Timing is Everything
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 11 (November 2005)

Timing is Everything

As the excitement perpetuated across the ether, my plane was landing in, of all places, Toronto, where I was preparing to meet with Alias for what I believed to be a late-afternoon get-together. Completely oblivious to the breaking news, I approached Alias’s headquarters, casually noting a handful of employees with slightly stunned looks on their faces. “Long day for them,” I thought, and went inside. A few minutes later, I had the look, too.

Shortly thereafter, I found myself jumping into a cab to meet with Doug Walker, president of Alias, and Martin Vann, vice president of Autodesk Media and Entertainment, to discuss the news of the day: Autodesk’s acquisition of Alias.

“Our DNA is the same,” says Walker. “We have a huge investment in complimentary 3D solutions. It’s a natural, logical match.” However logical it may seem to Autodesk and Alias, there has been an outpouring of concern within the creative community as to how this union will impact production pipelines, both large and small. Are Alias’s products going to be absorbed into Autodesk’s offerings? Will product development, training, and customer support suffer? Are product road maps going to change? Is research and development going to be affected?

Autodesk holds firm that the acquisition of Alias and its assets will not affect either company’s existing products or customers. It also states, after the sale is finalized, it will continue to focus on creating a suite of software and services that complement each other. While the discontinuation of products or brands is not currently planned, Autodesk did say that, eventually, the markets they both serve will converge. “We are uniquely positioned to drive the convergence of design and entertainment,” says Vann, stating that studios at the forefront of the convergence are already repurposing their 2D and 3D design assets across the design and effects industries, which is convenient and cost-effective.

The ace in the hole for this convergence is the FBX file format, which Alias acquired last year in its purchase of Kaydara. FBX plays an integral part in next-gen interoperability as assets are exchanged across disciplines, which Autodesk believes, will become more commonplace as companies repurpose assets for marketing, manufacturing, branding, product development, and advertising. “Our customers tell stories,” says Walker. “And storytelling will evolve into a much larger process.” One example involves using a manufacturing model, such as a truck or car, bringing it into a game engine to see how the vehicle interacts within the environment, using it for branding and advertising within the game, and exporting it for use in feature-film effects or broadcast advertising. Both Vann and Walker believe the FBX file format will become the transport layer that helps make this type of scenario a reality.

“We are competitive and complimentary,” says Walker. “Alias’s strong design business fits nicely for Autodesk’s customers in the automotive, film, and design pipelines. Our customers will help fuel the growth between the two companies.”

Kelly Dove