Intro to USD

To better understand the USD (Universal Scene Description) workflow that has become more and more prevalent in various industries in computer graphics, this site goes into detail of its intent, structure, specifications, and workflow. It is defined by Pixar's 3D graphics pipeline and includes tutorials, plugins for various tools (Alembic, Houdini, Maya, etc.), and other supporting documentation. It is seen as a way of encapsulating the 3D data pipeline in a cohesive, universal format that aims to streamline communication and efforts by all team members.

From what I've explored, it is a bit of a different mindset than that of traditional workflows like FBX or Alembic file formats moving around a studio acquiring materials, fx, lighting, etc. to create a scene. Instead of a disjointed workflow, the USD creates a single working file that all team members contribute to and can see updated as other contribute to it. This way, all can see their contribution impacting the overall scene file at the same time as others are contributing their own work. In the conferences I've listened in on and professionals I've collaborated with, it's evident that USD is being more prevalent as the main workflow with 3D content. This is noticeable in games, film, and even mixed reality development.

For mixed reality applications in particular, USDz is the compressed package format of a USD file that is becoming the preferred file format because it's optimized and packages all of the relevant 3D assets. I imagine there will be a lot more about USD in the future as it becomes better understood and adopted.