Thursday, January 19th, 2023 Posted by Jim Thacker

Autodesk releases Open RV

Autodesk has released Open RV, the new open-source edition of RV, its Scientific and Technical Award-winning image viewer and shot playback system for visual effects and animation pipelines.

The open-source edition, released as part of the Academy Software Foundation’s Open Review Initiative, will be maintained in parallel with the commercial edition, which supports a wider range of video formats.

A high-performance image viewer and playback system for VFX and animation production
Originally developed by Tweak Software in the mid-2000s and acquired by Autodesk in 2015, RV is a high-performance image viewer and playback system designed for VFX and animation work.

The software won a Scientific and Technical Academy Award in 2016 for allowing “studios of all sizes to take advantage of a state-of-the-art workflow”.

Current users include leading Australian VFX and animation facility Animal Logic, which describes RV as “critical to its animation pipeline”.

Open-sourced as part of the Academy Software Foundation’s Open Review Initiative
Autodesk first announced its intention to open-source RV last year, at the launch of movie industry open standards body the Academy Software Foundation’s new Open Review Initiative.

The project, which has the aim of building a unified open-source toolset for shot playback, review and approval, also features two other tools, DNEG’s xSTUDIO and Sony Pictures Imageworks’ itView.

The three tools will initially maintain separate code repositories, before gradually converging into a “cohesive, state-of-the-art review and approval framework”.

Lacks key audio and video formats supported in the commercial edition, due to licensing issues
The open-sourcing of RV is an unusual one, in that the original version remains available as a commercial product, available to users with subscriptions to ShotGrid, Autodesk’s production-tracking system.

Autodesk had also previously told CG Channel that the commercial edition contains elements licensed from other companies, like codecs, that it is unable to open-source.

As a result, although the actual feature sets of the two editions are “very similar”, there are several major differences between Open RV and RV itself.

First, Open RV supports fewer audio and video formats, lacking support for several industry-standard formats that require third-party licences, including AAC, ARRI, DNxHD/DNxHR, H.264, ProRes and RED.

Second, presentation mode is restricted to DVI and HDMI output, and lacks support for AJA or Blackmagic Design SDI hardware.

Third, Open RV isn’t available as an executable: users have to build it from source, which requires them to hold licences for any codecs or output formats they use.

We assume the intention is that studios will licence formats missing from the base open-source edition directly from the rights holders, then add them back into their own custom builds.

As a result, Open RV is described as requiring “engineering resources and users with more extensive technical backgrounds [than the commercial edition of RV]”.

Updated 25 January 2023: Autodesk told us that now that the code has been released, it and ASWF will “look into … facilitating the integration of proprietary codecs and video output”.

Autodesk to continue to head development of Open RV
Autodesk will continue to be an “active contributor” to Open RV, and will chair the ASWF technical steering committee responsible for overseeing the future development of the open edition.

The firm will also “actively participate and monitor community-driven developments in Open RV, with the intention to integrate new functionality into the commercial version of RV”.

Licensing and system requirements
The source code for Open RV is available from ASWF’s GitHub repository under an Apache 2.0 licence. It can be compiled for Windows, Linux and macOS.

The commercial edition of RV is available via ShotGrid subscriptions, which cost $45/month or $345/year.

Read the Academy Software Foundation’s announcement of the release of Open RV

Download the source code for Open RV from ASWF’s GitHub repository

Read Autodesk’s FAQs about Open RV