ILM/SPI develop open-source program

Two giants of the visual effects business, Industrial Light & Magic and Sony Pictures Imageworks, have launched an open-source software effort to address the problems of sharing large, complex CG files.

The ILM/SPI project, dubbed “Alembic,” is a file format designed to make sharing complex images faster and more reliable.

Sharing digital files between different software applications, sites and vfx studios has become difficult as the files have grown in size and intricacy. At the same time, heavy visual effects projects are often split among numerous f/x studios, so the ability to share work has become more urgent.

The chief technology officers of the two companies, Richard Kerris of ILM and Rob Bredow of SPI, announced Alembic on Tuesday at the Siggraph computer graphics conference in Los Angeles.

The pair said the effort grew out of a conversation at a CTO confab organized by software maker Autodesk. Both were working on the same notion and decided to pool their efforts and make the project open-source.

“The goal is to have as many people involved as possible to do what’s best for the industry,” said Kerris, who noted there’s no competitive advantage for a project like this.

Bredow said Imageworks has used Alembic on four productions and the format is thoroughly tested. It will be available in August at alembic.io and via SPI’s open-source software site.

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