Outlook: Open source in 2021
David Morin
Issue: November/December 2020

Outlook: Open source in 2021

Since its creation just over two years ago, the Academy Software Foundation has provided a neutral forum for open source software developers in the film industry to share resources and collaborate on technologies for image creation, VFX, animation and sound. The Foundation has grown at a rapid pace thanks to our members: major film, VFX and animation studios, technology developers and industry organizations who came on board to roll up their sleeves and supercharge the development of open source software in our industry.

As we approach 2021, the trends we are tracking at the Foundation are tied to the current state of the world and the industry: the role of software development in the production and distribution of motion pictures is increasing, while the global pandemic is forcing new ways of working and thinking about production. The global thirst for new content continues to push visual effects and animation professionals to work faster and smarter. Cloud-based workflows, virtual production techniques and remote collaboration are necessary now — removing traditional barriers to creative collaboration, and making it easier for studios and creative teams to work together and share data. 

Within these trends, open source software and open standards are increasingly necessary for establishing consistent user experiences across facilities for both content creators and technology developers.

Today, the Foundation is hosting six major open source projects, each initially created and contributed by a different studio. They are:

OpenVDB (contributed by DreamWorks Animation): A C++ library for volumetric representations including fluid simulations, animated volumes, and environmental effects.

OpenColorIO (contributed by Sony Pictures Imageworks): Provides a consistent user experience across digital content creation applications.

OpenCue (contributed by Google Cloud and Sony Pictures Imageworks): A fully featured render manager that can be used to break down complex jobs into individual tasks.

OpenEXR (contributed by Lucasfilm): A High Dynamic Range (HDR) image file format for high-quality image processing and storage. 

OpenTimelineIO (contributed by Pixar Animation Studios): An open source interchange format for editorial timeline information, including clips, timing, tracks, transitions and metadata.

Open Shading Language (contributed by Sony Pictures Imageworks): The industry standard shading language for VFX and animation, ideal for describing materials, lights, displacement and pattern generation.

These open-source projects are maintained and developed at the Academy Software Foundation by software engineers from across the industry, on a continuous integration build infrastructure that is itself open source and available to all. 

Film studios and creative vendors of all sizes are using and contributing to our projects because they deliver clear benefits across the production value chain. By working together instead of separately, pooling resources instead of duplicating them, studios and vendors can free up software engineers to focus on other needs, while at the same time ensuring the continuing development of standard software components shared by all. 

Currently, all animation and visual effects movies in production are using Academy Software Foundation projects.

Our proceedings are (not surprisingly) open, and it costs nothing for individual contributors to participate. All it takes is an interest to participate in the open source software community.

As we move into 2021, we look forward to growing our membership, our project base, our education and outreach, and doing our part for the continuing development of our great motion picture industry. To find out how you can participate, please see us at aswf.io.

David Morin is Executive Director of the Academy Software Foundation (https://www.aswf.io). He is also Head of the Epic Games Los Angeles Lab.