Thursday, May 05, 2011

Disney releases expression editor SeExpr as open source

The studios just keep surprising us with more and more goodies. Just a day after LAIKA released SLIM templates, Disney releases an expression editor called SeExpr, a tool that can have uses in many areas of production.

"Arithmetic expressions appear in almost every animation system ever created. Being able to embed an expression language in a piece of custom software allows an amazing degree of artistic freedom. At Disney artists have enjoyed using expressions because they allow just enough flexibility without being overwhelming to non-programmer users. Developers have enjoyed them too for quick prototyping and deployment of fixes to production needs. SeExpr started as a language for our procedural geometry instancing tool, XGen. Work was done to generalize it into something that could be used in other contexts. Later it was integrated into paint3d, our texture painting facility, which opened the door to procedural synthesis. More recently, we have integrated it as a way of defining procedural controls to physical dynamical simulations and render time particle instancing."

"Expressions can be seen as a way of allowing customization of inner loops. This is contrast to scripting which is mostly aimed at glueing large parts of code base together. So in this sense, C++ forms the center of your application, python could be used to put pieces of it together, and SeExpr is used to customize tight inner loop."

As stated on the website the in house GUI at Disney is not being released, maybe it involves code that needs to be evaluated to be released under an open source license, it could be proprietary. Or they could just enjoy watching us squirm with anticipation, it is doubtful that it will ever be seen outside Disney though, either way Disney is understanding the power and reasoning for releasing production code to the public, adoption into other packages only helps spread it, just look at how fast Ptex was added to software, not to mention the other projects like PartIO, Munki and Resprado have quickly begun to collect followers and watchers. Who knows how many studios have adopted these projects into their own pipelines? While some of these projects may not be directly related to 3D production, their use in a pipeline can be invaluable.

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