ORBX: on the Road Towards Standardization

The Render Token project is far from being OTOY’s only contribution to the development of rendering solutions for today’s rapid technology evolution.

This blog will discuss ORBX, a revolutionary building block offered by OTOY that has been improving for years. We will go over what it is, where it stands now, and, last but not least, how it ties into the RNDR Network.

What is ORBX? A technical overview

In a nutshell, a 3D object has specific features that call for its own format. When we save a 3D file, we need all the information stored as binary data. 3D formats basically encode the 3D model’s geometry, appearance (colors, textures, material type, etc.), scene (light sources, peripheral objects, cameras, etc.) and animations (when there is movement involved).

One of the biggest problems with managing 3D information is the interoperability between different software tools for file formats. Suppose you used Autodesk’s 3ds Max to create a complex animation with textures, and you want to send it to a coworker who uses Maxon’s Cinema 4D so he/she can illuminate it and render the result: you need to convert to the 3D object to a format supported by the other person’s software of choice or you can export in different formats like .fbx, .3ds or .obj; in both cases you face problems regarding the accuracy in the data exchange process. That means checking and re-adjusting the information that may have suffered alterations. To solve the interoperability issue, neutral or open source formats were invented as intermediate formats for converting between two proprietary formats. The thing with three-dimensional objects is that there are few formats which can contain all the needed data. Just as .mp4 became an industry standard for moving pictures, content producers would currently benefit enormously from a standard format for 3D objects, scenes and even animations.

ORBX is a 3D file format that houses comprehensive computer-generated scene data for perfect rendering across mediums. It was designed as a flexible container for a wide range of uses beyond computer graphics, including video, 3D printing, holography, design and engineering. Unlike other formats which are limited to geometry, ORBX encodes all the details of a high quality 3D scene, such as materials, properties, textures, lighting, transform hierarchies and cameras.

OTOY first released ORBX in March 2014, originally to handle the company’s own holographic media and interactive content storage and streaming requirements. ORBX was later refactored into an interoperable open format for industry partners to leverage their own software and services. Notable third party companies that back ORBX include Autodesk, Mozilla (2013), Warner Bros. (2014), Oculus (2015), Disney, HBO, Discovery (2016), Facebook, Samsung and Unity (2017). Since ORBX is an open source format, any website or online service can use it.

ORBX is a fundamental building block of the metaverse. It was designed by OTOY (in collaboration with Mozilla and Autodesk) to function as an umbrella for numerous open source sub-formats -like EXR, Alembic, OSL, OpenVDB, or glTF- that cover important portions of the render graph. There is currently no mainstream 3D content creation tool we are aware of which doesn’t support an ORBX and Octane integration.

ORBX is highly optimized for streaming and use of the GPU. Coupled with OTOY’s cloud rendering services it is able to offer excellent rendering quality without expensive and complex hardware on the user side.

The 3D Media Format of the Future

The shift towards immersive technologies needs next-generation rendering with light fields, which produce stunningly realistic images you can look at from any vantage point. With ORBX holographic videos, a normal display screen can turn into a virtual window where each frame accurately simulates every ray of light in a given scenario and every interaction it has with surfaces and materials therein. Commercial holographic videos and VFX weren’t commercially viable due to their computational complexity until OTOY’s light field GPU technology made it possible through OctaneRender. OTOY’s cloud rendering platform further allows for live post-processing, motion graphics and foveated compositing inside VR and light field video content, both offline and for live streaming.

All major video technology platforms are racing to offer publishing solutions to be able to support light fields. The state of the rendering infrastructure as it it now, is not capable of leveraging light fields, and that’s where ORBX and The Render Token project would come in, enabling a major expansion in GPU power without any hardware expense as it would put pre-existing GPU capacity to work through its network.

Last year, two partnerships we’re very excited about increased the reach of this system:

  • Octane interchange in Unity, the world’s most popular game engine (with around 45 percent market share). During last december, Unity launched three Octane plug-ins. This is the first time a real-time path tracer has been integrated inside a major game engine. OctaneRender premium’s features are available for free for the ~ 7 million Unity Creators. Users can also choose between two paid packages, OctaneRender Studio or OctaneRender Creator, which unlock features like more GPU capacity and licenses. This integration graduates ORBX from a power-user niche to a widely accessible creation format.
  • OTOY and Facebook at F8 announced a partnership with ORBX as the interchange format for the Facebook 360 6DOF cameras. This is an important milestone for mapping out ORBX’s value as a renderable format for photogrammetry captures.

Standardization and The Render Token.

The MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) is a standard setting body in charge of “the development of international standards for compression, decompression, processing, and coded representation of moving pictures, audio, and their combination”. This group made data formats for DVD, Blu-Ray and .mp4 video files. ORBX has been growing steadily since it first launched and, having proved its excellence, could soon become a standard format. ORBX has been proposed as a standard format for the shift towards immersive forms of media and displays predicted for the early 2020’s. As it continues to be adopted informally as a standard for the interchange of 3D photorealistic assets, we believe the formalization of this status would be profitable for current and future stakeholders and would ultimately impulse the development of VR and AR services (e.g. by large scale commercial network providers) for these types of assets.

In support of creating such a new MPEG standard, OTOY is willing to contribute the ORBX specification under licensing terms consistent with a royalty-free strategy.

Challenges of distributed rendering across a fragmented 3D app ecosystem.

Since ORBX reports multiple benefits for the storage and distribution of 3D objects, it gains more and more popularity and is on the verge of becoming one of the standard format of the media revolution that will come along technologies like lightfields.

As Jules Urbach, OTOY’s CEO, put it: “the current state of open 3D interchange formats (at a scene and application dependency level) is too fragmented to reliably support the RNDR network efficiently, or universally, across all 3D tools and applications that creators could use to start a remote render job. Fully distributed rendering and deep chain of authorship and validation is viable on RNDR because of the ORBX interchange system”.

This all comes down to a growing user base for Octane Render, the software with which OTOY processes renders, and ORBX. Ultimately, we would like ORBX to expand the capabilities of our current rendering community — we are working towards this goal everyday.

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