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OpenEXR Graphics File Format Turns Up The Contrast

What is OpenEXR?

  • March 4, 2003
  • By Rob Reilly
Industrial Light + Magic (ILM) is well-known throughout the film-making community and beyond for their stunning computer effects work on Hollywood products. Their use of online graphics tools is little short of legendary.

It is little surprise, then, that the wizards at ILM would have designed their own specialized tools to create works that no one had even tried before.

OpenEXR is one such tool. A graphics file format created by ILM, OpenEXR enhances the ability of a graphics artist or visual-effects engineer to manipulate contrast and the exposure of a graphical image.

The format represents each pixel with 16 bits and uses floating point numbers, as opposed to regular graphics formats that sport 8 bits per pixel and only use integers for calculations. This allows finer control of the color and contrast.

All of this, and it's now open source, too.

In a recent interview, ILM software engineer Florian Kainz talked about how the format works and why it was designed.

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