Blackbird Renderer

I wanted to split this off from the Tangent post as not to take away from the unfortunate news and condolences being wish upon the former Tangent employees.

That said, I think it’s import to start dialogue about the Open Source production capable render engine @bsavery posted a link too and that was built by @skw and other former Tangent employees. From watching Stefan’s tech talk on YouTube, Blackbird is a full production pipeline render engine which works with multiple Closed Source programs to integrate files without the headache, or less of the need, for the careful formatting and checking for data lose each time.

Stefan, like you said towards the end of your talk, you hope that this will be picked up by another organization and eventually merged with Blender.

The list of already functioning developments is impressive and the soon to be functioning systems like texture caching to reduce memory use, sounds amazing.

I’ll start the questions off by asking if this is something we could download now and start using in our everyday workflow, minus the unreleased functions? And does it requirer a forked version of Blender to operate?

Thanks for the talk, and your time. I hope you and all previous employees of Tangent Animations find new and exciting opportunities in the world of storytelling.


Really good talk. I think pretty much everyone who uses Blender needs to watch it.

I really hope the project gets picked up both by BF and other studios. The code is published at their GitHub.


That was insightful and a great demonstration of a company’s work benefiting Blender development.

It seems like getting a good implementation of hydra and USD support could be quite beneficial in getting blender adopted for the workflow of some studios. I wonder if it would be possible to extract it from the github repository?

He raises a good point about the creating a production scene for benchmark purposes, though finding someone willing to make one and distribute it, is easier said than done.

Does texture caching work similar to games were textures are loaded and unloaded as and when they are needed?

Is it me, or does the audio on that video hardly work?

With my headphones it only comes out of the left ear.

You will need to switch your audio to mono mode

Side Note

Great video on open source software from the same channel


He raises a good point about the creating a production scene for benchmark purposes, though finding someone willing to make one and distribute it, is easier said than done.

I think it’s more manageable now to find better test scenes with bigger scale. Especially with USD use expansion in production. I am not sure if the files below are pushing high end tier requirements for production or not but scene files below seems much more complex and better for testings than simple BMW scene at Blender resources.

Look at the “USD Sample Assets” section:


I’ll download it and set it up for blender.

I guess the next question is how to get it to become a benchmark standard :sweat_smile:

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Keep us informed on how well it works and any “gotchas” that may arise, please.

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Where would be the best place to track this? A thread here on BA or is there a more appropriate place to do this?

Edit:Also what software can i use as a reference point for how this should import in?
For example i can see geometry errors in the proxy geometry but i don’t know if this is the importer or how the orginal mesh looks.

Are you referring to the Blackbird files on GitHub or the Pixar USD posted above?

The PIxar USD post.

I downloaded both. They are nowhere close to production scene. I haven’t seen less than 10 mil scene for years.

Ok l, I was assuming you were talking about the Blackbird files. My mistake. :grin:

Oh, well. Too bad. I haven’t checked myself so I’ll trust your word. Not sure if there’s anything better can be found right now.

Houdini Apprentice is free for non-commercial use and has a good USD implementation. USDView is what I would call the reference implementation by Pixar.


Well there is the Moana Island scene from Disney. That’s probably the closest it gets in terms of publicly available datasets (afaik).
Not USD though, the geo is obj-files (unsubdivided, e.g. SDS control cages), textures are ptex.
In short, making this import properly in Blender would probably be some serious R&D effort.

More info here.

Makes me wonder weather such conversion would be a viable candidate for a future GSOC project?

greetings, Kologe

I wish i had the skills to play around with the blackbird files but alas I don’t.

@anon2947 It’s fine, just stick a sculpt in the middle of the table :grin:
see Talking about "production readiness" of features - #134 by thetony20

@skw Thank you

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This presentation broke my heart. Such potential. Sigh. Hopefully someone else picks up the baton and keeps investing in blackbird.


I want to throw my two cents in here because I think is some misconceptions a bit. First on the pipeline side of things.

USD workflow. My understanding is that tangent was dissatisfied working solely in blender. Imagine you’re a big studio with a render farm. The standard “blender pipeline” would be to save all your shots in blender files. Then when you want to render a frame, each server blade would load the scene, with blender in command line mode, and let blender evaluate the given frame and render in cycles. This is inefficient at scale for obvious reasons. Then imagine if you want to re-render the whole scene changing the resolution for example.

So an alternative would be to export the blender file to USD and run a USD renderer on each server blade. If you have to edit the resolution you don’t need to re-export. But you need a USD Render Delegate of Cycles so that rendering the USD file without Blender would look the same as cycles in Blender. This is what Tangent did with hdCycles (and is open source on GitHub).

There are other benefits of the USD Hydra render delegate hdCycles. Other applications (like Houdini) that support USD and the USD viewport system Hydra can then use Cycles in it easily!

The “Blackbird” renderer is more optimizations and enhancements on Cycles which could be merged back and made useful for others, the Blackbird part doesn’t enable the USD support unless I’m mistaken. But it should be noted that Blackbird is pre-Cycles-x too.

TLDR: All of their work is cool but IMO the most useful short term is probably the USD workflow and bringing cycles to USD.


Thanks for taking the time to clarify the use cases. I too hope USD hdCycles/Blackbird gets the attention it deserves.