TOP 10 Open Source Visual Effects Software

Today, we are going to talk about free and Open Source Visual Effects Software, plugins, and tools that are used to create visual effects.

Most of these pieces of software are developed and used by professionals to create amazing movies even though they are open source.

1- Blender

Image source : Youtube/ Blender 3D Tutorials von

If you need a 3D software that can do everything, then blender is not going to disappoint you. Using this free and Open Source Visual Effects Software, you will be able to create effects like fire & smoke, destruction effects water, and more.

Also, Blender comes with a fully-fledged built-in compositor. This allows you to post-produce your renders without leaving Blender. And the compositor comes with:

  • Impressive library of nodes for creating camera fx, color grading, _vignettes and much more
  • Render-layer support
  • Full compositing with images and video files
  • Ability to render to multiLayer OpenEXR files
  • Multi-threaded

Blender features production ready camera and object tracking, allowing you to import raw footage, track it, mask areas and reconstruct the camera movements live in your 3d scene. Eliminating the need to switch between programs. And the Camera and Object Tracker includes:

  • Automatic and manual tracking
  • Powerful camera reconstruction
  • Real-time preview of your tracked footage and 3d scene
  • Support for Planar tracking and Tripod solvers

2- Fusion

Image source :

Blackmagic Fusion (formerly eyeon Fusion and briefly Maya Fusion, a version produced for Alias-Wavefront) is post-production image compositing developed by Blackmagic Design and originally authored by eyeon Software.

It is typically Open Source Visual Effects Software used to create visual effects and digital compositing for movies, TV-series and commercials and employs a node-based interface in which complex processes are built up by connecting a flowchart or schematic of many nodes, each of which represents a simpler process, such as a blur or color correction.

This type of compositing interface allows great flexibility, including the ability to modify the parameters of an earlier image processing step “in context” (while viewing the final composite). Upon its acquisition
by Blackmagic Design, Fusion was released in two versions: the freeware Fusion, and the commercially sold Fusion Studio.

3- Natron

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Natron is a powerful Digital Compositor that can handle of your 2D/2.5D needs. Its robust OIIO file formats and OpenFX architecture is what make Natron the most flexible open source compositor for the visual effects

Its interface and functionalitly are the same across all platforms such as MacOS, Linux and Windows. Natron has a powerful keying, roto/rotopaint, 2D tracking tools that are staple for all current film production project that requires visual effects.

On the surface, Natron has a powerful GUI interface that is a flexible and intuitive multi-platform node based engine.

Natron may seem to be a simple compositing application but it does have layers of complexity that will allow your creativity to reach new heights. Natron has flexible Roto and Rotopaint tool-set that can generate unlimited layers of masks, mattes and shapes. Natron has a powerful 2D and Planar tracker to help reduce hours of rotoscoping to meet personal or client deadlines.

It has some strong keying or matte generation tools that have been developed from the main OFX software developers and a plethora of tools from the open-source plugin developing community.


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The Academy Color Encoding System (ACES) is a color image encoding system created by hundreds of industry professionals under the auspices of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

ACES allows for a fully encompassing color accurate workflow, with “seamless interchange of high quality motion picture images regardless of source”.

Version 1.0 release occurred in December 2014, and has been implemented by multiple vendors, and used on multiple motion pictures and television shows. ACES received a Primetime Engineering Emmy Award in 2012.

The system is standardized in part by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) standards body.

Hundreds of productions, from films to television series to commercials, and VR content has been produced using ACES, including The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, The Grand Tour, Café Society, Bad Santa 2, The Legend of Tarzan, Chef’s Table, Chappie, The Wedding Ringer, Baahubali: The Beginning and The Wave.

5- Gaffer

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Gaffer is free, Open Source Visual Effects Software, and node-based. It enables look developers, lighters, and compositors to easily build, tweak, iterate, and render scenes.
Built with flexibility in mind, Gaffer supports in-application scripting in Python and OSL, so VFX artists and technical directors can design shaders, automate processes, and build production workflows. With hooks in both C++ and Python, Gaffer’s readily extensible API provides both professional studios and enthusiasts with the tools to add their own custom modules, nodes, and UI.

