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Pixar to make Universal Scene Description open-sourced

Pixar Animation Studios, whose latest feature film is Inside Out,  will release Universal Scene Description software (USD) as an open-source project by summer 2016. USD addresses the growing need in the CG film and game industries for an effective way to describe, assemble, interchange and modify high-complexity virtual scenes between digital content creation tools employed by studios.

At the core of USD are Pixar’s techniques for composing and non-destructively editing graphics “scene graphs,” techniques that Pixar has been cultivating for close to 20 years, dating back to A Bug’s Life. These techniques, such as file-referencing, layered overrides, variation and inheritance, were completely overhauled into a robust and uniform design for Pixar’s next-generation animation system, Presto.

Although it is still under active development and optimization, USD has been in use for nearly a year in the making of Pixar’s production Finding Dory.

The open-source Alembic project brought standardization of cached geometry interchange to the VFX industry. USD hopes to build on Alembic’s success, taking the next step of standardizing the “algebra” by which assets are aggregated and refined in-context.

The USD distribution will include embeddable direct 3D visualization provided by Pixar’s modern GPU renderer, Hydra, as well as plug-ins for several key VFX DCCs, comprehensive documentation, tutorials and complete python bindings.

Pixar has already been sharing early USD snapshots with a number of industry vendors and studios for evaluation, feedback and advance incorporation. Among the vendors helping to evaluate USD are The Foundry and Fabric Software.

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In related news, to accelerate production of its computer-animated feature films and short film content, Pixar Animation Studios is licensing a suite of Nvidia technologies related to image rendering.

The multiyear strategic licensing agreement gives Pixar access to Nvidia’s quasi-Monte Carlo (QMC) rendering methods. These methods can make rendering more efficient, especially when powered by GPUs and other massively parallel computing architectures.

As part of the agreement, Nvidia will also contribute raytracing technology to Pixar’s OpenSubdiv Project, an open-source initiative to promote high-performance subdivision surface evaluation on massively parallel CPU and GPU architectures. The OpenSubdiv technology will enable rendering of complex Catmull-Clark subdivision surfaces in animation with incredible precision.

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