New Unlimited Mental Ray Satellite / Standalone

Hi all,

we have very pleasant news for those of you who are frequently rendering on remote machines using Mental Ray Satellite that are connected and controlled from a Maya or 3ds Max plugin:

The Mental Ray Standalone does not require a license anymore.
It is completely free to use on any number of machines.

This is a great extension for users of the Mental Ray plugins who depend on network-distributed rendering for more rendering throughput. It is also lifting any restrictions for usage in a render farm when running from the command-line or managed by a render job manager like Backburner.

What is Mental Ray Satellite rendering?

Unlike starting separate render jobs in a render farm, the Satellite rendering mode allows to connect remote machines in the internal network to your main Mental Ray rendering engine, so that they take over the heavy part of rendering the image or animation without stressing your main machine, which is already busy running your DCC tool. You can continue working with Maya or 3ds Max in the usual way, since Mental Ray is handling the data distribution and network communication under-the-hood. Naturally, the network speed and machine configurations have great impact on the overall experience and a fluent workflow.

In Maya, the satellite mode can be enabled selectively for preview rendering in Render View, and also for batch rendering in the background. However, progressive rendering is not supported in this distributed mode. That makes it less useful in the interactive viewport rendering with Mental Ray, although it’s generally possible to enable it there too. You have the option to let Satellites do ALL the rendering remotely, freeing your main machine from any rendering load (perfect for a background batch render), or set them to contribute to the main rendering as needed (like for a quick preview render).

Otherwise, there are no limitations on the number of machines or CPU cores that can be utilized, different to the original Satellite mode in Autodesk products. However, technically, the overall benefit for rendering may decrease at some point when too many remote machines need to be synchronized over a potentially occupied network.

This latest Mental Ray Standalone can also be used from the command-line, of course, now without any restrictions and no licensing setup.

Please download the new installers below for your platform. We provide versions that are compatible with Maya 2018 and 3ds Max 2018 Mental Ray. We have no plans to upgrade to later versions of Maya or 3ds Max.

Happy rendering! 😀


Mental Ray Free Standalone / Satellite

24 thoughts on “New Unlimited Mental Ray Satellite / Standalone

  1. Steffen says:

    You can use the Mental Ray Standalone from 3ds Max in two ways: via Satellite / Backburner, or by exporting (“echo”) the scene as an .mi file and separate render on the command line. The Satellite mode needs to be initiated by starting the command “3ds Max 2018 Start Satellite” command in your Windows start menu on the render machine, and then connect from 3ds Max to that machine. If you need more help on this please let me know.

  2. robert says:

    How about releasing code as apache licence or like that so people who need/want to use in future version of 3ds max can recomplie renderer and use it like they want 🙂 ?

    It will be such a waste to just drop this legendary renderer code to bin

    1. Steffen says:

      Indeed, we are thinking about it. It’s unclear though if mental ray is still usable after we have removed the IP parts. Let’s see…

      1. Hi
        Im using 3DS Max 2022 and I need to open some files from 2012 which have Mental Ray Proxies. Because the dlls are missing. 3DS Max simply deletes or does not import them.
        Is there a simple way I can convert them into something useful?

      2. Steffen says:

        If you can get a 3DS Max 2018 version then you could download the free Mental Ray plugin here and you should be able to open those old files. However, the proxies are tied to MR so you cannot really use them elsewhere I fear.

  3. If you think about all code licensed from others who doesn’t want to publish their code to public it will be indeed big problem only to take out this parts of code.

    From what i think third-party code could be geometry/tesselation algorithms as well as picture loading libraries. Any others ?

  4. robert says:

    Patents are public, code also will hopefully be so incorporating those in other rendering software will be violated with or without publication of code ?

      1. robert says:

        Ok so if you need please remove parts that’s are patented and publish because i think that code will be usable no doubt

        It will be far more usable than code that is dropped to trash 🙂

  5. Mental Sunray says:

    What Robert’s talking about probably wouldn’t apply to me (unless it results in a Blender release I guess), as it’s not clear when/if I’ll update my Autodesk software, but I think the motivation to keep Mental Ray accessible in future products is admirable. I don’t imagine that a fully open-source release is at all viable, given that NVIDIA is a business and probably still using parts of Mental Ray in IRAY and / or other products.

    Maybe a middle ground would be to release the closed-source bits as a pre-compiled black box with the api / sdk parts for integration into content apps accessible as open-source – i.e. so people wouldn’t be able to change the underlying Mental Ray tech, but could integrate it as it exists now into content creation apps. I think SolidAngle did something similar when they discontinued the Softimage plugin for Arnold (open sourced the StoA part), but whether or not that’s feasible for Mental Ray, only you all would really know.

    I do kind of wonder, given that Autodesk is now subscription-based, whether it’s realistic to expect the open-source community to be able to keep Mental Ray plugins updated and working with each new Autodesk version, given that most subscription users probably keep moving to the new versions. Seems like there probably wouldn’t really be the manpower, but I’d be glad to be mistaken.

    More applicable would be back-porting the last version to earlier versions of Max / Maya if they’re similar enough (although again depends on how many people are still using old versions) and / or Blender (where there’s a more robust open source community and they’d have more access to be able to tweak the host app to be able to work with a closed-source Mental Ray).

    P.S. Just want to say a massive thanks to NVIDIA, Steffen, and everyone else on the advanced rendering team for doing this. It means a lot to have continued access to Mental Ray.

  6. Mike says:

    Yes, I would like to thank NVIDIA, and Steffen for all of the help and releasing this to the general public. I use standalone for distributed bucket rendering on a smaller scale than most probably, generating single image “PNG” sequences rather than using backburner or some other render manager. Works perfect. If the render fails at some point, I can reset it where it left off at the exact frame. I purchased a few used super micro servers from eBay with dual 16 core processors, and they work perfect with the standalone product. With a combined total of 128 cores, I have created a small render farm, and my render times have decreased substantially. Some of my animations would have taken 3 weeks on my workstation, with these servers and MR Standalone I completed the sequence in 4 days. Thanks again….

    1. Steffen says:

      At the moment, we have no plans to provide a Maya 2019 version. Also, the demand seems low as most users are moving to alternative renderers.

  7. Mental Sunray says:

    Just a quick heads up for anyone looking for the Advanced Rendering Forum. I saved most of the threads (and attachments that did not require login) to wayback machine manually last year while Nvidia was kind enough to keep it up, but you have to go from an older starting point for the links to work:

    Meant to post this earlier, but had trouble re-finding the main page again that I initially used to archive everything else. I did save more attachments and errata, but have yet to organize them in any meaningful way.

  8. Steffen says:

    Sounds great, thanks for the effort and support of the community. We kept a local archive of the Mental Ray Forum content as well inside NVIDIA, and can contribute answers and explanations from that archive as needed.

    1. Steffen says:

      We have no plans and no resources to provide an update for Max 2019 and beyond. The demand for such a version seems also very low.

  9. Chris says:

    I’m a bit fuzzy on this. Are batch renders doable in this version for maya2018? I downloaded the mental-ray standalone and it works fine in the render view, but I get the pop-up asking for a license when I try doing a batch

    1. Steffen says:

      Batch renders from within Maya still require a license. Only if you export your scene to a .mi file you could use the license-free version of Mental Ray Standalone to render full animations without the need for activation. That is a typical workflow when using a render farm, for example. On the other hand, we (still) give out licenses for batch rendering inside Maya if you contact us at arc-licensing(at)

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