You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

ILM, Sony Imageworks release Alembic 1.0

Open-source graphics file format speeds data exchange

The shift toward open standards and open-source software in visual effects and animation took another step forward Tuesday as Industrial Light & Magic and Sony Pictures Imageworks released version 1.0 of Alembic — their open-source interchange format for animation graphics files.

“It allows us to hand data between facilities in an easier way than ever before,” said Imageworks chief technical officer Rob Bredow.

Alembic represents a rare collaboration between the rival visual effects giants, who worked together on it for 18 months.

“We’re providing all of this to the community as a single large open-source project,” Bredow said. “And we’ll see the community develop it from there.”

The announcement came at a press conference Tuesday at the Siggraph conference in Vancouver.

Alembic allows animation graphics files to move between software applications easily and quickly, which was not possible with previous file formats.

Alembic is already supported by major third-party software makers including Autodesk, the Foundry, Nvidia and Pixar.

Compared with the file formats it’s replacing, Alembic uses a fraction of the disk space — as little as 1/500 in some cases. “That actually changes what you can put on the screen,” said Bredow, because artists can see their tweaks and changes faster and can spend more time adjusting images.

Version 1.0 is the first official production-tested version of Alembic, already in use at Imageworks on “Men in Black III” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” and at ILM on “The Avengers.”ILM and Imageworks were working separately on the problem of an interchange format; when they learned of each other’s work, they decided to pool their efforts. They announced Alembic at last year’s Siggraph conference, and with a working version already in hand, they expected to release version 1.0 in just two to three months.

But it actually took another year. Imageworks was ahead of Lucasfilm on some aspects of the project but ILM wanted any interchange format to be extensible. Once they tried to merge the two projects all the code had to be rewritten from scratch, something Bredow said “was not an easy decision.”

Bredow noted that since the project is open source, neither Imageworks nor Lucasfilm will get any direct financial benefit from it. “This is not a small investment,” he said. “Not only do you have to believe in it yourself, you have to convince other people who are responsible for funding our organization. We’re a for-profit entity.”

However the fact that ILM and Imageworks were collaborating reassured other companies, such as software maker Autodesk, that this wasn’t meant to benefit one vfx company over the competition and it was safe to support it.

Tommy Burnette, Lucasfilm’s head of global pipeline, said: “The point for me about open source and about Alembic in particular is there are a lot of problems we have to solve. There a lot of things that we need. If you look at the history of our industry, we’ve all solved those problems for ourselves.”This sort of project enables us to solve a problem once and for all and no one has to worry about it again.” In an ideal world, the ideas will catch on and there will be fewer and fewer things that we have to have these large engineering organizations internally in order to be able to solve.”Imageworks is getting indirect benefits from its several open-source software projects, Bredow said: The quality of computer programmer resumes he’s been getting since taking some software open-source has been stellar.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Neilsons Measurment Problems TV Digital

    AT&T's Ad-Tech Unit Xandr Buys Clypd To Help Place TV Commercials More Precisely

    Xandr, the AT&T ad-technology unit, has purchased a new company that helps advertisers use data to place commercials in front of the audiences most likely to want to watch them The AT&T division said Friday it had acquired clypd, a company that helps advertisers move forward in a growing desire by Madison Avenue to run [...]

  • AT&T Logo Building

    AT&T TV Now Price Hike Coming Next Month, Base Package to Cost $65

    AT&T is instituting a substantial price hike for its live TV streaming service AT&T TV Now: Customers who have subscribed to the service’s basic “Plus” package will see their bill go up by $15, to a total of $65 per month, starting next month. The telco has started to inform existing subscribers about the price [...]

  • Disney-Family-Movies

    Disney Family Movies SVOD Service Is Shutting Down Ahead of Disney Plus Debut

    After 11 years, Disney is pulling the plug on Disney Family Movies On Demand — with the service’s shutdown coming just days before the launch of the Mouse House’s Disney Plus. Disney Family Movies, which cost between $5-$10 per month, has been available via pay-TV providers in the U.S., including Comcast Xfinity, Charter Communications, Verizon [...]

  • Amazon Orders ‘All or Nothing: Tottenham

    Amazon Orders ‘All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur’ Soccer Doc Series

    Amazon has greenlit a new “All or Nothing” sports documentary series, this time following London-based soccer team Tottenham Hotspur. “All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur” will follow a year in the life of the team, charting the ongoing 2019-20 season. The squad made it to the final of the European Champions League last year, losing to [...]

  • Jeffrey Katzenberg

    Jeffrey Katzenberg's Quibi Picks T-Mobile as Wireless Launch Partner

    Quibi, the short-form mobile TV service founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg, announced a pact with T-Mobile to be the official telecommunications partner for its April 2020 launch. T-Mobile will be the exclusive wireless distributor when Quibi launches next spring. However, the arrangement doesn’t mean only T-Mobile customers will be able to subscribe to Quibi: Anyone will [...]

  • Steve Kornacki

    Steve Kornacki, Chris Matthews Stand at Center of New NBC News Podcasts

    After vowing to press ahead more directly into the world of podcasts, NBC News is readying the launch of three additional audio shows centered around politics. “Article II: Inside Impeachment” will help listeners understand the impeachment process. The program, new episodes of which are slated to debut Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as people head for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content