Pixar Wants To Give Away Its New Software For Animators

Pixar Wants To Give Away Its New Software For Animators

Pixar has been working on a piece of software that will simplify the animated filmmaking process allowing animators at the smaller end of town to make movies like the big studios do. And it wants to give the software away for free by making it open source.

Screenshot from Pixar‘s Monster University

Pixar’s Universal Scene Description (USD) software aims to aggregates content from multiple animation programs into one view so that animators don’t have to jump in and out of various applications to perform a different functions. This is done by generalising assets into a common format that is compatible with any digital content creation tool.

It might not sound like much, but it’s actually a godsend for the animated movie-making process, especially when a number of different studios are involved, as each of them might be using different software from one another. The open source nature of USD will also allow smaller studios and independent animators to create their animation in a streamlined way that was previously only possible at big studios using proprietary tools.

“USD is an amazing opportunity for both software vendors and VFX companies; this type of common open standard drives the industry to greater innovation by focusing development and leveraging a wide community of artists and developers,” the studio’s global head of VFX operations, Damien Fagnou, said.

Pixar is still working to fine-tune USD but it has already been in use for a year for the upcoming movie Finding Dory, the highly-anticipated sequel to Finding Nemo. It is currently being tested by a handful of animation studios as well, including MPC Film.

The software should be available for release by mid-2016. You can find out more about USD here.


  • The headline is a bit misleading in terms of what most people think of as “software”. USD isn’t a program that people can use to create their own 3D animations. It’s more like a file format that modelers, animators and renderers can use to share assets between the programs they’re already using without having to jump through various import/export hoops to get those programs to talk to each other.

    Pixar’s Renderman program is free for non-commercial use though:

    • Pixar itself calls it the USD “software” 🙂 We’ve stuck with that terminology.

      Hope this helps!

  • I’ll have to dig up some extremely old code to check this out.
    Back when POV-Ray was a big deal, I had a couple of scenes called “RTAR” [Ray Tracers Ain’t Real].
    One showed a prism from above, with a beam of light goinf straight through rather than being refracted & broken into component colours.
    Another one tries to re-create the interference patterns caused by having 2 slits, as per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-slit_experiment
    Note: be careful doing a Google search for young slit, some results are NSFW.

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