Pixar has announced the forthcoming release of RenderMan Pro Server 12.

The news comes months after Pixar brought RenderMan Pro Server 11.5.3 to the Mac.

Pixa – whose CEO Steve Jobs has the same post at Apple – announced that the next iteration of the RenderMan 3D rendering software "will feature performance optimizations and general enhancements that represent a major evolution of the 3D rendering system".

RenderMan is one of a series of commercial products aimed at professional 3D animators. It also provides the 3D rendering and animation technology used in Pixar movies such as the Toy Story series and Finding Nemo. The company describes the product as "the highest quality renderer available anywhere."

Major new features in version 12 will include new point cloud filtering tools that support the computation of subsurface scattering and offer "many special effects and optimizations", and improved volume rendering for effects like fire and smoke, according to Pixar.

Performance optimizations include memory reductions of up to 30 per cent, loop subdivision support, and more-efficient rendering of dense polygon meshes.

Other enhancements are shading language improvements, arbitrary output variables, Rif filters, OpenEXR Support, reduction of Ray Tracing Bias, and improved control of camera and dicing.

The company expects to release the new product in autumn 2004 – it is entering beta now.