Saturday, August 30, 2014

PRMan: Installing Pixar's License server on Ubuntu

PRMan price drop

It is a great time in RenderMan land. Pixar will release RMS 19 with the new RIS render technology this fall. That is great news but the real whopper is Pixar's decision to dramatically lower the price of all this sweet candy. That's right, instead of thousands of dollars it has gone down to $495 per license. And the great thing is that there is no differentiation between RenderMan Studio and RenderMan Pro server anymore. A license can drive either product.

This price restructuring brings new opportunities for small VFX studios. But the fun does not end here. Students and hobbyists can now register for a non commercial license for free and there are no limitations in the software or watermarks in the images. There is really no excuse anymore to not try this render engine. The free version will also be available in the fall of 2014.

Pixar licensing

Now that the software is more accessible I like to talk a bit about the licensing system. Paying customers work with floating licenses. Floating licenses have a big advantage. You can install the software on as many machines as you want but it is the license server who dictates how many you can open at any one time.

A quick example: Say you got four people working on their own workstation but you got only two licenses. You can install the software on all four machines but only two people can work with it at any one time. This way nobody has to switch seats when they want to load the RMS for Maya plug-in. Once they finish, the license is released an someone else can work with it. At night, you can also use the free licenses for the render farm.

For this system to work you need to run the license server software. This can be on your workstation or another machine like a fileserver or render farm manager. If you have only one machine on which you use PRMan then it is ok to put the license server software on that specific machine. But when you have more it is better to install it on a dedicated machine that stays on all the time. This doesn't have to be a power house computer. I run mine on a Intel Atom server with 4 GB of RAM running Ubuntu 12.04.4LT which is also my personal web and fileserver.

Installing the license server on Ubuntu

Pixar provides license server software for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. The linux versions are packaged as rpm. Since Ubuntu does not use rpm packages to install software it seems like Ubuntu is a dead end. But no worries, there is a way to get it all working.

First download the required software from the RenderMan website. I used the RH5 64 bit version which needs at least gcc 4.1. You need to convert this downloaded rpm package to a file type which Ubuntu can read. For this there is a tool called Alien.

To install Alien:
# sudo apt-get install alien
To convert the rpm to deb:
# alien NameOfThePackage.rpm
You should get similar named deb package when the program has finished running. The next step is to install the deb package which can be done with the following command:
# sudo dpkg -i NameOfThePackage.deb
Several files will be installed in /opt/pixar/PixarLicense-versionNumber/

So far, so good. The software is installed but it can't run yet as you need a license file. The documentation states that a program named LicenseApp will be invoked during installation of the license server but this seems only to be working on Windows and Mac OS X and not on Linux. This LicenseApp is used to get a license from Pixar automatically. Since the program does not get installed how is it possible to get a valid license?

You need to go to Follow the steps on this page and it will generate you a pixar.license file for you. You might need to use pixarhostid which can also be downloaded from the Pixar website. Put the downloaded pixar.license file in the directory above.

The next thing to be done is to start the license server with 
# sudo
Et voila, your license server is up and running. If you want to make sure if it works, use a web browser to go to http://yourServerName:9010. If it displays your licenses then you're almost good to go.

The last thing you need to do is to put the pixar.license file in the root pixar installation directory of all of your client machines. This way PRMan knows where your server lives.

So where can I buy a license (or a bunch of them)?

If you live in Belgium or the Netherlands then you are in luck. You can contact me and I'll help you get one. You can do this trough Twitter or visit Feel free to ask questions too.

If you live elsewhere in the world, simply contact

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