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Autodesk Acquires Alias 325

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the as-the-corporations-turn dept.
eggegg is one of many readers to write to tell us that "Autodesk, of AutoCAD and 3dsmax fame, is reporting that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Alias, makers of Maya and MotionBuilder. Will Autodesk use the inherited expertise and codebase to finally develop their product line for the platforms most of their customer base would prefer, or does this mean the end of development of Alias products on OSX and Linux?"
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Autodesk Acquires Alias

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  • by MrCranky (187240) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @12:12AM (#13719534) Homepage
    to get built for Linux. The whole product embeds every microsoft technology possible, including basing core functionality on IE6. The most likely outcome will be that Alias products will become Windows-only. I give Linux and MacOS Alias products one more rev before it goes strictly Windows.
  • by USSJoin (896766) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @12:12AM (#13719536) Homepage
    Background on Alias's history can be obtained here [wikipedia.org], and background on Autodesk, here [wikipedia.org].

    Hope for the future of Maya on Linux, can be found at /dev/null.
  • by BrynM (217883) * on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @12:16AM (#13719559) Homepage Journal
    Maya Linux has been a long time coming. Alias has proof that not only do regular customers want Linux, high-end studios demand [millimeter.com] it. OSX is in an even better position. The architeture of Maya (a scripting language called MEL [amazon.com] on top of a "kernel" of sorts) makes it quite portable I would think.
  • Re:End of the Line (Score:5, Informative)

    by HMC CS Major (540987) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @12:38AM (#13719648) Homepage
    When you're dealing with niche tools (like 3D and CAD), and you rely on licenses from very expensive software, the licensing stuff is expected.

    Mayas is slightly less intrusive than 3DSM, but the real winner (in my eyes) is Cinema 4D, who's network rendering has the most painless licensing terms.
  • Re:End of the Line (Score:2, Informative)

    by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @12:55AM (#13719715)
    Autodesk is known in the CAD world as being very proactive about coming after users who are using the Student Version for commercial work and pirated copies.

    At least it was in the 90s when I worked with Autodesk tools.
  • Is Blender even a worthy substitute for Maya or Max?


    No.

    For one, its builtin renderer is complete crap when it comes to anything nearing physical accuracy (such as reflections. Yuck), and Yafray, while it's nice, has nothing on Mental Ray when it comes to speed, image quality, or ease of use. Admittedly, on price, it wins. And the LCSM unwrap in blender is quite nice, and I don't know of an equivalent in maya. But I'm a major n00b.

    Not to mention Hypershade owns me. It makes it so easy to make complicated shaders for objects, and do things that you wouldn't think possible.

    So yeah, blender is really nice, and I still prefer poly modeling in it compared to maya. But maya is so much more featureful, it's no competition.
  • Just got the Memo (Score:5, Informative)

    by BrynM (217883) * on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @01:03AM (#13719736) Homepage Journal
    Here's the customer announcement. Funny enough, the Slashdot article is what I saw first. Some geek I am, not checking my mail...October 4, 2005

    From: Alias
    To: bryn
    Date: Wed, 5 Oct 2005 00:49:17 -0400 (EDT)
    Subject: Autodesk Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire Alias

    Dear Alias Customer,

    Today Autodesk and Alias announced the signing of a definitive agreement for Autodesk to acquire Alias.

    Alias is a leading developer of 3D graphics technology, headquartered in Toronto, Canada. Alias develops and delivers software and services for film and video, interactive games, media and the Web. It also develops software and services for consumer products, industrial design, automotive, architecture and visualization customers.

    With more than six million users, Autodesk is the world's leading software and services company for the manufacturing, infrastructure, building, digital media and wireless data services fields. Autodesk's solutions help customers to create, manage and share their digital assets more effectively. The acquisition of Alias will continue to round out our product lines across industry segments.

    As many of you are aware, in the media and entertainment industry, most leading film studios, game developers and high-end visual effects companies use Alias' Maya®, MotionBuilder® and FBX® software. Most also use Autodesk's complementary Inferno®, Flame®, Lustre® and 3ds Max® products. The most demanding industrial designers in the world use Alias' StudioTools(TM), primarily in the automotive and consumer products segments. Bringing this technology to Autodesk will strengthen the manufacturing business by integrating conceptual design as a front-end to Inventor Series and the PLM solution.

    The acquisition also brings to Autodesk a highly talented group of individuals, a wealth of technologies and a great set of products. By combining the technology and talents of two successful, financially healthy companies, we will be better able to continue delivering solutions that address your ever-changing and increasingly complex needs. And yes, Autodesk plans to continue to support and develop Alias products as well as utilize the strength of the combined organization to provide customers with continued innovation and technology development.

    The transaction is expected to close in the next four to six months. Until that time, Autodesk and Alias will continue operating as independent companies and will remain focused on our current customer needs. We do not anticipate any changes with respect to planned product releases for either company. Please continue using your existing contacts for sales, services and support. We will update you on the progress of this acquisition, both directly and online at http://www.autodesk.com/autodeskandalias [autodesk.com].

