Can a crowdfunded open-source project bring the industry together behind a QuickTime killer? Brendan Bolles, a veteran of The Orphanage and an experienced programmer of VFX plug-ins, thinks so. He's asking the industry to contribute money supporting his development of a specification and open-source software library for MOX, a new cross-platform, patent-free professional movie format combining audio and video in an MXF container.
At the funding goal of $20,000, Bolles will develop an Adobe Premiere Pro plug-in. At "stretch goals" of $25,000 and $30,000 he'll create plug-ins for Adobe After Effects and The Foundry Nuke, respectively. Because the software library is open source, users will in theory be able to write plug-ins for any program, but Premiere, AE and Nuke are part of Bolles' proposed initial development. Watch the official MOX "campaign video," created by San Francisco motion-design studio Swordfish, to get an idea of what Bolles is up to.
Supported video formats will include Dirac, OpenEXR, DPX, PNG, and JPEG, including 16-bit and 32-bit floating point; audio codecs will include FLAC, Opus, and raw PCM at up to 32-bit lossy and lossless. The MOX format will allow for multiple channels, so that alpha, Z-depth, and 3D-stereo views can be included. File-wide and frame-specific metadata will also be incorporated. The library and plug-ins will be coded in C++ and hosted on GitHub with a non-restrictive BSD license allowing free use by both commercial and non-commercial software.
VFX guru Stu Maschwitz, who worked with Bolles at The Orphanage, threw his immediate support behind the project at his widely read Prolost blog. "Imagine if ProRes wan't controlled by Apple," he wrote. "Imagine a movie file that played back with the correct gamma on every computer." Maschwitz also testified to Bolles’ development skills, noting that he co-developed the eLin suite of plug-ins and scripts at The Orphanage and wrote the OpenEXR code that is today included with After Effects.
Other commenters were more circumspect. At his own blog, Philip Hodgetts was skeptical about the long-term viability of an open-source project. "History shows that many projects start strong, but ultimately it comes down to a small group of people (or one in MOX's case) doing all the work, and inevitably life's circumstances intervene," Hodgetts wrote.
In comments at the MOX Indiegogo page, Bolles says acquisition codecs, such as individual vendors' camera-raw implementations, could be supported in MOX as long as they are both open source and patent-free. If MOX can be launched with support already in place for Premiere, After Effects and Nuke, it will be worth keeping an eye on.
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