Boris FX Acquires Imagineer, Building VFX Development Dynamo
COW Library : Boris FX : Tim Wilson : Boris FX Acquires Imagineer, Building VFX Development Dynamo
Boris FX, makers of VFX plug-ins and integrated workflow solutions including Boris Continuum Complete, have signed an agreement to acquire Imagineer Systems, makers of mocha Pro.
They will also have an extraordinary reach when combined. Over 1 million customers are already using Boris FX plug-ins inside Avid Media Composer, Adobe After Effects, The Foundry Nuke, Assimilate Scratch, Apple Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere, Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve and many more. And Imagineer's mocha AE has been bundled with After Effects since 2008. Add licensing arrangements including Quantel and HitFilm, and the many users of mocha Pro, and mocha is easily the world's most widely used tracking technology.
Even more than products, markets and companies, though, this relationship is about using partnership to extend technology. The team behind mocha Pro received a Science and Engineering Award from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences in 2013, and approached Boris FX last year about a partnership that eventually evolved to a merger.
"Imagineer's Planar Tracker is far more advanced than any other tracker in the industry," says Boris. "Other products have area trackers, but they are all inferior because they boil down to tracking a large number of bright points. In contrast, the mocha tracker employs a computer vision approach to track the whole area as a single object." Boris also notes mocha Pro's strengths in areas including rotoscoping and object removal.
"One of Imagineer's key strengths is the ability to play well with others, supporting every popular VFX application in the industry. Joining the Boris family is a huge opportunity to bring mocha's world-class planar tracking to Boris Continuum Complete users, giving artists and editors the tools they need where they need them most."
Boris paints the picture from the other side. "Acquiring the proprietary mocha technology will allow us to bring Imagineer's Academy Award-winning planar tracking to Boris FX solutions and customers, while conversely, Imagineer products will benefit from Boris FX's advanced host integration know-how. The breadth and depth of both companies' technologies will allow us to quickly build powerful new visual effects."
Indeed, it should be noted that, in addition to incorporating each other's existing strengths, engineers at the two companies are already jointly at work on new technologies and products. They are also working on expanding support for the OFX plug-in architecture, and see the potential to open new markets building on their combined strengths.
From a broader industry perspective, the companies represent an intriguing mix even before they start on major new development initiatives. Boris FX has a massive share of the mid-to-upper end of the broadcast and professional video production space, with a new opportunity to reach up for the next rung that also trends more toward film production. Imagineer sits comfortably atop that rung, with a new opportunity to reach deep and wide to the dramatically larger video production community than they've previously had access to on their own.
This is also a well-timed move. Mainstream editorial work is often expected to now include visual effects that would have been incomprehensible just a few years ago. In some cases, the effects are intended to be invisible, as "fix it in post" increasingly means "create it in post, and it better not look like a VFX shot." Better technology and better integration will be the only ways to keep delivering under the pressure of collapsing budgets and deadlines.
Boris Continuum Complete plugs into applications including Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Pro X, Avid Media Composer, and Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve, among others. BCC 9 offers well over 200 filters, which are also available in 16 smaller packages for specific needs, including Image Restoration, Keying, Time Effects, Lights, Particles, 3D Text, and more.
UP TO THE ELBOWS
I confess some personal pleasure in this news. I bought Boris FX 1.0 upon its introduction in 1995 (on a floppy disk, of course; yes, I still have it) at MacWorld Boston in 1995, where it won Best of Show. Boris products grew to become key parts of my own video production workflows, and after a stretch of doing freelance demos for them, I joined the company full-time in 2000 to become a product manager and Director of Marketing.
The COW was the right place for me to eventually land, mind you, but I have incredibly fond memories of my time at Boris FX . Even as he was very much a hands-on CEO, I watched Boris take great pleasure and pride in coding late into the night, every night. "I'm still a mathematician and a scientist at heart," he chuckled as he told me the news of the Imagineer acquisition. He will become chairman of the new group (he and John-Paul Smith will both continue as CEOs of their respective companies), but I have no doubt that he will continue to stay up to his elbows in the making of the products.
Boris is also nothing if not ambitious. On top of aggressive development of products he has created, Imagineer is only the latest of the company's major acquisitions. One of the first was the venerable Final Effects Complete set of After Effects plug-ins -- the first major AE plug-in set. For many early adopters, the opportunity to run Final Effects was in fact a major reason to buy After Effects at all was to run Final Effects.
Soon after, in 2005, Boris FX took on the NLE product line of Media 100, the company where Boris himself first began VFX coding, as well as the ICE plug-ins and After Effects acceleration technology.
THE CUSTOMERS WEIGH IN
"I've worked with Continuum Complete for many years and am continually impressed with the sheer power and large library of useful tools for post," he says. "Imagineer is very excited to be teaming up with one of the leading plug-in developers in the industry, and we will leverage Boris FX's experience with GPU-enhanced acceleration and host integration to improve the mocha family of products."
Ross continues, "Our companies share a common vision: to provide editors and artists with dedicated problem-solving tools that speed up workflows and help users focus on creativity. Combining technical and marketing resources will allow Imagineer to better support our existing customers and help expose the power of mocha to new users in the editorial and broadcast markets. Combined, Boris FX and Imagineer will be supporting almost every professional editing and effects software in the marketplace."
End users have also done the math.
Jake Morrison is a VFX supervisor with Marvel Films, and a member of the Academy. "Imagineer makes amazing tools for the visual effects community," he said. "At the core, their planar tracker is truly one of the most significant technologies for a VFX professional – something recognized by the Academy when they recently received a Sci-Tech Award."
He has of course worked with Imagineer himself. "As both a VFX artist and a production-side VFX supervisor, I've benefitted immensely from their technology and have been an advocate for many years. Fundamentally mocha's toolset enables the user to focus on the creative rather than the technical, allowing them to complete tasks like tracking and rotoscoping in a fraction of the time. Imagineer's strategic partnership with Boris FX is great news; bringing new features and new users to mocha Pro is a win-win for the VFX community at large!"
Boris FX customers are also enthusiastic. Doug Fitzsimmons is a coordinating editor and project leader at ESPN, where Boris Continuum Complete is part of his everyday workflow. As a matter of fact, so is mocha Pro. "The interface, flexibility and quality are paramount for me to create the highest quality content for productions like Major League Baseball," he says. "Additionally, when tracking is part of my design process, mocha Pro is my hands-down, go-to tool. The ease of use and amazing results I can get with mocha open up design opportunities I don't get with other tracking tools.
"To learn that Imagineer and Boris developers are joining forces is really exciting. I am really looking forward to seeing what innovations this Imagineer/Boris team of designers develop, and getting more advanced tracking tools in my Avid timeline."
Since current customers may have additional questions, you can find a FAQ webpage about the merger on the Boris FX blog and on Imagineer Systems' blog.
Typical motion tracking technologies can lose their way with out of focus shots, or when one object obscures another. mocha's planar tracker can solve almost any of these tracking challenges by focusing on entire images, while taking advantage of advanced masking and removal tools to provide far more accurate results in far less time.
Both Boris FX and Imagineer both note that the two companies will retain their individual identities. All developers, product managers, and product specialists will be carrying on, and all of their current offices will be staying put, in Guildford UK, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Melbourne, Australia. This move isn't about consolidation. It's about growth.
Boris FX and Imagineer have both already earned reputations as fast, responsive developers whose products are indispensable to their customers. This really does appear to be an acquisition/merger that offers opportunities in every direction, for the companies, their current customers, and new customers for both companies.
My prediction: expect to see some new heat generated sooner rather than later.