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Walt Disney Animation Studios Launches Open Source and Technical Publications Website

Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) launched an open technology site http://www.disneyanimation.com/technology where users will, for the first time, be able to access innovative technologies developed in house.

Press Release from Walt Disney Animation Studios

Burbank, CA - Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) launched an open technology site http://www.disneyanimation.com/technology where users will, for the first time, be able to access innovative technologies developed in house. The first software available is WDAS's revolutionary texture mapping system, Ptex, which was made available on January 15th 2010 at http://ptex.us/. Ptex was developed by WDAS Principal Software Engineer Brent Burley for use in production quality rendering, and is being driven to become adopted widely in the community by WDAS Director of Technology Dan Candela. WDAS has also compiled a set of papers available on the site for sharing additional technical innovations that will benefit the industry.

As the industry rapidly changes, open source software has become a common foundation for many technologies. The WDAS technology team has contributed to such software in many ways within both the studio and the industry and now aims to contribute back to the community by establishing this platform.

With the increase in render complexity requirements in animated film, the WDAS team found that standard texture-mapping methods being utilized had become inefficient and complicated for artists to use. In an effort to increase the efficiency and quality of texture mapping on complex and intricate geometry, Burley spent a year developing the Ptex software. Overseen by Candela, the Ptex system has already been licensed to multiple vendors and studios. It is now being utilized on all current and future projects at WDAS. Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Andy Hendrickson states, “Today, technology is fundamental to the creation, distribution and consumption of entertainment; therefore, being a premiere entertainment brand means creating premiere technology.

“Ptex from Disney Animation is one of those premiere technologies that can only reach its full potential by releasing it as open source,” Hendrickson continues. “It is a revolutionary idea, and though some would characterize it as a Disney competitive advantage, it has more value to the corporation as an industry standard in solving the time-consuming computer graphics problem of assigning textures to geometry. Setting a new standard is best accomplished by giving technology away for free.”

Ptex introduces a new texture mapping method that has extraordinary benefits for film production. It eliminates the need for tedious and labor-intensive UV assignment by applying a separate texture to each face of a subdivision or polygon mesh. The Ptex file format can efficiently store hundreds of thousands of texture images in a single file, resulting in a significant reduction in server load. The Ptex API, which WDAS is releasing as open source, provides cached file I/O and high quality filtering - everything that is required to easily add Ptex support to a production-quality renderer or texture authoring application.

CTO of WDAS Andy Hendrikson is responsible for the technology strategy and direction used to create WDAS’s animated feature films. Prior to Walt Disney Animation Studios, Hendrickson was head of Technology at PDI/Dreamworks and senior technology officer at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). Hendrickson began his career at Skywalker sound, a division of Lucasfilm.

Dan Candela, Director of Technology is in charge of software development at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Prior to his current position, Dan held management posts at Apple, Inc. and Nothing Real LLC. Candela began his career at Sony Pictures Imageworks shortly after the group was formed. He received his MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management and engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon University.

Principal Software Engineer Brent Burley has nearly 14 years experience at Walt Disney Animation Studios, working primarily on tools and technology related to rendering. Prior to WDAS, he developed a cross-platform game engine used in multiple titles at Philips Media and also worked on aircraft cockpit simulation software at Hughes Aircraft.

Located in Burbank, California, Walt Disney Animation Studios brings imagination to life through traditional and computer animated films. WDAS is filled with diverse talent from all around the globe whose passion is to create beautiful and timeless films through the art of storytelling, the magic of animation and the science of cutting-edge technology.

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