The blurring of job roles within post and vfx (with colourists doing bits of vfx, for example) is gathering momentum, with the current generation of vfx artists apparently keen to “break out of silos” and become experts at everything.

Autodesk calls them ‘suite students’ and is taking them very seriously. To the point where it’s re-engineered key elements of its vfx programmes (3ds Max, Maya, Motion Builder, MudBox, Softimage and Smoke on the Mac) to make them much more closely integrated.

It’s Autodesk’s belief that the ‘old days’ when artists specialised in a single application are gone. So, the forthcoming 2012 releases of its vfx software packages isn’t just about flash new vfx features, it’s “the moment you’ll see things differently in a truly integrated environment – there are no longer silos, we’re driving commonality in all our products,” says Marc Petit, senior vp of media and entertainment.

This functionality is most obvious in a new universal interface shared by all the applications and ‘one click’ transfers from one package to the next.

Petit reveals Autodesk has also scrapped its separate product development teams and replaced them with a centralised design team working across all its creative products.

Meanwhile, Autodesk Flame Premium (Flame, Smoke and Lustre packaged together) has also been fine-tuned to remove all incompatibilities between the three applications and to give them the same look and feel of interface.

But is all this convergence necessarily a good thing? It makes sense from an efficiency point of view, but whether vfx artists or colourists welcome it is quite another thing. “It will involve a change in persona of what a colourist, for example, will be in the future – it’s a Darwinian process and some will be scared of ‘foreign’ ideas, while others will embrace it,” says Autodesk’s lead product designer Philippe Soeiro.

And, to quote Darwin: “It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Staff Reporter