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Arnold (Solid Angle) Joins Autodesk

April 18, 2016

Today I woke up, made some breakfast, checked some emails. Basic, mundane Monday morning. Until I saw this in my inbox:

Hi everyone,

I’m proud and excited to let you know that our team at Solid Angle has made a big move – one that expands in a big way our capacity to keep pushing rendering forward. We’ve joined Autodesk! We are now part of the passionate Media & Entertainment team that includes Maya, Shotgun and RV, working to help artists create beautiful animation and VFX faster and easier across platforms and pipelines.

You can get the full story here but I want to tell you the most important things directly.

First, what you love about Arnold isn’t going to change. I’m still leading and driving Arnold’s technology direction, development and support. We are not handing Arnold over – the Solid Angle team has joined Autodesk to keep moving it forward at the speed you know and expect, working closely with you as always.
Second, development of Arnold plug-ins for Katana, Cinema4D, Houdini and Softimage – and other software applications will absolutely continue. Openness is everyone’s goal.
Why are we doing this? To scale.
I couldn’t have imagined 20 years ago when I developed the early code for Arnold that it would end up being used by 500 studios and thousands of artists on projects like Gravity and Game of Thrones. It is thrilling to see that growth, and to have more studios and artists join the Arnold family every day. To meet the needs of a user community that big and keep the software on the absolute edge, there’s no way around it. We have to scale.

Autodesk understands how critical rendering is to the production workflow, and is committed to supporting us in our mission. They share our passion for numerical methods and obsession for performance. We have never been more dedicated to bringing artists the best rendering tools than we are today, and we believe that joining Autodesk is the best way to do that. Thank you for using Arnold and helping us push rendering forward. We’re excited for what’s ahead.


So, whenever something like this happens, the initial concern is: what it will mean for the product being gobbled up? Many times, what allows for success, innovation and the creation of great products is the smaller scale of the team involved. The lack of cumbersome corporate bureaucracy allows for greater boldness.

I have only recently started using Arnold. It is the renderer being used on La Noria, a short film I am doing some lighting work on. But, it's been used on all kinds of major productions, from animated features to vfx-intensive live action block busters like Gravity. In the short time I've been using it, I have been very impressed. It is very intuitive, very powerful, and creates amazing images. It was actually inspired in part by the early render technology at Blue Sky.

The inspiration and itch to work in film production was sparked by a 1998 visit to Blue Sky Studios in New York, where co-founder Carl Ludwig showed Marcos beautiful and intriguing images rendered with their pioneering Monte Carlo ray tracer. Arnold was born shortly after.

I've been lighting at Blue Sky for 13 years, and have only logged in a few months so far using Arnold. But in my opinion, Arnold has not only met, but surpassed Blue Sky's renderer. It is MUCH easier to use, and seems MUCH faster. After just a few short weeks, I felt totally comfortable with how everything worked in Arnold. (And after more than a decade, there are still some things about CGI Studio that are a mystery to me!)

So, what will happen to Arnold? Well, Autodesk has been a monster in the industry for quite some time. As long as I've been doing this, anyway. I prefer to see companies like Solid Angle stay independent and offer up innovative alternatives which push the big guys and prevent them from becoming complacent. That being said, these acquisitions are not always a bad thing. I feel as though Arnold will be in good hands with Autodesk, especially if the creative team is going to remain independent. But, I could be wrong...

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