Motion Picture Academy’s Software Foundation to Step Up Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

An Oscar Statue is displayed at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards Governors Ball press preview at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center, in Hollywood, California, on January 31, 2020 - Getty - H 2020
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The Academy Software Foundation plans to step up its diversity and inclusion efforts in the software community by appointing a program ambassador and launching a mentorship initiative.

The announcement was made during the Foundation’s Open Source Days virtual event, which wrapped today. The Foundation was formed in 2018 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences through its SciTech Council and The Linux Foundation to collaborate on open source (license free) software for the entertainment industry.

Carol Payne of Netflix and Rachel Rose of Industrial Light & Magic, co-chairs of the Foundation’s recently-formed diversity and inclusion working group, said they aim to develop a mentoring program within the foundation, as well as through partnerships with external companies and organizations. They hope it will encourage high school and college students to pursue careers in software development, as well as to participate in the Foundation. "We want to be a catalyst for change," said the group’s director of marketing communications Emily Olin.

During the two-day event, the Foundation also announced that Unity Technologies — the maker of the Unity real-time game engine that Jon Favreau used to make The Lion King — has joined as a Premier Member. It also unwrapped new versions of two of its projects: OpenColorIO, an open color management software widely used in visual effects and animation: and OpenVDB, a tool that’s been used on movies such as Frozen 2 to help create volumetric images such as water simulations.

The group’s founding members included Dreamworks Animation, Disney and Weta. In addition to Unity, the Foundation announced that Conductor Technologies joined the effort as a general member and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers will participate as an associate member.

The group’s current software projects include OpenColorIO and OpenVDB, as well as OpenCue, OpenEXR, OpenTimelineIO and Open Shading Language.

The new version of OpenColorIO was created by Autodesk engineers with input from Hollywood companies including Sony Pictures Imageworks, Netflix, DNEG, Framestore, Industrial Light & Magic, Weta and ARRI. "OpenColorIO touches nearly every pixel of every visual effects frame in most major motion pictures, so it’s essential that the project meets and exceeds the needs of color scientists, artists, and users who craft these works of art every day," Epic Games’ Michael Dolan, who chairs the OpenColorIO technical steering committee, said, adding that developers worked closely with users "to ensure that the new features and improvements in OpenColorIO v2 will address real production needs."

New features in OpenColorIO version 2, which is now available to developers, includes native implementation of the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES), a new GPU renderer, and read and write support for the Academy/ASC Common LUT format. The full release will be available later in the year.

Also during the Open Source program, several Academy members provided an update on AMPAS’ ACES. Version 2 is targeted for release in late 2021 though this could change due to uncertainties surrounding Covid-19.