Industrial Light & Magic And Sony Pictures Imageworks Release Alembic 1.5

The latest version of the open-source data exchange format includes multi-threading support and significant performance improvements.

LOS ANGELES, CA - July 23, 2013 - Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI) and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) today announce the release of Alembic 1.5, their jointly-developed open-source project that facilitates the sharing of animation and visual effects scenes across multiple software applications. Alembic 1.5 includes new support for multi-threading, which, along with other new features, results in significant performance and efficiency improvements for all users.

"In furthering the development of Alembic, our efforts this past year have focused on improving performance," says Rob Bredow, Chief Technology Officer, Sony Pictures Imageworks. "With this new release, data sets are smaller; they are faster to read and write. The architectural changes we have made to support multi-threading are especially significant. Users can ask more questions and get answers faster."

"Alembic was put through its paces in production at Industrial Light & Magic this year, used extensively on every show we worked on from Avengers to Pacific Rim," says Paul Ryan, ILM's Head of Technology. "The ability to move our large scene data between multiple packages has become an indispensable part of our pipeline. New features, such as the faster back end and instancing are already proving their worth."

Key improvements in Alembic 1.5 include:


  • Greatly improved read performance. Single-thread reads happen, on average, four times faster. Read times while multi-threading can happen up to 25 times faster.
  • Smaller file sizes. Files are, on average, five to 15 percent smaller. Greater reductions are possible for scenes involving many small objects.
  • Support for explicit hierarchical deduplication (instancing) within a file.


Joint development of Alembic was first announced at SIGGRAPH 2010 and its first release was made public at the 2011 ACM SIGGRAPH Conference in Vancouver. The software provides efficient means for storing and sharing data across multiple software platforms, greatly reducing what had been a source of bottlenecks in the production of animation and visual effects. It has resulted in improved file exchange both between and within production facilities. Alembic has been widely adopted by leading software developers, including Autodesk, Side Effects and The Foundry, and is employed by visual effects and animation producers worldwide. Tools with native support for Alembic include Maya, Katana, Houdini, Arnold, modo, Cinema 4D, V-Ray, Nuke, Guerilla Render, RealFlow and Clarisse iFX.

More information about Alembic can be found online at

Now in its 21st year, Sony Pictures Imageworks is the Academy Award® winning visual effects and animation unit of Sony Pictures Digital Productions known for live-action visual effects and dynamic creature and character animation, all-CG animation, and stereoscopic 3D imagery. The company is currently in production on The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the Warner Bros. feature The Edge of Tomorrow, the live-action/animated film The Smurfs 2 and the animated feature comedy Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. Other recent credits include Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful, Men in Black 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, the animated feature Hotel Transylvania, the hybrid live-action/animated film The Smurfs and Disney's live-action feature Alice in Wonderland.



Industrial Light & Magic, a division of Lucasfilm Ltd., has become synonymous with groundbreaking visual effects work and the company continues to be a recognized leader in the field. ILM, headquartered in San Francisco, also has operations in Singapore - the two facilities work hand in hand to produce cutting edge visual effects work for feature films. ILM has been awarded 15 Academy Awards® for Best Visual Effects and 24 Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Lucasfilm Ltd. is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. Industrial Light & Magic, the ILM logo, STAR WARS and related properties are trademarks in the United States and/or in other countries of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates.



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Greg Grusby

Steven Argula