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DreamWorks open sources the OpenVDB file format

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012 | Posted by Jim Thacker

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DreamWorks’ newly open-sourced OpenVDB file format was used on Puss in Boots. A data structure and suite of tools for the handling of sparse data, OpenVDB increases the scale of volumetric effects feasible in production.

DreamWorks has made OpenVDB, the proprietary file format for handling sparse volume data used on movies like Puss in Boots, available via an open-source licence.

The specification includes a hierarchical data structure and suite of tools for handling volumetric data, intended to increase the scale of effects possible in production.

OpenVDB is the latest in a series of proprietary VFX technologies that have been made available as open source, following Sony Pictures Imageworks and ILM’s release of Alembic and Disney’s release of Ptex.

Source code for OpenVDB will be available from the new OpenVDB website from this Monday.

Updated 8 August: Side Effects – historically an early adopter of these technologies – has announced that it plans to incorporate OpenVDB into Houdini. (The “next major release”, according to the OpenVDB site.)

“The addition of OpenVDB dramatically expands the volumetric capabilities of Houdini,” said Side Effects CEO Kim Davidson. “We are pleased to be the first to integrate [the] technology.”

PRESS RELEASE (Excerpts)
DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. today announced the launch of OpenVDB, a previously proprietary sparse volume data format, to the Open Source community. OpenVDB enables a dramatic increase in the scale of achievable volumetric effects.

“With OpenVDB volume technology we are able to overcome the memory limitations to which other data formats are subject,” said David Lipton, Head of Effects on DreamWorks Animation’s up-coming Mr. Peabody & Sherman release. “This allows us to create more detailed and interesting images than would otherwise be possible. By removing these limitations we are more free to achieve the director’s vision.”

OpenVDB is a hierarchical data structure and suite of tools for the efficient manipulation of sparse volumetric data. Developed by Dr. Ken Museth at DreamWorks Animation, OpenVDB stores sparse three-dimensional voxel grids in a compact form. It offers an effectively infinite index space, compact storage in memory and on disk, fast random and sequential data access. Additionally, the release contains a collection of algorithms designed for important operations such as filtering, constructive solid geometry, compositing, sampling and voxelization from other geometric representations. Further details on the technology will be published in a forthcoming paper in the ACM journal Transactions on Graphics.

DreamWorks Animation began development of OpenVDB several years ago and has extended and improved it over the course of several feature film productions. Within the studio, OpenVDB was rapidly adopted as a key technology for effects on features such as Puss in Boots and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.

Read more about OpenVDB
(Includes download page for source code)

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