Industrial Light & Magic and Sony Pictures Imageworks Release Alembic 1.5

Category: Siggraph
ANAHEIM, CA — Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI) and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) are releasing Alembic 1.5, a joint, open-source project that facilitates the sharing of animation and visual effects scenes across multiple software applications.

Alembic 1.5 includes new support for multi-threading, which, along with other new features, results in significant performance and efficiency improvements for all users, according to a spokesperson.

"In furthering the development of Alembic, our efforts this past year have focused on improving performance," says Rob Bredow, chief technology officer, Sony Pictures Imageworks. "With this new release, data sets are smaller; they are faster to read and write. The architectural changes we have made to support multi-threading are especially significant. Users can ask more questions and get answers faster."

"Alembic was put through its paces in production at Industrial Light & Magic this year, used extensively on every show we worked on from Avengers to Pacific Rim," adds ILM Head of Technology Paul Ryan. "The ability to move our large scene data between multiple packages has become an indispensible part of our pipeline. New features, such as the faster back end and instancing, are already proving their worth."

Key improvements in Alembic 1.5 include:

  • Improved read performance. Single-thread reads happen, on average, four times faster. Read times while multi-threading can happen up to 25 times faster.
  • Smaller file sizes. Files are, on average, five to 15 percent smaller. Greater reductions are possible for scenes involving many small objects.
  • Support for explicit hierarchical deduplication (instancing) within a file.

Joint development of Alembic was first announced at SIGGRAPH 2010 and its first release was made public at the 2011 ACM SIGGRAPH Conference in Vancouver.

The software is designed to provide efficient means for storing and sharing data across multiple software platforms, reducing what had been a source of bottlenecks in the production of animation and visual effects. It has resulted in improved file exchange both between and within production facilities. 

Tools with native support for Alembic include Maya, Katana, Houdini, Arnold, modo, Cinema 4D, V-Ray, Nuke, Guerilla Render, RealFlow, and Clarisse iFX.

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