OpenVDB: An Open Source Data Structure and Toolkit for High-Resolution Volumes

Guest Lecture


February 26, 2015
3:30pm to 5:00pm
190 Doe Library
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VDB is an C++ library comprising a novel hierarchical data structure and a suite of tools for the efficient storage, rendering, and manipulation of sparse volumetric data discretized on three-dimensional grids. Following the open sourcing of VDB ( at SIGGRAPH 2012 and Houdini's full integration of OpenVDB since version 12.5, this presentation is targeting both developers who seek insight into the novel data structure and new adopters who simply wish to experiment with the new technology. OpenVDB ships with a rich toolset of high-level volumetric processing and conversion tools that can be applied directly in VFX pipelines. To this end, the presentation will focus on the following aspects of VDB: a technical description of its underlying data structure and algorithms; its accompanying toolset; and, finally, its integration into Houdini as a first-class citizen.

OpenVDB and its predecessor VDB have to date been used in more than 70 feature movies, including all of the movies being nominated for an Oscar for the best visual effects in 2015. The talk is delivered by VDB’s inventor, Ken Museth, and takes point of reference in a technical paper presented at SIGGRAPH 2013. 


Ken Museth

Manager and Senior Principal Engineer or Research and Development, DreamWorks Animation

Ken Museth is the manager and senior principle engineer of research and development in visual effects at DreamWorks Animation. He invented VDB, which is the enabling technology of OpenVDB, an open source volume representation that is setting a new standard in the movie industry (used in more than 70 full feature movies). For this, Ken was awarded a technical academy award in 2015. Prior to joining DreamWorks Animation in 2009, he worked on VFX in live action at Digital Domain for three years, was a tenured full professor in computer graphics at Linkoping University for five years, and was a senior research scientist at Caltech for five years. During the last period, he also worked at NASA's JPL on trajectory design for the "Genesis" space mission. He is currently consulting for SpaceX to assist them in the simulation, visualization, and design of a new rocket engine for their manned Mars mission. Ken holds a PhD in quantum dynamics from Copenhagen University and is a passionate adventure motorcycle rider.