OpenEXR is a high dynamic-range (HDR) image file format developed by
Industrial Light & Magic for use in computer imaging applications.
OpenEXR is used by ILM on all motion pictures currently
in production. The first movies to employ OpenEXR were
Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, Men in Black II,
Gangs of New York, and Signs. Since then, OpenEXR has
become ILM's main image file format.
OpenEXR's features include:
- Higher dynamic range and color precision than existing 8- and 10-bit image file formats.
- Support for 16-bit floating-point, 32-bit floating-point, and 32-bit integer pixels. The 16-bit floating-point format,
called "half", is compatible with the
half data type in NVIDIA's Cg graphics language and is supported natively on their new GeForce FX and Quadro FX 3D graphics solutions.
- Multiple lossless image compression algorithms. Some of the included codecs can achieve 2:1 lossless compression ratios on images with film grain.
- Extensibility. New compression codecs and image types can easily be added by extending the C++ classes included in the OpenEXR software distribution. New image attributes (strings, vectors, integers, etc.) can be added to OpenEXR image headers without affecting backward compatibility with existing OpenEXR applications.
- Deep Data. Pixels can now store a variable length list of samples. The main rationale behind deep-images is to store multiple values at different depths for each pixel. Support for hard surface and volumetric representation requirements for deep compositing workflows.
- Multi-part image files. Files can now contain a number of separate, but related, images in one file. Access to any part is independent of the others; in particular, no access of data need take place for unrequested parts.
ILM has released OpenEXR as free software. The OpenEXR software
- IlmImf, a library that reads and writes OpenEXR images.
- Half, a C++ class for manipulating half values as if they were a
built-in C++ data type.
- Imath, a math library with support for matrices, 2d- and
3d-transformations, solvers for linear/quadratic/cubic equations, and
- exrdisplay, a sample application for viewing OpenEXR images on a
display at various exposure settings.
The OpenEXR software distribution is now licensed under the modified BSD
license, available here.
April 9, 2013 - Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and Weta Digital announce the release of OpenEXR 2.0, the major version update of the open source high dynamic range file format first introduced by ILM and maintained and expanded by a number of key industry leaders including Weta Digital, Pixar Animation Studios, Autodesk and others.
The release includes a number of new features that align with the major version number increase. Amongst the major improvements are:
- Deep Data support - Pixels can now store a variable-length list of samples. The main rationale behind deep images is to enable the storage of multiple values at different depths for each pixel. OpenEXR 2.0 supports both hard-surface and volumetric representations for Deep Compositing workflows.
- Multi-part Image Files - With OpenEXR 2.0, files can now contain a number of separate, but related, data parts in one file. Access to any part is independent of the others, pixels from parts that are not required in the current operation don't need to be accessed, resulting in quicker read times when accessing only a subset of channels. The multipart interface also incorporates support for Stereo images where views are stored in separate parts. This makes stereo OpenEXR 2.0 files significantly faster to work with than the previous multiview support in OpenEXR.
- Optimized pixel reading - decoding RGB(A) scanline images has been accelerated on SSE processors providing a significant speedup when reading both old and new format images, including multipart and multiview files.
- Namespacing - The library introduces versioned namespaces to avoid conflicts between packages compiled with different versions of the library.
Although OpenEXR 2.0 is a major version update, files created by the new library that don't exercise the new feature set are completely backwards compatible with previous versions of the library. By using the OpenEXR 2.0 library, performance improvements, namespace versions and basic multi-part/deep reading support should be available to applications without code modifications.
This code is designed to support Deep Compositing - a revolutionary compositing workflow developed at Weta Digital that detached the rendering of different elements in scene. In particular, changes in one layer could be rendered separately without the need to re-render other layers that would be required to handle holdouts in a traditional comp workflow or sorting of layers in complex scenes with elements moving in depth. Deep Compositing became the primary compositing workflow on Avatar and has seen wide industry adoption. The technique allows depth and color value to be stored for every pixel in a scene allowing for much more efficient handling of large complex scenes and greater freedom for artists to iterate.
