Thursday, October 23, 2008

This is bad news...

I just got an email from Autodesk today saying they have bought out Softimage from Avid.

Bad, bad, bad, bad.

I'm not a user of XSi (Softimage's flagship 3d software). Except for reviewing the work of the occasional student who uses it I haven't felt a need to learn it. I've been using Maya for almost 10 years now and it just works for me with all the tools and stuff I have for it. But that's beside the point. As far as I can tell XSi is a solid tool. If there has been one group that has been the leader in innovative ideas for general purpose CG tools over the last few years it's been the XSi team. By contrast the stuff sitting under Autodesk's banner has languished. Except for the occasional tweak here or there, 3DS Max is still basically the same tool it was when I used it at Blur 5 years ago. And Maya hasn't moved very far since Alias sold out to Autodesk a few years ago. Just tweaks and window dressing. Autodesk is where 3d programs go to get stale.

Healthy competition is always better for customers than monopolies- and right now we have a veritable monopoly in the CG animation software business. Autodesk owns 3D Studio Max, Maya, Motion Builder, Mudbox and now Softimage XSi and it's ancillary technologies. What's left out there for commercially available professional level Cg production software? Um.. not much. Yes, there's Z-Brush, Silo, Modo, etc., but those aren't backbone systems, they're specific-use tools.  Basically the applications under the Autodesk name represent well north of 90% of the primary programs used in the CG business.

Most Cg products have seen a significant reduction in innovative development and thinking over the past few years, but expect that decline to accelerate. At some point consolidation of development is going to occur at Autodesk and we're going to end up with fewer choices.

If anything this development marks the end of the 'big backbone one stop shop' software solutions for CG. Look for more specific use tools that interface with back bone systems to emerge.

29 comments:

drewblom said...

I threw up a little. I'm getting my pencils out again. The worst I've had to deal with in takeovers is Prismacolor getting a hold of Col-erase. Not as big of a deal.

But I agree, this is not good for innovation. There's always C4D. Nope, can't even type that without laughing.

pinK said...

Is very sad, yes :(

Matt said...

What about Blender? Maybe it's not quite up there with the big dogs but it's getting there...

Mike L said...

hmm...If they buy out Lightwave they're just being mean... like kicking a kid after stealing his candy. I don't use it but I think someone somewhere might...

Robin said...

C4D will perhaps be the next viable competitor in this arena, and we hope, Autodesk will stay away from it. :)

Anonymous said...

Why is Houdini so not talked about when I'ts been in almost every film that's used any sort of special effects whatsoever? Is it because it's not independent/individual - user friendly (I know my Acer lappy couldn't run it for every attempt I've made), or because it costs more than most cars do these days?

gemini82 said...

Im going to cry. I guess it leaves room for some upstart applications to come up the ladder.

César Sáez said...

Really sad news :(

Lucas Martell said...

I swear I didn't mean it when I wished XSI had a hotbox. I mean... sure it's the coolest use of a spacebar ever... but at what cost?

andyoko said...

I simply cannot believe it! I am one of those who cannot stand Autodesk and who certainly sees a threat to the industry in their scavenging on other 3D companies' innovation and bying competiotion rather than innovating.
In fact, one of the reasons I switched to XSI from Maya was to support a solid tool that was a worthy rival to what is now known as Autodesk product.
I'm pretty sure that Houdini will be next very soon and then Autodesk will own the 4 major 3d apps. Sad....
Whatever I do, it seems I am now forced to be an Autodesk customer... :(((((

Ian said...

Here in Australia I just sold an entire TV series I made at home to our National Broadcaster (the other ABC) that I made using XSI Foundation. This low cost, high end product empowered me to produce a broadcast quality product in my own home on a laptop. I couldn't have afforded to do it with the cheapest versions of Max or Maya. Somehow I doubt the folk at Autodesk will make be continuing the effort to support the little guy. :(

Anonymous said...

andyoko: SideFX (Houdini) is privately owned, while Avid is not. Maybe makes a deal less probable? Newtek (Lightwave) is also private.

Anonymous said...

While I'm sure trueSpace is laughable in regards to industry-use, it is a very nice app for the money, and popular on a hobbyist level. However, Caligari (makers of trueSpace) were recently aquired by Microsoft, and they are focusing on the whole Live Earth thing. So... any of us animators who do 'offline' rendering have kinda stuck with the old tS 6.6 version.

Perhaps XSI users will be doing similar?

sunny kharbanda said...

I'm with Drewblom.. I'm switching to 2D :)

Seriously though, XSI has long been innovating, and Maya has been stealing features from it (and from other packages). They haven't done a great job of stealing either. Just look at parent constraints (or any constraints) in Maya vs. XSI. Once XSI's development grinds to a halt in Autodesk's hands, where will Maya and Max borrow from?

MIchal said...

Very sad. It's not about XSI which is great, innovative and cutting edge app, it's more about competition.
There is no competition now. All off the shelf high end 3D programs belong to one company...

Shame..

Matt said...

This is a great opportunity for Blender to step up and take the lead. Before you know it, Blender will be used by major animation studios across the world!

Andrew said...

I completely agree that this opens up a fantastic opportunity for Blender, which has enjoyed a tremendous amount of innovation in the past few years.

Will Blender be Firefox to Autodesk's Maya/3D Studio? (or is it already?). The next couple years could be interesting.

Andrew Lee said...

I work at a really small studio out in Nashville. XSI is the dominant program here...we also use Maya on occasion for this and that. I'm a big fan of XSI, especially the graph editor. Much more friendlier than Maya imho...We're all pretty disappointed by the news. XSI seemed to be really making some progress with some of it's core features in the last couple of iterations, while Maya seems to have been stagnant since being purchased by Autodesk.

I guess only time will tell what's going to happen, I'm trying to be optomistic...however, my little cushion of comfort has been slightly deflated over this news :(

Dshum said...

Am I being ignorant, when I don't see this event as bad as most people?

I doubt Autodesk will take any of the key features AWAY from XSI. If anything, they can discover why XSI has some of the better features, and truly create a All-in-one package.

If that doesn't happen, and Autodesk just sits on its monopoly... That will only fuel CG artists and programmers to create a new software.

I maybe totally off the mark... But I don't need much more than a few simple tools to animate... And besides, many big studios have their own programs. Whats stopping them from releasing their own softwares to the market?

Toby Winder said...

goo houdini!

Anonymous said...

Patents I'm afraid...there's a thread on Highend3D that claims Pixar owns certain aspects of 3D technology that other companies therefore simply cannot have in their own software...It's just like how Disney kept the principles of animation so secret not even their own animators could find out about them until very late into the company's lifespan and we may never regain that full knowledge of it! I agree however that since Autodesk is taking Softimage from Avid, not Softimage from Softimage, I don't think they'll be downsising the origional workers or the application itself to fit any new standards...

sunny kharbanda said...

DShum,

It's not that they'll take features AWAY from XSI. It's just that the innovation and improvements on XSI are very likely to slow down. We all agree XSI has some great features, but with other packages trying to play catch-up, they couldn't afford to rest on their laurels, and they kept innovating. With all these products under the same roof now, it takes the competition away, and with it, the motivation to keep pushing forward.

On another note...I agree with all you Houdini supporters, but that package has been late to get into the character animation arena. The whole procedural, node-based workflow works great for FX, shading and lighting (and rigging), but I think it's too left-brained for character animation.

Of course, XSI's ICE feature is "inspired" by Houdini. But they had a solid set of character animation tools in place before they started expanding on the other fronts.

Paul said...

I received the same email last week. I'm not an XSI user, but I can only hope they don't do the same thing that they did with Maya. Three consecutive releases with nothing worthwhile to offer (8, 8.5, 2008), except to mess around with the menus and stamp their logo all over the place. At least 2009 looks promising with those new animation layers.

One way or another, the whole monopoly thing is a real shame.

Femi said...

Houdini is almost definately next, and while blender is a viable tool i don't know how big its community is cos in alot of ways cg is about community and sharing tutorials, tools best practices and such, I am curious to see where it is all going with one company owning three 3d apps. Let's just hope they don't buy ADOBE

Anonymous said...

http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=kR7UWImpG54

andyoko said...

>>> At least 2009 looks promising with those new animation layers.

Paul, animation layers is part of Motionbuilder technology originally. I had purchased Motionbuilder when it was still a Kaydara product (before the company was acquired by Alias) and this feature was already there. Now, how many years did it take Autodesk to implement it in Maya?!

Paul said...

Andyoko - I didn't mean to imply that the animation layers are new technology or anything, but it will be nice to have them built right in. Motionbuilder is a great tool, but sometimes it's easier to just keep things in Maya.

But in any case, I agree that it's pretty annoying how long it took Autodesk to implement them. Just like how they still haven't gotten around to incorporating Afterburner into Maya. They have yet to actually offer anything new.

Olivier Ladeuix said...

well that makes Blender a really interesting alternative.

Anonymous said...

One thing that nobody has mentioned is modo. When modo was first announced it's founders stated that it would start with modelling and then keep adding components. Since then they have added texturing, rendering and now basic animation. I wouldn't be suprised if modo's next released included proper animation tools bones etc.

If that happened I would seriously consider swapping apps.