Wednesday, July 28, 2010

ILM and Sony Imageworks release Alembic OSS

"Alembic is an open computer graphics interchange framework. Alembic distills complex, animated, scenes into non-procedural, application-independent, baked geometric results. This distillation of scenes into baked geometry is exactly analogous to the distillation of lighting and rendering scenes into rendered image data.

Alembic is focused on efficiently storing the computed results of complex procedural geometric constructions. It is very specifically NOT concerned with storing the complex dependency graph of procedural tools used to create the computed results. For example, Alembic will efficiently store the animated vertex positions and animated transforms that result from an arbitrarily complex animation and simulation process,
 one which could involve enveloping, corrective shapes, volume-preserving simulations, cloth and flesh simulations, and so on. Alembic will not attempt to store a representation of the network of computations (rigs, basically) which were required to produce the final, animated vertex positions and animated transforms. "

- quoted from the Google code project page

ILM and Imageworks truly are our best friends in the proffesional visual effects industry. From what is posted this is intended to bake this data into a format that can be read later on down the pipeline, such as cloth simulation into a single baked file rather than thousands of small files of cloth sim data, such as the case with Blender. Or bake an animated character that will be later used for cloth simulations. Then using the same format can take these scenes and bake it to be used later for lighting and rendering. There are limits though, it cannot store network representations, such as bone rigs and it is not meant to replace native scene files for applications. It is another bake format that is intended to smooth out pipeline issues, like file formats between applications, which has been an issue in the 3D industry for as long as it has been around. Trying to get Maya files into Blender is a pain and usually involves exporting an object into the .OBJ format, which cannot store animation data, so having the ability to bake animated scenes that can be read in another application is a HUGE leap! Imagine the ability to use Maya scenes in Blender, then rendering in 3Delight, or for instance, modeling something in Blender, animating it in Maya, use RealFlow to make a fluid simulation, then render it in Pixie.

While it is too early to say where this will go, who will adapt it and how long it will take, I can say that the idea is great and hope to see this evolve. Remember, in less than 5 years OpenEXR went from a small user base to be included by default on most Linux distros and 3D applications, both open source and commercial as well as proprietary in house tools.

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