Autodesk Arnold Render v5.2



Arnold is an advanced Monte Carlo ray tracing renderer built for the demands of feature-length animation and visual effects. Originally co-developed with Sony Pictures Imageworks and now their main renderer, Arnold is used at over 300 studios worldwide including ILM, Framestore, MPC, The Mill and Digic Pictures.


Arnold was the primary renderer on dozens of films from Monster House and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs to Pacific Rim and Gravity. It is available as a standalone renderer on Linux, Windows and Mac OS X, with plug-ins for Maya, 3ds Max, Houdini, Cinema 4D, Katana and Softimage.

Arnold is a fast, memory efficient and scalable physically-based raytracer. Its aim is to simplify the pipeline of VFX and animation companies with a reduced set of user interface elements, and by promoting a single pass approach removing all the associated storage and management costs.


Fur & Hair

arnold fur and hairAn efficient raytraced curve primitive makes Arnold the perfect choice for rendering fur and hair using very little memory. Its hair shader has double offset speculars, transmission and is specifically designed to reduce flickering of thin hairs.


Motion blur

arnold motion blurAccurate 3D motion blur correctly interacts with shadows, volumes, indirect lighting, reflection or refraction. Deformation motion blur is extremely efficient and works for polygons, hairs and particles. Rotational motion describes precise circular arcs.


Sub-surface scattering

arnaold subsurface scatteringOur raytracing-based sub-surface scattering approach makes tuning point clouds a thing of the past. It's easy to use, requires no additional memory, supports motion-blurred lighting, interactive lighting and its performance scales optimally as more CPU threads are used.



arnold volumesThe volumetric rendering system is based on proprietary importance sampling algorithms and can render effects such as smoke, clouds, fog, pyroclastic flow or fire. Volumes interact with direct and indirect lighting from arbitrary area light sources. Supports OpenVDB and MayaFluids.


Flexibility and extensibility

arnold flexibilityThanks to an easy to use C++ API with Python bindings, TDs and programmers can integrate Arnold in external applications, and create custom shaders, cameras, light filters and output drivers. Arnold has been integrated into many apps, both commercial and proprietary.



arnold scalabilityArnold is carefully multi-threaded and makes optimal use of all available CPU threads. Even for traditionally single-threaded operations such as loading of procedural geometry, displacement or ray accel construction. Hyper-threading provides a solid 20% speedup.



arnold instancesArnold can efficiently raytrace instances of any scene object with transformation and material overrides. It is easy to create thousands or even millions of instances resulting in trillions of renderable primitives, which is great for vegetation, large environments and FX.


Memory efficient

arnold memory efficientThanks to Arnold's compact and highly optimized data structures, you can render scenes with hundreds of millions of unique primitives quickly and with a much lower memory footprint than is possible with other renderers.


Deferred geometry loading

arnold deferred geometry loadingGeometry can be created on demand through "procedural" nodes (or stand-ins) rather than upfront. This allows the modular assembly of scenes. Procedural nodes can point to ASS, OBJ, PLY and DLL/DSO files, opening the door to programmatic scene creation and compositing.


Subdivision and displacement

arnold subdivision and displacementArnold supports Catmull-Clark subdivision surfaces. Subdivided vertices are then vector-displaced through arbitrary shader networks. High frequencies can be automatically captured as bump map, reducing the need for excessive subdivision.


Arbitrary Output Variables (AOVs)

arnold aovArnold can render any number of AOVs or passes for compositing purposes, including normal, Z-depth, position and ID masks. It also supports deep image data. Shaders can create their own custom outputs (such as direct and indirect diffuse, specular, SSS, etc).


Standalone command-line renderer

arnold command line rendererArnold has a native scene description format stored in human-readable text files (Arnold Scene Source, or .ass). These files are easily edited, can be read and written with the C/Python API, can be lazily loaded at render time, or can be fed to the command-line renderer, kick.




Arnold can be used in Maya, Softimage, Houdini, Cinema 4D and Katana. We will release other plug-ins in the future.

