Blender's "Cycles X" Showing Nice Performance But Dropping OpenCL Support

Written by Michael Larabel in Free Software on 23 April 2021 at 12:50 PM EDT. 60 Comments
Blender's Cycles engine is celebrating its tenth birthday today and in marking the occasion, the Blender project has announced the ongoing work on "Cycles X" as what started as a research project in preparing this engine for the next ten years. It's a big step forward for Cycles but with Cycles X the OpenCL rendering kernels are being removed.

Cycles X is moderning the rendering engine's architecture, improves the usability of viewport and batch rendering, aims to provide better performance on today's CPUs and GPUs, and allow for more advanced rendering options.

Developers involved with Cycles X have been prototyping a new GPU kernel and early benchmarks of Cycles X with the NVIDIA OptiX back-end is looking very promising. For now the CPU rendering performance is roughly the same but there is the possibility of greater performance down the road. Viewport rendering performance should also be nicely improved with Cycles X.

Some of the remaining work with Cycles X includes work on volume rendering, shadow catchers, multi-device rendering, and more. Unfortunately though the OpenCL rendering kernels support is being removed. Dropping OpenCL support is to the disadvantage of AMD Radeon and Intel GPUs but the developers hope to possibly support other APIs for Cycles X down the road. Such as with Vulkan rendering or Intel oneAPI Level Zero or other interfaces for supporting GPU acceleration outside of NVIDIA with their CUDA/OptiX paths.

It's likely to be at least another half-year before Cycles X officially makes it debut within a Blender release but for now you can learn more about this work via the blog.
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