Tuesday, April 9th, 2019 Posted by Jim Thacker

Maxon buys Redshift

Maxon Computer has acquired Redshift Rendering Technologies, developer of the Redshift GPU production renderer, and all of its staff. The deal was announced at NAB 2019.

Both firms have stated that pricing, licensing and development roadmaps for Redshift will not change, and that Maxon will continue to support non-Cinema 4D editions of the renderer.

What is Redshift?
Since its launch in 2014, Redshift has quickly become one of the most disruptive tools in visual effects.

A rare example of a biased GPU renderer, it was also one of the first GPU render engines to make significant headway into visual effects production – in large part, thanks to its combination of speed and stability.

The software is in use at studios including Technicolor, Polygon Pictures, Digital Domain and Blizzard Entertainment, on projects including Black Panther, Aquaman and Captain Marvel.

Why does Redshift want to sell up to Maxon?
For Redshift Rendering Technologies, the motivation for the deal seems to have been very similar to that of fellow render engine developer Solid Angle when it sold up to Autodesk in 2016: being part of a larger company helps with the parts of running a business that aren’t related to software development.

“We’re rendering programmers and we should be focusing on exactly that,” commented Redshift co-founder and CTO Panos Zompalos in a thread on the company’s forum.

“The success of Redshift so far has been because of the product and the effort we put in it. It wasn’t because of some amazing business/sales/marketing skill.”

“With Maxon behind us, we’ll be able to primarily focus on development and not ‘the other stuff’.”

Why does Maxon want to buy Redshift?
For Maxon, the buyout gives it a tool complementary to its flagship 3D software, Cinema 4D.

Although Redshift was originally developed for Maya and Softimage, it now integrates with a range of DCC tools, including 3ds Max, Houdini, Katana and Cinema 4D itself.

In episodic broadcast work, one of Maxon’s core markets, Reshift has been used on some fairly high-profile shows, including American Gods, Gotham and The Expanse.

It also gives Maxon a foothold in movie visual effects that – UI design work aside – it has been lacking since its BodyPaint 3D texture painting toolset was overtaken in production by newer tools like Mari.

Will Maxon integrate Redshift into Cinema 4D?
While Maxon states that Zompalos and his colleagues will “work closely with our … rendering development team”, integration of Redshift into Cinema 4D doesn’t seem to have been a focus for the deal.

While Maxon’s FAQs state that it will work to make integration between the two products “even better than it is today”, they also emphasise that Redshift is a separate product.

A consideration here may be that Redshift is based on CUDA, Nvidia’s proprietary GPU computing API, whereas a significant proportion of Cinema 4D users, particularly those on Macs, use AMD GPUs.

Maxon recently integrated Radeon ProRender, AMD’s own GPU render engine, into Cinema 4D as its native GPU renderer, although it’s geared more towards general CG work than visual effects.

Many of Maxon’s users have also invested in competiting third-party GPU renderers, with Otoy’s OctaneRender having a strong following in the Cinema 4D community.

Maxon says that it “completely understand[s] that users have preferences … for specific rendering engines” and that it will “continue to provide a robust API and development support for all third-party engines”.

Will Redshift pricing, licensing or development change?
According to both firms, very little will change for Redshift users in the short term.

Maxon’s online FAQs state that neither pricing or licensing have changed, and that “Redshift’s existing roadmap and development plan remain intact”.

That includes “active development” of the non-Cinema 4D editions of the renderer, along with the upcoming Blender edition and future releases like Redshift 3.0 and real-time engine RedshiftRT.

In his forum post, Zompalos states that his team is currently hiring developers, and that work on Redshift’s core rendering features will “proceed at a faster pace than before”.

What will happen in the longer term is less certain: the fact that a company has stated that something won’t happen in the short term doesn’t preclude it from happening a few years down the line.

However, Maxon’s FAQs are pretty straightforward: its statements that nothing has changed aren’t qualified by phrases like ‘for the foreseeable future’, which isn’t always the case in such buyouts.

How have Redshift’s users reacted?
Perhaps because of this, the early response to the deal from both companies’ users has been positive.

While there are a few negative forum comments, usually expressing fears that Redshift’s close relationship with its users will be diluted by the buyout, they’re in the minority.

Compared to other recent buyouts in the CG industry, particularly Adobe’s acquisition of Allegorithmic, this seems to have been something that most users welcomed.

Read Maxon’s official FAQs about its acquisition of Redshift Rendering Technologies