Workflow: Image Engine’s open-source VFX tools

Post Magazine | February 1, 2017 | Original Article

Based in Vancouver, BC, Image Engine ( is a visual effects studio that’s known for its work on Neill Blomkamp’s District 9. The company, which also has offices via partner Cinesite in Montreal and London, has contributed to Game of Thrones, Jurassic World, Straight Outta Compton and Chappie too. Here, research & development lead Andrew Kaufman provides insight into the studio’s open-source visual effects tools.

Can you tell us a little about the tools Image Engine produces, and what they are designed to do?

“Character and creature work, both the creatures themselves and the worlds they interact with, are at the heart of Image Engine’s strength as a visual effects studio. Our tools are designed to drive and enable creativity from our artists with these strengths in mind, while tying our third-party, open-source, and proprietary software together into a unified studio workflow.

“We initially developed Cortex, a suite of open source libraries providing datatypes and algorithms applicable to a broad spectrum of visual effects, along with support libraries for third-party applications like Maya, Nuke, Houdini, RenderMan, and Arnold. Our more recent open-source framework, Gaffer, is a general purpose node-based application framework, which provides basic tools for procedural scene generation, shader authoring, rendering and image compositing. Gaffer provides a multithreaded deferred evaluation engine, enabling users to work with large 3D and 2D datasets, and develop flexible procedural workflows.”

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