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CAD software began the 1980s as a research topic that had just blossomed into commercial profit but the CAD software industry was to end the decade facing the stark reality of harsh commercial competition driven by frenetically commercial product development schedules and unprecedented change in both hardware and CAD software technology.

In the early 1980s DEC's new VAX range of minicomputers seemed set to dominate engineering computing and CAD software for the decade. In many ways, DEC's MicroVAX paradoxically marked the company's apparent technology lead and yet foreshadowed the impending workstation era (which would ultimately be DEC's demise) by setting new standards in price, performance and accessibility and becoming the first performance computer capable of running CAD software but not requiring special power supplies or cooling.

In the CAD software market, M&S Computing renamed itself to Intergraph in 1980 and had a successful IPO in 1981. In 1983 Intergraph released the InterAct and InterPro range of 3D complex surface modeling CAD software based on DEC's VAX and MicroVAX processors. At that time most successful CAD software was sold as a turnkey hardware/software package and realizing the apparent commercial potential of CAD software to help sell its computers, HP set up its commercial CAD software group in 1980 to develop the its PE CAD software. Avions Marcel Dassault created its Dassault Systemes subsidiary in 1981 and signed a sales and marketing agreement allowing IBM to resell the CATIA CAD software. CATIA Version 1 (which was an add-on for CADAM providing 3D surface modeling and NC functions) was released in 1982 and the IBM-Dassault partnership continues to the present time. GE also moved into the CAD market in 1981 with its acquisition of CALMA which at the time was earning over $100M annually.

DEC was the undisputed #1 vendor in the crowded engineering minicomputer market of the early 1980s but a new challenge, the UNIX workstation, was emerging to revolutionize the computing and CAD software markets far more rapidly than anyone, most especially DEC, anticipated. UNIX's open architecture opened the performance computer market to a new wave of low-cost, low-maintenance, high-performance workstations with hardware optimized specifically for science, engineering and of course CAD software applications. Apollo Computer started the trend in 1980, then Sun Microsystems in 1981 and Silicon Graphics in 1982. The mainframe and minicomputer makers (IBM, DEC, Burroughs, Unisys, Data-General, Wang etc.) suddenly began to find themselves undercut and outflanked as the newcomers used their UNIX open-architecture advantage to focus on rapidly improving hardware and growing market share while the traditional vendors were forced to maintain expensive proprietary operating-systems supporting legacy hardware.

PCs also first appeared in the early 1980s. IBM shipped its first PC in 1981 and Autodesk, founded in 1982, demonstrated the first CAD software for PCs, "AutoCAD Release 1", in November 1982. Adra Systems was founded in 1983 and soon after began shipping its CADRA 2D CAD software. In 1984 Bentley Systems was founded and released MicroStation, a PC implementation of Intergraph's IGDS CAD software and the following year Micro-Control Systems was founded and released the first 3D wire-frame CAD software for PCs "CADKEY". Apple had released the first Macintosh 128 in 1984 and in 1985 Diehl Graphsoft was founded and released MiniCAD which rapidly became the best selling CAD software on the Mac. Although PCs and Macs steadily increased in power throughout the 1980s and AutoCAD continued to gain substantial market share in the 2D CAD software market (despite being ridiculed by the leading CAD software vendors) the general lack of processor power and especially the poor graphics performance compared to UNIX workstations meant that it was not to be until the next decade that PCs would have their revolutionary effect on the CAD software industry.

Throughout the 1980s, the new generation of powerful UNIX workstations and emerging 3D rendering was inevitably shifting the CAD software market to 3D and solid modeling. In 1981 Unigraphics released its UniSolids CAD software based on Voelcker's PADL-2 CSG solid modeling kernel and then in 1982, Ian Braid, Charles Lang and the Shape Data team in Cambridge, England, released the Romulus b-rep solid modeler; the first commercial solid modeling kernel designed for straightforward integration into CAD software. Romulus incorporated the CAM-I AIS (Computer Aided Manufacturers International's Application Interface Specification) and was the only solid modeler (other than its successor Parasolid) ever to offer a third-party standard API to facilitate high-level integration into a host CAD software program. Romulus was quickly licensed by Siemens, HP and several other CAD software vendors. The first version of IGES had been published in 1980 but already the emerging shift to 3D CAD software using solid models, and the need for such CAD software to manage product data such as material properties, surface finish, engineering tolerances etc., was creating a need for a new data exchange standard. In 1984 the PDES (Product Data Exchange Specification) initiative was started in Europe to address the new needs.

