For years 3D animation hobbyists interested in Renderman, but not wanting to fork out the ££££ required for a license, have had to rely on third-party REYES compliant renderers like, Aqsis (a favourite of ours), Pixie, Gelato, Angel and others. Previously, we had used Aqsis, however in 2015, Pixar the owners of Renderman are due to release a free. non-commercial, version of their famous software.
Remember, that it was the late Steve Jobs, that saved Pixar from going bust and his $10 million investment in the company was to later turn him into a billionaire (source - Steve Jobs: Billion Dollar Hippy - 2011). Renderman has been used to produce Academy Award ("The Oscars") nominated and winning movies, such as Toy Story, Bugs Life, Monsters Inc., Up (I like that one -Ed), Cars (Epic - Ed) and Brave amongst others.
The free non-commercial version will be made available with a node-locked license, as opposed to the floating license provided with the commercial version. According to Pixar, the non-commercial version will be identical to the commercial version and will not be crippled in anyway. However, the non-commercial version can only be used in projects that will not be used to make a profit. What does and does not create "making a profit" is defined in the Renderman non-commercial FAQ.
You can register for the non-commercial version on Pixar's website (http://renderman.pixar.com/view/DP25849) and read about our experience with 3D character algorithm development and acceleration, using custom hardware, when it is released soon.