Arnold GPU

Autodesk has unveiled Arnold 5.3 with Arnold GPU in a public beta. The highly-anticipated release provides artists with GPU rendering for a set number of important features and it has the flexibility to choose between rendering on the CPU or GPU without changing renderers. The GPU rendering is lighting fast and well integrated into Arnold. Given Arnold’s premiere positioning and Autodesk’s high end customers, the GPU offering is extremely significant for a large number of Artists.

One of the important aspects is the match between renders from the GPU and from the CPU.

Comparison between GPU and CPU

From look development to lighting, support for GPU acceleration brings greater interactivity and speed to artist workflows, helping reduce iteration and review cycles. Arnold 5.3 also adds new functionality to help maximize performance and give artists more control over their rendering processes, including updates to adaptive sampling, a new version of the Randomwalk SSS mode, and improved Operator UX.

Arnold GPU in Maya




The GPU version is optimised for NVIDIA. Arnold GPU is based on the NVIDIA OptiX framework and is optimized to leverage NVIDIA RTX technology.

“We recognize the needs of Arnold users for increased speed and interactivity during the creation process,” said Chris Vienneau, senior director, Media & Entertainment Products, Autodesk. “We’re excited to introduce this beta version of Arnold GPU because it gives our users a first taste of the performance gains they can expect to see, while keeping the great look they love from Arnold. We’ve worked closely with NVIDIA to optimize Arnold GPU to run on the latest RTX technology, and look forward to continuing to collaborate to bring our customers the highest quality rendering.”

“When you’re designing a building or bringing a character to life for your movie, the ability to visualise your creation with correct lighting and accurate materials rather than a low-resolution approximation dramatically improves your workflow,” said Greg Estes, vice president of Developer Programs at NVIDIA.  “We’re thrilled with the broad industry adoption of NVIDIA RTX, which speaks volumes on how real-time ray tracing is transforming the 3D market.”

NVIDIA RTX is built on the NVIDIA Turing GPU architecture, which features RT Cores, (GPU hardware designed specifically for ray tracing), and Tensor Cores for AI acceleration.

Denoising using AI or Machine learning has been key to getting such impressive ray tracing performance from the NVIDA hardware. The RTX was launched at SIGGRAPH 2018, and in less than a year NVIDIA RTX has gained support from some of the world’s leading software providers. The de-noising can be applied to CPU renders on the RTX hardware.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with NVIDIA and Autodesk on the next generation of high-performance production rendering. Delivering the best creative results fast is critical to our success,” said Carsten Kolve, digital supervisor at Image Engine. “GPU rendering on NVIDIA RTX Server with Autodesk Arnold promises to deliver the exponential leap in speed we hope to utilize in all production departments.”

Sima by artist Sohrab Esfehani (done in Maya)




The portrait above is Sima by Sohrab Esfehani (Lead Groom and Texture artist at MPC, prior to that Cinesite) and rendered on the GPU. The image was first rendered on a CPU and was seen at the Autodesk Arnold presentation at Siggraph 2018. Esfehani shot his own HDRI’s to use in the lighting in London and lit the face with area light textures. Esfehani also used textures from the Texturing XYZ skin library. Sima was made with reference imagery and then a camera line up in Maya. Esfehani didn’t use a scan or Light Stage style rig, just camera lineup in Maya and in Zbrush with experienced ‘eyeballing’ that comes from many years in production. The hair was groomed in XGen.

Arnold GPU interaction in C4D

Arnold GPU rendering makes it easier for artists and small studios to iterate quickly in a fast working environment and scale rendering capacity to accommodate project demands. From within the standard Arnold interface, users can switch between rendering on the CPU and GPU with a single click. Arnold GPU currently supports features such as arbitrary shading networks, SSS, hair, atmospherics, instancing, and procedurals.

Arnold GPU rendering in 3ds Max


Arnold 5.3 with Arnold GPU in public beta will be available March 20, 2019 as a standalone subscription or with a collection of end-to-end creative tools within the Autodesk Media & Entertainment Collection. While the GPU renderer is Beta in the Windows and Linux versions of Arnold, the main CPU 3.5 release is not a beta, it is a full release and its new features include:

  • Improved Randomwalk SSS V2 in Arnold 5.3.

    Major improvements to quality and performance for adaptive sampling, helping to reduce render times without jeopardizing final image quality

  • Improved version of Randomwalk SSS mode for more realistic shading
  • Enhanced usability for Standard Surface, giving users more control
  • Improvements to the Operator framework, including a new Include operator and more artist-friendly way to apply them
  • Better sampling of Skydome lights, reducing direct illumination noise
  • Updates to support for MaterialX, allowing users to save a shading network as a MaterialX look

Artists can also try the Arnold GPU with a free 30-day trial of Arnold. Arnold GPU is available in all supported plug-ins for Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max, Houdini, Cinema 4D, and Katana.

Arnold GPU render

Arnold joins a host of software acceleration with NVIDIA RTX technology. The 2019 releases include: NVIDIA RTX Ray Tracing-Accelerated Applications such as:

  • Adobe Dimension & Substance Designer
  • Chaos Group V-Ray
  • Dassault Systèmes CATIALive Rendering & SOLIDWORKS Visualize 2019
  • Daz 3D Daz Studio
  • Enscape Enscape3D
  • Epic Games Unreal Engine 4.22
  • ESI Group IC.IDO 13.0
  • Foundry Modo
  • Isotropix Clarisse 4.0
  • Luxion KeyShot 9
  • OTOY Octane 2019.2
  • Pixar Renderman XPU
  • Redshift Renderer 3.0
  • Siemens NX Ray Traced Studio
  • Major VFX Studios such as MPC with their Genesis Virtual Production System and Weta Digital with their in-house GazeboRT also leveraging NVDIA RTX.