All of our plug-ins are free to use when you buy Arnold licenses. This means you can easily switch 3D software packages without having to spend money on additional Arnold licenses.

maya iconArnold for Maya

Provides a beautiful interface to our photorealistic renderer within Autodesk’s Maya.

Arnold for Maya (or MtoA) provides a bridge to the Arnold renderer from within Maya's standard interface. MtoA is now shipping with the Arnold 5.0 core.


  • Seamless integration with Maya shapes, cameras, lights and shaders.
  • Image Based Lighting support, including a state of the art physical sky.
  • Interactive rendering (IPR) allows parameter changes to be rapidly previewed without interrupting your work.
  • Support for volume rendering with Maya Fluids.
  • Support for Maya Hair and nHair.
  • Particles and nParticles support, including particle instancer.
  • Defer the creation of geometry at render time with the Stand-in placeholder nodes.
  • Productivity boost: override sets, holdout mattes, shadow catcher, passes, UDIM style textures, and arbitrary primvar data.
  • Extensible through plug-ins (Golaem, FumeFX for Maya, Yeti, Shave & Haircut).
  • XGen integration.
  • Texturable geometric lights.
  • Deep EXR.
  • Rendering of curves.


c4d iconArnold for Cinema 4D

Arnold for Cinema 4D (or C4DtoA) provides a bridge to the Arnold renderer from within the standard Cinema 4D interface.  C4DtoA is now shipping with the latest Arnold 5.0 core.


  • Seamless integration with C4D: objects (instances, cloners, deformers, generators), MoGraph geometry, hair and splines.
  • Support for both native particles and Thinking Particles.
  • The fastest interactive rendering (IPR) of all Arnold plugins, allows parameter changes to be rapidly previewed without interrupting your work.
  • Arnold Shading Network Editor, a node-based material editor.
  • A comprehensive list of shaders and utilities, including vertex maps and per-face materials.
  • Volume rendering with OpenVDB.
  • Deferred, render time generation of geometry with the Arnold procedural node.
  • Native linear workflow.
  • Team Render, including single-frame distributed rendering.
  • Support for third party plugins like X-Particles and Turbulence FD.


houdini iconArnold for Houdini

Arnold for Houdini (or HtoA) provides a tight bridge to the Arnold renderer from within the standard Houdini interface, in a way that is familiar to both Houdini users and Arnold users in Maya or Softimage. It also enables smooth lighting workflows between Houdini and other DCC applications, since setups can be exported and shared.


  • All Arnold cameras (perspective, orthographic, spherical, fisheye) with depth of field and advanced shutter controls.
  • All Arnold lights (point, distant, spot, quad, disk, cylinder, skydome, mesh) with light filters and accurate viewport representation.
  • Custom Arnold shading network context with a comprehensive list of 106 shaders and utilities.
  • Atmospheric and background effects.
  • Volume rendering with support for OpenVDB and particles.
  • Polymeshes, curves, points with support for displacement and bump mapping and subdivision.
  • Procedurals, with sample Alembic and mandelbulb implementations.
  • Accurate motion blur (transform, deform, velocity, acceleration), overridable per object.
  • Geometry attributes translation as user data.
  • Optional Arnold properties for objects and cameras.
  • Render to AOVs, in single or separate files.
  • Support all Houdini rendering contexts (render region, mplay, render viewer, render COP, batch), with support for AOVs and clickable buckets.
  • Interactive rendering (IPR) allows parameter changes to be rapidly previewed without interrupting your work.
  • Instancing.
  • Multi-camera renders.
  • DeepEXR support.


katana iconArnold for Katana

Arnold for Katana (or KtoA) provides a bridge to the Arnold renderer from within the standard Katana interface. KtoA is now shipping with the latest Arnold 5.0 core.


  • Natural integration with Katana nodes, scenegraph, and scripting.
  • Multi-threaded scene translation, made possible by Geolib3 in Katana 2+.
  • Bundled Arnold, shaders, and plugins for a smooth out-of-the-box experience.
  • Support for the latest Arnold 5.0.x series.
  • Improved interactivity for live rendering (IPR) allows look changes to be rapidly previewed.
  • Ultra-fast OpenVDB volume rendering.
  • Shader networks.
  • Works with third-party shaders and renderer procedurals (for hair, etc).
  • Render outputs and AOVs, including Deep EXR.
  • Supports the curves location type in Katana for hair rendering.
  • Many light types and light filters supported, as well as interactive modification of lights.
  • Object parameters and global options better match what is available in Arnold.
  • Improved documentation within Katana (args files).