In 1985, CATIA Version 2 was released as a CAD software program independent of CADAM and another French CAD software vendor, Matra Datavision (founded in 1980), released its Euclid-IS solid modeling 3D CAD software which used a unique hybrid mix of planar faceted models (for speed) with CSG data-structures. The Romulus solid modeling kernel went through several upgrades to add assembly management, instancing, improved blending and b-spline surfaces before being retired in 1986. Also in 1985, Evans & Sutherland, who had maintained close relations with Charles Lang and Ian Braid for several years and was interested in developing CAD software to supplement its graphics terminals and simulator business, acquired Shape Data. E&S soon commissioned Bernard Solomon and his team at Shape Data to begin developing the Romulus-D 3D CAD software. Romulus-D was an innovative 3D CAD software program built on the Romulus solid modeling kernel. Romulus-D ran on Apollo workstations and used Apollo's DOMAIN networking to provide the CAD software industry's first network-enabled 3D CAD software, including assembly modeling, fully distributed product configuration management and change control functions.

By 1985 the CAD software industry seemed to have settled into a comfortable trend, with incremental improvements in software functionality taking advantage of continuing advances in computer hardware performance. Profit margins were high as CAD software prices stayed high despite falling hardware prices and sales growth was strong. Computervision, with annual revenues exceeding $350M, was the market leader ahead of GE/CALMA, Applicon and Intergraph followed by McDonnell-Douglas/Unigraphics and IBM/CATIA. Then, in 1985, a new and very aggressive 3D solid modeling CAD software vendor, Parametric Technology Corp. (now PTC), appeared in the market - commercial reality was arriving and in many ways the industry would not be the same again.


CAD software started its migration out of research and into commercial use in the 1970s. Just as in the late 1960s most CAD software continued to be developed by internal groups at large automotive and aerospace manufacturers, often working in conjunction with university research groups. Throughout the decade automotive manufacturers such as: Ford (PDGS), General Motors (CADANCE), Mercedes-Benz (SYRCO), Nissan (CAD-I released in 1977) and Toyota (TINCA released in 1973 by Hiromi Araki's team, CADETT in 1979 also by Hiromi Araki) and aerospace manufacturers such as: Lockheed (CADAM), McDonnell-Douglas (CADD) and Northrop (NCAD, which is still in limited use today), all had large internal CAD software development groups working on proprietary programs.

Most CAD software programs were still 2D replacements for drafting, with the main benefits to manufacturers being: i) reduced drawing errors, and, ii) increased reusability of drawings. One of the most famous of those 2D CAD software programs, and one which still exists (in name only) more than 30 years later, was the CADAM (Computer Augmented Drafting and Manufacturing) system originally developed by the Lockheed aircraft company. In 1975 the French aerospace company, Avions Marcel Dassault, purchased a source-code license of CADAM from Lockheed and in 1977 began developing a 3D CAD software program named CATIA (Computer Aided Three Dimensional Interactive Application) which survives to this day as the most commercially successful CAD software program in current use.

The 1970s started with simple 2D CAD software programs such as CADAM but research and commercial interest in 3D CAD software was rapidly gaining momentum and one of the most influential pieces of research of the decade was in complex 3D surface modeling for CAD software. K. Vesprille's (at Syracuse University) 1975 PhD dissertation "Computer-Aided Design Applications of the B-Spline Approximation Form", built on the 1960s research of de Casteljau, Bezier, Coons and Forrest and earlier (1973) work by R.F.Risenfeld (also at Syracuse University) and continues to be one of the foundations of complex 3D curve and surface modeling in 3D CAD software to this day.

The first 3D solid modeling program, SynthaVision from MAGI (Mathematics Application Group, Inc.) was released in 1972, not as CAD software but as a program for performing 3D analysis of nuclear radiation exposure. SynthaVision's 3D models were solid models similar to the CSG (constructive solid geometry) models used by later 3D CAD software. In general though, and despite steadily increasing computer performance, solid modeling was still too compute intensive for most practical applications. Extensive solid modeling research was done by Charles Lang's group (at Cambridge University) and by Herb Voelcker and his team (at the University of Rochester's Production Automation Project) throughout the decade and the approaches taken throughout the 1970s by the two groups were fundamentally different, as were the CAD software products ultimately based on their research.

Herb Voelcker's efforts focused on CSG solid modeling and resulted in the 1978 release of the PADL (Part and Assembly Description Language) solid modeler, which was subsequently used in several commercial 3D solid modeling CAD software programs in the early 1980s. B-rep (boundary representation) data structures had been proposed by B. Baumgart (at Stanford University) in the early 1970s for their advantages in finte-element meshing applications but it was Ian Braid, working in Charles Lang's group at Cambridge University, who released prolific research on the applications of b-rep in solid modeling throughout the mid 1970s to culminate in the 1978 release of the BUILD solid modeler, the first true boundary representation solid modeler implementation. Shortly after that release, Ian Braid moved into Shape Data Ltd. a CAD software consulting company which had been established by Charles Lang, Ian Braid and others in Cambridge in 1974.

