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Sony Imageworks & ILM Join Forces on Alembic

At SIGGRAPH today, Sony Imageworks and Industrial Light & Magic announced a co-developed open source project for basic geometry called Alembic, which distills complex and often proprietary animated scenes into application-independent files with baked geometric results, which can be fully re-importable across a range of supporting software.

At SIGGRAPH today, Sony Imageworks and Industrial Light & Magic announced a co-developed open source project for basic geometry called Alembic, which distills complex and often proprietary animated scenes into application-independent files with baked geometric results, which can be fully re-importable across a range of supporting software. Alembic aims to become the industry standard for loading baked geometry on demand, and has already garnered the support of Autodesk, The Foundry, Luxology, NVIDIA, RenderMan at Pixar and Side Effects. Alembic certainly underscores the significance of globalization, too.

ILM and Imageworks were independently working on software designed to solve this same problem, which they discovered at an Autodesk summit a year ago, and decided it was in their mutual interest and the interest of the industry to collaborate on the solution.

"Our work is becoming more collaborative, we work with other studios very regularly on our films, our clients want that and we want to make it very clear to our clients and easier for our workflows to work across multiple studios and in a collaborative way, "explained Rob Bredow, CTO of Imageworks. “And it's really helpful for us as a major player to have good standards: that makes us more efficient, it makes the work easier to do and it makes it healthier for us to be able to do innovative work more easily."

"We really feel that by combining our production knowledge that we're going to get something better for the industry than if we had just tried to do this on our own and put it out there," added Richard Kerris, CTO of ILM. "We also feel that this is not a competitive advantage. The thing that makes this work is a useful tool for everyone."

Sony, which announced its sixth open source initiative at SIGGRAPH, OpenColorIO, a framework for sharing color transformations across computer graphics workflows, has been utilizing Alembic on four of its productions: Green Lantern, The Smurfs, Arthur Christmas and Hotel Transylvania. ILM, meanwhile, with the industry standard OpenEXR format, has been using Alembic on several of its upcoming projects as well.

Alembic will be available for download in August on the project's Google Code site and more info can be found online at http://www.alembic.io.

When asked if he envisions Alembic expanding beyond geometry, Bredow responded, "It's possible. My preference is to make sure it does (a very basic thing that we all need) very, very well. But Alembic is designed to be extendable. For instance, there are a whole number of primitives that we support right out of the box… But it's possible if someone wanted to load extra data into this format, it's backed by a very powerful open source data base format called HDF5."

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