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28 July 2010, 10:22

Sony and ILM release Alembic, an open source graphics interchange format

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Alembic logo
Industrial Light and Magic and Sony Pictures Imageworks have released an alpha version of Alembic, a co-developed open source project focussed on creating an interchange format for storing and sharing animation and visual effects. Alembic will allow Sony Picutures Image Works and ILM to create interchangeable and customisable pipelines for animation creation.

This involves creating a format that handles the massive data sets that represent animated scenes, distilled from the animation generation processes used by the animators, but not the computations or dependencies that would be used to create final rendered scenes. The developers say Alembic could be used, for example, to pass creature animations to a clothing or flesh simulator, or a physics simulator and save the results, ready for lighting and rendering.

The move to an open source, open format was welcomed by The Foundry, Autodesk, NVIDIA, Pixar, Luxology and others. Bill Collis, CEO of The Foundry, said that "Interchange formats need to be open and non-proprietary to achieve adoption, and innovations that fit these criteria, but also come out of genuine production experience are what the industry needs" and called Alembic "a wonderful bridging idea that will remove another unnecessary hurdle in the creative process"

Available under the BSD 2.0 licence, written in C++ and Python and hosted on Google Code, the alpha release of Alembic is incomplete, as it lacks an API for plug-ins and extensions. The two companies plan to work together to remedy that soon, finalising the API and adding documentation, code samples and other resources.

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