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