New management is guiding the M&E into acting more like the rest of the company.
A consistent topic of conversation on the Siggraph trade show floor was, “So, what do you think of Autodesk?” The open-ended question wasn’t about new products or big initiatives; it was about Autodesk not having a booth. “Poor leadership,” groused one vendor during a private interview. “Sign of the times,” mused another.
Autodesk had its own reasons. For the past year it has noticeably increased the number of virtual events it operates, simultaneously decreasing its presence at trade shows in all of its markets, not just media and entertainment. With chief marketing officer Chris Bradshaw now the official head of M&E, this formerly rogue division is acting more and more like part of the Autodesk family.
Senior M&E industry manager Rob Hoffman told a gathering of journalists and analysts how budget pressures are driving changes in the industry. The public expects mind-boggling special effects, but studios want more for less. On the gaming side, no studio is spending money until things are more settled regarding next-generation consoles. So Autodesk is using the slowdown as a time to standardize its product line and provide additional utility.
Plug-ins for Maya were a constant theme on the Siggraph show floor, and Autodesk was talking up its new Open Data Initiative to help make it easy for users to move data from other products in and out of Maya. “Even Houdini is supporting working with Maya,” says Hoffman. Autodesk knows a thing or two about managing proprietary file formats that its customers think are public standards, having been at times both obstinate and welcoming in the CAD world with its DWG file format. In the case of Maya, welcoming seems to be winning out.
There were some bits of news from Autodesk. FBX Review is a free review app available as a Windows 7 desktop program and a Windows 8 app (tablet or desktop). Similar to its review tools for architecture and manufacturing, FBX Review eliminates the need for management to own authoring tools just to view and comment on work in progress. FBX Review also borrows Autodesk technology to support viewing in OBJ, DXF, and Revit. Other formats will be added in the future, Hoffman said.
Autodesk is moving its support and teaching material for all 2014 M&E products to a Creative Commons license, a usage license that is to copyright what open source is to software. So far 20,000 pages of text, 70 videos, and 140 downloadable 3D assets have been relieved of copyright restriction and made available for reuse under the Creative Commons principle of authenticated sharing. The process of sharing training and support material will continue, Hoffman said, going both back into previous releases and forward as new product materials are released.
The highly anticipated Leap Motion I/O device—the one where you wave your hands and things happen onscreen—shipped last week, and Autodesk is on the bandwagon. If you go to the Leap Motion Airspace store (their version of an app store), a free plug-in for Maya awaits.