3ds max iconArnold for 3ds Max

Provides a beautiful interface to our photorealistic renderer within Autodesk’s 3ds Max.  Launched at SIGGRAPH 2016 and now with Arnold 5.0, Arnold for 3ds Max (or MAXtoA) is bundled standard with 3ds Max 2018, providing a bridge to the Arnold renderer from within the standard 3ds Max interface.


  • Integration with 3ds Max shapes, cameras, lights and shaders.
  • Image Based Lighting support, including a state of the art physical sky.
  • 3ds Max ActiveShade interactive rendering allows parameter changes to be rapidly previewed without interrupting your work.
  • Support for AOVs & Deep EXR files.
  • Defer the creation of geometry at render time with the Procedural placeholder nodes.
  • Texturable Mesh lights.
  • 3rd Party Arnold shader support.
  • MAXtoA Cloud Rendering for stills and animations. Users can join the optional Autodesk ‘Render Pilot’ program, which now supports MAXtoA.


softimage iconArnold for Softimage

A comprehensive and tailored interface to Arnold within Autodesk’s Softimage. Arnold for Softimage (or SItoA) provides a bridge to the Arnold renderer from within the standard Softimage interface.


  • Seamless integration with Softimage shapes, lights (selective lights) passes and render region.
  • Full ICE support (particles, strand and geometry) with advanced instancing functionality.
  • Native Softimage render tree and shader support.
  • Stand-ins with realtime view representation.
  • Productivity boost: passes, overrides, UDIM style textures.
  • Full Alembic integration via Exocortex Crate.
  • Texturable geometric lights.
  • Deep EXR.


What's new in Arnold 5.2?


  • Texture baking: A new type of node called uv_camera has been added that will produce an image of a given polymesh's shaded UV space as output, which can be useful for texture baking. (#6091, #7206)
  • Improved sampling of spherical lights: A new technique for sampling point lights has been added which can show significant reductions in noise, especially for large lights illuminating surfaces at grazing angles (rim lighting, for example). (#5534)
  • Faster adaptive subdivision: Adaptive subdivision is now up to 2x to 3x faster even on a single thread. In addition, the adaptive codepath has been multi-threaded to fully take advantage of machines with many cores. The aggregated speedup in such machines can be 15x or more. (#2311, #7186, #7201, #7229)
  • Improved EXR read performance: Threaded read performance and scaling of OpenEXR files has been greatly improved. (#6605)
  • noice denoiser improvements: The stability and usability of the high-quality noice denoiser has been improved thanks to various bugfixes and improved error checking. In particular, the original metadata, display windows, bitdepth and compression are preserved in output files. (#7226)
  • OptiX denoiser improvements: The GPU memory consumption of the fast OptiX denoiser has been greatly reduced proportionally to the number of denoised AOVs. Fringing artifacts around HDR pixels have been reduced. (#6885, #7100, #7190, #7333, #6880)
  • Sheen in standard_surface: The standard_surface shader supports a new, energy-preserving sheen effect designed to render cloth-like microfiber materials such as velvet. The sheen effect is layered on top of the diffuse and subsurface components. (#7234)
  • New cell_noise shader: A new cell_noise shader has been added which can create many different useful cell-like patterns. The color of each cell is mapped to a palette parameter, enabling the easy creation of patterns with colors chosen from a specific palette. (#5985, #6051)
  • New controls in range shader: The range shader has been augmented with parameters to control contrast, bias and gain. (#7277)
  • RGB clamping in clamp shader: The clamp shader can now be configured to either a scalar or color mode. (#7278)
  • Matrix shaders: The matrix_multiply_vector and matrix_transform shaders have been reinstated. (#7243)
  • Built-in Cryptomatte: Cryptomatte AOV shaders and filters are now being included as a part of the Arnold core package. (#7301)
  • New built-in volume AOVs: The Z depth for the first volume contribution can now be output in a flat AOV with volume_Z (depth AOV for volumes was already available in deep files). Also, ID now works for volumes. (#7326, #7327)
  • New control in toon shader: Edge detection can now be controlled using a STRING type user data called toon_id. This feature is enabled when user_id is checked. Otherwise, the detected edges will be driven by the object's own name as a toon-specific ID. (#7125)
  • Alembic procedural improvements: The Alembic library has been updated to 1.7.5 in this release. User data parameters that clash with shape parameters will now get an underscore prefix instead of a warning. Added an object_transform parameter to allow additional transformations on the generated geometry. Added a make_instance parameter so that the Alembic procedural will automatically create instances of objects present in multiple Alembic procedurals (experimental; disabled by default) (#6916, #6947, #7076, #7109, #7163, #7242, #7261, #7286)
  • Improved operator assignments: Assignment expressions in operators have improved functionality with regards to reference and string types. (#7284, #7287)
  • Upgrade to OSL 1.9.9: This upgraded version of OSL addresses several reported limitations involving locales, the availability of certain noise types, and compatibility issues with utility functions like transformc being promoted to built-in function definitions. (#6225)
  • Updated to RLM 12.4BL2: The RLM license server and library have been upgraded from version 12.2BL2 to 12.4BL2, which fixes sporadic access violations and hangs. (#7350, #7120)