True to the open source ethos, a number of companies contributed to support the format and encourage adoption. Amongst others, Pixar Animation Studios has contributed its DtexToExr converter to the OpenEXR repository under a Microsoft Public License, which clears any concerns about existing patents in the area, and Autodesk provided performance optimizations geared towards real-time post-production workflows.
Extensive effort has been put in ensuring all requirements were met to help a wide adoption, staying true to the wide success of OpenEXR. Many software companies were involved in the beta cycle to insure support amongst a number of industry leading applications. Numerous packages like SideFX's Houdini, Autodesk's Maya, Solid Angle's Arnold renderer, Sony Pictures Imageworks' Open Image IO have already announced their support of the format.
Open EXR 2.0 is an important step in the adoption of deep compositing as it provides a consistent file format for deep data that is easy to read and work with throughout a visual effects pipeline. The Foundry has build OpenEXR 2.0 support into its Nuke Compositing application as the base for the Deep Compositing workflows.
OpenEXR 2.0 is already in use at both Weta Digital and Industrial Light & Magic. ILM took advantage of the new format on Marvel's The Avengers and two highly anticipated summer 2013 releases, Pacific Rim and The Lone Ranger. Recent examples of Weta Digital's use of the format also include Marvel's Avengers as well as Prometheus and The Hobbit. In addition, a large number of visual effects studios have already integrated a deep workflow into their compositing pipelines or are in the process of doing so including:, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Pixar Animation Studios, Rhythm & Hues, Fuel and MPC.
In addition to visual effects, the new additions to the format, means that depth data can also be assigned to two-dimensional data for a use in many design fields including, architecture, graphic design, automotive and product prototyping.
July 31st, 2012 - OpenEXR v1.7.1 has been released and is available for download. This release includes the following components:
- OpenEXR: v1.7.1
- IlmBase: v1.0.3
- PyIlmBase: v1.0.0 (introduces a Boost dependency)
- OpenEXR_Viewers: v1.0.2
Of particular note is the introduction of PyIlmBase. This module forms a comprehensive set of python bindings to the IlmBase module.
In addition, contained in this release is a number of additions to Imath as well as a minor tweak to Imath::Frustrum (for better support for Windows platforms) as well as other minor fixes, including correction for soname version of IlmImf.
June 18, 2012 - We're pleased to announce the first public Beta release of OpenEXR v2.
Development of OpenEXR v2 has been undertaken in a collaborative environment (cf. previous github announcement) comprised of Industrial Light & Magic, Weta Digital as well as a number of other contributors.
Some of the new features included in the Beta.1 release of OpenEXR v2 are:
* Deep Data. Pixels can now store a variable length list of samples. The main rationale behind deep-images is to have multiple values at different depths for each pixel. OpenEXR v2 supports both hard surface and volumetric representation requirements for deep compositing workflows.
* Multi-part image files. With OpenEXR v2, files can now contain a number of separate, but related, images in one file. Access to any part is independent of the others; in particular, no access of data need take place for unrequested parts.
In addition, OpenEXR v2 also contains platform independent mechanisms for handling co-existing library version conflicts in the same process space. (Currently implemented in IlmImf)
Finally, a reminder that this is a Beta release and potentially incompatible changes may be introduced in future releases prior to the v2.0.0 production version.
OpenEXR v2Beta.1 can be found at: https://github.com/openexr/openexr/tree/v2_beta.1
June 18, 2012 - We're pleased to announce that the OpenEXR source code is moving to github.com. You can browse, download and branch the code at www.github.com/openexr/openexr.
We're looking forward to taking advantage of the collaborative features presented by git and github.com and of course community contributions. Please see the developer Wiki pages for more information regarding participation.
July 23, 2010 - New feature version of OpenEXR is now available. This release includes support for stereoscopic images, please see the adjoining documentation in the MultiViewOpenEXR.pdf. (Many thanks to Weta Digital for their contribution.) In addition, we added support for targeting 64 bit Windows, fixes for buffer overruns and a number of other minor fixes, additions and optimisations. Please see the Changelog files for more detailed information.
