appleseed is a modern, physically-based production renderer developed by visual effects professionals. It is released as open source under the MIT license.

In Brief

  • We have been in the VFX industry for a long time.
  • We believe there is a future for non-REYES renderers in the production rendering landscape.
  • We are working on the hard problems of production rendering.
  • We are not building a strictly unbiased or strictly physically-based renderer.
  • We have got many important features in place, but there is still much to be done.

We answer your most frequently asked questions here.

The Premise

We have been in the Visual Effects industry for a long time. Some of us have been doing R&D on high end commercial renderers for a living. Some others are building revolutionary products. Most of us are also consulting in the VFX business.

We have noticed that an increasing number of productions are moving away (or considering to move away) from setups involving black box shaders with hundreds of parameters, ad hoc shading models with unpredictable results and complex rendering pipelines involving dozens of shadow maps and point clouds. In the high end commercial market, Solid Angle and Sony Pictures Imageworks are pioneering this idea with Arnold (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Monster House, 2012, etc.), a physically-based unidirectional path tracer running exclusively on the CPU.

We think there should exist an open source renderer in this segment. This renderer should be predictable, flexible and robust. It should be able to render large and complex scenes without imposing artificial limits. It should be modular, well written and well documented. It should be available under an open source license that allows commercial embedding. It should be supported by a community that extends it with open source and commercial shaders and plugins.

The Effort

These are the goals we are trying to achieve with appleseed. We are building an open source renderer with production rendering capabilities. We are focusing on the hard problems of production rendering: ray traced deformation motion blur, crack-free subpixel displacement and fully programmable shading. We are making sure that our renderer permits all kinds of tricks, shortcuts and non-physically-based setups to allow for greater artistic flexibility and shorter rendering time. And we are releasing everything under the MIT license for maximum freedom.

We are not trying to replace Cycles, LuxRender, Mitsuba or any other "unbiased" renderer. These are excellent at what they do and we have no intention to compete with them. However, none of the aforementioned renderers can do ray traced deformation motion blur (as far as we know). For ray tracing with fully programmable shading, only Aqsis comes close, but at its core Aqsis is a classic REYES renderer and is definitely not physically-based.

appleseed is still very much a work in progress and is not ready for prime time just yet. We have got many important features in place, such as fast and robust ray tracing, interactive rendering, unidirectional path tracing, mesh lights, camera motion blur, deformation motion blur, render layers, OpenEXR and Alembic file formats and 64-bit support on all major platforms, but there is still much to be done. We need to address the problem of fast, ray traced crack-free subpixel displacement. We need to support higher order surfaces such as subdivision surfaces. Last but not least, we need to finish the integration of Open Shading Language (we already have a working prototype), and we must consider supporting other industry standards such as RenderMan's RIB file format.