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Arnold's command-line renderer is called kick. This reads an .ass or  and .usd file, renders the scene using Arnold, and outputs an image file. Kick can also be used to query Arnold nodes for their parameters and default values. It can also be used for scene debugging.

Kick is included in the plug-in downloads. After installation, you will find it in the bin subdirectory of the Arnold distribution.

Running Kick

To run kick, first, open a shell (terminal). Here's an example on Windows OS.


Kick always loads shaders and procedurals from the current directory, so don't run kick in a folder with lots of other DLLs/SOs/DYLIBs. Kick will try to load each DLL/SO/DYLIB, to check whether it contains shaders or procedurals.

Code Block
$ set ARNOLD_BIN_PATH=C:\solidangle\Arnold-\bin
Arnold [2cfbe09c] linux clang-3.9.1 oiio-1.7.12 osl-1.8.2 vdb-4.0.0 rlm-12.2.2 2017/04/10 16:48:44
No arguments. Try kick --help for a command summary

Useful Commands

To try out the following commands download one of the files like cornell.ass from the example ass files page.

One of the most useful commands is "-h" or "--help". This will display a list of all the available options in kick:

Code Block
kick -h

Use the "-i" option to read an .ass file and render it:

Code Block
kick -i path/to/cornell.ass

Note that the "-i" option is not strictly necessary, kick automatically recognizes arguments ending in .ass, so this works too:

Code Block
kick path/to/cornell.ass

By default, a window will pop up displaying the image as it's being rendered. You can turn off the display window with the '-dw' option:

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -dw

If the geometry is colored pink, it could be because the path to the shaders may be required. This can be added using the "-l" flag:

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -l /path/to/plugin/shaders/

Log information is sent to stdout. You can increase or decrease the log verbosity with the "-v <n>" option (default verbosity is 1). The most verbose option is "-v 6":

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -v 2

Switch off the log output with "-v 0":

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -v 0

To save the rendered image in an output file use the "-o" flag:

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -o cornell.exr

Change the render display size with the "-r <width> <height>" option:

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -r 1024 720


Print the Arnold version number, or the entire version string:

Code Block
kick -av
kick --version

Print diagnostic information about the license servers and list installed licenses available and in use:

Code Block
kick -licensecheck

To override the antialiasing samples:

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -as 3

To override the diffuse GI samples:

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -ds 3

To disable the progressive refinement mode:

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -dp 

For debugging purposes you can globally disable several features like textures, lights, and shaders, motion blur, subdivs, displacement or SSS:

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -it 
kick cornell.ass -il 
kick cornell.ass -is
kick cornell.ass -imb -isd -idisp -isss

You can install custom Arnold nodes by loading them from a dynamic library (.dll or .so) with:

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -l path\to\plugin -l path\to\more\plugins

You can also get a list of all the installed nodes (both built-in and dynamically-loaded) with:

Code Block
kick -nodes
kick -l path\to\plugins -nodes

You can inspect nodes with "-info":

Code Block
kick -info polymesh 
kick -info options
kick -l path\to\plugins -info custom_plugin_node

Or get more information about a given parameter:

Code Block
kick -info polymesh.sidedness
kick -info options.bucket_scanning

 Override any parameter of any node using the "-set" command: 

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -set options.AA_samples 3


Override any parameter of all nodes of a particular type:

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -set curves.mode thick

Get kick to abort the render if no valid license is found, rather than rendering with a watermark:

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -set options.abort_on_license_fail true


Override several parameters:

Code Block
kick first.ass -set options.AA_samples 3 -set options.bucket_size 16

Interactive Mode

To render in interactive mode use the "-ipr q" option. This will allow you to (very crudely) navigate the scene and switch to various debug shading modes such as flat/smooth normals, UVs, wireframe, etc.:

Code Block
kick cornell.ass -ipr q
  • Navigate (pan/zoom) with the chosen interaction mode: "q" for Quake controls (WASD), and "m" for Maya controls (Alt + Mouse).
  • Increase or decrease the image exposure with the "[" and "]" keys.
  • Click in the render window and press lowercase "i" to ignore any existing shaders. You can restore the scene shaders by pressing uppercase "i"
  • macOS and Linux: use the number keys (0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) to switch between the various debug shading modes.