OpenEXR 1.7.0, OpenEXR_Viewers 1.0.2, IlmBase 1.0.2 and OpenEXR-Images-1.7.0 can be downloaded from the downloads section of www.openexr.com
October 22, 2007 - New versions of OpenEXR and CTL are now available.
This release fixes a buffer overrun in OpenEXR and a Windows build problem
in CTL, and it removes a few unnecessary files from the .tar.gz packages.
OpenEXR 1.6.1, OpenEXR_Viewers 1.0.1 and IlmBase 1.0.1 can be downloaded
from the downloads section of www.openexr.com. CTL 1.4.1 and OpenEXR_CTL
1.0.1 can be downloaded from http://www.oscars.org/science-technology/council/projects/ctl.html.
August 3, 2007 - New stable versions of OpenEXR and CTL are now
available. The source code has been tested on Linux, Mac OS X
and Windows (Visual Studio 7 and 8).
Here's a summary of what has changed since the last release:
- Reduced generational loss in B44- and B44A-compressed images.
- Added B44A compression. This is a variation of B44, but
with a better compression ratio for images with large
uniform areas, such as in an alpha channel.
- Bug fixes.
- Added new functions to the CTL standard library: 3x3 matrix
support, 1D lookup tables with cubic interpolation.
- Added new "ctlversion" statement to the language.
- Bug fixes.
- Applying CTL transforms to a frame buffer is multi-threaded.
- Bug fixes.
- Implemented new naming conventions for CTL parameters.
- Half now implements "round to nearest even" mode.
OpenEXR 1.6.0, OpenEXR_Viewers 1.0.0 and IlmBase 1.0.0 can be
downloaded from the downloads section of www.openexr.com. CTL 1.4.0 and OpenEXR_CTL 1.0.0
can be downloaded from http://www.oscars.org/council/ctl.html.
January 22, 2007 - CTL has been released.
The Color Transformation Language, or CTL, is a programming language
for digital color management. Color management requires translating
images between different representations or color spaces. CTL allows
users to describe color transforms in a concise and unambiguous way
by expressing them as programs. In order to apply a given transform
to an image, a color management system instructs a CTL interpreter to
load and run the CTL program that describes the transform.
The image viewers included in the OpenEXR software distribution,
exrdisplay and playexr, both support color rendering via CTL.
For more information see http://www.openexr.com/OpenEXRViewers.pdf.
Sorce code and documentation for the CTL interpreter can be
downloaded from http://ampasctl.sourceforge.net. Please note
the license under which CTL is distributed; it is similar but
not identical to the OpenEXR license.
January 4, 2007 - OpenEXR wins an Academy Award for Technical Achievement.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced the 15 winners of Scientific and Technical Academy Awards. A Technical Achievement Award goes to Florian Kainz for the design and engineering of OpenEXR, a software package implementing 16-bit, floating-point, high dynamic range image files. Widely adopted, OpenEXR is engineered to meet the requirements of the visual effects industry by providing for lossless and lossy compression of tiered and tiled images.
Congratulations to all for making OpenEXR such a success!!!
Click here for the official Press Release
December 15, 2006 - A new development version of OpenEXR is now available.
We have tested the code in this version internally at ILM, but we would
like to get feedback from others before we release a production version.
The new version includes several significant changes:
- OpenEXR supports a new image compression method, called B44. It has
a fixed compression rate of 2.28:1, or 4.57:1 if used in combination
with luminance/chroma encoding. B44-compressed images can be
uncompressed fast enough to support real-time playback of image
- The new playexr program plays back moving image sequences. Playexr
is multi-threaded and utilizes the threading capabilities of the IlmImf
library that were introduced in OpenEXR 1.3.0. The program plays back
B44-compressed images with fairly high-resolution in real time on
- The playexr program and a new version of the existing exrdisplay image
viewer both support color rendering via color transforms written in
the new Color Transformation Language or CTL. CTL is not part of OpenEXR; it will be released separately. CTL support in playexr and exrdisplay is optional; the programs can
be built and will run without CTL.
