DreamWorks’ Open Source MoonRay Renderer Is Finally Available To Filmmakers

Mar 20, 2023
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DreamWorks’ Open Source MoonRay Renderer Is Finally Available To Filmmakers
Built entirely by DreamWorks, the production renderer has now arrived. But what are the benefits, and how do you use it?

Whether you’re a budget creative working on your own VFX or you’re a seasoned veteran hopping from post house to post house, MoonRay from DreamWorks is now available for filmmakers. The best part is that it is completely free.

Released under an open-source license, the Hollywood animation renderer was made to be efficient and scalable.

MoonRay isn’t just an app you open on your computer. The software is still being used by Dreamworks, so how would creatives at large even begin to use it?

Source Code, Open Source

Currently, MoonRay hasn’t been released as a standalone application but as a source code. This means filmmakers and creatives will need to jump through some hoops to get it all working.

For many studios like Dreamworks (and Pixar and Imagination), most, if not all, of their tools are custom-built. MoonRay, for example, is one such custom tool, but it also runs on custom hardware that runs alternate operating systems like Linux.

To get MoonRay working, filmmakers would need to be compiled the source to work within a certain program, such as Blender, Cinema 4D, or even Windows. For now, it seems like MoonRay is only available on Linux. If you’re up for it, you can read more about building it out.

As of this article, the DreamWorks build environment consists of the following: CentOS 7.9.2009, Linux kernel 3.10, ICC 19 [VFX RefPlat 2020], GCC 6.3 [VFX RefPlat 2020], GCC 9.3 [VFX RefPlat 2021], and Clang 13 [VFX RefPlat 2021]. If you know what any of that means, you’re already a step ahead.

For now, having a plug-and-play solution is just a bit over the horizon. Thankfully, this can be either created by the community or the team at Dreamworks.

You can follow the development via the GitHub page.

The Advantage of MoonRay for Filmmakers

As we just mentioned, Dreamworks is still actively working on MoonRay as it still uses the renderer for its movies. There is a full-time development staff for internal productions and for contributions from the open-source community.

And that’s the biggest boon for creatives — having a company like Dreamworks not only release its own internal tools but still actively develop them. For absolutely nothing.

MoonRay Features
MoonRay features at a glanceCredit: Dreamworks

While MoonRay is mostly recognized for use in animated Dreamworks films, it can still be used for rendering realistic scenes. However, the feature list deserves its own article to really dig into the benefits over the competition. Or you can read the quick blurbs if you are pressed for time. 

Dreamworks MoonRay
Photo-realistic renders are also possibleCredit: Dreamworks

Much like RED and Sony have made their cinema tools incredibly affordable in recent years, so has Dreamworks with MoonRay but for free. Between everything we mentioned, along with Blender and DaVinci Resolve, filmmakers now have more production-level tools than they know what to do with. 

That’s what will provide young creatives (and those young at heart) with so many opportunities to build their careers, which is something we can all get behind. 

Are you looking forward to trying out MoonRay? Let us know in the comments!