RenderMan 26 launches new interactive denoiser in Katana

Want to be more productive and more creative at the same time? RenderMan has introduced an interactive denoiser, available in Katana, dramatically reducing render times for interactive workflows.

“The people with the most complex workflows and the highest shot loads — our experience has been that they’re using Katana,” explains Mark Manca, Director of Product Management at Pixar Animation Studios, in an exclusive interview. “With Katana, the interactive denoiser is a workflow that’s going to accelerate what artists are doing, so they can raise their level of creativity because they have more time to iterate. It’s also going to improve their ability to get through the list of shots that they need to complete for the week.”

Focusing on the artist experience, the update will enable more creativity in lighting and look development by building on the capabilities of the new offline denoiser introduced in RenderMan 25 in summer 2023.

Developed by Disney Research, the offline denoiser uses machine learning to minimize noise in rendered images, dramatically reducing render times for both animation and VFX, while delivering images of the highest quality. Used internally across Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic, and Walt Disney Animation Studios before its introduction to RenderMan users, the denoising tech has been pivotal in the making of every Pixar feature since 2019’s Toy Story 4.

Still from Inside Out 2

While the denoiser is ideal for artists working offline, it doesn’t help those working interactively, as they have to wait longer for a quality image. And that’s where the new interactive denoiser comes in.

Bringing the interactive denoiser to Katana

“For the next release of RenderMan, we’re focusing on the interactive aspects of the product,” says Mark. “For people using RenderMan RIS [a rendering mode designed for faster and easier use], we’re bringing an interactive denoiser to Katana. We’re also focusing on continuing to improve and bring more features to RenderMan XPU, which is our cross-CPU and GPU renderer, and bringing it up to the point where people can do interactive key lighting or shot lighting.”

Still from Inside Out 2

One of the key benefits of the interactive denoiser in RenderMan RIS is that it enables artists to make interpretive choices in as little as two or three samples. Previously, artists would need as many as 64 samples or more before making a choice, with some highly complex assets even needing several thousand samples.

“It's about bringing artists the tools they need to be more creative and more productive at the same time,” says Mark.

More time for creativity

With more time to iterate, and work through their assigned list of shots, artists have the opportunity to be more creative. The powerful combination of RenderMan’s interactive denoiser with Katana’s lighting and LookDev skills means that artists can work through complex shots at scale.

“The scalability that Katana offers is super-critical to our customer base,” says Mark. “It's extremely good at handling the ever-larger complexity that audiences are demanding.”

Still from Inside Out 2

Gary Jones, Senior Product Manager for Katana, adds: “The RenderMan 26 interactive denoiser in Katana is production proven and continues to demonstrate how powerfully the two work together. We look forward to continuing to work with RenderMan to expand these capabilities.”

Positive feedback

The reaction from studios has been positive, with glowing feedback received from the likes of MPC, LAIKA, and Berlin-based Lumatic, while various industry veterans have described the interactive denoiser as “life-changing”.

Want to try out the new RenderMan interactive denoiser in Katana? Start your free trial today.