    On behalf of Autodesk and Alias, we would like to thank you for your business and reiterate our commitment to ensuring that this event which is exciting for both our companies will prove even more so for you.

    Sincerely,

    Carol Bartz
    Chairman and CEO
    Autodesk, Inc.

    Doug Walker
    President and CEO
    Alias

  • by robson (60067) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @01:06AM (#13719744)
    Interestingly that Rhino 3D is picking up users.

    Does anyone know how the big 3 modellers compare? (I know a lot of game dev studios use Max and Maya.) Also, what about Blender?

    While Maya is great for modeling, it's the animation and dynamics tools that really make it stand out. I don't know what apps are best positioned to take Maya's place in these areas. How do Blender's [blender.org] animation tools stand up to Maya's? Anyone tried Project:Messiah [projectmessiah.com]? Maybe this will be just the thing to push Softimage [softimage.com] back into the spotlight...
  • Answers.. answers (Score:5, Informative)

    by jamezilla (609812) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @01:14AM (#13719772) Homepage
    From the Acquisition FAQ [autodesk.com] (warning: PDF):
    Q5: Will planned product releases for Alias or Autodesk be affected and will Autodesk continue to support Alias' products?
    A5: We do not anticipate any changes with respect to planned product releases for both companies. And yes, Autodesk plans to continue to develop Alias products and utilize the strength of the combined organization to provide customers with continued innovation and technology development.

    Q18: Will Autodesk sell all of Alias' products?
    A18: After the transaction closes, Autodesk plans to continue to sell all of the products currently offered by both organizations.

    Q23: What platforms do the Autodesk® 3ds Max® and Alias' Maya software support?
    A23: 3ds Max and Maya software products differ greatly in supported platforms. Maya software supports Linux®, Windows® and Macintosh® operating systems, making it the top choice for platform-sensitive segments like high-end film, whereas 3ds Max software is a Windows application that is used most often in world-building for games. We expect customers to benefit from the wide range of platforms upon which the combined company will offer its products.

    From this info, it looks like they consider Maya and 3DS Max to be in separate market segments - which indeed they are. For cryin' out loud, Pixar uses parts of Maya in their workflow. Who would want to kill that? Maya's the crown jewel of Alias. You can't compare this to the Macromedia acquisition. This would be more akin to Macromedia buying out Adobe to get Photoshop.

  • Re:What about IRIX? (Score:3, Informative)

    by tinrobot (314936) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:27AM (#13719989)
    Actually, Alias was founded in 1983 as an independant company.

    SGI bought both Alias and Wavefront as a response to Microsoft's 1995 purchase of Softimage.

    Alias separated from SGI a few years ago and has been looking for a sugar daddy ever since. There were rumors that Apple was going to buy them, but those were just rumors.
  • by wbattestilli (218782) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:40AM (#13720034)
    The threads on this board are silly. Maya is not going to die on Linux or otherwise. There is too much money to be made. While Max and Maya have some overlap, Max cannot do what Maya does or serve all of Maya's customers. Autodesk doesn't have competition for our AutoStudio product so that is going to stay too. They will keep Alias products around if only because we have a *very* developed services business that is based around Maya and Studio with some *very* large companies.

    It would be reckless of me to speculate further what is exactly going to happen, but Maya in particular is quite beautiful under the hood and has a bunch of life left in it. It is very platform independent. It is flexible enough to turn into almost anything that you need it to be. It's not going anywhere.

    I'm happy about this. The near term impact is that we will have a more complete pipeline to sell in design, film and games. I bet some really nice Maya-Max translation tools pop up as well.
  • by LetterRip (30937) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:45AM (#13720057)
    [QUOTE]But my question is: How does the open source Blender [blender3d.org] modeling and animation package compare to Maya and Max for creating content for movies, animations and games. What is it missing, what does it not do as well, what would it need to be able to compete? Is Blender even a worthy substitute for Maya or Max?[/QUOTE]

    Depends on the studio, developer costs, and what type of animation you want to do. For high end photoreal Blender isn't there yet (render isn't 'high end' enough). For simulation based particle effects (fire, smoke, complex physics, crowd simulations, certain other fluid effects) Blender doesn't have those capabilities or are extremely limited (no volumetric shaders and no simulation system for smoke and flame, crowd dynamics could come shortly after the next release though). For most other TV quality animation, game animation, and small scale movie cinematics Blender is very much a possible consideration. Blender lacks some modeling tools but has a very solid core for subdivision surface modeling and has the truely neccessary tools (additional tools could improve speed and workflow). With much less than half a year of developer time, it could probably be brought to Silo equivalency for modeling, and with a full developer year could challenge Modo or ZBrush in modeling. With a half a year of dev time on texturing it could likely become ZBrush or Modo equivalent. Animation wise the next release will put it mostly on par with other character animation tools (but will still have a serious short coming in that it doesn't have motion capture capabilities). For game developers I noted above the limitations Blender has - again 6 months of developer time.

    So in short it isn't a serious contender today for what major animation studios currently do with Maya or 3dsmax, but with a bit of funding could easily be there within a years time.

