Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 Posted by Jim Thacker

The best of last week’s CG news in brief

CG Channel was on holiday last week, so instead of conventional news, we posted our list of five CG technologies to watch this summer. Here’s our digest of the key stories to break while we were away.

1. Autodesk to acquire Shotgun Software

The big tech news of the week was that Autodesk is to buy Shotgun Software, developer of Shotgun: the visual effects industry’s go-to asset-management system, used in over 500 studios worldwide.

The official press release only has the bare bones of the deal (financial terms not disclosed, expected to close before 31 July), but Shotgun CEO Don Parker is more forthcoming on the company’s blog.

fxguide has an excellent analysis, noting that the dev team will triple in size, but also raising key issues: Shotgun’s close relationship with The Foundry, and Autodesk’s checkered history with previous acquisitions.

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. VFX are being handled by Double Negative, which has just announced its intention to merge with animation giant Prime Focus, to create a business of around 4,000 employees.

2. Double Negative and Prime Focus to merge

Mergers and acquisitions seemed to be the theme of the week. Prime Focus World and Double Negative are also to merge, creating the world’s largest provider of visual effects, animation and 3D conversion services.

Variety’s report sums up the key facts: Prime Focus is majority shareholder in the merged company, but Double Negative’s name will be used for its visual effects business.

Double Negative execs Alex Hope and Matthew Holben, who are heading up the VFX business, both get board positions, and the freedom to cherry pick from Prime Focus’s existing effects facilities and infrastructure.

3. Fabric Engine adds GPU compute to Fabric Engine 1.12

Of the new software released during the week, the most significant – at least for the top end of the market – was Fabric Engine 1.12, which adds support for GPU computing to the VFX tools development platform.

Developer Fabric Software has been talking about the GPU for a couple of years, but the release is timely: since GTC this year, many mid-sized facilities have begun to see GPU computing as a practical possibility.

The 1.12 update should let studios develop GPU-capable tools without the need for a large, dedicated R&D team: a strategy Fabric Engine is promoting as “zero cost experimentation”.

“You take your code in KL [Fabric Engine’s native JavaScript-like language] and it’s as easy as flipping a switch – it simply works on the GPU,” said Fabric Software co-founder Peter Zion.

However, there’s also a lot more in Fabric Engine 1.12. Keep an eye on the new rigging toolbox: still very new in 1.12, but expected to grow in future releases.

4. Blender 2.71 ships

Blender also continued its recent rapid pace of development, with version 2.71 extending many of the open-source software’s key toolsets and continuing the ongoing overhaul of the user interface.

The most eye-catching changes are to the Cycles render engine, including support for texture baking, deformation motion blur, and rendering fire and smoke: seen above in the video from BlenderDiplom.

However, there are also key changes to the animation toolset, and useful updates to sculpting and painting.

5. Eye candy: the new Unreal Engine 4 Android demo

And finally, some eye candy. Created to showcase the upcoming Android L, the new Unreal Engine 4 ‘Rivalry’ demo was originally created for a DirectX 11-class PC but runs on Nvidia’s Tegra K1 mobile processor.

We’ve already seen Unreal Engine running on iOS 8, but for us, the new demo goes a step further in backing up claims of “PC gaming graphics in your pocket” – this time, the words of Google’s Dave Burke.