OFX is an open API for writing visual effects plug-ins for a wide variety of applications, such as video editing systems and compositing systems. This guide demonstrates by example the low level C APIs that defines OFX.

Intended Audience

Do you write visual effects or image processing software? Do you have an application which deals with moving images and hosts plug-ins or would like to host plug-ins? Then OFX is for you.

This guide assumes you can program in the C language and are familiar with the concepts involved in writing visual effects software. You need to understand concepts like pixels, clips, pixel aspect ratios and so on. If you don’t, I suggest you read further or attempt to soldier on bravely and see how far you go before you get lost.

What is OFX?

OFX is actually several things. At the lowest level OFX is a generic C based plug-in architecture that can be used to define any kind of plug-in API. You could use this low level architecture to implement any API, however it was originally designed to host our visual effects image processing API. The basic architecture could be re-used to create other higher level APIs such as a sound effects API, a 3D API and more.

This guide describes the basic OFX plug-in architecture and the visual effects plug-in API built on top of it. The visual effects API is very broad and intended to allow visual effects plug-ins to work on a wide range of host applications, including compositing hosts, rotoscopers, encoding applications, colour grading hosts, editing hosts and more I haven’t thought of yet. While all these type of applications process images, they often have very different work flows and present effects to a user in incompatible ways. OFX is an attempt to deal with all of these in a clear and consistent manner.

The API is by design feature rich, not all aspects of the API map to all hosts. This is to allow different host developers to implement OFX support in a manner that best fits their applications’ capabilities.

Hosts are encouraged to extend OFX by providing extra proprietary suites, actions, properties and settings to extend the capabilities of the API. It would be nice that a broadly useful proprietary extension be put forward for incorporation into the open standard.

That said although there is no validation process in terms of what is an OFX host, a small minimal set of expectations is assumed, which we will cover in the following guides.

The Examples

I’ll illustrate the API and how it works with a variety of example plugins, each of which will have it’s own guide describing what is going one. You should work through them one by one as each will build on the one before.

For completeness and clarity of explanation, each plugin is entirely self contained and has no dependency on anything other than standard C and C++ libraries and the OFX headers.

Wrapping the API

This API can be somewhat awkward to use directly, and it is expected that most plugin or host developers will wrap the API in higher level C or C++ structures.

There are open source host and plugin side API C wrappers available from the git repository. As you work through the examples you’ll see that I actually start wrapping up various entities within the API into C classes as it can get unwieldy otherwise.


Please feel free to use any of the code you find here, provided you adhere to the BSD style license you’ll find at the top of each header file.