The increasing power of computers, and especially the introduction of lower cost minicomputers with optimized Fortran compilers and graphics capable terminals, were beginning to make CAD software more accessible to engineers. The commercial CAD software market was emerging and by the end of the decade was to be very strong and profitable. The increasingly widespread development and use of CAD software was prompting calls for some form of standardization and in late 1979, Boeing, General Electric and the NBS (then the National Bureau of Standards, now NIST, the National Institute of Standards) agreed to commence the first implementation of IGES (Initial Graphic Exchange Standard), which was published the following year. IGES facilitated the transfer of complex 3D curves and surfaces between different 3D CAD software programs and despite other initiatives continues to be the most widely used data-transfer format in CAD software to the present time.

Many CAD software vendors were founded in the 1970s and many new commercially available CAD software programs were released. In 1970 M&S Computing (later to become Intergraph) was established while in the following year Dr. Hanratty founded MCS. In 1972 MCS released the ADAM CAD software which was rapidly licensed as an OEM product by other CAD software companies, including Computervision, Gerber Scientific and United Computing and was used as the core (or kernel) of their commercial CAD software systems.

By the end of the decade, the first wave of true commercial CAD software vendors had formed and many automotive, aerospace and consumer electrical/electronics companies were using some amount of commercially available CAD software in conjunction with their proprietary, internally specified and developed CAD software programs. Commercial CAD software included: Auto-trol's Auto-Draft, Calma, Computervision's CADDS, IBM's CADAM (marketed on behalf of Lockheed), M&S Computing's IGDS (Interactive Graphics Design Software) and McAuto's Unigraphics (the result of McAuto's 1976 acquisition of United Computing) all contending to capture share in the new and dynamic CAD software market. The CAD software and hardware market had grown from under $25M in 1970 to just under $1B in 1979, with investor interest in CAD software vendors mirroring that trend. Not surprisingly, in 1979 Auto-trol became the first CAD software vendor to successfully complete a public offering.

The 1970s then was a decade which saw major advances in CAD software, especially in the fundamental geometric algorithms that CAD software was built on. Equally important, the power of computer hardware was steadily increasing while the new VAX minicomputers launched by DEC, by 1979 second only to IBM in market share, and minicomputers from Data-General, HP and Prime were continuing to reduce computer prices and operating costs and making CAD software accessible to smaller companies. In the late 1970s new high-level programming languages such as C and simpler operating systems such as UNIX were emerging into more wide-scale use and the first generation of graphics capable desktop computers (such as Hewlett-Packard's HP9845 series in 1978) was encouraging engineers to experiment with programming and heralding the dawn of workstation computing.

Au SIGGRAPH 1989 à Boston, Autodesk a dévoilé un paquet nouveau PC animation basé appelé Autodesk Animator. En pleine animation 2D et fonctionnalités paquet peinture, animateur était la première étape d'Autodesk dans le domaine multimédia outils. Les logiciels seulement des capacités de lecture de l'animation atteint des vitesses impressionnantes et est devenu un standard pour jouer l'animation sur PC.

En 1989, un film d'aventure sous-marine a été libéré appelé "The Abyss". Ce film a eu un impact direct sur le champ de CGI pour les images animées. James Cameron, réalisateur et scénariste pour Abyss, avait une idée précise en tête pour un effet spécial. Il voulait une créature de l'eau comme un gros serpent de sortir d'une flaque d'eau, s'étendre et d'explorer une plate-forme pétrolière sous-marine et d'interagir avec des personnages vivants. Il a estimé qu'il ne pouvait être fait avec les outils traditionnels d'effets spéciaux et ainsi il a mis l'effet mis aux enchères et les deux Pixar et offre ILM sur elle. ILM a remporté l'enchère et utilisé des logiciels de Pixar pour le créer. Catmull, explique: «Nous voulions vraiment faire cette créature de l'eau pour les Abysses, mais ILM a l'offre, et ils ont fait un excellent travail à ce sujet."

Wavefront Technologies

The following histories of Wavefront and Alias were extracted from corporate historical accounts.

In 1984, Wavefront Technologies was founded in Santa Barbara, California by Mark Sylvester, Larry Barels and Bill Kovacs, who wanted to produce computer graphics for television commercials and movies. Since off-the-shelf software was not available at the time, the founders adapted their business plan to develop and market their own graphic software. Contrary to urban legends alluding to the founders' fondness for surfing California beaches, Wavefront was named after the term which describes the front edge of a wave of light.