API additions

  • Sheen closure: The AiSheenBSDF() function has been which provides the sheen closure used by standard_surface so that the same effect can be easily obtained in custom shaders. This function also returns a weight that can be used to layer the sheen closure onto other closures in an energy conserving fashion. (#7234)
  • Multiple Universes: A new concept has been added to Arnold's API which gives it the capability of creating nodes in any number of user-defined workspaces called AtUniverse that can be created and destroyed via the AiUniverse() and AiUniverseDestroy() functions, respectively. Upon creation, nodes are assigned a universe which will take on their exclusive ownership, and this ownership can be inspected via the AiNodeGetUniverse() function. Please note that the "null" universe is the "default" universe, which for the time being is the only one which permits rendering and procedural expansion. (#4129)

Incompatible changes

  • Code compatibility: Code made for Arnold 5.1 should still function in Arnold 5.2 after a recompilation.
  • Binary compatibility: Even though 5.2 is technically an API-breaking release, Arnold 5.0 and 5.1 plugins (shaders, filters, etc) in the majority of cases will still be compatible with 5.2 and can continue to be used without being recompiled, while procedural plugins on the other hand will in the majority of cases require recompilation. (#6822)
  • Multiple Universes: In order to support multiple universes, several existing API functions have a new AtUniverse pointer as first parameter indicating which universe these functions must operate on. This change to function signatures implies a break in binary compatibility with any client code compiled for previous versions of Arnold that were using these functions. However a set of function overloads that preserve the previous signatures has been added to the C++ headers such that the mismatched signatures can be resolved through a code recompilation. The API functions affected by this change are:
    • AiASSWrite()
    • AiASSWriteWithMetadata()
    • AiASSLoad()
    • AiNode()
    • AiNodeLookUpByName()
    • AiUniverseCacheFlush()
    • AiUniverseGetOptions()
    • AiUniverseGetCamera()
    • AiUniverseGetSceneBounds()
    • AiUniverseGetNodeIterator()
  • Removed texture blur options: The texture_specular_blur, texture_diffuse_blur , and texture_sss_blur options have been removed after having defaulted at 0 for some time. They are no longer needed for improving texture performance since Arnold is able to automatically blur the textures as needed without the over-blurring that these options would produce. (#4706)
  • GPU denoising options renamed: The GPU-related render options used by the OptiX denoiser have been renamed to use the gpu_* prefix. (#7190)
  • ENUM params now byte-sized: Enum parameters are now internally stored as bytes instead of ints, and will be reported as such by the AiParamGetTypeSize() API. (#7114)

