HPA Tech Retreat: Latest From Academy Software Foundation

In 2018, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences established the Academy Software Foundation, with the mission of increasing the “quality and quantity of open source contributions … [to] lower the barrier to entry for developing and using” it. Its genesis was a survey conducted by the AMPAS Science and Technology Council that found 84 percent of those in the media & entertainment industry used it — but had challenges. At HPA Tech Retreat, ASWF executive director David Morin updated the group’s activities.

Morin, who credits the leadership of AMPAS Science and Technology Council managing director Andy Maltz, the Linux Foundation and ASWF member companies, described how ASWF has modeled its project infrastructure after the one created by the Linux Foundation. That includes a technical steering committee for every project, a technical advisory council that makes decisions about software, and a governing board, made up of member companies to clear the way for marketing, legal and budget.

“We are building a continuous cloud-based integration platform that is open source and can be taken as is or in pieces by studios that don’t have such tools available,” Morin explained. “The goal is to learn from the integration platform, which can be used by any company.” He added that, “one goal is to bring our projects running on Linux to have them available for all platforms.”

Foundry senior product manager Mathieu Mazerolle noted that, “doing implementations on common standards is really difficult.” “We really like open standards — even better is an open implementation and that’s a big deal,” he said. “The trick is that it takes a lot of organization and coordination to bring various competitors together, and that’s where the ASFW is making a huge contribution.”

He added that the company has open-sourced parts of its “machine learning experiences with Nuke.” “It didn’t turn into a market-facing feature, but we thought it was a good pattern of behavior,” he said.

Netflix director of post-production engineering Erik Strauss noted the need to scale technical solutions has always been a focus of the company. “I came from the vendor side and saw a need to manage complexity and consistency across studios from an internal basis,” he explained. “Companies that had to manage their own problems all of a sudden had to collaborate with other companies. There is an expansion of the requirements to communicate in a lossless way with very technical communications.”

Universal Pictures VP of creative technologies Annie Chang, who is also chair of the ACES Project, emphasized “the open source aspect of ACES.” “We love the direction ASWF is going,” she said. “When we started talking about a new improved version of ACES and how to approach it, thankfully ASWF came along and Linux provided a lot of good information.”

Autodesk technology lead, color science Doug Walker spoke about OpenColorIO, an Academy Award-winning color management solution for motion picture productions now under the ASWF umbrella. Created at Sony Pictures Imageworks, a pioneer in open source software, OpenColorIO was widely adopted in VFX, but then went through a dormant phase before Autodesk picked up the baton. Walker reported that Autodesk has three full-time engineers working on it.