Friday, January 25th, 2019 Posted by Jim Thacker

Check out new open-source VFX render manager OpenCue

Google Cloud has teamed up with Sony Pictures Imageworks to launch OpenCue, a high-performance open-source render manager specifically tailored to VFX and feature animation work.

The new application is based on Cue, Imageworks’ own in-house render queueing system, which has been used on “hundreds” of its VFX projects and animated features over the past 15 years.

Google’s growing involvement in visual effects technology
OpenCue is Google’s latest foray into the VFX market, having acquired cloud rendering service Zync in 2014, relaunching it on Google Cloud the following year.

It’s also possibly a riposte to one of its major rivals in cloud rendering, Amazon Web Services, which acquired its own render manager, Deadline, when it bought Thinkbox Software in 2017.

For Sony Pictures Imageworks, Cue is the latest of its in-house technologies to be made publicly availiable.

The studio developed key open standards Alembic, OpenColorIO and OSL, while Katana and Flix, its look dev and story development tools, are now commercial products.

A scalable, multithreaded render manager with support for key VFX industry tools
OpenCue looks to be highly scalable – on recent projects, Imageworks has gone as high as 150,000 cores, split between its in-house farm and Google Cloud – and natively multithreaded.

It’s built on a set of industry-standard open-source technologies, including Python, PySide and Postgres.

The online documentation is pretty brief, but it lists a number of key features, including the option to split a job into multiple processes, each with its own unique CPU and memory requirements.

Jobs can also be tagged to run on specific machine types.

As well as the server-side components, OpenCue comprises two artist applications: CueSubmit, used for submitting render jobs, and CueGUI, used for monitoring and managing jobs in progress.

CueSubmit can also run as a plugin for DCC applications that support PySide2 integration, such as Maya or Nuke, and the documentation separately namechecks Arnold, RenderMan and Katana.

Updated: Google tells us that submission plugins are only specifically available for Maya and Nuke, but that the existing tools are meant as the basis for users to write their own custom versions.

Availability and system requirements
OpenCue is available under an Apache 2.0 licence. Both source code and compiled builds are available. The software has been tested on CentOS Linux and macOS.

To install it, you will need some technical chops: it’s much less of an installer-driven process than commercial render managers, so you’ll need to comfortable working on the command line.

Read more about OpenCue on Google Cloud’s blog

Find source code and documentation for OpenCue in Sony Pictures Imagworks’ GitHub repository