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The Best Tech of 2016


The Best Tech of 2016

From the power of GPU rendering to the USD format, software tools for animation and VFX had a bright year of progress. 

As we wrap up 2016, which got off to a bad start with the death of music icon David Bowie, we look back at some of the good things that happened with the technology that helps our industry.

Most of these tools make our jobs just a little easier — or even possible. Others are examples of technology that have migrated to animation and visual effects from other industries.

Let’s have a quick look, in no particular order of importance:

EXR-IO — Finally, we have the ability to manipulate the AOV channels in CG renders, to quickly and effectively control the look of the render … in Photoshop.


Redshift 2.0 — Throwing rendering to the GPUs. It’s been around, but as more studios adopt it, Redshift is speeding up render times all over.


Flowbox Roto — The is all about using RotoSTROKE to snap rotolines to shapes by drawing.


Tilt Brush — This is painting in 3D space. No, really, in 3D space. With a VR headset and the Tiltbrush, it becomes sculptural painting.


Oculus Medium — Like ZBrush, but for virtual reality!


Cryptomatte — This open-source ID matte generator embeds data into the render without explicitly designating object mattes. A free Nuke plugin decodes the data and it’s being used in alShaders (see below).

cryptomatte bunny copy

AlShaders — Developed by Weta’s Anders Langland (hence “al”), this is an open-source set of production-proven shaders for Arnold. But don’t worry, Vlado at Chaos Group has adopted it for V-ray — with an emphasis on the skin technology.


Ziva VFX and Ziva Real-Time — The physics-based dynamic muscle system offers tissue volume conservation.

ziva logo

Universal Scene Description — Pixar’s open-source software provides a consistent format to assemble assets — and then nondestructively edit them in various programs.


Vulkan — A multiplatform API for making pretty 3D pictures on GPUs as fast as possible.


PyCharm — Python IDE to help manage, control quality, and version track your Python code.

pycharm copy

V-Ray for Nuke — The goodness of V-Ray, but accessible from within your comp.

vray nuke

Wrap 3 — Node-based 3D mesh processing wrapping same asset topology around different shapes. Different characters with the same topography, for instance, which makes texturing, rigging, and such much more efficient.


Neural Transfer Style — Making Blade Runner look like a Van Gogh!


Project Voco — An impressive and terrifying technology that can change dialog in audio files by learning the speech patterns of the speaker.


GPU Accelerated Deep Learning — Having Skynet solve big-data problems like image recognition, natural language processing, engineering efficiency — all pushed to multiple banks of CUDA cores.


Multiverse — Open-source 3D scene assembly and management to visualize large, complex scenes using Alembic and USD assets.



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