An open letter to Autodesk.
My name is Alastair Hearsum. I’m a founding partner, director and head of 3d at Glassworks. If you haven’t heard of us, we are a small to midsized company which has been creating VFX and animation for TV commercials for markets around the world, for the past 20 years. We have branches in London, Amsterdam and Barcelona. We create innovative and multi award winning work and we use Softimage.
Your announcement that you are retiring Softimage has left us saddened, disappointed and not a little angry. The anger for two reasons; that you have shot the racehorse of the 3d software world in the head in its prime but also that you didn’t consult with us about this assassination or discuss any of your plans for the future with us. We have no idea what the future from you holds. We are big and longstanding users of other Autodesk products as well as Softimage. The puzzling thing is, technologically speaking, there was no writing on the wall as there was with Henry and Flame, for example, or these days with Flame and Nuke.
We have been punching above our weight, in London, for the past 20 years competing well with the much larger organisations of MPC, Framestore and The Mill. One of the reasons we have been able to do that, apart from the deep talent of our crew is, I believe, because of the software that we chose. I’m of advanced years now but I still sit at the computer making pictures for TV commercials to the same arduous schedule that I always have. So I know what I’m talking about. For a period a few years back we had a 50/50 split of Maya and Softimage. We chose to go 100% Softimage. Its better for the work that we do and the sector we are in. Its no coincidence that all the finalists in the recent British Animation Awards (tv commercials) did their work in Softimage. Similarly, both silver and gold award winners in the 3d animation category at this year’s British Television Advertising Craft awards were Softimage companies.
You may well go on to list major work that’s been done in Maya. Sure there has, and great work too. But Maya is used as a shell in the major film effect companies. It is heavily customised and unrecognisable as the product you ship. We have our proprietary software and tailored workflow as well, but Softimage remains pretty much untouched. It is lean, efficient, and the ICE environment is innovative and empowering.
So you’ve done it. What’s next? Like I said we have had vague information about what the future holds. We hear rumours about bi-frost and that’s about it. From what I understand from various sources there are no plans to replicate the efficient workflow and full ice functionality that made us so productive.
The final thought is not just about what software is best for our future but also about what sort of software supply company we want to get into bed with. The attributes that come top of my list: listening to customers, acting on their recommendations, speedy development, innovation. Now does that sound like you?
I agree with everything here - and would like to add, that the same goes for other programs.
Lets talk about Smoke. We've been waiting on news about Smoke-on-Mac compatibility with new Mac Pros now for months. While Flame may be used less these days, Smoke will be used more, to achieve fast onlines with client attends at all studio, agency, and post levels (rather than just expensive post houses). But we can't move forwards, or forward plan our businesses, as Autodesk will not communicate their future plans to us. I am now questioning whether the felxibility and power of Smoke is worth continuing to invest in, as there is no roadmap, no timeline, no deadlines, no announcements.
The fact is, I can't offer the same service on Nuke and Heiro that I can with Smoke. Not yet, anyway. But if you're not going to listen to us, give us any answers, or even clues as to WHEN something will be done, WHY it will be done, HOW it will be done, then how can we trust you?
I currently place far more trust in Adobe and The Foundry, as they talk about future plans, demo future releases ahead of time, and FIX things in a timely manner, so as to minimize the downtime of their customers.
More frustrated every day this drags on,
Well done Alastair.
I think you have managed to sum up a lot of the collective thoughts of many users very well.
I would like to back you up and say that some of the best work we saw on the Softimage reels over many years
(prior to Autodesk) was from Glassworks. And it wasn't one or two jobs, there was a consistent stream of great work
and my congratulations to you and the team.
It is without doubt that this decision and announcement has brought on a flood of unrest from the user
base. To many users, their chosen software is like a religion to them. It's like deciding to let us all know
that catholicism will end in 2016 and you should look to turn towards islam, budhism or any of our other religions
and there will be a fee. And letters like Alastairs' and replies like mine are the mondern day equivalent of the
peasants marching upon the castle with flames aloft.
The decision highlights the monolithic untouchable nature of Autodesk. Forums or users speaking
to each other which is what 'support' has been for many years. (Although, in the end it is far better)
no lines of communication other than the occasional junket trip from an executive who nods
and smiles and looks for ways to get you to buy something.
It is without doubt a difficult task to maintain all the packages and the dev teams for the software Autodesk has acquired
on their rampage across the landscape. Of course they will need to shed a few along the way. What is baffling
is how Autodesk can expect to maintain any customer loyalty by the manner in which this has been done.
And why you would shed the product that needs the least work ?
Of course long term Softimage customers will not be happy. I'm one. But the blurb about moving to the other
Autodesk products is quite simply hilarious. An unrealistic expectation by a suit that has been part of the decision
and has to justify it internally to his colleagues has become part of the spiel. I for one don't think I will be listening.
It's something I learnt from you guys after all.
Flame owners will know the pain of the pathway upwards with new hardware and the dropping of support
for the old. 'Old' being 18 months. It seems that many companies have their profits removed because they
are slugged with unexpected upgrades and costs by the manner in which Autodesk operates.
Prices on the software have dropped over the years. My first XSI license was the equivalent of US$25K.
As customers, we want it cheaper, Autodesk want a profit and dev teams are 'let go' and the race to the bottom
is upon us.
Maybe there's an option to keep Softimage alive. If not, then many companies will simply use a crack of the
2015 version and use it for many years. No matter what, Autodesk have just cut off a stream of income.
I will be moving towards Cinema4D. I've got an Adobe subscription, I will learn the hell out of C4D, and will
never have to deal with any of the Autodesk shenanigans again.
I hear that many users are simply deciding between Houdini and C4D. A decision that is all about avoiding the
company that has strangled the golden goose. I love the term Alastair used of 'Racehorse'. It's so very appropriate.
When you look at Autodesk buying Alias for US$195M and Softimage for US$35M (are these figures correct ?)
you would think that there needs to be a few sales to cover that kind of money. It couldn't simply be about
killing off a competitor could it ?
Lots of development has gone into iPad apps like 123DCatch and other 123D series products to capture the
6-15 year olds and to make creation tools better for the novice in the days leading up to the 3D printing
explosion which has meant that the focus of Autodesk is elsewhere.
Goodbye Autodesk. We will all find a way to never be involved with you ever again.
To all the Mayans reading this..... you're next.
Softimage|3D since 1990
XSI since 2001
C4D since 2014
i agree totally , before i came to Canada i was working in Malaysia and south pacific region . In addition, i know there is many talented and professional 3D studios, depending on XSI since 2000; it is very unacceptable to kill such a great software just because Autodesk marketing department failed to promote it probably
I attended the 2010 and 2011 Autodesk promotional annual ceremony, each new feature in Maya or 3D max , it is built in feature 3 years before in XSI
The composition feature also is unique, Autodesk is running a monopoly business in 3D software (almost) but it is very unfair to treat Softimage users like this
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