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Image courtesy of Sych Slava

Introducing Arnold 5.4

Building on 5.3, Arnold 5.4 adds important updates to the GPU renderer (currently in beta), bringing even more speed, power, and flexibility to your workflows. Arnold 5.4 also introduces a new shader for clipping geometry, improvements to Alembic support and progressive sampling, and the new Bifrost procedural, enabling direct rendering of procedural geometry and volumes in the new visual programming environment in Maya.

Image courtesy of Sohrab Esfehani

Arnold 5.4 Highlights

First unveiled in March, the Arnold GPU public beta introduced a first taste of GPU rendering with support for NVIDIA RTX and most shading networks, hair, SSS, atmospherics, instancing, and procedurals. With this release, we've now added support for:

  • Open Shading Language (OSL)
  • OpenVDB
  • Volume displacement and volume sample shaders
  • Randomwalk v2 subsurface scattering
  • Transmission dispersion in standard surface
  • Light portals, disk lights, cylinder lights, and low light threshold
  • Reduced noise in refractions and indirect lighting

Note that at this time, there are some limitations to OSL and OpenVDB support. You can find more information on supported features and known limitations as well as hardware and drive requirements for Arnold GPU on the Arnold documentation portal.

Support for Bifrost, the new visual programming environment in Maya, makes it possible to see final-pixel previews of your effects right in the Arnold Viewport and render procedural volumes and geometry. Arnold supports all Bifrost geometry types, including:

  • Volumes: Multi-resolution volumes created in Bifrost can be rendered directly in Arnold. Preview in-progress simulations in the Arnold Viewport to get a clear idea of how your effects using volumes will look after lighting and rendering.
  • Strands: Model things consisting of a large number of strands (such as hair, fur, fuzz, clothing, grass, wires, and dust) procedurally, then render them with Arnold as either ribbons with hair shaders or cylinders with surface shaders.
  • Instances: Instance any renderable Bifrost geometry including meshes, volumes, strands or points, as well as fully renderable assets in the form of render archives (.ass files). Adjusting instance shapes is also made easy using a simple selection mechanism that can select between multiple layers of variation. For example, one layer might distinguish between grass and flowers, and another might drill down to select variations of each.
Arnold Viewport in Maya

A new Clip Geo shader makes it easy to clip away parts of a scene. This is particularly useful for visualizing the inner-workings of a machine, parts of a product, or interior of a building.

A slew of user-requested updates help maximize efficiency and performance, including a faster convergence rate with adaptive sampling, less noise in progressive sampling on CPU and GPU, Alembic support improvements, and enhanced MaterialX support.

For a full list of new features and functionality, see the release notes here.

Arnold 5.4 with the Arnold GPU public beta is available for download now. Arnold is available as a standalone subscription or with a collection of end-to-end creative tools within the Autodesk Media & Entertainment Collection. You can also try Arnold with a free 30-day trial. Arnold GPU is available in all supported plug-ins: Maya, 3ds Max, Houdini, Cinema 4D, and Katana.

New Clip Geo shader - Images courtesy of Lee Griggs