Academy Software Foundation: Digital Transformation of the Entertainment Industry Driven by Open Tech and a Visionary Inclusive Community

In a new case study published by Linux Foundation Research in collaboration with the Academy Software Foundation titled Open Source in Entertainment: How the Academy Software Foundation Creates Shared Valuewe will learn the fascinating story of how open technology and the people who create visual effects (VFX) for films have changed a highly competitive industry.

The Academy Software Foundation (ASWF) was created as a collaboration between the entertainment industry and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Academy Awards (also known as the Oscars). Since its inception in 2018, ASWF has been constantly releasing its own software projects. Four projects have been fully accepted and six are in the incubation stage.

Accepted projects

OpenVDB is an industry-standard sparse dynamic volume management library used by visual effects studios to create realistic 3D renderings such as water/fluid simulations and environmental effects such as clouds and ice.

OpenColorIO is the industry standard for consistent color management in visual effects and animation pipelines, used in hundreds of feature films. It touches almost every pixel of every frame of visual effects in most major films.

OpenEXR is a standard HDR image file format for processing and storing high-quality images, one of the fundamental technologies of computer image processing.

Open cue is an open source render control system used to break down complex jobs into individual tasks.

Projects in incubation

OpenTimelineIO is an open source application programming interface and editorial historical information exchange format.

Open shader language (OSL) is the de facto standard shading language for visual effects and animations.

materials is an open standard for exchanging rich material and content for designing appearance between applications and renderers.

Earth is a cross-platform open source package manager that creates self-contained customized environments for third-party and proprietary digital content creation software.

diesel-electric submarine is a library of sample digital products that are examples of digital assets that content creators can use for educational purposes.

RawtoACES is a software package that converts digital camera RAW files into ACES container files containing image data encoded according to the Academy Color Encoding Specification (ACES).

The entertainment industry now has a house, processes, and governance structure to manage the open source projects needed to produce movies, TV shows, and games. Any new project can be proposed and projects are managed in accordance with the Project Life Cycle Policy, which ensures the various requirements and benefits of the project. Many ASWF projects have played a fundamental role in making visuals and great films in general. These elements continue to delight viewers around the world.

ASWF has been regularly releasing new software projects since its founding in 2018.

In addition to hosting technologies for the entertainment industry, ASWF provides a neutral forum for coordinating open source projects, a common build and test infrastructure, open governance, more consistent open source licensing, and a clear entry path for individuals and organizations interested in promoting open source ecosystems for the film industry.

In doing so, ASWF brought together leading studios such as DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Walt Disney Studios (including Pixar, LucasFilm, Industrial Light & Magic, Blue Sky Studios), Warner Bros., DNEG, Netflix and technology providers. that support the film and gaming industry.

Open source collaboration in the entertainment industry hasn’t always looked so pretty

Around 2014, the film industry faced the challenges of a fragmented software infrastructure, with proprietary solutions not based on open source software and not running on open source operating systems. These platforms have also failed to deliver the innovation needed to create the blockbuster movies and TV shows we enjoy today. So each VFX and film studio had to create their own tools.

The studios had a fundamental desire to move from their closed systems to more open systems like Linux. The problem for the film industry, however, was not to embrace open source software, but to force the industry ecosystem to participate and collaborate in open environments.

As we learned from the case study, visual effects studios such as SONY Pictures and ILM did not have shared build systems outside of corporate networks, making it increasingly difficult to understand the correct build instructions for open source software that any participating industry has released. .

It was difficult to align dependencies and versions, resulting in “versionite” because the projects required different versions of the dependencies. In addition, when the maintainers left the company that “owned the project”, the code base withered – this was the case with SONY DreamWorks. OpenColorIO and ILM OpenEXR software as detailed in the report.

As a result, studios did not want to depend on other companies’ projects and were even more reluctant to contribute their intellectual property to another company’s project. Add a layer of unilateral contribution agreements, changes to standard open source licenses, and other legal hurdles. It was clear that the status quo could not change to meet the growing needs of the industry.

The Open Source Entertainment Ecosystem Depends on Its Employees

As detailed in the report, the Academy and the Linux Foundation spent almost two years working with industry stakeholders to create the best joint solution, culminating in ASWF and related projects. The success that ASWF is currently enjoying would not be possible without the engineers, software developers, and filmmakers supporting the underlying ecosystem. And participation in this ecosystem has tangible benefits for participants.

ASWF has also become a clearing house for sparking new interest in software development in the film industry and recognizing the contributions of members of its community through the Behind the Screen interview series with more than two dozen software developers in the industry, as well as launching the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to raise the profile of those who are underrepresented in these positions.

Although the ASWF has made great strides since its inception in 2018, it is still a young organization but has already found its place in the industry. Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives are paving the way for education in the entertainment industry, helping them bring more diversity into their ranks. New efforts are underway, such as DPEL (formerly Open Asset Repository), which will provide sample content for replication and help aspiring content creators learn the craft.

Why is this research so valuable? We’ve seen similar examples in telecommunications, energy, automotive, and healthcare, where many of these projects started out as individual attempts to find a neutral home within the Linux Foundation. Over time, these communities of competing participants realized that collaboration was beneficial.

While the entertainment industry has unique requirements for its vertical applications, ASWF’s history can serve as a roadmap for leaders in other industries to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes through open technology investment, sharing and collaboration. Open source in entertainment is another example of open source value creation. Read the full report here.

Post Academy Software Foundation: The digital transformation of the entertainment industry is driven by open technology and a forward-thinking, inclusive community, pioneered by the Linux Foundation.

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