Bug fixes

  • #7325 procedural loading a .ass containing many nodes that reference other nodes is very slow
  • #6472 OSL issues with Locale
  • #6916 curves in Alembic proc cut short
  • #6947 Skip invalid curves
  • #7012 Noice: black pixels around variance spikes
  • #7027 Non-ascii characters prevent Open EXR images from being loaded
  • #7076 Rename user data parameters that clash with shape nodes in alembic expansion
  • #7154 Adaptive Subdivision: crash with linear patches and different position and UV topologies
  • #7179 Adaptive Subdiv: irregular patch crash with different position and uv topologies
  • #7226 Noice: support inputs with different data windows
  • #7286 Alembic object transform
  • #7303 Python binding fixes for functions that return AtNode types
  • #7312 Raw drivers crash (including Cryptomatte's manifest driver)
  • #7341 Crash when computing the render stats for procedural
  • #7355 Alembic curve user data expansion

What's new in Arnold

Bug fixes

#6771 Incomplete render when you restart after interrupting a render during displacement/subdivision
#7180 noice crashes with separate float Z input file
#7213 MaterialX: Displacements and mixing of generic/texture shaders in materials now supported using a shader type context
#6926 MaterialX: Resolve environment variables in search paths
#6993 noice should preserve metadata, display windows, and add noice args and version metadata
#6994 Noice should preserve channel bit width and compression for outputs
#7094 Procedural containing ginstances are evaluated before instanced node
#7113 Contour lines shouldn't be drawn when width_scale is zero
#7124 Memory leak when interrupting displacement
#7127 Procedural ginstance matrices are accumulated at each render
#7130 Render incorrectly aborted in applyDevice when GPU is not needed
#7152 noice should exit when unsupported formats are used
#7163 Array property fixes in alembic procedural
#7176 Motion blur on instances of procedurals
#7187 Fix op target selection in kick command line
#7191 Slight error in checkerboard shader
#7193 noice broken sequence handling when temporal denoising is not used
#7198 Alembic procedural uses inheritsXforms property
#7200 Output metadata: output correct metadata for single layer files

What's new in Arnold Render 5.1?

Optimizing for quality and speed

  • Adaptive sampling offers a streamlined way to easily tune image fidelity, so users can reduce render times without jeopardizing final image quality.
  • Two new denoising solutions give you the option to use much lower quality sampling settings to optimize your rendering process:
    • The OptiX Denoiser based on NVIDIA AI technology is now integrated into Arnold.
    • The Arnold Denoiser is a standalone tool that offers the temporal stability needed for final frame denoising.

Toon Shader

A new Toon shader has been integrated as part of a non-photorealistic rendering (NPR) solution, provided in combination with the Contour Filter, making it easier to achieve incredible new styles and effects. While Arnold is long known for producing beautiful photorealistic imagery, many users have asked for functionality allowing toon or stylized non-photoreal looks, and this new shader will open up a tremendous range of options.

Managing complexity and scale

For technical users, Arnold continues to offer the stability needed to scale performance without sacrificing image quality.

  • A native Alembic procedural will help studios working with Alembic pipelines to better integrate Arnold, optimize their Alembic workflow, and eliminate production bottlenecks.
  • A new Profiling API plus structured statistics, including the ability to output data in JSON format, offer a set of powerful debugging tools so users can more easily identify performance issues and fine-tune rendering processes.

Interoperability for open pipelines

Arnold 5.1 lays the groundwork for major developments in supporting open industry standards, helping to dismantle technical roadblocks that might be limiting your choice of tools.

  • Material assignments and overrides: Fully interactive inside of Arnold, a new set of operators makes it possible to override any part of an Arnold scene and modify the Arnold universe at render time. Support for open standard frameworks including MaterialX will make it easier than ever to transfer rich material and look-development content between applications and renderers.

