Disney Launches Open-Source BRDF Explorer


Walt Disney Animation Studios is making its BRDF Explorer, a shading and rendering toolset, available to the industry through a new open-source site.

BDRF stands for bidirectional reflectance distribution function, the mathematical description of how a surface reflects light. The BDRF Explorer is an advanced, physically-based shading and rendering toolset that evaluates BRDFs and how they compare to real life. It is capable of exploring the MERL 100 (Mitsubishi’s set of empirically measured data) and MIT CSAIL data sets, along with programmatic BRDF functions that can be defined by the user.

The announcement was made at SIGGRAPH 2012 in Los Angeles, and the software is available online at

Brent Burley, the project’s principal engineer from WDAS software group, created the BRDF Explorer with  Greg Nichols and Jared Johnson. He is a key player on the software team managed by Dan Candela, director of technology for WDAS.

“We developed the BRDF Explorer to gain an intuition about the large number of BRDF models that have been developed over the years, to understand how well they fit real-world materials, and more importantly, see where they fall short,” said Burley. “During this process, we discovered new ways to view the BRDF data more intuitively and holistically, and gained insights that allowed us to develop a robust new model.”