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Ar: Asset Resolution


The Ar (Asset Resolution) library is responsible for querying, reading, and writing asset data. It provides several interfaces that allow USD to access an asset without knowing how that asset is physically stored.

Ar ships with implementations based on a traditional filesystem. However, users can provide custom implementations to integrate their own asset storage system and behaviors with USD. For example, a user might have an asset system that stores assets in a database and uses special identifiers to address those assets. That user could create a custom implementation of the ArResolver interface that interprets those identifiers and a custom implementation of the ArAsset interface that reads data straight from the database. This would allow the user to use those identifiers for references, payloads, and sublayer composition arcs and other places throughout USD.


ArResolver is the central interface for asset operations in Ar. Clients can implement subclasses of this interface to customize behaviors for their asset system.

Ar manages a set of ArResolver subclasses for handling different asset paths, which are described below. These subclasses are discovered and instantiated via the plugin system and managed internally by Ar. Instead of using these subclasses directly, clients just use a single resolver that is accessed by calling ArGetResolver. When methods are called on this resolver, Ar will determine the appropriate subclass for handling the given input paths and forward the call to that subclass.

Primary Resolver

The primary resolver is the ArResolver subclass that Ar uses to handle all asset paths that are not handled by the other resolvers described below.

To create a custom primary resolver:

  • Implement an ArResolver subclass
    class CustomResolver : public ArResolver {
    // ...
    Interface for the asset resolution system.
    Definition: resolver.h:60
  • Use AR_DEFINE_RESOLVER to define the subclass as a resolver
    # In the custom resolver's .cpp file
    AR_DEFINE_RESOLVER(CustomResolver, ArResolver);
    #define AR_DEFINE_RESOLVER(ResolverClass, BaseClass1,...)
    Performs registrations required for the specified resolver class to be discovered by Ar's plugin mech...
  • Declare the subclass in the plugin's plugInfo.json file. See PlugRegistry for more details.
    # plugInfo.json
    "Plugins": [
    "Info": {
    "Types" : {
    "CustomResolver" : {
    "bases": [ "ArResolver" ]
  • Ensure that the resolver plugin is located where the plugin system can find it.
Ar does not support custom resolvers implemented in Python to avoid performance issues, especially for multi-threaded consumers.

At runtime Ar will query the plugin system to discover any classes that have ArResolver or another subclass of ArResolver declared as a base type, then instantiate that class when needed. Keep in mind that the class may be constructed at any time; at a minimum, the class will be constructed during the first call to ArGetResolver.

If no custom resolver is found, Ar will use ArDefaultResolver as the primary resolver. This resolver assumes all asset paths it encounters are filesystem paths. ArDefaultResolver also performs simple search path-based resolution that will search for an asset in a specified list of directories. See documentation on ArDefaultResolver for more information on configuring this behavior.

URI Resolvers

URI resolvers are ArResolver subclasses that are associated with particular URI schemes.

When Ar encounters an asset path or resolved path of the form "<scheme>:...", it will check if any ArResolver subclasses have been registered for the scheme. If so, it will dispatch the path to that subclass for handling. If not, it will dispatch the path to the primary resolver for handling.

For example, if there were an HTTPResolver subclass of ArResolver that was registered to handle the "http" scheme. If the following was called:

AR_API ArResolver & ArGetResolver()
Returns the configured asset resolver.
AR_API ArResolvedPath Resolve(const std::string &assetPath) const
Returns the resolved path for the asset identified by the given assetPath if it exists.

Ar would inspect the given path, find the "http" scheme and determine that "http" was associated with HTTPResolver. Ar would create an instance of the HTTPResolver (if one had not already been created), then call HTTPResolver::Resolve on that instance with the given path.

To create a URI resolver:

  • Implement a subclass of ArResolver as described in the Primary Resolver section above.
  • In the entry for the subclass in the plugin's plugInfo.json file, add a "uriSchemes" key with a list of URI schemes associated with the resolver.
    "Plugins": [
    "Info": {
    "Types": {
    "HTTPResolver": {
    "bases": ["ArResolver"],
    "uriSchemes": ["http", "https"]

Asset Path Resolution

An asset path is a string that describes the location of an asset in a user's system. These paths are used extensively throughout USD; for example, asset paths are used to specify sublayers, references, and payloads in scene description.

One of ArResolver's primary responsibilities is to resolve an input asset path by determining if an asset exists at the given path and, if so, returning a resolved path that may be used by other ArResolver API and in other parts of the system. This is done via calls to ArResolver::Resolve. This process allows ArResolver subclasses to apply custom logic to determine the actual asset that a logical asset path refers to.

