Mental Ray Free Downloads

For all users and lovers of mentalray and Mental Ray (as we used to call it lately),

in case you did not notice, I have sad news: we stopped selling NVIDIA Mental Ray and the related Autodesk Maya and 3ds Max plugins end of last year. For details see Mental Ray and Iray product updates.

Fortunately, those of you who purchased licenses from us, don’t worry, you can continue to use your Mental Ray product for as long as you wish. You are eligible to convert your licenses to perpetual, just contact us by email as mentioned in the FAQ above. The same is true for schools and institutions who have registered in our Mental Ray EDU program. It’s worth to note, that the perpetual licenses are free-of-charge, and therefore do not include any support.

Even if you happen to have no license, you can still freely use the Mental Ray plugins for interactive rendering in Maya and 3ds Max, like with Maya IPR and 3ds Max ActiveShade, as well as for rendering final quality still frames in Maya’s Render View and in the Rendered Frame Window of 3ds Max.

The plugins are essential if you want to load legacy mentalray scenes in recent Maya 2017/2018 or 3ds Max 2018, to render them, or to convert them to an alternative engine, at least. But more generally, you may use Mental Ray to learn all the fundamental rendering and lighting techniques like ray tracing, global illumination, image-based lighting and much more, from the software that was/is the defining standard for a lot of these features. The plugins offer the full functionality of Mental Ray no matter if you have a license or not.

To unlock rendering of animations with Maya Batch or Backburner or Mental Ray Standalone, you need a license. We are open to giving out licenses to cover your critical and ongoing Mental Ray projects. Just let us know.

You can find the download links of the latest versions in our forum at
NVIDIA ARC Forum – Mental Ray for Maya and
NVIDIA ARC Forum – Mental Ray for 3ds Max.

Happy rendering!

NVIDIA Mental Ray for Maya 2018 – now available

We just released a major update of the NVIDIA Mental Ray for Maya plugin, introducing support for the upcoming Volta GPU generation from NVIDIA using CUDA 9. If you are a user of this plugin then you should have received a notification from the NVIDIA taskbar tool. You may also download the latest version from our mental ray for Maya website.

We now introduce: Mental Ray for Maya 2018.

This is the first release of the NVIDIA mental ray plugin for Maya 2018, coupled with the matching NVIDIA mental ray Standalone. For release notes and download locations please visit our forum at Now Available: Mental Ray for Maya 2018.

Happy Rendering!

Using the Physical Area Light in Maya 2016

In this fourth post in a series on mental ray for Maya 2016 Render Settings, we follow up on the Using Modern Materials and Lights post with more detail on the new Physical Area Light.

Where to find the new Physical Area Light


Note the new mental ray section. All lights below the line are mental ray lights.

Convenient Creation of Maya Area Light

The Physical Area Light is a Maya Area Light set up using the mila_light shader, for best operation with Layering (MILA) materials.

By default, the settings are as follows:

  • Physically-based falloff (Light Decay is Quadratic)
  • Shapes supported by mental ray (Light Shape Type is Rectangle)
  • Intensity connected to the mila_light
  • Color connected to the mila_light, supporting textures

Scene scale matters

The Physical Area Light has physically-based falloff (Light Decay is Quadratic) so the intensity of the light compared to the scene scale matters. It is the number one reason we find when troubleshooting a physically-based scene that renders black or dark. Take the following example.

A default polygon plane is created on the default grid.default_grid_and_plane1

The plane is scaled up to the size of the default grid.default_grid_and_plane2

A Physical Area Light is created and moved to 4 units above the plane.default_physical_area_light1

Then rendered, noting that the default intensity of the light is 100.default_physical_area_light2

Now the light is  moved to 10 units above the plane.default_physical_area_light3

Rendered. And barely lighting this  plane, so more than that requires more light intensity.default_physical_area_light4

Also, the size of  the area light matters.

A flashlight can light up a baseball, but it cannot light up a baseball field. This kind of thinking has to start informing your lighting decisions. But once you get used to it, it may actually help you work more efficiently to produce realistic lighting results.

Lighting Quality

With Light Importance Sampling (LIS) on, the area light Samples settings are ignored, and quality of direct lighting can be more easily controlled with the Lighting Quality setting in the Quality tab of the Render Settings. This is especially useful for scenes with many lights.


Using textures

Because the Physical Area light automatically uses the texture-able mila_light shader, one can set the input for the light Color with a Maya File node. By the way, we also updated the physical_light to be able to use textures, but now the mila_light is preferred, as it will evolve with the physical area light.


Example using an HDR textured rectangular area light. The intensity multiplier scales the values whether they are HDR or LDR. It’s just a multiply of whatever the texture returns. In other words, the texture is not normalized before multiplication.

Spot edge falloff

The physical area light defaults to use a point light output pattern over the surface area of the light. In order to use a more spot-like falloff for the edges of the area, we need to adjust the area light. To do this, change the light type of your  Physical Area Light from Area Light to Spot Light. It is still a Physical Area Light because it uses the light shape. The mila_light shader remains hooked up to the  color and the intensity.

mental ray For Maya Beta with NVIDIA

We are now beta testing Pi-ray, our exciting new version 3.14 of mental ray, within Maya 2016, in a private mental ray For Maya beta test. If you are interested, please email, with your beta test request. Please state your company, how you use mental ray, and your machine configuration. In addition to registering in our forum, you need to have Maya 2016 and the mental ray for Maya 2016 plugin installed before installing the beta plugin.

The following image is rendered with the latest global illumination (GI) algorithm in 3.14. Enter the beta test to find out some great things about the latest GI.