VFX and Animation studios typically integrate off the shelf digital content creation (DCC) tools, such as Maya or Houdini, with in-house software and other 3rd party packages to create a connected end-to-end pipeline for their artists. Since the late 90's an increasing number of studios have started running a flavour of Linux as their primary OS for artist workstations for reasons of reliability, flexibility, cost, performance and as a natural progression from SGI's IRIX.
Due to the flexibility of the Linux platform, there are a number of different distributions on varying release schedules and this combines with software vendors all having their own schedules to create a situation where DCC software packages are often released with different and incompatible dependencies. This complexity results in VFX studios requiring specialist expertise to integrate a pipeline around these dependencies or often even deciding against supporting Linux altogether.
Over recent years Linux platform requirements for DCC packages has mostly been led by Autodesk's Maya and other vendors typically followed its lead. In the run up to SIGGRAPH 2013, the Visual Effects Society invited a group of major software vendors to create a working group to better align Linux support between them.
This initiative has resulted in the VFX Reference Platform, a collection of major library and tool versions that are updated annually with the objective of being a common platform for all VFX and animation studios and software vendors to target. Initially this effort is focused on Linux only and is still being driven by a small number of software vendors. Once the platform is established, the longer term plan is to include more vendors earlier in the annual review cycle and also to create reference platforms for other operating systems.
The primary goals for the VFX Reference Platform are:
The VFX Reference Platform process runs on an annual cycle:
The draft and final references are decided by the VFX Reference Platform Working Group after considering all feedback. This Working Group is made up of interested parties invited by the VES Technology Committee and currently has several members, one representative from the VES and one each from several software vendors. This group will grow over time, once the process is better established.