Sony Pictures Imageworks and Industrial Light & Magic Join Forces on 'ALEMBIC'

ALEMBIC is an open source exchange format that aims to become the standard for exchanging animated computer graphics scenes between content creation software packages.


At the ACM SIGGRAPH conference today visual effects houses Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and Sony Pictures Imageworks announced a co-developed open source project titled Alembic. At its core, Alembic is a computer graphics interchange format focused on efficiently storing and sharing animation and visual effects scenes across multiple software applications. It was designed to handle massive animation data sets often required in high-end visual effects, which are routinely developed and produced by companies such as Imageworks and ILM. The code base for Alembic is available for download on the project's Google Code site and more information can be found online at:


The award-winning companies joined forces earlier this year when it became apparent that they were independently developing software designed to solve the same problem: how to easily share complex animated scenes across a variety of disciplines and facilities regardless of what software was being used. Alembic includes tools that allow collaboration while working with a generic, extensible, data representation scheme. In essence, it distills complex and often proprietary, animated scenes into application-independent files with baked geometric results. These baked results can be fully re-importable across the range of supporting software.

"Who better to understand the demands of high-end production better than those who are in the thick of it," explains Lucasfilm CTO, Richard Kerris, "working with the team at Imageworks, I think we have created a file format that will have a significant impact on the industry as global production and shared workflows continue to be a driving force."

"Even though we recently started using our new format on multiple productions, as soon as we learned about ILM's concurrent development it was immediately clear that one open source format utilizing the very best technology from both companies would offer the best solution for the industry," notes Rob Bredow, CTO of Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Both studios have made strides with open source software and recognize the importance of such initiatives, ILM with the industry standard OpenEXR format and Imageworks with Open Shading Language(OSL), Maya Reticle, Field3D, OpenColorIO, and Scala Migrations. The studios each saw the need for a tool like Alembic, something that would fit within existing pipelines and allow for customization at the facility level without impeding the ability to share work.

Here's what some of the leading solution providers have to say about Alembic:

"The Alembic initiative shows again the leadership and the vision of ILM and Imageworks. As visual effects and moviemaking processes are changing rapidly, Alembic enables increased levels collaboration throughout production. This will help the entire industry implement modern pipelines for the creation of digital entertainment. Autodesk is thrilled to support this initiative."

Marc Petit - Senior Vice President, Autodesk Media & Entertainment

"We're very excited by the possibilities of Alembic. Interchange formats need to be open and non-proprietary to achieve adoption, and innovations that fit these criteria but also come out of genuine production experience are what the industry needs. These days no software vendor or facility can be an island, and Alembic is a wonderful bridging idea that will remove another unnecessary hurdle in the creative process."

Bill Collis - CEO, The Foundry

"We have high hopes that Alembic will do for 3D transport what EXR has done for linear HDR data. Creating a consistent and fail proof method for inter-pipeline data transport is critical to the progression of our industry. As a firm believer in the multi-app pipeline, Luxology is definitely on board with this venture."

Brad Peebler - CEO/Co-Founder, Luxology

"True to their roots, ILM and Imageworks are taking the visual effects industry to the next level by spearheading the Alembic file format. We're honored to partner with them on it . With native support in our Application Acceleration Engines, such as SceniX, artists around the world will be able to more easily unleash the massive power of our GPUs."

Dan Vivoli - Sr, Vice President, NVIDIA

"By providing native support for the Alembic file format within our Application Acceleration Engines, we're further expanding the best APIs for utilizing our GPU technology."

Dominick Spina - Technology Product Manager, Digital Film, NVIDIA

"RenderMan has always been synonymous with open standards and we are very excited about the prospect of an industry alignment around the Alembic geometry interchange format."

Dana Batali - Vice President of RenderMan at Pixar Animation Studios

"Houdini artists are accustomed to using baked geometry to transfer shot data from one part of the pipeline to the next but have not been able to easily share this data with other applications. Now with Alembic, this production-proven approach can be used with all commercial and proprietary applications in an open and collaborative way. Side Effects fully supports this initiative."

Kim Davidson - President and CEO, Side Effects Software

Alembic is being offered via the BSD 2.0 license and is written in C++ and Python, leveraging the boost and HDF5 C/C++ libraries heavily, as well as OpenEXR.

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  About Sony Pictures Imageworks

Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc. is an Academy Award® winning, state-of-the-art digital production studio dedicated to the art of visual effects production and character animation. The company's achievements have been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Oscars® for its work on SPIDER-MAN® 2 and the CG animated short film THE CHUBBCHUBBS! For more information, visit

About Industrial Light & Magic

Industrial Light & Magic is a Lucasfilm Ltd. company serving the digital needs of the entertainment industry for visual effects since 1975. ILM has been awarded 15 Academy Awards® for Best Visual Effects and has received 23 Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards. To learn more, visit ILM online at

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SOURCE: Sony Pictures Imageworks

CONTACT: Don Levy of Sony Pictures Imageworks, +1-310-840-7315,; or Greg Grusby of Industrial Light & Magic,

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