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A Transition Primer


So, you're making the big move, transitioning from the RenderMan Artist Tools to the new and improved suite of rendering goodies, RenderMan Studio. If you are unfamiliar with the RenderMan for Maya workflow, you will find that there are a few tweaks to your workflow. This FAQ is designed to cover the basics of the adjustment, easing your transition into the world of RenderMan Studio.


RenderMan Studio introduces a complete reconceptualization of the Workspace and the way that RenderMan resources are managed.

Additionally, RMSExpression has been exposed, granting users increased flexibility for site-specific configuration.

NOTE: In order to enjoy these new changes with existing projects, you will need to delete the existing file from your project's root directory.

Here's a “Before and After” look at the default directory structure for Slim resources:

The RAT Way

The RMS Way

RenderMan for Maya also uses the renderman subdirectory of your project as the starting point for the rest of the renderer's resources. By default, the following can be found in $PROJ/renderman/$STAGE/:

point clouds (.ptc), brick maps (.bkm), shadow maps (.tex), etc. are generated on a per-frame basis and deposited here.
Final images (when rendered to file via Alfred or Mayabatch renders)
RIB files are generated on a per-frame basis and deposited here. In addition, per-job RIB files are deposited in rib/job/.
Compiled shaders (.slo) from translated Maya materials are stored in this directory.
Separately, texture files (i.e. image files converted via txmake) are stored in $PROJ/renderman/textures/, along with Slim textures (see the screenshot above).


We strongly recommend consulting the Slim documentation for a complete rundown of Slim's functionality, much of which is new in version 7.0. Here's a quick rundown of a few important things:

Assigning appearances has been handed over to Maya. Appearances are created in Slim and then “added” to your Maya scene. The appearances are then attached to Maya nodes via the usual Maya ways, e.g. Hypershade, the Lighting/Shading menu, MEL, et cetera.
Ensemble Adaptors
Slim's Ensemble Adaptors are not supported by RenderMan for Maya. Instead, there is a special RenderMan Attribute that can be added to Maya Shading Groups via the Attributes menu of the Attribute Editor: Add Adaptation. The adaptation attribute appears under the Extra RenderMan Attributes and gives users the same “adaptive” behavior as Ensemble Adaptors in RAT.
Light Shaders
Currently, there is no integrated workflow for adding Slim's light shaders to Maya scenes. There is, however, a “workaround”:
  1. Build your light shader appearance in Slim.
  2. Compile the shader (e.g. click on the preview swatch). This will create a .slo file in the appropriate /slimshaders directory.
  3. Create a corresponding light in Maya.
  4. Attach a Custom Light Shader via the Attributes menu for your light's Shape node: Attributes-> RenderMan-> Add Custom Light Shader.
  5. In the Extra RenderMan Attributes, click on the widget to create a new RenderManLight node.
  6. The Shader field in your new node allows you to browse to the aforementioned .slo file.
Instead of MapGen nodes, users must create a Reference Pass.
RIBBox functionality is now achieved via Ri for MEL.
Users can now use Maya's Export menu to export RIB archives.
There is no direct support for adding TCL via RfM. Users can employ TCL via MEL scripts, e.g. rman tcl subst "tcl bits" or rman tcl eval "tcl whatnots".


There are three critical differences in illumination techniques when you start using RenderMan Studio. First, as mentioned above, there is no integrated workflow for adding Slim Light shaders to your scene. Second, shadows are created by adding Shadow Attributes to Maya lights. And third, global and image-based illumination are now done via a RenderMan Environment Light.

For more information on the shadow workflow, please see the Deep Shadow tutorial. Further discussion of global illumination techniques using the Environment Light can be found in the Global Illumination tutorial.

MTOR Subdivision Surfaces
MTOR subdivs “just work”. Existing subdivs are rendered properly by RfM and, because the MTOR subdiv plugin is unlicensed, in RMS 1.0 users can load the plugin and use it, happily and without incident, with the RfM. Creases, crease strength, corners, etc. are translated “automagically”.
RIB Archives
As mentioned above, RIB archives are created via Maya's Export menu in RenderMan for Maya. They are then referenced via a MEL script attached to, for example, a Maya locator.

In this case, select the Locator and attach a Pre Shape MEL via the Attributes menu. In the Extra RenderMan Attributes, enter RiReadArchive "archive name"; in the window for the MEL script.


The big difference is probably the most obvious: renders are now initiated via Maya's UI. A basic rundown is available in the Getting Started section of the documentation.

Here are a couple of additional notes on rendering with RenderMan Studio:

Spooling Renders via Alfred
Simple Alfred-spooled renders can be started via Maya's Batch Render UI. Selecting the options box gives users access to several different modes:
  • mayabatch local (no RIB)
  • mayabatch remote (no RIB)
  • immediate rib, local render
  • deferred rib, remote render
  • remote rib, remote render
Note that the Mayabatch “remote” renders still require Alfserver to be installed on your render nodes.

The Batch Render UI also offers the usual complement of job options, such as Frames per Server, Job Priority, and Renderer Arguments.

Ray Tracing Features
Special ray tracing features (e.g. blur parameters for reflections and refractions) are accessed by adding “controls” to Maya material nodes.

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