DreamWorks Animation Releases MoonRay Renderer as Open Source Software

DreamWorks Animation has announced plans to release its proprietary production render engine, MoonRay, as open source software later this year. The studio’s state-of-the-art Monte Carlo ray tracer has been used on feature films such as How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Croods: A New Age, The Bad Guys and the next Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.

MoonRay was developed by the world-class engineers at DreamWorks and includes an extensive library of production-tested physical materials, USD Hydra rendering delegate, multi-machine and cloud rendering via Arras.

“We are thrilled to share more than 10 years of innovation and development on MoonRay’s vectorized, threaded, parallel and distributed codebase with the industry,” said Andrew Pearce, Vice President of Global Technology at DreamWorks. . “The appetite for large-scale rendering grows every year, and MoonRay stands ready to meet that need. We expect to see the code base grow stronger with community involvement as DreamWorks continues to demonstrate our commitment towards open source.

DreamWorks’ in-house MCRT renderer, MoonRay, was designed from the ground up with a focus on efficiency and scalability, with the mantra of “…keeping all vector lanes from all cores from all machines busy all the time with meaningful work,” along with modern features for full artistic expression. It can deliver a wide range of images from photorealistic to highly stylized. MoonRay is built on a highly scalable state-of-the-art architecture without earlier legacy code, allowing for fast, cinematic-quality artistic iteration using familiar tools.

Additional high-performance features include distributed rendering support, a pixel-matching XPU mode that provides improved performance by processing ray beams on the GPU as well as the CPU, ray processing via Intel Embree, vectoring of shaders using Intel ISPC compilation and bundled path tracing. MoonRay includes a USD Hydra render delegate for integration into content authoring tools that support the standard.

“We are proud of our close collaboration with DreamWorks on MoonRay with its impressive photorealistic ray tracing rendering performance supported by open source Intel Embree and Intel Implicit SPMD Program Compiler (Intel ISPC), both distributed in Intel one API Rendering Toolkit,” said Jim Jeffers, Principal, Principal Engineer, Intel Advanced Ray Tracing.

“MoonRay features such as hair and fur rendering were developed in collaboration with Intel. The resulting enhancements are included in the Intel Embree Ray Tracing Core Library and illustrate how using open source software benefits the entire ecosystem. By adopting Intel ISPC, MoonRay embraces vector instruction parallelism for dramatic performance improvements. Intel looks forward to new opportunities to apply oneAPI’s cross-architecture and cross-vendor support to this open source project for all creators.

MoonRay uses DreamWorks’ distributed computing framework, Arras, also included in the open source codebase, to provide innovative multi-machine and multi-context support. Multi-machine rendering speeds interactive display for the artist, decouples rendering from the interactive tool, which increases interactive robustness. By using MoonRay and Arras in a multi-context mode, the artist can simultaneously visualize multiple lighting conditions, varying material properties, multiple times in a shot or sequence, or even multiple locations within an environment.

“We see using MoonRay with Arras on Microsoft Azure as a game-changer in the hands of artists, providing faster iterations on lighting and also enabling multi-context rendering. Animation content are becoming more and more complex, the computational requirements to create and render are also increasing,” said Simon Crownshaw, director of business strategy for media and communications at Microsoft. “Microsoft Azure enables studios and artists to access MoonRay with Arras for the first time and power the platform with a broad portfolio of cloud computing capabilities and scale on demand worldwide.”

Bill Ballew, Chief Technology Officer at DreamWorks, said, “MoonRay has been a game-changer for our productions. We have over a billion hours of use at DreamWorks. As the open source community continues to adopt and improve it, we will see significant benefits for the animation and visual effects industry as well as academia.

DreamWorks intends to make MoonRay available under the Apache 2.0 license. Further information and updates will be available at OpenMoonRay.org.

A division of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, within NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation, DreamWorks Animation is a global family entertainment company with feature film and television brands backed by a strong global consumer products practice. DWA’s film heritage includes beloved characters and franchises such as Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, How To Train Your Dragon, Spirit, Trolls, The Boss Baby and 2022 The bad Guys, which amassed more than $15 billion at the worldwide box office. DreamWorks Animation’s award-winning original television content reaches consumers in more than 190 countries.