Background

The Academy Software Foundation (ASWF), a project hosted by The Linux Foundation, provides a neutral forum for open source software developers in the motion picture and broader media industries to share resources and collaborate on image creation, visual effects, animation, and sound technologies. 

It was created in 2018 after the conclusion of an investigation by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) Science and Technology Council holding an 18-month investigation on the state of open source in the industry. This aligned with the need for a vendor-neutral foundation to provide a sustainable home for open source projects that are key to the growth of the industry.

Identifying the need for exemplar assets for community use

As of August 2021, The Academy Software Foundation provides a home for Open Shading Language, OpenColorIO, OpenCue, OpenEXR, OpenTimelineIO, OpenVDB, and MaterialX.

As these projects have progressed in development, there was a need identified to have production-grade digital assets (e.g.,3D scene data, images, image sequences, volumetric data, animation rigs, edit decision lists) available for use in development and testing environments to ensure these projects can scale to the demands of the movie and content creation processes. 

Furthermore, the ASWF identified an additional need to have production-grade assets for general research and learning purposes. 

The ASWF identified two objectives to address these requirements:

  • Provide a vendor-neutral home for both homing the assets and being a curator for exemplar assets that would align with the industry needs.
  • Create a licensing framework striking a balance between the needs in research, learning, and open source development, with the intellectual property concerns of production-grade assets (as they often come from real productions).

An open community comes together

There was some precedent in the industry, with the 2018 release of the Moana Island Scene by Disney Animation. This sparked several discussions in the industry on how to have a larger set of similar assets available for community use leading to the creation of an Asset Repository Working Group at the Academy Software Foundation in 2020.

The culmination of this working group came in July 2021, with the transition of the working group to a formal project that will establish the infrastructure and governance of the Assets Repository. The intention is for the project to function and work like any other open source project, with full transparency and community participation, to identify and curate exemplar assets. 

At the same time, the legal counsel across Academy Software Foundation members came together to align on the ASWF Digital Assets License, which was created in the spirit of licenses used previously in the industry and designed to specifically ensure these assets can be used for education, learning, research, and open source development. The ASWF Digital Assets License helped create a bridge between producers and consumers of these assets, establishing standardized terms to enable collaboration and the re-use of content in an industry where it had previously been limited.

As of August 2021, there is interest from multiple organizations in contributing assets to this repository as it takes form over the next few months.

Conclusion

The Linux Foundation has been the home for vendor-neutral collaboration in both horizontal technology spaces and vertical markets such as automotive, networking, energy, and here motion pictures. In supporting over 750 open source projects, we are starting to see more and more efforts such as these where the collaboration outside of traditional software development and into educational materials, community development, and standards. The Assets Repository project at the Academy Software Foundation is a great example of the unique collaboration opportunities that open source brings and are driven by our open communities.