GenArts Bringing Boston to Special Effects Fore with Tinder Purchase from Britain’s The Foundry

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work effectively across multiple host platforms, so that you can take a job that was created using GenArts Sapphire on Nuke and transfer it over to After Effects or Autodesk.”

For its part, The Foundry will get some cash (though neither side is saying how much) and a new marketing partner for Nuke. Selling Tinder is “in the best interest of our customers and an important step for future development at The Foundry,” the British firm said in a statement.

Sapphire plugins already “run quite happily” on Nuke, according to Steve Bannerman, GenArts’ chief marketing officer. But as a result of the new cooperating agreement between GenArts and The Foundry, the two companies will be able to collaborate to solve technical problems faster. Bannerman gives the example of Hydraulx Visual Effects, a Santa Monica company that used Sapphire to create many of the special effects for James Cameron’s 3-D blockbuster Avatar.

“In stereoscopic movies, you apply an effect for one eye, and then you manually recreate it for the other eye,” says Bannerman. “The guys at Hydraulx would really like to apply an effect to the second eye automatically. But some of the information required to make that happen lives in Sapphire and some of it is provided by the platform. If we can work closely together [with platform vendors], we can create a solution that makes creating these stereoscopic scenes a lot less time-consuming.”

The Foundry, which acquired Nuke in 2007 from Digital Domain (the Los Angeles digital effects company founded by Cameron), plans to concentrate on that platform going forward—along with its own specialty plugins such as Ocula, for stereoscopic effects.

Bannerman says GenArts plans to invest in “revitalizing” Tinder and Tinderbox, which include scores of plugins for effects like blurs and sparkles. “It’s a venerable brand with a lot of equity in the market,” Bannerman says. GenArts won’t fold Tinder or Tinderbox into its existing plugin collections, but will continue to sell it as a separate product, he says.

Ultimately, Hays and Bannerman hope that GenArts’ expansion will lead to more deals like the one they announced last June, in which Lucasfilm got a blanket license to GenArts’ plugins for all its compositing systems and entered into a joint R&D agreement with the Cambridge firm.

“This is a competitive industry that is populated by a lot of very talented but small companies,” says Bannerman. “If you are a Sony or an Industrial Light & Magic, you want to be able to place your bets on companies that have not only a full portfolio [of plugins] but the scale and reliability to become a trusted vendor.”

It’s not clear how deep GenArts’ pockets go right now, though it may be a clue to the company’s long-term intentions that it hired a CEO with a background in the investment banking industry. (Hays researched media and communications firms for Salomon Smith Barney and Goldman Sachs before founding video game advertising company Massive, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2006 for an estimated $200 million to $400 million.) At any rate, rival plugin makers like San Francisco-based Red Giant or Wilmington, NC-based DigiEffects shouldn’t be too surprised if GenArts comes knocking at their doors.

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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