Autodesk Scoops Up Softimage

27 Oct, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

Media and entertainment consolidation puts AutoCAD giant at top.

With 3ds Max and Maya safely tucked in its portfolio, Autodesk currently owns two of the three top software choices for digital content creation (DCC). But that's about to change.

Last week, Autodesk paved the way to snatch up the last holdout, Softimage, by signing an agreement to buy Avid Technology's business unit responsible for the software.

Bargain Hunting
As it happens, Avid's Softimage team is located in Montreal, Canada, the site where Autodesk's media and entertainment (M&E) division is located. When Avid bought Softimage from Microsoft in 1998, it paid $285 million in cash and stock. By contrast, Autodesk's purchase price for Softimage is a mere $35 million.

Earlier last week, announcing a net loss of $66.4 million for the quarter ending in September 2008, Avid revealed it plans to "divest the Softimage 3D animation product line. In addition, the company announced a reduction in work force to better align its cost structure around the core businesses."

Autodesk's M&E division is the outcome of a series of buyouts, beginning with the company's purchase of Discreet Logic in 1999, followed by the purchase of Alias in 2006. The first acquisition allowed Autodesk to merge Discreet with Kinetix, the Autodesk division responsible for 3ds Max development. The second netted Autodesk two major additions to its 3D software lineup: AliasStudio (formerly Alias StudioTools) and Maya.

A few DCC favorites still remain outside the Autodesk empire. They include LightWave 3D from NewTek and Houdini from Side Effects.

Softimage in Transit
In the FAQ document about the acquisition, Autodesk explains, "Autodesk was presented with the opportunity to acquire Softimage's state-of-the-art 3D animation technology as well as hire members of the highly experienced, world-class product development team. … It is hoped that this acquisition will promote Autodesk's growth in the fast-growing games market and accelerate its strategy to deliver real-time, interactive 3D authoring tools for games, film, and television."

In the same document, Autodesk outlines the products it's bringing into its fold:

  • Softimage XSI, for 3D animation
  • Softimage Face Robot, for human facial animation
  • Softimage Cat, for advanced character animation (also a 3ds Max plug-in)
  • Softimage Crosswalk, for transferring XSI content into the 3ds Max and Maya workflows

Autodesk says it plans to "create more efficient workflows between Softimage XSI and its other software products, using the power of the platform-independent Autodesk FBX software 3D data interchange solution."

Autodesk has already announced its plan to make Softimage Cat part of 3ds Max. Similarly, Softimage Crosswalk is destined to become part of the file-shuffling technology in Autodesk products.