USDZ file format

USDZ file format by Apple

USDZ, short for Universal Scene Description File, is a new file format for displaying and sharing 3D content natively in iOS and platforms that use the USD runtime. This new file format. According to Apple, this new file format is optimized for sharing and it’s an open file format. Content in this file can be used not just necessarily in AR, but it was designed from the ground up to make it easier to transfer and share AR content between users and USD powered platforms and tools.

This collaboration of Apple with Pixar and Adobe should make USDZ a standard AR file format that will be widely supported by many other content creation platforms. What better way to do it than partnering with Adobe, a market leader in creative, markting and document management solutions.

This new file format was developed alongside the animation studio Pixar. It’s is already adopted by leading multimedia software companies like Adobe. Adobe VP Abhay Parasnis confirmed native support for this new file format an all Adobe’s Creative Cloud set of applications. Furthermore, Adobe plans to release a new software to allow easy creation and sharing of AR content.

viewing USDZ file format
Image credit: Apple

This is a smart move and an important step to make AR content portable, accessible and easy sharable same like sharing a photo using Photoshop.

I really enjoy using Photoshop, and when I come to think about it, it can be so amazing having an option to create my own AR scene and share it without needing a proprietary software to view it like when using a Snapchat lens that was created usingSnapchat Lens Studio.

The USDZ file can hold information of different 3D rendered AR objects within a single file. The new file format was designed to improve the 3D content creation pipeline between different AR environments. So for example, if you have designed content in Photoshop, you can easily export that content into the new USDZ file format and then import it into Adobe Dimensions and continue working on it there.

This new file format will be portable between platforms and compatible apps and essentially allow WYSIWYG editing in AR. Adobe is the best in the industry when it comes to photo and video editing, and I have no doubt that its upcoming Augmented Reality empowered app will turn out to become an industry standard as well. This also means that users and developers will be able to bring any content created using any of the Creative Cloud USDZ supported apps into an augmented reality environment in just a few steps.

Website owners can embed a USDZ content inside a page and when users tap it to interact with it in non-AR or in AR. We can easily see where this goes. I imagine many eCommerce websites will use this to showcase products. Just combine that with a high-quality 3D object scanning and sellers on eBay can offer users the option to actually see the product in their own home before ordering it.

Some USD Specifications and facts:

  • It’s a single file zip archive
  • usdc file is a zero compression, unencrypted zip archive. This is done to allow the usda and usdc format to access their data straight from memory via mmap. Also, no compression means that the targeted tool won’t need to have a built-in compression system and also it’s undesired to manage caches and unpacked archive between processes.
  • Potentially streamable
  • A usdz file can only contain file types who are recognizable by the USD runtime
  • An usdz archive itself can contain other archives and it’s possible to reference individual files within an archive from outside the archive
  • usdz is a read-only file. To edit its content, it first needs to be unpacked using appropriate tools

For more in-depth information, read this USDZ file format specification PDF at