DNEG releases OpenVDB AX

New open source tool gives CG artists greater power to transform 3d volumetric and point data

Our in-house team of expert software developers has created a new open source tool, OpenVDB AX, to enable CG artists to quickly and efficiently modify 3D volumetric and point data, which is used extensively in VFX and animation.

The new tool takes the form of a programming interface that allows artists and designers to write mathematical expressions to develop new customised effects and modify volumetric and point data. This type of data is used heavily throughout the VFX pipeline to represent a wide range of 3D objects and effects, from water surfaces to smoke and debris.

Based on the Academy Award-winning open source technology of OpenVDB, which provides a powerful and efficient data representation, the tool integrates into many popular digital content creation programs. This includes Houdini and Clarisse, which are used for CG effects and lighting.

DNEG’s Nick Avramoussis revealed OpenVDB AX to the industry during DigiPro 2018.

The new OpenVDB AX language, developed by our R&D team, empowers artists with minimal coding experience to achieve complex changes to 3D geometry quickly and efficiently.

How it works

Using a script interface, script node or similar, which are features of most modern digital content creation programs, artists can enter mathematical expressions to change voxels (cells of an OpenVDB grid, which are similar to 3D pixels) or points (a set of data points stored in an OpenVDB grid). These are two types of data CG software can use to generate 3D geometry.

Previously, making even minor changes to this 3D data could require sending work back to the team or department that produced them. This meant even minor adjustments to a 3D object, e.g. a small rotation, could delay progress and take up valuable resources.

Now, however, using OpenVDB AX, many adjustments can be made freely wherever they are required by artists throughout the VFX pipeline.

The added flexibility benefits of this tool led to OpenVDB AX being used on the Oscar-winning Blade Runner 2049 and recent blockbuster Pacific Rim Uprising.

Academy Software Foundation

Last month, we announced that DNEG had become a founding partner of the Academy of Motion Picture’s new Software Foundation, which was set up to increase collaboration and creativity among the open source software community, which includes projects like OpenVDB.

DNEG is no stranger to open source software development; we’ve been an active contributor to the OpenVDB project for many years. In 2017, our R&D team, in collaboration with DreamWorks, released OpenVDB Points, enabling point data to benefit from the speed and compact nature of the OpenVDB format. This helps to cut the time it takes to run complex simulations in VFX and animation, such as simulating liquids.

The OpenVDB AX is available via DNEG’s GitHub page and is released under a Mozilla Public license 2.0.

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