    LetterRip
  • by Pseudonym (62607) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @02:46AM (#13720060)

    Indeed. People who have never used Maya probably can't appreciate what it can do, but Blender doesn't even come close.

    Modelling and animation is only part of a visual effects or animation pipeline. Maya's strength is not the fabulous modelling tools (certainly Lightwave's modelling tools are better), but the way that it is customisable. Any part of Maya is customisable. Maya can be whatever you want it to be, and can integrate seamlessly with whatever you want it to integrate with.

    This is a much harder problem than it sounds. Consider a simple Newtonian physics simulation engine. The location and orientation of some object might depend on the simulation (e.g. an object might be moving under gravity). On the other hand, the simulation depends on the location and orientation of objects (e.g. objects can collide). This is a circular dependency. Most animation systems handle this in one of two ways: couple the animation system and the physics simulator, or run the simulation as a post-pass between animation and rendering. Maya (even though it does have a simulator in the base product) can handle it as a plug-in, and the circular dependency is no problem at all. Moreover, you can have multiple special-purpose solvers (fluid solvers, cloth solvers etc), and they all work together automatically, with no coupling with the Maya core.

    It goes deeper.

    Maya has its own shader model. If you don't like it, such as if it's not the model that your renderer uses, you can implement your own as a plugin. No change to the core. It Just Works(tm).

    Unlike 3DS, which requires plug-ins to conform to a fixed set of interfaces (subclass THIS C++ class if you want to implement a shader, subclass THIS if you want to implement a type of geometry, subclass THIS if you want to implement a renderer), in Maya, it's completely generic. You can even implement your own "things" which the Maya core has no concept of (e.g. it's not a shader, it's not geometry, it's not a user control), and everything will just work. Try doing that with Blender.

  • Re:Blender (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @07:14AM (#13720804)
    It's not.

    With version 2.37 the book designed for 2.32 is still completely relevent.

    There are improvements in stability and features, but everything in the book is still accurate. Very little of the UI has changed between the versions, of that was changed is minor improvements in visability/useability that won't confuse you, the keycombos are the same, the major features such as the modeler, animation and UV mapper are the same (just less quite a few bugs and improved stability). It's evolutionary improvements, not revolutionary ones.

    Major differences between versions are outlined on their websites. Things that generally don't get covered in 'learn howto use' manuals such as the excelent blender manual. And you know that irregardless of the application, Maya, Photoshop, 3dsmax, etc etc the manual can't be 100% accurate with the latest and greatest versions of any applications.

    Beleive me, a few years of taking graphic art classes has taught me that you actually have to use this thing called a 'brain' that when it comes to learning to use new applications, even with good books. It takes some interpretation.

    New features for 2.37a include things like a optimized and subsurf division features, New support for 'softbodies' and some force feild and deflection tools for those softbodies. Some new features added to the Python blender API. SMP support for the blender application renderer for faster rendering, added support for transparent filtering in the renderer.

    Everything in the book is still valid. You can go thru the step-by-step instructions for modelling, animating, rendering and not get lost. Most new features and changes won't matter too much except to more advanced users.

    Changelog can be found at http://www.blender3d.org/cms/Releaselogs.34.0.html [blender3d.org]
    It's all very easy to understand.

    Major incremental upgrades in features are in 2.32, 2.34, 2.36, 2.37a versions. The rest are mostly bugfix releases.

    Remember this is Free/OSS software. You get the improvements as the developers work on them.. it's not like Maya or Softimage were it's price tag forces developers to do huge changes between versions to generate sales.

    If your worried about versioning scew just use the version supplied with the book. It has binaries and source code for Windows, OS X, and Linux. No need to download anything at all if you don't feel like it.

    I feel that's its worth it to upgrade to the newest version, even when following out of the book.

  • Re:What about IRIX? (Score:2, Informative)

    by neosake (655724) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @08:12AM (#13721005) Homepage
    Actually the last version of Maya to run on IRIX is Maya 6.5 [alias.com].

    They cite not enough people running it on IRIX for it to be worth it.

  • by black mariah (654971) on Wednesday October 05, 2005 @11:22AM (#13722433)
    With Blender you have complete access to the source code so the problems you have with other software of being limited to how they expose things in their API is nonexistent. Or you could do it as a module and use the built in python scripting.
    None of which means a damned thing because in order to get Blender to the usability of Maya you'd have to... well... BUY MAYA. Blender isn't the same ballpark as Maya. Hell, it's not even the same damn sport. Blender is AT BEST a competent hobbiest plaything. It is NOT a serious tool for film work, no matter what the Blender people try to tell you. It doesn't matter how open the API is or that you have source code. You'd have to rewrite the entire thing in order to even touch Maya's feature set.
    You can do that in Blender too - Blenders internal structure is extremely flexible, adding new types is very easy and everything 'just works'.
    If your idea of "just works" includes everything being buggy as shit, then yeah it works. I've yet to use a Blender plugin or script that didn't crash at least one in three times I use it. The closest anything comes to not imploding is Fiber generator but even that has its issues.

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