- In preparation for the release of CTL, OpenEXR has been split into
three separate packages:
- IlmBase 0.9.0 includes the Half, Iex, Imath and IlmThread libraries
- OpenEXR 1.5.0 includes the IlmImf library, programming examples
and utility programs such as exrheader or exrenvmap
- OpenEXRViewers 0.9.0 includes the playexr and exrdisplay programs
- The "Technical Introduction to OpenEXR" document now includes a
recommendation for storing CIE XYZ pixel data in OpenEXR files.
- A new "OpenEXR Image Viewing Software" document describes the
playexr and exrdisplay programs. It briefly explains real-time
playback and color rendering, and includes recommendations for
testing if other image viewing software displays OpenEXR images
- The OpenEXR sample image set now includes B44-compressed files and
files with CIE XYZ pixel data.
August 8, 2006 - We have released an updated set of sample OpenEXR
images. This release includes several new images that are useful
for testing OpenEXR applications. The images are organized by
subdirectory according to their image type or purpose. Several
of these subdirectories contain README files that explain the
contents of the images in those subdirectories.
August 2, 2006 - OpenEXR 1.4.0 is now available. This is the next
major production-ready release of OpenEXR and offers full compatibility
with our last production release, which was 1.2.2. This version
obsoletes versions 1.3.x, which were test versions for 1.4.0.
If you have been using 1.3.x, please upgrade to 1.4.0.
June 8, 2006 - OpenEXR 1.3.0 is now available. This is
a test release. The major new feature in this version is
support for multithreaded file I/O. We've been testing
the threaded code internally at ILM for a few months, and
we have not encountered any bugs, but we'd like to get some
feedback from others before we release the production version.
Here's a summary of the changes since version 1.2.2:
- Support for multithreaded file reading and writing.
- Support for Intel-based OS X systems.
- Support for Visual Studio 2005.
- Better handling of PLATFORM_* and HAVE_* macros.
- Updated documentation.
- Bug fixes related to handling of incomplete and
- Numerous bug fixes and cleanups to the autoconf-based
- Removed support for the following configurations that
were previously supported. Some of these configurations
may happen to continue to function, but we can't help
you if they don't, largely because we don't have any
way to test them:
- OS X versions prior to 10.3.
- gcc on any platform prior to version 3.3
March 15, 2005 - We're pleased to announce the release of OpenEXR 1.2.2. This is a relatively minor update to the project, with the following changes:
- New build system for Windows; support for DLLs.
- Switched documentation from HTML to PDF format.
- IlmImf: support for image layers in ChannelList.
- IlmImf: added isComplete() method to file classes to check
whether a file is complete.
- IlmImf: exposed staticInitialize() in ImfHeader.h in
order to allow thread-safe library initialization in
- IlmImf: New "time code" standard attribute.
- exrdisplay: support for displaying wrap-around texture map
- exrmaketiled: can now specify wrap mode.
- IlmImf: New "wrapmodes" standard attribute to indicate
extrapolation mode for mipmaps and ripmaps.
- IlmImf: New "key code" standard attribute to identify motion
picture film frames.
- Imath: Removed TMatrix<T> classes; these classes are still
under development and are too difficult to keep in sync
with OpenEXR CVS.
August 10, 2004 - ILM's OpenEXR color management proposal,
presented at the Siggraph 2004 "OpenEXR, Film and Color"
Birds of a Feather meeting, is now available online.
See the documentation section.
June 6, 2004 - OpenEXR 1.2.1 is now available. This is a fairly minor release,
mostly just a few tweaks, a few bug fixes, and some new documentation.
Here are the most important changes:
- reduced memory footprint of exrenvmap and exrmaketiled
- IlmImf: new helper functions to determine whether a file
is an OpenEXR file, and whether it's scanline- or
- IlmImf: bug fix for PXR24 compression with ySampling != 1.
- Better support for gcc 3.4.
- Warning cleanups in Visual C++.
May 11, 2004 - OpenEXR 1.2.0 is now available. This is the first official,
production-ready release since OpenEXR 1.0.7. If you have been using the
development 1.1 series, please switch to 1.2.0 as soon as possible.
