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ILM Open Sources Its Proprietary Image File Format

Recognizing the need for a file format that could serve as the industry standard, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) has launched its previously proprietary extended dynamic range image file format OpenEXR to the open source community. It is available at "Historically, the visual effects community and the motion picture industry have benefited from the creation of standards," said Jim Morris, president of Lucas Digital. "OpenEXR is yet another step in this direction. By creating better standards in image file format, we hope that effects practitioners and software developers will have a more consistent and flexible base to build upon." OpenEXR is a 16-bit, floating-point file format with much greater dynamic range than existing 8- and 10-bit file formats and is fully compatible with NVIDIA's new GeForce FX and Quadro FX 3D graphics solutions and its lossless data compression achieves compression ratios of 2:1 for scanned film images. "OpenEXR allows for a representable dynamic range that is significantly higher than previous file formats," explained Cliff Plumer, chief technology officer at ILM. "The OpenEXR file format is a better digital representation of film because it has a dynamic range of over 30 f-stops without loss of precision, and an additional 10 f-stops at the low end with minimal loss of precision. Most of the previous 8-bit file formats only have the dynamic range of around 7 to 10 f-stops and cannot accurately reproduce images with extreme contrast." ILM originally implemented its own extended dynamic range file format EXR in the summer of 2000. EXR was initially tested on such blockbuster films as 2002's HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, MEN IN BLACK II, GANGS OF NEW YORK and SIGNS. Currently the file format is being used on the upcoming feature films DREAMCATCHER, THE HULK, VAN HELSING, PETER PAN, TIMELINE and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.