Computer Graphics World

Edition 2 2020

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28 cgw e d i t i o n 2 , 2 0 2 0 USD IN VFX PIPELINES AND BEYOND Today, visual effects and animation studios throughout the world have either fully rolled out USD or are experimenting with it for rollout within their pipelines. At SIGGRAPH 2018, DreamWorks gave a talk titled "Zero to USD in 80 days: transitioning feature production to Universal Scene Description at DreamWorks," which highlighted how it is possible to quickly ramp up and adapt an existing, mature pipeline to USD. Animal Logic, the same year, also presented a talk titled "Forging a new animation pipeline with USD." There was an entire session at SIG- GRAPH 2018 dedicated to production use of USD, almost all outside of Pixar. Animal Logic had taken a different ap- proach very early on to USD interoperability within Maya, motivated mainly by the lack of animation support within the USD plug-in provided by Pixar. For the first few years of USD, integration with Maya meant choosing between the Pixar plug-in or the Animal Logic plug-in, or using both. Fortunately, Autodesk, collaborating with developers at Pixar, Animal Logic, Luma, and many other important contributors to these projects across several studios, is encapsulating the two plug-ins under one umbrella with the goal of combining the best of each into one comprehensive plug-in. This project has picked up momentum in the late half of 2019 and is well on its way in 2020. The Foundry was the first to integrate a Hydra viewport directly into its flagship lighting and rendering soware, Katana, at first to leverage the fast preview renderer. First-class support for USD is currently being worked on for Katana and other Foundry products. In 2019, Houdini launched a new, USD- based workflow under the Solaris banner. Houdini is the first of the major DCCs to ship with a deep, fundamental integration of USD into its system. So many other VFX and game projects are starting to integrate USD and Hydra in various forms, from Unity, to Unreal Engine, to Blender, that we think that within the next year or two, it should be fairly easy for folks to get their hands on soware that knows how to manipulate USD. USD has also penetrated beyond film and games. In 2018, Pixar collaborated with Ap- ple to design USDZ, which is a single-asset packaged form of USD, which can contain arbitrarily richly-composed scenes and can be consumed just like any other USD asset, but is suitable for Web/network transmis- sion and archiving. Apple relies on USDZ for all of its AR/VR applications. We have also recently been collaborating similarly with companies like Nvidia, which are undertak- ing ambitious projects based on USD that aim to propel its use in many new industries. WHERE ARE WE HEADED? So far, USD has been evolving at a break- neck pace. We're a fairly small group of developers, getting contributions from an industry for whom we're grateful. While we keep adding more and more functionality to USD and Hydra, more plug-in points for site customizations, and more schemas to support more domains, occasionally we take a step back to look at the big picture and ask ourselves, where are we headed? There has been a fair amount of pressure for us to add full rigging support, and we've oen held the line that rigging is not within USD's ultimate goal of enabling interopera- bility in pipelines. Yet, we added UsdSkel, a capable domain of schemas for represent- ing skeletal animation and skinning, includ- ing blendshape support geared especially toward representing large crowds. Along the same lines, USD is famously lacking support for proceduralism, a term that is abused, misused, and confused. While we're not ready to commit to any particular solution quite yet, it's clear that USD needs to address this issue one way or another. How do we choose what to concentrate on? What to work on next? The amazing community that has grown around USD continues to inspire us and make significant contributions that drive the technology forward. We've added features to USD that were suggested for use cases we never before imagined, and we hope to continue to do so. Of course, we're driven forward first and foremost by the needs of the talented artists and technical wizards here at Pixar, without whom we wouldn't have anything worth writing about and for whom we are eternally grateful. Speaking of being eternally grateful, we'd like to take this opportunity to thank our amazing team: Sunya Boonyatera, Alex Mohr, Corey Revilla, Varun Talwar, Pol Jere- mias-Vila, David Yu, Kees Rijnen, Matthias Goerner, Raja Bala, Tom Cauchois, Florian Zitzelsberger, Adam Fish, Adam Woodbury, Florian Sauer, John Loy, Brett Levin, Matt Kuruc, Stephen Gustafson, Jilliene Tongson Paras, and Jessica Tran. We'd also like to thank our Infrastructure team led by Cory Omand, and our Applications team led by Hayley Iben, and all of Pixar's engineers and artists. We owe USD to the trust that our VP, Guido Quaroni, put in us and to our CTO, Steve May, and the rest of the Executive Team at Pixar who helped create the wonderful environment that allowed USD to flourish. Finally, to all of our contributors (look for a list here http://graphics.pixar. com/usd/docs/USD-Contributors.html), a huge big thank you. F. Sebastian Grassia and George ElKoura are lead soware engineers at Pixar Animation Studios. The complexity of Coco is apparent.

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