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The Future of Blender on macOS

November 11, 2021

Does Blender have a future on macOS?

A few weeks ago Apple unveiled it’s latest Macbooks with the new M1 Pro and M1 Max processors. So far there have been some promising benchmark results for a variety of different productivity applications. They’ve made light work of Adobe Premiere and After Affects, Davinci Resolve and Cinebench, but does this mean they will perform well when using Blender? For now, not really. When Blender updated to version 2.8 the required version of OpenGL increased. However, after releasing their new Graphics API ‘Metal’ Apple discontinued support for OpenGL.

A few weeks ago, Apple unveiled its latest MacBooks with the new M1 Pro and M1 Max processors. So far there have been some promising benchmark results for a variety of different productivity applications. They’ve made light work of Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects, Davinci Resolve and Cinebench, but does this mean they will perform well when using Blender? For now, not really.

Metal API

In 2015 Apple announced that its new IOS graphics API ‘Metal’ would be coming to Mac OS. It provided developers with better and lower-level access to the hardware allowing for faster and higher quality graphics processing. Unfortunately, to make use of Metal, developers had to rewrite the graphics processing of their programs to make use of the new API.

When Blender updated to version 2.8 the required version of OpenGL increased. However, after releasing Metal, Apple discontinued support for OpenGL. This meant that GPU rendering was unusable if you were using Blender 2.8 or later on a Mac. No matter how fast the new Silicon Processors will be, their CPU rendering time will be no match for GPU rendering.

But before you write off the new Macs for Blender work, there is some good news. Apple recently joined the Blender Development Fund, so they will be providing financial support to the Blender organization. More excitingly, they will also be providing a software patch to add Metal support to Blender. Hopefully this will work with the older Intel Macs as well as the newer silicon chips.

Blender tweet

Whilst most of the attention will be focused on computers like the new MacBook Pros and the top of the range Mac Pro, it will be interesting to see how the M1 series of computers like the MacBook Air will handle GPU rendering. The original M1 Macs aren’t meant to compete with gaming laptops and RTX 3000 series workstations, they’re competing with thin and lights and all in one PCs which normally have integrated graphics and don’t support any GPU rendering in Cycles.

The patch for Metal support is expected to arrive in Spring 2021, after Blender 3.0 (featuring Cycles X) which is expected to be released in December. At GradedBlue Renderfarm we will be testing and adding support for GPU rendering with the MacOS client as soon as possible.


GradedBlue
GradedBlue Renderfarm