that are more renderer-agnostic?
2) Cost: mental ray comes with Maya and Renderman is free for non-commercial. Others?
3) Support for advanced Maya features, since they will be creating full animation projects ultimately. Instanced nParticles, nHair, SSS...
4) I am most comfortable (if that word can be used with mr) with mental ray, although I am dabbling in Renderman.
5) Support for a convenient After Effects compositing workflow

honestdom 14-05-2015 11:18 PM

There might be more support with Arnold. Certainly more documentation at this stage. I'd suggest vray or Arnold over prman.

Gen 15-05-2015 03:50 AM

Light types are fairly similar across the renderers that I've experienced and the ideas like three point lighting, IBL, trace depths, color temp, exposure, decay, indirect illumination bounces, samples, common surface shader properties (diffuse color, weight, roughness, reflectivity, gloss, bump, refractions, transparency, self illumination etc), shot composition, color management, alpha masks, file types and bit depth are quite general as well. Then its just a matter of learning the different labels and possible quirks of a given renderer which a quick help doc/google search would likely clear up.

When I tried Arnold, I was like "Wait, that's it? No need to plug this into that and the fiddle with the other thing?". If anything mental ray has forced me to learn a lot which might be a good/bad thing depending how you look at it.

stwert 16-05-2015 08:26 PM

I appreciate the input. The department is looking into Arnold a little bit, but there's a cost associated with it, whereas prman would theoretically be free. Of course if I'm going to teach something new, I need to learn it pretty well. Good to know that Arnold has good support and documentation.

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