One of the surprise acquisition announcements to come out of IBC 2016 (I mean besides Blackmagic buy Fairlight) was the announcement that Boris FX had acquired GenArts and the heavyweight effects package Sapphire. It came as a surprise since Boris FX makes the competing plug-in package Boris Continuum Complete. There are probably a lot of users of either and both packages who wonder what this might mean for the products they have invested time and money in.The time investment is an important one in this case as both the Sapphire and BCC package takes quite a big time investment in which to master them. I think if you know one well it’s entirely possible to move to the other but even that will take time to learn.
I had a chat with Boris FX founder and leader Boris Yamnitsky about this acquisition of GenArts. I saw several questions floating around the internet after this announcement so I tried to ask the obvious questions that many of us would ask. Of course I didn’t expect that all the questions would be answered but there is some good information below about the merger. Lets talk about the Boris FX / GenArts merger.
ProVideo Coalition: This Boris / GenArts news was a surprise. Can you give it more details on the merger? Did Boris FX buy GenArts outright?
Boris Yamnitsky: Boris FX acquired GenArts, but all the financial details are confidential. We really view this as a “merger” and the three product teams (including Imagineer Systems) plan to work closely together to help advance and improve the Sapphire, Continuum and mocha Pro product lines.
Is this just an acquisition of the Sapphire package?
No, the acquisition of GenArts was just as much about acquiring the team behind Sapphire as GenArts itself. The majority of GenArts employees (developers, sales & support) are staying on with the new organization and will continue to develop and support Sapphire. The teams will share an office location in downtown Boston, MA. Gary Oberbrunner, (Chief Scientist and a Founder of GenArts) will become CTO for the combined company and Nick Rodriguez (Sales) and Brian Fox (Products) will both be very involved in senior management roles.
What happens to Monsters GT and Particleillusion?
Monsters GT was recently retired prior to the merger. Particle Illusion is currently supported as a standalone application only, and we look forward to rethinking the future of this legendary tool once the dust settles.
How many people does GenArts employ? Will they continue to work for GenArts? Any layoffs as a result of this merger?
All of that info is private and confidential, but we are happy to reiterate this is not a cost cutting acquisition, rather it is a fantastic growth opportunity to leverage the experience and technology from these 3 industry mainstays.
The Continuum Complete and Sapphire packages are generally seen as competing products, will they continue to be separate packages or will they merge into one?
For the foreseeable future, customers can anticipate no major changes. This is all very new for us, so it does not make sense to speculate on long range plans at this time, but I can say that Sapphire is not going away. The product will definitely continue to be sold, supported and developed as a flagship plugin package for editing, visual effects and motion graphics. We are about to start shipping Sapphire 10 now and already have some very exciting ideas for Sapphire 11. Sapphire owners can be assured that the software will be developed and improved, and continue to be an important part of the post production industry.
Sapphire is often seen are the more high-end of the BCC and Sapphire products, might we see the BCC model change as a result of the Sapphire acquisition?
Again, it is too early to make any statements or speculations about product changes, however BCC is very well regarded in the post community for powerful image restoration tools, 3D objects, the integration of mocha tracking and much more. I would say that Sapphire and BCC serve both the high and mid end markets, and customers can plan on the two products continuing to fill these roles.
Any pricing changes on the horizon?
Nothing major at this point, but In the future, customers should expect to see various bundle options for product combinations. For example, when Boris FX acquired Imagineer Systems, mocha Pro was included in the Boris Box Set. Since many customers own combinations such as: BCC + Sapphire OR Sapphire + mocha Pro OR BCC + mocha Pro, we will certainly look to explore more product bundles.
What will happen with duplicated effects between the BCC and Sapphire package?
All overlapping effects in both packages will be maintained for backwards compatibility for existing users, however, in the future users will see less similarity in the newly developed effects. This will allow both teams the cost saving that can be channeled to developing new innovative technologies.
How will this acquisition affect existing customers who have spend money on both packages?
It’s business as usual and we do not anticipate any changes. However, by merging our teams together, we expect to see added benefits in general customer communications, sales and tech support.
Any chance we’ll see mocha tracking integrated into Sapphire?
That sounds fantastic and it’s very much in-line with our strategy of leveraging our combined technologies. But we are not making any new product or feature announcements at this point.
BCC and Sapphire have a strong market in Avid Media Composer customers partly because there aren’t many third party developers building tools for Media Composer. How do you address the Avid customers who think that bringing both major packages under the same roof will slow innovation and possible increase costs for the end user?
Definitely not slowing the innovation. Both teams have years of experience developing for AVX platform and now can combine their expertise and “compare notes”. Boris FX was the first (and the only!) plugin developer who brought common VFX tools such as motion tracking and spline masking to Avid over a decade ago. Now, these same tools are powered by Academy-Award winning mocha technology. GenArts has created a nodal based compositor right inside Media Composer with the Sapphire Effect and Transition Builder. This provides Avid editors with truly limitless options for creating new effects and transitions. We are by no means finished with innovating for Media Composer, we still have many surprises up our sleeve. We are definitely NOT slowing the innovation, rather we plan on really hitting the gas and accelerating development!
Why is there so much less third party development for Avid than Adobe or Apple NLE products? Is it the Media Composer plug-in architecture or the costs to be an Avid developer? I often hear it’s both.
Unlike After Effects, Avid is not a compositing or VFX platform so delivering VFX solutions in Avid is a special technical challenge. It is no surprise that other plug-in developers shy away from it. Boris FX was the first plug-in solution for the AVX architecture. At the time, the Avid AVX team had chosen Boris FX as the development partner to iron out initial problems with the new architecture. As a result, our team has the deep knowledge of the platform that is hard to attain by a third party.
With this merger will we continue to see Sapphire available on the large number of platforms that can currently host it? Will Sapphire come to Final Cut?
Both Boris FX and GenArts teams strive to cover as many platforms as possible. Every new user is very valuable to us. Combined, we have 40 (!!!) years of plug-in development history and much of this time was spent porting to and maintaining various host platforms our users wanted us to support. Boris FX had very strong presence on Apple FCP market and deep technical knowledge of the FxPlug architecture. GenArts had a similar experience in the past. FCPX support will be considered, but again, we are not making any product announcements at this point.
Anything else about his Boris FX / GenArts news we need to know?
Just that we are all very excited! This merger means that the people behind BCC, Sapphire, and mocha are all now coworkers and colleagues. Sharing stories, best practices, tips, tricks, techniques, etc. The potential for collaboration on new products is remarkable and we can’t wait to start putting it to the work. The end winner out of this whole deal is the customer, because what we plan on developing as a team will surely redefine the VFX space as we know it today.