What is USD: A Primer | Rob Stauffer | SIGGRAPH 2019


Universal Scene Description (USD) is open source software designed to make it easier to “interchange and augment arbitrary 3D scenes that may be composed from many elemental assets.” This is going to have a profound affect on how studios build pipelines in the future and with SideFX Solaris working natively with USD, it will be an important part of working with Houdini. Let’s take a look at this new technology and how you can begin implementing it in your studio.

Rob Stauffer is a Senior Production Consultant at SideFX. He has over 20 years experience in computer graphics and visual effects. Rob started his career at Digital Domain and has worked at Sony Imageworks, Weta Digital, Asylum FX and most recently was an FX Supervisor at Rhythm and Hues. He has contributed to the FX of over 20 feature films including, “Lord Of The Rings: The Return of The King”, “Spiderman 2”, “X-Men:First Class”, “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Seventh Son”. Rob joined SideFX in 2013 where he educates new and existing clients on the features of Houdini. Consults with studios on their pipelines and where Houdini may fit in and explores new and future technologies within VFX,Games and VR.


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  1. I think OpenGL as a full on scene representation is oldschool…Clarisse uses a custom rasteriser to make a texture of the scene.
    That texture is then fed to OpenGL which is why that app is so blazing fast compared to all other packages – OpenGL just receives a texture and thats it, no geometry is fed into opengl buffers etc.

  2. looking forward to using the new layer system and Karma….and I like how everything is being integrated…..once again great info

  3. Will you make it possible to use Karma in different contexts without explicitly going through a USD setup?
    (I would imagine you could pipe the data through a basic USD setup under the hood, if it isn't one already).


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