During the first year, the company's production department, headed by John Grower (now head of Santa Barbara Studios) created opening graphics for Showtime, BRAVO and the National Geographic Explorer, allowing the new software, Preview, to be tuned and to meet the needs of the animators. Preview was then shipped to Universal Studios to be used on the television series Knight Rider and to Lamb and Company for use in pre-visualizing and controlling a motion camera rig.

In 1985 Wavefront exhibited at its first trade show, NCGA in Dallas, Texas, and participated in the SGI booth (with Alias sitting at the next table) and sold Preview to NBC Television in New York, Electronic Arts (London), Video Paint Brush (Australia), Failure Analysis (Mountain View) and NASA (Houston).

In 1987 Wavefront established an office in Brussels. The Belgian government became an investor and provided capital for the purchase by Wavefront of Abel Image Research (AIR) in 1988. Ironically, in many ways AIR (founded in early 1987) was the predecessor of Wavefront, since founder Bill Kovacs was a principal software developer at Abel. This purchase dramatically increased its penetration into the Japanese market. Another irony of this is that one of the largest customers in Japan is Omnibus, who was responsible for buying and closing the Abel operation through the DOA fiasco of 1987.

In 1988 Wavefront entered the desktop market with the Personal Visualizer. This software gave CAD users a point and click interface to high-end photo realistic rendering. Co-developed with Silicon Graphics, this product was eventually ported to Sun, IBM, HP, Tektronics, DEC and Sony. The strategy was to bundle the software with every system sold, then follow with module sales into the installed base. In 1989, they continued this thrust into markets beyond the entertainment industry, moving into the scientific community with the Data Visualizer software. This was a highly flexible product for industrial design applications worldwide and built upon Wavefront's reputation for open systems and fast graphics interaction.

In 1990, Wavefront achieved further expansion in Asia. CSK, exclusive reseller of IBM hardware in Japan, became part owner of Wavefront Japan. In 1991, Wavefront launched the Composer product, which provided advanced image production for creating, enhancing and recording high-impact presentations. Composer would become a standard for professional 2D and 3D compositing and special effects in the feature film and broadcast/video arenas. In 1992 they introduced two new products that would have dramatic impact on the entertainment and effects industry. Kinemation, with SmartSkin™, was a complete 3D character animation system for creating synthetic actors with natural motion and muscle behavior. Dynamation was developed by Jim Hourihan (Jim received his first Academy Award for Technical Achievement for the creation of Dynamation), and was a powerful 3D animation tool for interactively creating and modifying realistic, natural images of dynamic events. The resulting images came from the seamless blending of behavioral data and user-specified information describing shape, color and motion. According to Hourihan, Dynamation was developed from a program called 'willy' that was used by a number of LA effects houses for special effects.

In a bold move that would move Wavefront acquired Thomson Digital Images of France (founded in 1984) in 1993. TDI had innovated in the area of NURBS modeling and interactive rendering and had extensive distribution channels in Europe and Asia. Originally a partner with IBM, TDI also established a commercial production arm, which would later merge with Sogitec to become Ex Machina. TDI's main software product was TDI Explore, a tool suite that included 3Design for modeling, Anim for animation, and Interactive Photorealistic Renderer (IPR) for rendering. (Note: Alias Maya is the result of the merger of the three packages: Wavefront's Advanced Visualizer, Alias's Power Animator, and TDI's Explore.)

In 1994, they partnered with Atari to develop and market GameWare, which became the exclusive game graphics and animation development software for the Atari Jaguar system. Under the terms of the agreement, Atari used GameWare for internal content creation and advised third-party developers to use GameWare as the image and geometry-authoring tool for the new 64-bit Jaguar game system.

Dream Quest Images created over 90 visual effects sequences for the 1994 Crimson Tide movie using Dynamation and Composer. "Since most audience members have never experienced the environment of a nuclear submarine, it was critical to deliver a realistic virtual experience for the viewer," said Mitch Dobrowner, digital department manager at Dream Quest. Wavefront software was also used for other blockbusters, including Outbreak, Aladdin, True Lies and Stargate.

The corporate history of Wavefront Technologies changed dramatically in 1995, with the merger of Alias and Wavefront. On February 7, 1995, Wavefront Technologies, Inc., Silicon Graphics, Inc. and Alias Research, Inc. announced that they entered into definitive merger agreements. The new company's mission was to focus on developing the world's most advanced tools for the creation of digital content. "We created digital skin, then [Alias] did; now they've created digital hair and we're working on digital clothing. With both of us working together, we can attack the bigger technical problems instead of duplicating work," said Mark Sylvester, cofounder of Wavefront.

In April, 2003 the company was renamed Alias.

