Autodesk’s open sourcing of RV

Autodesk acquired Tweak Software, creators of RV in February 2015, and integrated RV into the Shotgrid production management platform. This month Autodesk has taken RV open source. The company is making the codebase for RV available on GitHub as part of the Open Review Standards Initiative with the Academy Software Foundation.

Autodesk will continue to manage and develop RV for its commercial customers, and it will be an active contributor to Open RV and the Open Review Initiative to support a standardized toolset for native review. RV is an industry standard, native review and playback tool used worldwide by VFX, animation, and content creation teams.  The new open source version of RV allows users and studios to review any media with largely the same features as the commercial version, and customize, modify, and implement new core functionalities tailored to project demands or workflow needs.

Open RV will be managed by a technical steering committee (TSC) chaired by Autodesk and consisting of engineers and contributors from the community. The project will operate under the oversight of the Open Review Initiative.

This is a first for the M&E team at Autodesk. To discover the thinking behind the move and its implications moving forward, we spoke to Mimi Hoang, VP of Production Management & Platform, Media & Entertainment at Autodesk, and Guillaume Brossard, Director of Engineering at Shotgrid.

fxguide: What prompted this specific move by Autodesk?

Mimi: During our work with the Academy Software Foundation (ASWF) it became clear that the M&E industry needed a more standardized approach to review to help teams better collaborate and get to final pixel faster. The need for collaboration across countries, companies, and locations continues to increase, and we believe that standardizing review processes by open sourcing RV will significantly benefit our customers and the industry. RV will continue to thrive with both community-driven updates and additional development by Autodesk engineers. We’re contributing the RV codebase to ASWF’s Open Review Initiative, along with DNEG’s xStudio and Sony Pictures Imageworks’ itview, to create a unified, universal toolset for playback and approval.

fxguide: Is there a chance that in the Open Source community, the code could branch and there will be inconsistent RV’s down the road – between Autodesk and the open source community version? This could particularly be an issue as the software is aimed at helping different people collaborate – so presumably, they need the same version?

Guillaume: One of our objectives is to ensure that the commercial version of RV and the open-source version (Open RV) remain compatible. This approach ensures that contributions from the community are also available to users of the commercial version. We intend to be very involved in the open-source version so that the source code is properly maintained and continues to evolve.

fxguide: Could you outline how other open source software has helped Autodesk or aided in M&E via standards etc? In other words, how has open source software already worked successfully within Autodesk’s M&E roadmap?

Mimi: We’ve invested in helping the industry develop better standards for many years, specifically in open source. As a member of ASWF, Autodesk is dedicating engineering resources to several ASWF-hosted open-source projects, including MaterialX, OpenTimelineIO as well as industry-wide USD efforts. Aligning on standards lets our developers and our customers focus on the creative aspects of their work, rather than maintaining support for multiple versions of similar things.

An open standards success story is the OpenColorIO project. Autodesk led the development of the latest version of OCIO, OCIO v2, which has won awards from the HPA and at The Pipeline Conference. This major update brought the quality of the GPU renderer to parity with the CPU. Support for the ACES standards was added, conversion between display color spaces was improved, all transforms are now invertible, and the user experience for artists was simplified, among many other improvements all guided by a working group comprised of our customers and other vendors.

Autodesk’s investment in OCIO helped reinvigorate the project. Staying involved in the development of open standards allows us to ensure that our innovations are responding to users’ requirements. It also helps with adoption and makes it more appealing for the community to in turn invest in growing and evolving the standard.

fxguide: Given Autodesk will still contribute new features, will you be publishing a roadmap of intended contributions? To make sure your efforts sync with people in the open source community?

Guillaume: Yes, we will give visibility into Open RV’s roadmap. With Open RV being distributed via ASWF, we will also be collaborating with the community and other vendors to define the roadmap.

fxguide: What has the reaction been from your biggest RV users to the news?

Mimi: Our customers are happy to see continued investment in RV. They rely on RV and share the goal of standardizing review & approval, and contributing to continuously improving the technology.

fxguide: You hint at other code bases moving to Open Source, to what extent? I assume you can’t name code or products yet, but do you see a major move in this direction or just a series of smaller products and code bases?

Mimi: We are constantly evaluating where we can make a difference in the industry and in reducing workflow friction for customers. We’re excited that Autodesk M&E is making the code base for RV open source. There is interest from all across Autodesk in supporting customers across the industries we serve through open source initiatives.

fxguide: Do you think Autodesk would also donate assets if the ASWF was accepting them, perhaps as part of building industry machine learning training data sets?

Mimi: We are always open to collaborating with the ASWF on initiatives that help move the industry forward. In many cases, the kind of data that would be useful for training data sets is proprietary to our customers. As we explore ML applications ourselves, we are having conversations with customers and partners to gauge their interest in collaborating on such projects and in their willingness to share data.

fxguide: How will Autodesk’s current allocation of dedicated RV engineering resources change as the software moves to open source?

Mimi: We will continue to invest in RV and have dedicated resources to work on Open RV. Autodesk is committed to the success of this open source initiative, and we will continue to be involved in the development of RV. Autodesk is an active member of the Open Review Initiative technical steering committee, with the mission to build a unified open source toolset for playback, review and approval of motion picture and related professional media.

fxguide: Some may ask why Autodesk even wants to support Open Source when its business is selling software or SaaS?

Mimi: As a founding member of ASWF, we want to be good stewards in driving open standards, which is crucial to the ongoing health of the M&E industry. We believe it’s important for our products to embrace the open standards our customers care about. The more we can do that, the easier and more desirable it will be for customers to integrate our solutions into their pipelines.

Autodesk supports fxguide and this is a sponsored article.