Maya Monday: mental ray vs. Arnold for Maya + Other Renderers

Maya Monday: mental ray vs. Arnold for Maya + Other Renderers
Tutorial, Maya Monday Mar 20, 2017 at 11:12 AM

In Maya 2017, Autodesk has replaced NVIDIA’s mental ray with Arnold for Maya software. mental ray is no longer being licensed by Autodesk. This is really only a problem if you’re opening older projects or want to follow an older tutorial that uses it.

Changes to rendering in Autodesk Maya 2017

Last week I wrote about Working with Arnold Shaders in Maya 2017 and talk a bit about how mental ray was discontinued in this version. This article expands on that. 

The Arnold renderer in Maya 2017 is fantastic, however, I was looking at a tutorial a couple of weeks ago for Maya 2016 and it used mental ray MIA_Material_X.  I'm not advanced enough yet in Maya to just figure it out on my own, but with a few Google searches, I realized that mental ray was no longer available and I found a work around with Arnold. The problem was that the tutorial used a MIA material. I was making a green glass bottle and learned how to do the same effect with Arnold. Not a big deal in the grand scheme. See Maya 2017: Goodbye Mental Ray, Hello Arnold!

However, I had another solution that I could have made happen instead. I could have installed mental ray. I'm glad that I chose to figure it out in Arnold, since it's the direction that Autodesk has taken Maya, however, I just want you to know that you do have another option. mental ray is still being developed by NVIDIA, you'll just have to get the software from them.

Autodesk has a long write up on Mental Ray in the Autodesk Knowlege Network.

With the release of Autodesk® Maya® 2017 on July 25 th 2016, Autodesk will replace the rendering software it includes with Maya. Moving forward, we will no longer include licenses for NVIDIA’s mental ray with Maya, instead, customers will be able to use Arnold as the default out-of-the-box renderer for foreground processing. Customers who need to scale their rendering will be able to choose the renderer that best supports their needs, whether it is mental-ray, Arnold V-Ray, Renderman, Octane, Redshift or another third party renderer.

Read more

Download mental ray

There are different levels of use that will either allow you to get mental ray for free... or for a fee if you're doing full Maya sequences and network rendering.

The free version is for two things, according to the NVIDIA site.

  • Viewport rendering and single final frame output with Maya
  • Educational Institutions for complimentary non-commercial mental ray production rendering licenses when you register

If you need to buy mental ray, it's a bit on the pricey side and is a yearly subscription, unless you have one of NVIDIA's pro graphics cards, where it's less. Read Nvidia is releasing mental ray for Maya for free.

Download free mental ray for Maya

mental ray vs. Arnold for Maya

As a brand new user to Maya, this change comes at a great time for me. I won't feel bad when I spend a year learning mental ray and it is suddenly not the default renderer. I can learn Arnold straight away. If you're a long time user of Maya, this may be frustrating to you. Some people don't like change. Honestly, you're best to learn how to do everything you would do with mental ray with Arnold for Maya. Solid Angle has some resources to make this changeover as easy as possible for the seasoned Maya user. 

According to Solid Angle, developer of Arnold, "Mental ray is a biased renderer which uses caching algorithms that introduce artifacts like photon mapping and final gather. Whereas Arnold is a highly optimized, unbiased, physically-based 'Monte Carlo' ray/path tracing engine. Therefore, you should find it quicker and easier to achieve photo-realistic results with Arnold due to its simplified workflow and physically accurate nature." 

Shader Conversion Script: Converting mental ray to Arnold for Maya

Solid Angle has a python script ( conversion script) that you can use that converts existing mental ray assets to Arnold for Maya. "This simple script converts unsupported materials (Phong, Blinn, mia_material. etc.) to an Ai Standard shader." 

Learn more

Watermarks with Arnold for Maya

One downside that I read at Lester Banks site, is "Arnold is a local version of Arnold for Maya. It only works interactively while you are working in Maya. So while rendering a single frame is possible, or a sequence of frames interactively, Batch rendering will give you a watermark. If you want to batch render, you need to purchase Arnold Batch Render Nodes, from Solid Angle." The Autodesk Maya 2017 help says that a way to get around this is to, "Use the Render Sequence option instead found in Render > Render Sequence. This will essentially render your animation on that single machine similar to the batch process." Lester Banks believes that this may be sorted out in future versions of Maya. 

Other Renderers for Maya

mental ray and Arnold for Maya are not the only renderers out there. Other renderers have some other great features to the table, too. Here are a few that we have at Toolfarm.

Chaos Group V-Ray for MayaChaos Group V-Ray for Maya

Built to meet the creative demands of CG artists and modern production pipelines.

V-Ray® 3.0 for Maya is a full suite of physically-based lighting, shading and rendering tools tightly integrated into Autodesk Maya. Note: for rush delivery please contact

Learn more about V-Ray for Maya


V-Ray 3.3 for Maya – Overview

Next Limit Maxwell Render for MayaNext Limit Maxwell Render for Maya

High quality, photorealistic 3D rendering for architecture and product design

Maxwell | Maya offers seamless integration, allowing you to work comfortably within the Maya interface. This product has been specifically designed for rendering in Maya with a simple yet comprehensive Maxwell toolbar. It brings you advanced Maxwell Render technology in a simple, self-contained package.

More about Maxwell Render for Maya


AAA Studio FurryBall RT GPU Renderer

Real-time - Global illumination, Area lights and realistic reflections

FurryBall is incredibly fast real-time GPU production quality UNBIASED and BIASED final frame renderer. FurryBall was specially created for purposes of CGI animated movies, VFX and movie rendering.

FurryBall is an extremely fast rendering system using the processing power of your GPU instead of your CPU. FurryBall offers UNBIASED Monte Carlo raytracing (path trace - similar like CPU Arnold renderer), with real-time progressive preview in the viewport. Final frame rendering to multiple file format, layers and passes are obvious. FurryBall was developed for purposes of CGI animated movies, VFX and feature movie rendering. AAA studio produced full-length CGI feature for cinemas in 2012 in FurryBall. FurryBall RT is extra simple and easy to use for an artist - you can tune whole image quality with only a single parameter if you want. You can use Arnold standard material if you like - almost all parameters are supported.

Learn more abut Furryball

NVIDIA Iray for Maya

NVIDIA Iray for MayaPlug-in for Autodesk Maya that Delivers Exceptional Physically-Based Rendering

Scene lighting and design are extremely interactive and intuitive throughout the entire look-development process using native Maya controls. This means you can easily create or modify physically based lights and materials with material nodes integrated directly into Maya. All the materials and lights, including the NVIDIA vMaterials Library, are built with the NVIDIA Material Definition Language, so they can be shared with other MDL-compatible tools.

More on Iray for Maya

Posted by Michele Yamazaki



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