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Backstage at Autodesk

February 1, 2007 Article Start Page 1 of 2 Next

Held in mid-December at Montreal’s chic Sofitel Hotel, located at the foot of Montreal’s most famous landmark, Parc Mont Royal, Autodesk’s Backstage Pass event promised a behind the scenes look at Autodesk’s media and entertainment business and the future developments of their product line, which includes 3D animation tools used across the games industry such as 3ds Max, Maya and Motionbuilder, as well as editing and effects tools such as Toxik and Lustre, used in the film industry.

An Introduction to Autodesk’s Media and Entertainment Business

Opening with an address from Marc Petit, the Vice President of Autodesk’s Media and Entertainment division, Petit outlined “The Autodesk Vision.”

Under a heading titled “Ideas visualised, Stories realised,” Petit said “When they want to create a story based on ideas, people turn to our technologies. Autodesk makes stories real.”

Going into detail on Autodesk’s history in the media and entertainment business, Petit revealed that 9 months after acquisition, Maya had had its strongest quarter ever, part of Autodesk’s overall growth, with revenue at year end increasing from $160 million to $172.3 million from 2006 to 2007, even when only the media and entertainment business was considered. A 15% combined growth was projected across the next couple of years.

Marc Petit

The session was handed over to Maurice Patel, the Head of Marketing in the Media and Entertainment division, who continued to drive the point that Autodesk consider themselves as facilitating the creation of “stories” within the film, television, games, and even the design visualisation industries, touting the research and development of their tools and their industry partnerships with the likes of Dell, Intel and Nvidia as part of their success, though in particular stressing Autodesk’s customer service.

Discussing customer successes, Patel quoted Mark Rein as saying “We use the Autodesk software to help us build and animate our models, and to help us achieve the high level of fidelity for next generation consoles.” Which brought Patel neatly to outlining the current state of the games industry and Autodesk’s place in it.

Autodesk and the Games Industry

Using numbers from PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2006-2010, Patel estimated the growth rate of the market at over 11% a year, specifically noting key market drivers as the recent launch of the next-generation consoles, widespread uptake of broadband, more and more older gamers and the increase of the mobile gaming market.

Describing Autodesk’s importance to the HD capable next-generation consoles, Patel stressed the need for efficient tools to control costs, with game development costs spiralling, but it was the discussion of Autodesk’s tools for mobile games that was the most interesting, with Autodesk’s Location Based Services being integrated into games such as TikGames Jewel Chaser Mobile. Patel also stated that Autodesk’s 3D development software was already optimized for mobile games production, in anticipation for the increased adoption of mobile handsets with 3D-enabled hardware.

Autodesk’s 3D Roadmap

Michel Besner

After coverage of the design visualisation and film industries, the agenda moved on to Autodesk’s 3D Roadmap, led by Michel Besner, the Senior Director of Product Management of the Media and Entertainment division. Besner went into detail on the concepts behind the development of Autodesk’s signature 3D tools (3DS Max, Maya and MotionBuilder) and in particular the file standard, FBX, that connects them.

“Before when there was competition between Max and Maya, the only thing people could think about was competing at the feature level,” Besner commented, “but now we are able to look at our customers and ask, ‘what do we have to do for their needs?’ And because of that we have concentrated on interoperability with FBX, to make each of our products a better, more useful product for our customers.”

Besner used the PS3 as an example of the need to pass data between Autodesk products easily. “When we think about ramping up to using the PS3 to its full potential, well, in two or three years when developers are, the amount of data that will be pushed will be absolutely insane.” Along these lines, Besner went on to describe the increase in complexity in data sets using the Unreal Tournament character models as a metaphor, and argued that in future, data sets will be shared between the film and games industries due to the increase in power of consoles.

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