Gaffer initially used in rendering and look development, has expended to lofty goals providing a general purpose and open source, node based application with the basic building blocks and tools specifically designed for the Visual Effects industry which include procedural scene generation, shader authoring, rendering, and compositing.

Gaffer provides non-destructive methods for building and modifying scenes. Connect nodes. Make pictures.

At its core, Gaffer gives you non-destructive workflows for processing 3D scenes, allowing you to build and modify 3D scenes and then sending the results to render. Not tied to any specific renderer, Gaffer instead leverages the renderer abstraction provided by the cortex framework.

Having its base in Nodes, Gaffer also has simple 2D compositing functionality allowing for renders and other imagery to be combined, and for the execution of basic image manipulations.

The framework with which the Gaffer tool is built is also available for rapid development of both command line and GUI applications. More details on the framework and its use are available from the project site.

Right now the Gaffer Project is looking to get more people involved, if you have an interest to fix a bug or contribute a cool new enhancement, please get involved or help spread the word. Check out the Gaffer project page here to learn more.

I asked Ben Tooogood to explain a little about Gaffer, where it came from, and where its headed

Who is Behind Gaffer

It’s the brain child of principle author John Haddon and is sponsored by Image Engine (Elysium, District 9)

How did Gaffer Get Its Start

Image Engine has been contributing to the opensource community for a while with the cortex project
Gaffer in some ways is the next step on from that as it provides a gui front end to parts of the cortex function set. John also wanted to kick off the project as a way to provide a interface framework for Image Engine’s in house tools. Then it grew from there as John added more 3d/rendering functionality.

Where is Gaffer at Right Now in Terms of Development

Right now the opensource application allows for node based lookdev, lighting, rendering (with either Arnold or 3delight), and basic compositing.
It is at a stage were it’s better suited to intrepid TDs looking to play around and rummage in its guts, rather than artists looking to easily make pictures. This is mostly due to the application’s unfinished state – but we are putting out downloadable binaries to let people have a go with it in the hope of enticing people to get involved.

Where is Gaffer Headed in the Future

Fingers crossed, getting some of the rough edges rounded out and expanding the functionality would make it useable day to day as a procedural lighting/lookdev tool.