Outlook 2022: The State of Open Source in VFX and Animation
Rachel Rose
January 14, 2022

Outlook 2022: The State of Open Source in VFX and Animation

The Academy Software Foundation (ASWF) was established in 2018 in partnership between the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Linux Foundation with the aim of serving as a neutral forum to drive collaboration and development of open source tools and standards across the entertainment industry. This past year was our most productive yet, with the adoption of MaterialX as a new hosted project, the formation of multiple new Working Groups, and major strides forward in diversity and inclusion initiatives.
MaterialX was adopted by ASWF in July 2021, becoming the Foundation’s seventh hosted project. In my day job as R&D supervisor at ILM, I’ve been involved with MaterialX since its creation. We released it as open source in 2017, and it has since grown into a widely used file format and set of libraries for achieving material representation and transfer, integrated in applications and standards such as Maya, 3ds Max, Substance Designer, Arnold, RenderMan and USD.

In 2021 we’ve also introduced several notable new Working Groups (WG) at ASWF, including the Asset Repository Working Group, the Review and Approval Working Group, and most recently, the Rust Working Group. The Asset Repository WG is playing a pivotal role in establishing a free and open platform, agreed upon by all the studios, with production-level assets that anyone in the industry can use for education, R&D and testing. This can help our whole industry develop new algorithms and improve education. The Review and Approval WG is doing the important work of evaluating how we as an industry can agree on better and more standardized applications and libraries to review our content in a similar way across studios. And the Rust WG is working to develop Rust and C bindings for C++ libraries commonly used in our industry, which will improve performance and stability for some of these established projects.

One of the main ways I’ve been involved with ASWF is in my role as co-chair for the Diversity & Inclusion Working Group. Some of our successes over this past year have been our VFX Careers webinar series, which helped us reach a wide variety of students in both traditional and non-traditional programs. Our inaugural Summer Learning Program was also a hit, where we provided free access to Gnomon workshops and mentors throughout the industry to help guide students who may be under-resourced or unsure of which path they want to pursue.

As we look to the year ahead, opportunities for open source tools and standards include virtual production, multi-user collaboration tools, and machine learning and AI technologies.

Rachel Rose is ILM’s R&D supervisor & co-chair for ASWF’s diversity & inclusion working group (aswf.io).