For example, the filesystem-based ArDefaultResolver implements search-path logic in its asset path resolution. When ArDefaultResolver is given a relative filesystem asset path to resolve like "Foo/Bar/Baz.usd", it will look for that file relative to the current working directory, then relative to a set of search paths. Once it finds an existing file, it will return the absolute path to that file as the resolved path.

For more details, see:

Resolver Contexts

A resolver context is an object that stores configuration or other information that can be used by a resolver to guide path resolution and other operations. Resolver contexts can be bound within blocks of code to affect resolver operations within that scope via an ArResolverContextBinder. UsdStage uses this functionality heavily to allow different stages to resolve asset paths differently.

For example, ArDefaultResolver has a context object ArDefaultResolverContext that contains a set of search paths for use during resolution that prepend ArDefaultResolver's list of global search paths. A client might use this to set up stages that look in different locations for assets:

// Configure ArDefaultResolver's global search paths.
// Create a resolver context with an additional search path and
// use it for opening the UsdStage for ShotA.usd.
// If ShotA.usd contains an asset path like "Foo/Bar/Baz.usd",
// ArDefaultResolver will search for this file at:
// - <current working dir>/Foo/Bar/Baz.usd
// - /ShotA/assets/Foo/Bar/Baz.usd
// - /Global/assets/Foo/Bar/Baz.usd
ArDefaultResolverContext shotACtx({"/ShotA/assets"})
UsdStageRefPtr shotA = UsdStage::Open("ShotA.usd", shotACtx);
// Create a resolver context with an additional search path and
// use it for opening the UsdStage for ShotB.usd.
// If ShotB.usd contains the same asset path as above in ShotA,
// ArDefaultResolver will search for this file at:
// - <current working dir>/Foo/Bar/Baz.usd
// - /ShotB/assets/Foo/Bar/Baz.usd
// - /Global/assets/Foo/Bar/Baz.usd
ArDefaultResolverContext shotBCtx({"/ShotB/assets"})
UsdStageRefPtr shotB = UsdStage::Open("ShotB.usd", shotBCtx);
Resolver context object that specifies a search path to use during asset resolution.
static AR_API void SetDefaultSearchPath(const std::vector< std::string > &searchPath)
Set the default search path that will be used during asset resolution.
static USD_API UsdStageRefPtr Open(const std::string &filePath, InitialLoadSet load=LoadAll)
Attempt to find a matching existing stage in a cache if UsdStageCacheContext objects exist on the sta...

It's important to note that any information in a resolver context that is used during path resolution should be factored into the resulting resolved path. This is because resolved paths may be passed to downstream clients or external libraries that will not (or can not) have a context object bound when the resolved path is used to open an asset. Put another way: a resolved path should be usable by downstream clients that do not have a resolver context bound.

Context binding and unbinding are thread-specific. If you bind a context in a thread, that binding will only be visible to that thread. If you want to use the same context to resolve asset paths in multiple threads, you’ll need to bind the context in multiple threads.

For more details, see:

Resolver Scoped Caches

A resolver scoped cache is a cache of asset resolution results that is active during a given block of code. Clients can activate a scoped cache by using an ArResolverScopedCache object.

Resolving asset paths may be expensive and a UsdStage may need to resolve hundreds to thousands of asset paths (or more) depending on the complexity of the scene, many of which may be repeated. A scoped cache helps to minimize that expense. A scoped cache also ensures that resolving a given asset path multiple times returns the same result, which is important for consistency and correctness.

Ar provides default scoped cache behaviors for all ArResolver subclasses. However, this default behavior is very basic. Subclasses may provide their own scoped cache implementations that can take advantage of implementation details of their underlying asset system to maximize efficiency. For such cases Ar provides an ArThreadLocalScopedCache utility class to help with this.

For more details, see:

Asset Paths and Resolved Paths

In general, Ar does not impose any requirements or restrictions on the format of an asset path or resolved path. Users are free to use whatever path syntax they want as long as they are supported by their underlying resolver implementations. For example, the filesystem-based ArDefaultResolver simply uses filesystem paths, but other implementations might use special URIs or database identifiers.

Ar reserves trailing bracket-enclosed paths as syntax for package-relative asset paths. For example, paths like:

  • "/foo/baz.usdz[file.usd]"
  • "my_uri://foo/baz.usdz[file.usd]"

will be recognized by Ar as a package-relative asset path and will be split so that ArResolver subclasses will only see the path "/foo/baz.usdz" or "my_uri://foo/baz.usdz". For more details, see Package Relative Paths