Solid Angle, the company behind Arnold--the industry standard production renderer--has released its newest edition in April 2017. Arnold 5 is the latest update to Solid Angle’s production renderer, which updates the API and sampling algorithms, as well as adds new physically based Standard Surface, hair, and volume shaders.
With Solid Angle’s Arnold 5 release, the company has introduced support for Light Path Expressions and included improvements for CPU performance and workflow advances. There is still no support for GPU rendering yet, which many power users and production companies have been waiting for, though Solid Angle says they are working on adding it in a future update.
Arnold 5 is shipping bundled with 3DS Max 2018, which was also released April 2017. It is available for Windows 7+, Linux, and Mac OS X 10.8+. There are integration plugins available for Maya 2015+, 3DS Max 2017+, Cinema 4d R16+, Houdini 13+, Katana 2.5, and Softimage 2013+.
What’s New in the Software?
Arnold’s new release includes updated sampling algorithms with changes that can result in reduced render noise in direct and indirect illumination. The new software also includes support for two-dimension dithered sampling, which doesn’t reduce noise but redistributes it in a more visually pleasing way—creating a result with softer shadows, indirect illumination, and DoF at low sample rates.
Arnold 5 includes a new set of physically accurate shaders, with a Standard Surface uber shader replacing the old Arnold Standard shader. This new Standard Surface shader is compatible with Disney principled material, including layers focused on replicating real-world materials like skin, water and ice, glass, and metal.
Included in Arnold 5 is also a Standard Hair Shader, which is also physically based and replaces the old one. It includes parameters that measure the amount of melanin (the pigment in human hair and skin), to create biologically plausible hair.
Speed Boosts and Other Improvements
Solid Angle has made changes to the architecture of Arnold 5 leading to “significant speedups during both render start-up and ray-trace time.” This can lead to up to a 10x speed boost when pre-processing textures in the .tx format, though other performance improvements may be more marginal. You may see a 2x boost when loading a “large” OpenVDB volume cache, as well as 2x speed boost when rendering “indoor scenes with multiple GI bounces [and] objects with high transmission depth.”
Arnold 5 now supports Light Path Expressions (LPEs) to extract individual lighting components into separate AOVs, which increases flexibility during compositing. The new update also introduces support for the OpenColorIO and SynColor color-management standards.
Arnold 5 is a step forward in production rendering forward, with a level of improvements heretofore unseen. While GPU rendering is still on the table for a future release, and industry professionals continue to desire it, Arnold 5 is the latest and best rendering software available.
New permanent floating licenses cost $1220 a piece, which includes one year of maintenance, with rental options available. Any integration options you need are free with your license.
Boxx offers specific workstation solutions for Arnold 5 rendering workflows.