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Lucasfilm and GenArts Expand Partnership

A new strategic partnership has been reached between Lucasfilm and GenArts, the makers of software plug-ins for Autodesk Flame and Inferno and Avid editing products such as Sapphire.

The plan is to not only broaden GenArts software and composting technology across all media, including TV, animation and videogames, but to also penetrate every Lucasfilm division as well. While Lucasfilm already has a strategic alliance with Autodesk, CTO Richard Kerris told VFXWORLD that it is not this deep. And this marks the first such studio agreement for the Boston-based GenArts.

GenArts software will be deployed across compositing host systems at Lucasfilm companies, including Industrial Light & Magic, Lucasfilm Animation and Lucasfilm Animation Singapore, making it a standard component of its compositing pipeline.

"GenArts' vision is to help artists and companies like Lucasfilm bring to audiences that same level of cinematic quality experience we see in film to videogames and other media," suggested GenArts CEO Katherine Hays.

"We have been a customer of GenArts technology for over 12 years and our artists have come to depend on it for finishing touches that go on to bring believability to the environments," Kerris added. "About a year ago, when they told me about their vision for technology and to get into the games space, it was apparent that our vision was complementary. We've been taking ILM proprietary technology and made game technology out of it that was used for THE FORCED UNLEASHED. And we're really pushing into that space quite aggressively.

"And one of the key factors for us on how to do that is to focus our internal proprietary R&D to be on those big, hard, breakthrough things, whether it's natural phenomena or characters and creatures, and work with a few, select partners to help round out our pipeline with things that are complementary and extensible."

"One could imagine one day seeing actual film photography woven into a game alongside 3D content rendered in realtime as you play," added GenArts CMO Steve Bannerman. It is incredibly difficult to combine assets that were designed for a pre-rendered, one-way film viewing experience into an interactive, realtime gaming environment. Lucasfilm has moved their R&D efforts of the film division with their games division under one roof to work toward this effort."

Thus, having artists work back and forth between films and games with consistency is essential. For example, Chad Taylor, an ILM digital artist who specialized in the transporter effect on STAR TREK, was also recruited to work on the signature effect for the TV campaign as well. This created a bottleneck during production.

However, this new partnership would help free up such bottlenecks. "The way our software is traditionally used is by layering multiple effects on top of each other to create a certain look and, for each one of those effects, you have a broad array of different settings," offered Bannerman. "And so being able to capture the essence of that look and being able to portably exchange it not only between artists that are working on the same type of Inferno system, but also artists working on an Avid DX or working in After Effects, allows many more artists to deconstruct it."

"That finishing suite of software, quite honestly, has been something that's been missing a lot in games," Kerris continued. "When you watch a game, it does not look like a film. Just recently, we've only begun to see games get better lighting and stuff like that. But there's a lot more to do."

Kerris said that an initial goal is to bring GenArts tools into Zviz, the proprietary game engine visualization tool at Lucasfilm, which currently lacks lens flare capability, as an example.

"We want to give directors much more of a finished view of what they're going to be doing because that visualization tool is getting more and more interest and is a big driver for a lot of business that's coming to the company."

-- By Senior Editor Bill Desowitz