The workhorse of the production pipeline at Image Engine Design Inc., Gaffer has been used to build award-winning VFX for shows such as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Lost in Space, Logan, and Game
of Thrones.

6- Alembic

Image source : lynda/Houdini-tutorials

Alembic is an interchangeable computer graphics file format developed by Sony Pictures, Imageworks, and Industrial Light & Magic. It was announced at SIGGRAPH 2011, and has been widely adopted across the industry by visual effects and animation professionals.

Its primary focus is the interchange of geometry (models) between different groups working on the same shots or same assets. Often different departments in the same company or different studios are working on the same projects. Alembic supports the common geometric representations used in the industry, including polygon meshes, subdivision surface, parametric curves, NURBS patches and particles.

Alembic also has support for transform hierarchies and cameras. With the latest version comes initial support for materials and lights as well. Alembic specifically is not focused on storing the complex dependency graphs of procedural tools but instead stores the “baked” results.

7- OpenColorIO

Image source :

Opencolorio is a piece of software they developed at sonny Imageworks and it allows us to effectively manage color across the entire motion picture visual effects and animation pipelines.

When an artist is looking at an image on their computer or the director is looking in the theater at the projector on the screen, it is very easy to have these things disagree, but if they don’t match exactly the artists will not be able to do their job.

OpenColorIO allows colors to match exactly, even when you are using multiple pieces of software and viewing the material in different environments whether on set, in the theater or on the artist’s desktop.

8- Pixar USD

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Pipelines capable of producing computer graphics films and games typically generate, store, and transmit great quantities of 3D data, which we call “scene description”.

Each of many cooperating applications in the pipeline (modeling, shading, animation, lighting, fx, rendering) typically has its own special form of scene description tailored to the specific needs and workflows of the application, and neither readable nor editable by any other application.

Universal Scene Description (USD) is the first publicly available software that addresses the need to robustly and scalably interchange and augment arbitrary 3D scenes that may be composed from many elemental assets.

USD provides for interchange of elemental assets or animations. But unlike other interchange packages, USD also enables assembly and organization of any number of assets into virtual sets, scenes, and shots, transmit them from application to application, and non-destructively edit them (as overrides), with a single, consistent API, in a single scenegraph. USD provides a rich toolset for reading, writing, editing, and rapidly previewing 3D geometry and shading.

In addition, because USD’s core scenegraph and “composition engine” are agnostic of 3D, USD can be extended in a maintainable way to encode and compose data in other domains.

9- Animal Logic AL_USDMAYA

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AL_USD Maya is Open Source Visual Effects Software plugin that we use to allow native Maya entities such as complex Maya referenced rigs (and other assets not easily represented in USD) to be embedded in USD scenes and imported into Maya in their native form.

The plugin maintains a “live” connection between the USD and Maya scene and can respond to various events, keeping the Maya and USD scenes in sync. This affords a dynamic user experience, which allows artists to swap in and out different representations of objects in their scene (e.g Rigs for Geometry Caches, different levels of detail etc).

Additionally, heavyweight scene elements such assets/crowds can be represented in OpenGL in the Maya viewport, and manipulated either with USD or Maya tools and UI components.


Image source :

OpenVDB is an open-source C++ software library comprising a novel hierarchical data structure and a large suite of tools for the efficient storage and manipulation of sparse volumetric data discretized on three-dimensional grids. It was developed by DreamWorks Animation for use in volumetric applications typically encountered in feature film production and it is currently maintained and developed by the Academy Software Foundation (ASWF).

The library was primarily developed by Ken Museth, Peter Cucka, Mihai Aldén, and David Hill Used in the films Rise of the Guardians (2012) and Puss in Boots (2011).

It is supported by Blender since version 2.77a released on April 6, 2016.It has Python support. It is Adopted by Cinema 4D, Houdini, RenderMan, Arnold, RealFlow, Maxwell Render, LightWave 3D‚ Modo, V-Ray, Octane Render, and 3Delight.

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