NAB 2013: Autodesk Expands Its Reach
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Since Autodesk introduced a radically re-designed Smoke at last year's NAB, the uptake has been dramatic, says Maurice Patel, Senior Industry Marketing Manager, M&E, Autodesk. In recent years, the company has transitioned from a professional-facing company of 10 million professional users to the addition of over 100 million consumer customers. SketchBook alone has over 15 million users, and Autodesk is developing other applications and technologies for the consumer market.
Tremendous pick-up by consumers and prosumers is a result of tremendous growth in video production for online as well as 3D gaming and strong interest in the corporate and marketing arenas to create better content. In this changing marketplace, Autodesk Smoke is hot. "We're seeing it expand out to people who are very different from our traditional customers," Patel said. "Corporate and agency productions are using better cameras and there's no excuse for things to look bad now. That's where we've seen the growth for Smoke."
Smoke is also becoming a perfect solution for users who are now working on projects that blur editorial and visual effects. "The emphasis will be to make VFX as easy to use as editorial," said Marc Hamaker, Autodesk Senior Product Marketing Manager - Creative Finishing. "Smoke has so much capability, it can get complicated fast. We want to give people tools easy to use but not compromise the look."
Despite this huge growth in consumer applications - and, although Autodesk isn't as siloed as it once was, said Patel - the company still makes a distinction between its consumer and professional markets. "There are a couple of areas where technology blurs the two, such as laptops with graphics cards," said Patel. "But consumers don't use the products in the same way that the professional does."
The professional market is undergoing big changes, said Patel. "We are really talking about an industry under transformation, with areas of growth and areas of consolidation," he said. "We started to talk about the challenges of the VFX industry a few years ago. As we talked to our customers, we realized that customization isn't very sustainable. It's expensive and repetitive. So we started to focus more on open, standardized workflows. There was a need to move to a more efficient workflow."
Just prior to NAB 2013, Autodesk unveiled Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite 2014, which includes updated, 2014 versions of Maya, 3ds Max, MotionBuilder, Mudbox, Softimage and Sketchbook Designer. The suite is packaged in three editions: the Standard edition includes a choice of either Autodesk Maya or Autodesk 3ds Max with Autodesk MotionBuilder, Autodesk Mudbox and Autodesk Sketchbook Designer; the Premium edition offers all the software of the Standard Suite, but with the addition of Autodesk Softimage 3D animation and visual effects software; the Ultimate Suite gives the user everything in the Premium Suite and includes both Maya and 3ds Max.
Autodesk Softimage from the Entertainment Creation Suite 2014
The Autodesk Maya 2014 updates include an expanded modeling feature set; Grease Pencil; and new Paint Effects features to improve productivity. The Maya DX11 Shader, with updated Viewport 2.0, offers a real-time environment; and new Scene Assembly, a File Path Editor and URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) makes it easier to build and manage large, complex environments.
Maya 2014 Joint Symmetry
Autodesk 3ds Max 2014 features a new Populate for easy generation of moving or idle crowds with lifelike human activity. Other updates include a more efficient, enhanced Particle Flow toolset and a viewport that supports Microsoft DirectX 11 shaders. Autodesk Softimage 2014 offers a new Camera Sequencer toolset to cut between multiple cameras to edit clips; directorial control over scenes; improved CrowdFX and ICE and an enhanced Viewport. Also on tap is improved support for animation data exchange via the Autodesk FBX 2014 format.
Autodesk 3ds Max 2014 DX11 shaders
Autodesk MotionBuilder 2014 now offers Linux OS support as well as new motion capture workflow options; easier methods for positioning, measuring and selecting objects; custom viewport renderers; and an API for file referencing. Autodesk Mudbox 2014 now has single-click automatic and manual options for manipulating meshes or control aspects of the output mesh. Multi-touch workflows also support stencils and other touch-enabled input devices. SketchBook Designer 2014 is a hybrid paint/vector toolset for sketching, painting, image compositing workflows; easy color manipulation; and mixed media workflows, all featuring a scalable user interface via pen or mouse.
Also at NAB 2013, Autodesk announced two partnerships. Blackmagic Design and Autodesk intend to collaborate on future integrations of their technologies, including testing and developing of workflows between Autodesk software and Blackmagic Design's PCIe and Thunderbolt-based desktop video capture and playback products, including the DeckLink, UltraStudio and Intensity product lines.
Autodesk also inked an enterprise technology agreement with Technicolor, which includes "flexible global access to a broad range of Autodesk's technology portfolio to help meet Technicolor's needs, as well as global priority support and consulting services." According to Chris Bradshaw, Autodesk Senior Vice President, Autodesk Media & Entertainment, "this is one of the very first enterprise level agreements to combine a comprehensive suite of our software with our Creative Finishing technology." Autodesk has updated the existing Technicolor Digital Intermediate Suite, and Technicolor's access to Autodesk products range from Maya to the Autodesk AutoCAD products and Autodesk Vault. Autodesk Flame Premium will be available to colorists in the worldwide Technicolor and Digital Production network, throughout all regions.
With its success in the consumer/prosumer market, Autodesk is poised to create new toolsets that will ultimately benefit all of its customers. The agreement with Blackmagic Design promises interesting developments for users of both companies' technologies. And the enterprise technology agreement with Technicolor points to another possible way that software companies can manage Software as a Service (SaaS) business models that appeal to large companies with far-flung operations. It'll be interesting to check in by NAB 2014 and see how all these new opportunities have developed.
Follow Debra Kaufman on Twitter @MobilizedDebra