Alias Research

The founders of Alias, Stephen Bingham, Nigel McGrath, Susan McKenna and David Springer wanted to create an easy-to-use software package to produce realistic 3D video animation for the advertising industry and post-production houses. In 1983 they came up with the idea for a software development effort to achieve this goal. Springer was teaching computer programming for designers at Sheridan College. A rare combination of artist and computer programmer, he had been working independently on software which, by coincidence, resembled McKenna's and Bingham's idea. They quickly brought him on board, and he supervised the project that involved 300,000 lines of code written in C.

Bingham was an unlikely high-tech tycoon. Lacking any formal engineering or technical training, he obtained a Master's degree in Canadian studies from Ottawa's Carleton University. He then served as the director of the city's National Film Theatre from 1980 to 1983, which allowed him to indulge in his love for movies and animation. It was a visit to Hollywood director George Lucas's renowned Industrial Light & Magic animation studios in California that inspired Bingham to form his own animation company.

Susan McKenna first got the computer itch in high school where she took Fortran. The youngest of five children, she was the first woman in the family to want to enter business with an ambition for adventure and risk. Stephen Bingham and Susan McKenna met at Carleton University in Ottawa. She spent 2 1/2 years doing administrative work in audio-video production, raising capital, writing proposals and arranging funding. McKenna approached Nigel McGrath, knowing his reputation in the industry for mixing high technology and graphic design. After high school, McGrath freelanced as a graphic artist and started McGrath & Associates in 1980 to serve major corporate clients. He kept the company while starting Alias, lending the new firm $500,000 worth of computer graphics equipment.

In 1983 they were able to obtain a $61,000 grant from the National Research Council, which, combined with the limited funds of the founders, allowed work to begin on the development of that first code, a huge undertaking that required 36 man-years of programming or 18 programmers writing for two years. Other financial support was gained from the federal government through Scientific Research Tax Credits (SRTCs). The first office, with a rent of $150/month, was located in Toronto in a renovated elevator shaft in the building that would later become the home of CITY-TV."There were strange drafts, cold air would mysteriously fill the room, like we were in a scene from Spielberg's Poltergeist," said Susan McKenna. In 1984 the group decided on the name Alias for their new venture. "I think it was Steve who came up with the name Alias, while we were sitting in a Detroit restaurant during SIGGRAPH", says Nigel McGrath. "You know what we need is an alias", Steve said. "We all clicked at that point because the only paying job we had at the time was for Dave Springer to write an anti-aliasing program for a few users at SGI. That's where the name came from".

Alias unveiled Alias/1 at SIGGRAPH '85 in San Francisco. Alias/1 was unique because it was based on cardinal splines, producing much smoother and realistic lines or surfaces than polygonal lines. The first sale of Alias/1 was to Post Effects in Chicago followed by Editel in New York and Production Masters in Pittsburgh. Also in 1985, Alias signed a landmark deal with GM to design a system incorporating NURBS (non-uniform rational basis spline) technology compatible with GM's spline based CAD (computer-aided design) system. This was the beginning of a business relationship that is still thriving today.

Later that year, the Alias founders approached Silicon Graphics Inc. and suggested that SGIs super-microcomputer could be used for graphic design. Until that point, SGI's hardware had only been used for computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM). SGI spotted the potential for selling a computer every time Alias sold its software. These new research and development efforts required additional capital to finance the effort. Now that Alias had a big client (GM) more or less in hand, the risk was less in the eyes of potential investors. Early in 1986, Crownx, a venture capital company associated with Crown Life, invested $1.2 million for a 20% stake in Alias.

Although most of Alias sales had been to small production houses, Kraft and Motorola were added to the new client roster in 1986. Moreover, Alias managed to beat two American bidders to supply the $400,000 computer-controlled TV type equipment that would let the world watch what the Hubble Telescope could see from space. 1986 also saw the introduction of the second generation Alias/2. It had the basis spline geometry that led to the creation of the term CAID (computer- aided industrial design) and a whole new market. In 1987 Alias' staff increased to 70 people with the opening of three U.S. sales offices. Concurrently, new venture capital was received from US Investors Greylock and TA Associates.

Exclusive rights to sell Alias/2 into the entertainment markets were passed in 1988 to a single worldwide reseller BTS (now Phillips BTS) who sold Alias/2 with their Pixelerator rendering machine. The Alias sales focus could remain exclusively on design opportunities, where most sales were direct except for 8 resellers in Asia. Alias boasts an impressive list of customers including Timex, Reebok. Oakley, Kenner, BMW, GM, Honda, Volvo, Apple, GE, Motorola, Sony, Industrial Light and Magic, Broadway Video and The Moving Picture Company.

Steve Williams (ex-Alias) went to ILM to help create the pseudopod creature in the 1989 movie The Abyss. Alias 2.4.2 was chosen by Williams for modeling because it was patch-based (B-splines) instead of polygons. The software ran on SGI 4D/70G and 4D/80GT workstations. The Abyss was hailed by the film industry to be one of the most technologically advanced and difficult motion pictures ever filmed. This was proven when ILM received an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for The Abyss. For the first time, Alias' software got high-profile recognition in movie animation.