We believe that OpenEXR 1.2.0 is ready for use in shipping applications.
We have been using it in production at ILM for several months now with no
There are quite a few major new features in the 1.2 series as compared to the original 1.0 series:
See the downloads section to download the source
code and sample images.
- Support for tiled images, including mipmaps and ripmaps. Note that
software based on the 1.0 series cannot read or write tiled images.
However, simply by recompiling your software against the 1.2
release, any code that reads scanline images can read tiled images,
- A new Pxr24 compressor, contributed by Pixar Animation Studios.
Values produced by the Pxr24 compressor provide the same range
as 32-bit floating-point numbers with slightly less precision,
and compress quite a bit better. The Pxr24 compressor stores UINT
and HALF channels losslessly, and for these data types performs
similarly to the ZIP compressor.
- OpenEXR now supports high dynamic-range YCA (luminance/chroma/alpha)
images with subsampled chroma channels. These files are supported
via the RGBA convenience interface, so that data is presented to the
application as RGB(A) but stored in the file as YC(A). OpenEXR also
supports Y and YA (black-and-white/black-and-white with alpha)
- An abstracted file I/O interface, so that you can use OpenEXR with
interfaces other than C++'s iostreams.
- Several new utilities for manipulating tiled image files.
Mar 27, 2004 - OpenEXR 1.1.1 is now available. This another
development release. We expect to release a stable version, 1.2,
around the end of April. Version 1.1.1 includes support for PXR24
compression, and for high-dynamic-range luminance/chroma images
with subsampled chroma channels. Version 1.1.1 also fixes a bug
in the 1.1.0 tiled file format.
Mar 27, 2004 - We are pleased to announce that
Pixar Animation Studios has contributed code to OpenEXR
for a new lossy compression method, which compresses 32-bit
floating-point data quite a bit better than OpenEXR's other
compressors. This new compressor is called PXR24 and is
available as of the 1.1.1 development release of OpenEXR.
It will also be included in the upcoming 1.2 stable release.
Thanks to Loren Carpenter and Dana Batali of Pixar, for making
Feb 6, 2004 - OpenEXR 1.1.0 is now available. This is a major new release
with support for tiled images, multi-resolution files (mip/ripmaps),
environment maps, and abstracted file I/O. We've also released a new set
of images that demonstrate these features, and updated the CodeWarrior project and Photoshop plugins for this release. See the downloads section for the source code and the new
Jan 8, 2004 - Industrial Light & Magic has released the source code for an OpenEXR Shake plugin.
The plugin is supported on Shake 3.0 on the GNU/Linux and MacOS X platforms. See the downloads section.
Jan 7, 2004 - OpenEXR 1.0.7 is now available. In addition to some bug
fixes, this version adds support for some new standard attributes, such as
primary and white point chromaticities, lens aperture, film speed, image
acquisition time and place, and more. If you want to use these new
attributes in your applications, see the ImfStandardAttributes.h header
file for documentation.
Our project hosting site, Savannah, is still recovering from a compromise
last month, so in the meantime, we're hosting file downloads here. Some of the files are not currently
available, but we're working to restore them.
April 3, 2003 - OpenEXR release 1.0.5 is now available. It
includes support for Windows and improved support for OS X. It also
includes support for hardware rendering of OpenEXR images on NVIDIA
GeForce FX and Quadro FX video cards. See the
downloads section for source code and
prebuilt packages for Windows, OS X 10.2, and RedHat.
April 3, 2003 - Industrial Light & Magic has released the source code for an OpenEXR display driver for
Pixar's Renderman. This display driver is covered under the OpenEXR free software license.
See the downloads section for the source code.
January 22, 2003 - OpenEXR Press Release click here
January 22, 2003 - openexr.com web site is officially launched.
OpenEXR has been ported to GNU/Linux, OS X 10.2, Win32, and IRIX.
It should be fairly easy to port to other UNIX-like operating systems.
© OpenEXR, Industrial Light & Magic and ILM are trademarks and service marks of Lucasfilm Ltd.; all associated intellectual property is protected by the laws of the United States and other countries.
All rights reserved.