No doubt that Weta Digital is one of the world’s premier visual effects companies, they are known for uncompromising creativity but also for commitment to developing innovative technology.
In the last Siggraph they announced that their project Manuka finally goes to production, after years of research. It started life as a small R&D research platform and has grown rapidly into a hard core very serious production renderer.
Manuka objective is of course to renders scenes beautifully and accurately, but also to handles the vast (utterly vast) complexity requirements of the company and it does so incredibly efficiently and quickly.
This new production renderer has already been used for the third Hobbit film, some shots in The Desolation of Smaug and some shots in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. It was able to handle very complex scenes like for example, in Dawn when the apes ride into San Francisco and tell the humans to stay out of the forest in the “show of strength” scene, the vast amounts of apes – each with complex hair that would have taxed any renderer.
Manuka is totaly focused on production but for a first time can acheive a higher level of quality by implementing algorithms like BDPT (Bidirection Path Tracing) or Advanced shaders that were previously to costly for a production renderer.
The following image show a test image that use the hairs shader but also show that Manuka is able to efficiently and accurately render caustics effects.