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Imageworks opens up tools

Sony unit moves on open-source software

In an unusual move for Sony Corp., Sony Pictures Imageworks is taking five of Imageworks’ proprietary CG tools open-source.

Open-source software is free to all and can be modified or improved by anyone.

“Traditionally, in visual effects, the idea has been to have strategic advantage by using a lot of proprietary technology,” said Imageworks chief technology officer Rob Bredow.

“It was appropriate for the development of this business, but as the industry is starting to mature, open standards and the ability to collaborate between companies is as important as competitive advantage,” he continued.

Sony has had limited open-source projects before, but with five projects going open-source at once, “It’s definitely something new for Sony at this scale,” Bredow said.

The move to take these tools into the public domain supports Imageworks’ plans to move away from permanent employees trained on the company’s proprietary tools and toward freelance artists.

Bredow said: “Part of making this stuff available so other companies can use it or artists can use it at their home is the idea that we can leverage the best in the business and have them arrive in the building knowing our tools.”

Imageworks is eyeing additional open-source projects depending on its experience with this effort.

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