In 1989 one of Alias' most high profile industrial clients, Honda was so pleased with Alias technology that it assisted with the development of the newest version of ALIAS/2. Visiting from Japan, a Honda executive commented: "Thanks to Alias' software, we have 20 people doing the work of 200." The 1989 Honda Accord became the first car made by a foreign manufacturer to head the US bestseller list. Many of Honda's cars, like those of BMW and Volvo, were designed on 3D software created by Alias.

Alias raised about US$35 million in their 1990 initial public offering of 2.5 million shares. "US investors understand the value of the investment better. Canadians focus on the trouble with tech stocks and not the money that's been made trading those stocks," said founder Bingham. 1990 also saw the introduction of its third generation software, branded Studio for industrial design and PowerAnimator for the entertainment market. That same year Alias client ILM reaped the highest honors for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards. PowerAnimator was used to create Arnold Schwarzenegger's foe, the chromium killer cyborg. Strangely enough, Schwarzeneger who reportedly earned $12 million for that movie, was not the highest paid actor. The liquid metal man's salary worked out to about $460,000 per minute compared to $200,000 per minute for Schwarzeneger.

IBM unveiled a new line of workstations n 1990 and promoted Alias software among sales staff and customers. "Alias is the best worldwide in visualization and animation," said IBM Canada President, John Thompson. Rob Burgess, (now Chairman and CEO of Macromedia) was appointed president of Alias in 1991 with the mission to take the company to the next level of growth. Burgess announced a 3 year strategic alliance with SGI. He also seized the opportunity to purchase the Spacemaker technology and launched UpFront, a low-cost 3D Mac and Windows based package for architects. Alias achieved a major coup by impressing Bill Gates, who mentioned Upfront during a major Microsoft conference as a particularly innovative application under Windows. "In the graphics area, I picked Upfront from Alias Research. It is really an incredible tool for making sure the design is exactly right," said the Chairman of Microsoft. This project would pave the way for the development of Sketch!, positioned as a tool for graphic artists who wanted to do more realistic 3D work than could be done with Adobe Illustrator.

Alias continued to broaden its products range with the acquisition of Sonata, a high-end 3D architectural design and presentation system, from T2 Solutions of the UK. This move gave Alias four divisions covering at least five distinct marketplaces:

Alias Division (industrial design and entertainment), Style! Division (Upfront and Mac/Win for architects and Sketch! on Mac for illustrators), Sonata Division (architecture) and Full Color Division (pre-press and photo retouching).

Under the direction of Burgess, Alias pushed toward its dominance of the entertainment and design markets. In the Spring of 1992, new animation features, primarily an IK (inverse kinematics) solver, were included in the fourth version of PowerAnimator. It was used to create many of the effects in Batman Returns which provided a great testimonial for Alias' return to the entertainment arena at SIGGRAPH '92. They also showed that they hadn't forgotten their design market when they introduced AutoStudio, a package specifically tailored to automotive designers. This continues Alias' focus on the transportation design sub-segment that had done very well for the company.

In 1993 Alias started the development of a new entertainment software, later known as Maya which would become the industry's most important animation tool. Steven Spielberg chose Industrial Light & Magic to provide the visual effects in 1993's Jurassic Park. In turn the animators at ILM picked PowerAnimator as the software of choice to model the huge prehistoric beasts. They delivered the very real looking dinosaurs with PowerAnimator and reaped the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.

Alias worked in close cooperation with Ford to develop StudioPaint, a high-end paint package designed for automotive sketching and rendering with real-time airbrushes. Rollerblade decided to purchase Alias Studio as the CAID tool of choice for their skate design after extensive benchmark testing. "Alias makes it much easier for our designers to sculpt the complex surfaces required to achieve innovative designs while meeting the constraints required for foot comfort," explained Todd J. Olson, senior industrial designer for Rollerblade Inc. Alias signed a landmark agreement with Nintendo in 1994 to be the key software tools provider. PowerAnimator was used to create Donkey Kong Country for Nintendo. As a result of these relationships, Alias dominated the games segment with the largest share of revenue. Alias made headlines in the Globe & Mail for helping car companies save both time and money with its industrial design software. "Detroit's auto makers are able to cut their vehicle's development time to three years from four-plus." Automotive and transportation design companies included: GM, Ford, BMW, Volvo, Honda, Toyota, Fiat, Hyundai, Isuzu, Nissan, Renault, Saab, Subaru, Caterpillar, Kenworth and Mitsubishi. In 1994, Ford became the largest StudioPaint installation in the world when it purchase StudioPaint for its revolutionary Global Studio design facility. StudioPaint allowed designers to create "digital concept sketches" using real-time pencils and airbrushes, and "digital facelift" of existing designs using retouching and real-time image transformation tools.