See full release notes

Host Compatibility and Requirements


  • Compatible with Maya 2015, 2016, 2016 Ext2, and 2017
  • Windows 7 and later
  • Linux RHEL6 equivalent (glibc 2.12) and later
  • Mac OS X 10.8 and later
  • CPU with at least SSE 4.1 instructions (2006 and later Intel CPUs, and 2011 and later AMD CPUs)

Cinema 4D

  • Compatible with Cinema 4D R16, R17, and R18 (all products except Lite)
  • Windows 7 and later
  • Mac OS X 10.8 and later
  • No GPU or graphics card requirements
  • CPU with at least SSE 4.1 instructions (2006 and later Intel CPUs, and 2011 and later AMD CPUs)


  • Houdini, Houdini FX, Houdini Indie or Houdini Education (Houdini Apprentice is not supported)
  • Windows 7 and later
  • Linux RHEL6 equivalent (glibc 2.12) and later
  • Mac OS X 10.8 and later
  • CPU with at least SSE 4.1 instructions (2006 and later Intel CPUs, and 2011 and later AMD CPUs)


  • Compatible with Katana 2.5
  • Linux RHEL6 equivalent (glibc 2.12) and later
  • Windows 7+ with VC++ 2015 redistributable
  • CPU with at least SSE 4.1 instructions available

3ds Max

  • Compatible with Max 2018
  • Windows 7 and later
  • CPU with at least SSE 4.1


  • Compatible with 64-bit Softimage 2013, 2014 and 2015
  • Windows 7 and later
  • Linux RHEL6 equivalent (glibc 2.12) and later
  • CPU with at least SSE 4.1 instructions (2006 and later Intel CPUs, and 2011 and later AMD CPUs)
Log in to leave your own rating.
Please Note: This page is intended for product reviews. If you are having trouble with a product and require customer support, please Contact Us

Customer Reviews

Sorry, no ratings have been submitted for this entry yet.

Cinema 4D and Arnold

A couple of weeks ago we did some features on Cinema 4D and third party renderers that work with Cinema 4D. We’re continuing...


Maya XGen and Interactive Grooming Tutorial Roundup

Maya 2017 Update 3 brought the interactive grooming tools and they’re really powerful! With XGen, you can create natural...


5 Tutorials about Creating Glass in Maya with Arnold’s aiStandardSurface

There have been multiple times in my career when I’ve been asked to create glass, whether it be for a product video, or...


Working with Arnold AOV’s in After Effects

Maghdad Asadi has a new overview video on working with passes (AOVs) from Arnold in After Effects.


Rendering in Maya

This page contains several tutorials about installing Arnold Render, render settings you should use, saving the render and...


Understanding Depth Of Field in Arnold and Maya

This is a free excerpt from a course from Mograph Plus and Kamel Khezri. Learn about how to set up Depth of Field properly...


Procedural Growing Frost Cinema 4D & X-Particles + Creating a Realistic Ice Material in Arnold 5

Daniel Danielsson is a Freelance Director / Motion Designer who is based in Hertfordshire, which is north of London,...


Speed up your HDRI Workflow in Arnold with HDRI Link

Chad Ashley from Greyscalegorilla explains how to work faster using HDRI Link with Cinema 4D and Arnold. Plus, the...


MtoA 206 | Snow and Ice | Material series using Arnold 5 with Maya 2018

Arvid Schneider puts out some fantastic Maya tutorials and this one seems especially seasonally appropriate, as I look out...


Rendering in CINEMA 4D - Which to Choose

With all the different renderers out there, it’s sometimes difficult to determine which is the best for you and your...


Where Did Arnold Go?

I ran into a little problem after updating to Maya 2017. Arnold Standard Shader was missing! If this happens to you, this...


Live Tutorial: Working with Arnold 5

Arvid Schneider explains lighting and shading a scene from start to finish with Arnold 5. "I am using an arnold learning...


Arnold Render 5 tips and tricks for faster renders

Arnold For Maya Tips Tricks Webinar May 11, 2017
John Paul Giancarlo, M&E Technical Specialist for South Europe, based in...


Water Condensation With Mograph, Greyscalegorilla

Chad Ashley from Greyscalegorilla gives an excellent, in depth, 3-part tutorial on how to make realistic condensation on...


3ds Max: Rendering realistic Explosion and Smoke in Arnold

In this tutorial, from Mograph Plus, you will learn how to render realistic explosions and smoke in Arnold for 3ds Max...


Substance Painter to Arnold Workflow

In this tutorial by Romain Chauliac, you will learn the proper workflow to get your Substance Material to look exactly the...