Sony open sources digital effects software

Summary:Sony Pictures Imageworks has released five tools as open source, as it looks to move away from proprietary tools

Film effects specialist Sony Pictures Imageworks has released five digital image-manipulation software tools under open-source licences.

While Imageworks has released other open-source software in the past, the release of five tools at once brings its involvement in open source to a new level, the company said on Monday, in an announcement marking the beginning of the Siggraph computer graphics trade show in New Orleans.

Imageworks is the unit of Sony Pictures Digital Productions that handles visual effects and digital character animation, with recent projects including Spider-Man 2 and I Am Legend.

The new effort includes a website aimed at keeping open-source developers up to date on the projects. All five of the tools are licensed under the new BSD licence, and are hosted on Google Code.

"The intention of the open-source release is to build larger communities to adopt and further refine the code," Imageworks said in a statement.

The five programs are OSL, a programmable shading language for rendering; Field3d, a voxel data storage library; Maya Reticule, a camera masking plug-in for the Maya digital animation application; Scala Migrations, a database migration tool; and Pystring, which allows Python-like string handling in C++. A voxel, or volumetric pixel, is the basic element making up three-dimensional models.

The release is part of a broader push towards greater flexibility in the way Imageworks works with effects artists, the company said.

In the past, effects and digital animation companies have relied primarily on proprietary tools to give them a competitive advantage, according to Bredow.

Currently, however, Imageworks is shifting to the wider use of freelancers in place of staff employees, and believes the broader use of its in-house tools could help make this shift easier, the company said. Open source could also help facilitate collaborations between different effects companies, Imageworks said.

"Some of the smartest and most dedicated engineers in computer graphics have put their experience and passion into the development of these tools, and we are very excited to be able to share them with a much wider audience," said Imageworks chief technology officer Rob Bredow in a statement.

The company said it could release more open-source tools, depending on the success of the current effort.

Topics: Apps, Software Development

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