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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

Autodesk at SIGGRAPH 2014: Does Absence Make the Heart Grow Fonder?

August 27th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

SIGGRAPH 2014 was held this year in Vancouver, British Columbia, a venue that was great, but one that was guaranteed to have a smaller draw than when the annual computer graphics conference is held in Los Angeles. By smaller draw, I mean not only fewer attendees, but also fewer exhibitors.

This year’s most noticeable absence on the show floor was Autodesk, a giant in media and entertainment (M&E). However, was it really that surprising? On one hand, yes; but on the other hand, no.

Autodesk 3ds Max at SIGGRAPH 2014

It seems that although Autodesk did not have their usual large tract of real estate on the exhibit floor, they did throw a big offsite party where their new product versions and M&E accomplishments were showcased. Keep in mind, Autodesk was hardly alone in using this tactic this year, as more and more vendors employ it as a means of trying to captivate a captive audience. Exhibiting at any conference is an expensive proposition, and Autodesk probably figures that an offsite event provides more focus on their part and attention on the part of their invitees.

Keep in mind, too, that Autodesk has a lot more competition than it has ever had from companies offering very capable M&E products at a lower cost, including an increasing number that are open source, so for whatever reason, may feel less compelled to try and compete on the noisy show floor.

I interviewed Maurice Patel, Autodesk Entertainment Industry Manager at SIGGRAPH 2014 and he seemed most interested in talking not about the company’s lack of presence on the show floor, but more about the recent acquisition of Shotgun Software. However, he made it perfectly clear that Autodesk is absolutely committed to the M&E market for the long haul.

In late June, Autodesk signed a definitive agreement to acquire Shotgun Software, a developer of scalable, cloud-based production tracking, review, and asset management software for the film, television and games industries. Shotgun’s tools for production management are used by some of the world’s leading production studios, and are tightly integrated with many of the most widely used tools in the industry including Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Maya software. Not surprisingly, the terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

“Shotgun and Autodesk share a vision of an industry-wide, cloud-based production management system,” said Don Parker, Shotgun co-founder and chief executive officer. “Autodesk’s broad global network and development resources will speed up the pace of innovation and development of our global platform. Together, we will extend our tools deeper into the production process, and develop new solutions that best support the studios of the future.”

Shotgun Software Production Management Platform

Since the launch of the Shotgun tools in 2006, it has become widely-adopted across the industry, providing business tools for managers and visual collaboration tools for artists and supervisors working as distributed teams. More than 500 customers including a number of leading studios are using Shotgun’s customizable system and contribute to the ongoing development of its growing ecosystem of applications.

“The acquisition of Shotgun will accelerate Autodesk’s efforts to deliver solutions that help our creative customers solve the critical problem of operating more efficiently by collaborating globally to deliver increasingly complex productions on time and budget,” said Chris Bradshaw, senior vice president, Autodesk Media & Entertainment. “Shotgun brings deep expertise and industry-leading technology in cloud products and production management, so we welcome the team, customers, and community to Autodesk.”

I also interviewed Matt Welker, Head of Street Team, Shotgun Software. Before the interview I asked him about his title and he said, “Street team is a client care team and implies the team is on the street with ear to the ground, interacting with clients.”

The company showed three new products at SIGGRAPH:

  • Shotgun Review for iPhone – lets supervisors review work from artists from anywhere.
  • Shotgun Desktop App – shows up in system tray so artists know what context they’re in without having to keep a browser open.
  • Integration with The Foundry’s MARI – integrates texturing tool with Autodesk’s Maya.

As for what distinguishes his company from the competition, Welker said that Shotgun builds specific tools for specific studio job roles, such as artists, managers, pipeline engineers, etc., and not just one tool fits all.

He said that Shotgun’s motivation for the acquisition was filling a lot of voids that its clients had. Acquisition helps fulfill the vision of where they want the product line to go and relatively quickly. They looked at crowdfunding, but was pleased that Autodesk had much the same vision for production management that Shotgun had, so they pursued the acquisition route. The acquisition built on their relationship and provided a great opportunity for both parties.

Back to Autodesk and SIGGRAPH . . .

It will be interesting to see if Autodesk M&E has a bigger presence at SIGGRAPH next year in Los Angeles. The company may just have figured out a better way to get more bang from their buck.

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