Alias' profits soared in 1994, primarily because of success in the movie industry. They reported a profit increase of 181% for the second quarter of Fiscal '95. Alias' PowerAnimator was used in five of the biggest movies in the summer of 1994: Forrest Gump, The Mask, Speed, The Flintstones, True Lies and Star Trek: The Next Generation "A Final Unity". Alias customers in special effects included the most prominent studios, such as Industrial Light & Magic, Angel Studios, Digital Domain, Dream Quest Images, Cinesite, Metrolight Studios, Pixar, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Video Image, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Brothers.

On February 7, 1995, Wavefront Technologies, Inc., Silicon Graphics, Inc. and Alias Research, Inc. announced that they entered into definitive merger agreements. As stated above, the new company's mission was to focus on developing the world's most advanced tools for the creation of digital content.

Following are some important events in the continuing history of the new company:

1995 - Alias used in films including Toy Story, Pocahontas, Casper and Golden Eye, and Batman Forever.

1995 - Sega Interactive uses PowerAnimator to create Stars Wars Arcade.

1996 - Alias|Wavefront sets up new offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.

1996 - Alias|Wavefront's Chris Landreth is nominated for an Academy Award for the short film, The End, to test new features added to the development of Maya including motion capture, facial animation and hair.

1997- Alias|Wavefront reports a 44% increase in its sales over the previous year in industrial design sales and attributes it to the delivery of new advances in CAID technology as well as the release of new product versions: AliasStudio 8.5, Alias AutoStudio 8.5 and Alias Designer 8.5 Its existing customers include Philips design, Daewoo(UK), Rubbermaid, BMW, Renault, Honda and Audi. 1997 - Ford Motor Company chooses AliasStudio to standardize its existing computer-aided industrial design processes. Valued at over $4 million in sales and services, this is one of the largest sales in the company history. As a significant step in the implementation of Ford's C3P program, the purchase of AutoStudio represents the automaker's decision to replace its existing computer-aided industrial design processes and standardize on Alias|Wavefront software.

1997 - Launch of Composer 4.5 featuring motion blur, lens distortion and time warp technology. Effects created with Composer are featured in many Hollywood films including Mars Attacks, Dante's Peak, Casino, Broken Arrow and Waterworld.

1998 - Alias|Wavefront introduces its new 3D flagship product Maya. Maya is a leader in the industry in the following key areas: bringing characters to life, explosive visual effect and system architecture. Representatives from Blue Sky/VIFX, Cinesite, Dream Pictures Studio, Dream Quest Images, GLC Productions, Kleiser-Walczak, Rhonda Graphics, Square, Santa Barbara Studios and Imagination Plantation were among many of the BETA customers to support Maya. Industrial Light & Magic makes a strategic investment in purchasing enough seats of Maya to give technical directors and artists throughout its digital production departments extensive use of Alias/Wavefront's most advanced 3D software.

1998 - Academy Award Plaques are awarded to Bill Kovacs and Roy Hall of Wavefront for the development of Advanced Visualizer. Certificates are awarded to Jim Keating, Michael Warhman and Richard Hollander for their contribution to the development of the Advanced Visualizer. Plaques are also awarded to John Gibson, Rob Krieger, Milan Novacek, Glen Ozymok and Dave Springer for PowerAnimator. Advanced Visualizer is acknowledged by the Academy as the first commercial software package for modeling, animating and rendering adopted into widespread use to create digital images with sufficient quality for motion pictures.

1998 - Chris Landreth produces Bingo, an animated short, to run Maya through its paces, pushing the product to its limits and making sure it lives up to the industry's expectations. In Bingo, Chris Landreth introduces a cast of animated characters who are human-like and disturbingly freakish. Bingo garners international attention and is recognized at film festivals around the world.

1999 - Alias|Wavefront announces industrial design software Studio and DesignStudio for the Windows NT platform. Studio and DesignStudio are the choice of major automotive companies such as BMW, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Italdesign, and Renault.

1999 - Maya Complete incorporates all of the tools and features for world class animation on both IRIX and NT platforms. Maya Complete has been developed to provide state-of-the-art 3D solutions for a more broader, professional market. It includes Alias|Wavefront's award winning 3D modeling, rendering, and animation technology.

1999 - Maya Unlimited, the new graphics production suite for high-end film and video industry is introduced. Maya Unlimited incorporates all of Maya Complete elements plus Maya Cloth, Maya Fur, Maya Live, and Maya Power Modeling. It addresses the unique needs of high-end production houses, by providing them with tools that will help solve complex problems.

