Monday, July 31st, 2023 Posted by Jim Thacker

Check out xStudio, DNEG’s open-source playback tool

Originally posted on 23 January 2023. Scroll down for news of the Windows port.

International visual effects firm DNEG has released xStudio, its high-performance video playback and review tool for VFX and feature animation, in public beta.

The source code is available via industry standards body Academy Software Foundation’s GitHub repository, as part of the ASWF’s Open Review Initiative.

A high-performance shot playback and review tool for VFX and feature animation work
An alternative to open-source tools like DJV and commercial apps like Autodesk’s RV – itself recently partly open-sourced – xStudio is “modern, flexible and feature-rich playback and review application”.

DNEG cites its “intuitive, easy to use interface”, playback performance on high-resolution video, and ease of pipeline integration thanks to a modular design exposed via C++ and Python APIs.

Although still early in development, xStudio is used in “some live production environments” at DNEG.

DNEG says that it ultimately intends the software to replace all other image viewers used internally within the company, both on individual artists’ machines, and in screening rooms.

Plays back footage at up to 8K resolution, and exchanges playlists with ShotGrid
In the initial beta release, xStudio is primarily a video playback tool with some basic annotation tools.

It displays “all common media formats and codecs at almost any bit depth” at resolutions up to 8K, and supports colour management via the OpenColorIO 2 (OCIO 2) standard.

It’s possible to zoom or pan video, select individual RGBA channels and adjust exposure and playback rate.

Users can also import or export playlists to ShotGrid, Autodesk’s production tracking platform, and can add textual or drawn annotations to media to act as artist notes.

You can see a list of features currently in development – which include a non-linear editing timeline based on OpenTimelineIO (OTIO) – in the xStudio roadmap on DNEG’s website.

Open-sourced as part of the Academy Software Foundation’s Open Review Initiative
The source code for xStudio is being hosted by movie industry open standards body the Academy Software Foundation (ASWF), as part of its 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: Open RV, the new open-source edition of RV, and Sony Pictures Imageworks’ yet-to-be-publicly-released itView.

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

Updated 22 May 2023: DNEG has released xStudio 0.10.

The update adds support for multi-layer EXRs and for images in DPX format, the latter via the external ffmpeg framework: a dedicated reader is “on the roadmap”.

Workflow improvements include a HUD overlay to display pre- and post-LUT values for the pixel under the mouse pointer, and improved playback performance for “some higher-res formats”.

Updated 31 July 2023: xStudio is coming to Windows as well as Linux.

The work needed to make it possible to build xStudio on Windows has been carried out by Unreal Engine developer Epic Games and creative studio Ahead, with the endorsement of DNEG.

According to DNEG’s blog post, the open-sourcing of xStudio led Epic to consider the software as a “candidate for deployment as a playback and review solution for their own production workflows”, but as a largely Windows-based business, it needed a Windows build.

Not part of an official release yet, but coming soon
Although both DNEG and Epic have announced the Windows port publicly, at the time of writing, the new source code has not yet been merged to the main branch of xStudio.

According to the pull request, missing features currently include audio support.

We contacted Epic to ask when it expected the code to form part of an official release, but were told that the firm “[does] not have timelines to share on future dev work”.

New in xStudio 0.11: media relinking and support for .webm files
However, since we last wrote about the software, there has been a new official release of xStudio.

New features in xStudio 0.11, released last month, include the option to relink and reload media sources, while the xStudio viewer gets support for alpha channels, and support for the WEBM file format.

Licensing and system requirements
The source code for xStudio is available from ASWF’s GitHub repository under an Apache 2.0 licence. To use it, you currently have to build it from source.

The code can currently be compiled for Linux: CentOS 7, Rocky Linux 9.1 and Ubuntu 22.04 are all supported.

Read more about xStudio on DNEG’s product webpage

Read an overview of the current feature set of xStudio and its product roadmap on DNEG’s website

Download the source code for xStudio from ASWF’s GitHub repository