Release 2017:

Mentalray has been dropped as builtin renderer. It is still available as plugin, but you now have to pay for it. As an outstanding feature they have now included Arnold as an UI renderer. And it really is an UI renderer what means you cannot do batchrendering without an extra Arnold license, what is a joke in my opinion. Since they only offer subscription since beginning of 2016, you can either switch to a software wich is unable to batchrender images or stick with an old software and throw away money every month. Imagine you have a small company with about 10 computers and 10 Maya licenses. Until now you could use them as a small renderfarm and let them batchrender sequences over night. This is now not possible any more without investing about 7,000 bucks for the licences.

Beside from this problem the new release is quite nice. They now integrated color management completely into the workflow what means that even ramps and color swatches and pickers are color corrected. The viewport 2.0 got many attention and is now the default viewport.


Release 2013:

Mentalray has made a complete external plugin (almost). Previously mentraly was very thight integrated into maya in a way that much elements were hardcoded in mayas mel scripts. Now it is an seperate module and loads as an plugin. That means that the interaction with maya should be more clear now. And it is easier for autodesk to switch to another primary renderer. The viewport 2.0 has beein improved with some features the final goal is to replace any hardware renderer with viewport 2.0. Mentalray can now read ptex files and is able to read alembic files with a geometry shader.


Fortunatly with one single version of maya complete (thats the small package), you can render even the unlimited scenes with up to 9999 machines. So that means that in fact rendering with mayas renderers is free. With mentalray, you can use unlimited local cores, but only 8 additional cores with mr sattelite. If you are one of the lucky people who are able to spend another 1000 bucks to aquire a floating license, you can render with mentalray in batchmode on 5 additional machines.

Software renderer

The software renderer is quite good but it does not offer a lot of modern features like global illumination, final gathering and subsurface scattering. Even depth of field is only done as a post process. But maya offers great shader construction possibilities in its hypershade. As much as I could hear, the software renderer is no further developed because the developers concentrate on the implementation of mentalray that offers a much modern architecture.

There are certain esoteric features that it supports well, largely because the two primary research developers linked to maya (Duncan Brimsmead and Jos Stam) implement them directly in the software render. Fluids and paint-fx are key examples of this. Both can be rendered in other systems, but certain odd paint-fx modes (blur and smudge) only work in maya software, and fluids in certain cases can render faster and with better quality than mentalray.

Furthermore not every project required FG/AO/SSS/displacement, in which case maya software is simple and gets the job done. There's also a certain 'old school' pride in delivering a job using only the maya software renderer; framestore commercials delivered some of their biggest jobs of the mid 90s this way. Since version 2008 (I think), the maya software renderer is not further developed any more but will remain as it is.

Hardware renderer


Hardware render buffer

The hardware render buffer is mostly used for the rendering of hardware particles. Through multipass rendering it offers a limited access to motionblur and antialiasing. It is done with a multiple rendering of subsequent images and then they are blended together. Antialiasing is created with the rendering of multiple images with a slightily changed camera position. With a little trick you can use this behaviour to simulate dof. You have to setup a procedure that modifies the camera position depending on its distance from the focal point. If this modification happens between full frames object near the the focal point are crisper than that far away.

With sprite rendering the hardware render buffer can create good results, but it works in an old fashioned way, no good shadows etc. So it is outdated now.



Last update: 07.2016