1999 - A subset of Maya Complete, Maya Builder was optimized to address the specific needs of level designers and programmers in the game and interactive title development community.

1999 - Alias|Wavefront announces at SIGGRAPH '99 that Maya has been used by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) in the summer blockbusters Star Wars: Episode I "The Phantom Menace," The Mummy, and Wild, Wild West.

2000 - Alias |Wavefront includes a universal rendering policy for the release of Maya 3 that enables Maya Complete and Maya Unlimited customers to "float" the Maya Batch Renderer across any number of machines on Windows NT, IRIX and Linux platforms.

2000 - Alias|Wavefront announces its intentions in bringing Maya to the Apple® Mac® OS X platform. 2000 - Alias|Wavefront was rewarded with its largest, single software agreement ever from General Motors. The primary software provided is AutoStudio, SurfaceStudio, and StudioPaint

2000 - Maya was used to create the top four selling December 2000 titles for the PlayStation® 2 console. Electronic Arts (EA) Madden NFL 2001 led the list of top-sellers for December with SSX: Snowboard Supercross (EA) second, Tekken Tag Tournament (Namco) third, and NHL 2001 (EA) fourth. All three nominees for Best Visual Effects in a motion picture used Alias |Wavefront software. The Matrix, (Manex) Stuart Little, (Sony) and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, (ILM) were rewarded with nominations for the ground breaking work in film. The Matrix went home with the Oscar.

2001 - In March, Alias|Wavefront ships entire suite of Maya 3D software products to the Red Hat™ Linux® operating system.

2001 - Alias|Wavefront expansion program continues with the release of version of its 3D computer-aided industrial design (CAID) software family, StudioTools, made specifically for the Hewlett-Packard® HP-UX® operating system. 2001 - Maya software played a pivotal role in allowing Square® USA to create a 23-digital-person cast for the much anticipated summer film Final Fantasy.

2001 - The recently unveiled mental ray® for Maya technology ships.

NOTE: In October of 2005 Autodesk announced that it had signed an agreement to acquire Alias. In January of 2006, the acquisition was finalized for US$197M in cash and in 2017 Autodesk has bought Solid Angle and their Render software Arnold.


Softimage was founded in 1986 by National Film Board of Canada filmmaker Daniel Langlois. Langlois wanted to create animated films but was dissatisfied with the existing technology, which he felt was insufficient for his needs and designed to be used by computer scientists and technologists. His vision was a software company that addressed the creation of 3-D animation software not only for, but by artists. He felt that the concept marked a fundamental shift in how the industry viewed visual effects creation and generated a new breed of visual effects artists and animators. Other important members of the company included artist Char Davies (Davies left the company at the end of 1997 to pursue her artistic research separately. ) Several important milestones that have influenced the industry have come from the "artist/technology" vision:

the first integrated animation and effects system the first company to port animation tools to PC (NT) a broadening of integration to include post-production – with the release of SOFTIMAGE|DS (now Avid|DS) and SOFTIMAGE|XSI the expansion of animation and effects tool accessibility to the mass-markets in games and web content industries.

The first development effort for the startup company was the Softimage Creative Environment system, with "creative workflow and process integration". In 1987 Langlois and engineers Richard Mercille and Laurent Lauzon began development of the company’s 3-D application software. Creative Environment 1.0 was launched at SIGGRAPH '88. For the first time, all 3-D processes (modeling, animation, and rendering) were integrated. The system featured advanced tools and the first production-speed ray tracer. Creative Environment (eventually to be known as SOFTIMAGE®|3D), became the standard animation solution in the industry.

Over the next several years the development team at Softimage released new versions of the 3-D software that included new innovations in image creation. For example, Creative Environment 1.65 added texture mapping (1989), Creative Environment 2.5 (1991) featured the Actor Module with IK (inverse kinematic), enveloping, and constraints, which enabled animators to combine conventional techniques (such as editing and keyframing) with these new capabilities. The system later won an award from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. In 1990, the software was sold with an SGI workstation for $65,000.

Softimage went public on NASDAQ in 1992. That same year they started an aggressive acquisition effort, with the inclusion of the EDDIE® software and Painterly Effects. This provided a complete effects generation toolkit with advanced image processing tools for color correction, filtering, rotoscoping, morphing and painting. 1992 also saw an important corporate philosophy realized as Softimage opened their software to third-party developers. The channels performance capture technology offered a new dimension to CG character animation. The technology was used that year to create a memorable spot featuring 3-D dancing cars and gas pumps for Shell Oil.

1993 saw the second public offering of Softimage stock. The expansion of the creative product environment continued, with an agreement between Softimage and mental images that addressed rendering technology. