CG app giant plans to buy Avid-owned rival for $35m

Autodesk makes shock swoop for Softimage

Maya, 3ds Max and MotionBuilder owner Autodesk is to acquire its rival Softimage for $35m.

The surprise deal, announced last night, puts all the leading 3D graphics applications used by the games industry (Softimage is responsible for the XSI and FaceRobot apps, amongst others) under one owner following a three years of active acquisitions on Autodesk’s part.

Autodesk bought Maya creator Alias in 2006, and has kept development of the application going ever since. Last year it bought high-end renderer Mudbox creator Skymatter, and in early 2008 acquired AI specialist Kynogon.

Founded in 1986 by Daniel Langlois, Softimage’s technology is already in use a number of entertainment graphics and special effects firms, including Digital Domain, Ubisoft, Sega, Capcom, and The Mill. The company itself has had a chequered ownership history, at one point being owned by Microsoft before being bought by Avid and integrated into its large family of digital editing and media tools. Avid will be paid around $35m for the acquisition.

Although the two businesses will now be combined, Autodesk said that it will "continue developing and selling Softimage’s core product line, while integrating certain Softimage technology into future versions of Autodesk solutions and products".

Specifically, Autodesk said it plans to acquire and continue developing the following Softimage products:

* SOFTIMAGE|XSI: Including XSI Essentials, XSI Advanced, XSI Academic, XSI Mod Tool and the XSI software development kit. XSI is production-proven 3D animation software for games, film and television. It offers a complete 3D modeling, animation, rendering and development environment for visual effects and custom tools.

* SOFTIMAGE|Face Robot: A complete software solution for easily rigging and animating 3D faces. Face Robot enables studios to create life-like facial animation at incredible speeds.

* SOFTIMAGE|Cat: This advanced character animation system is a plug-in for Autodesk 3ds Max software. It is intended to be integrated into the 3ds Max product line.

* SOFTIMAGE|Crosswalk: This interoperability solution is intended to be integrated with Autodesk’s own interoperability technology.

“Softimage has been developing state-of-the-art 3D technology for more than 20 years, and its products are recognized as best-of-breed in the entertainment industry,” said Marc Petit, senior vice president, Autodesk Media & Entertainment.

“Upon the completion of this acquisition we will be adding Softimage technology and products to our portfolio, and welcoming one of the most talented teams in the industry to Autodesk Media & Entertainment. Both will help us accelerate the work of our Games Technology Group, as we build the next-generation of real-time, interactive 3D authoring tools for games, film and television.

He added: “As we have demonstrated since the acquisition of Alias in 2006, we’re committed to giving our customers choice when it comes to their 3D tools. We plan to maintain and grow the Softimage product line, and through Autodesk FBX provide better interoperability between Softimage products, 3ds Max and Autodesk Maya. FBX also provides interoperability between Softimage products and our specialized applications such as Autodesk Mudbox, Autodesk MotionBuilder, Autodesk ImageModeler and Autodesk Stitcher, as well as numerous third-party applications.

“At Autodesk, we care deeply about 3D technology; we know users invest a lot of time and energy into mastering their favorite 3D product. To all 3D artists out there, I want to tell you that we understand your passion for the creative tools you use daily, and that with Autodesk, you can choose your passion.”

Gary Greenfield, CEO and chairman of Avid Technology, added: “We are excited about what this transaction means for customers of Softimage. The Softimage 3D product line has performed well in the video games market, a sector where Autodesk has a track record of success. Autodesk will provide a great home for the business.”

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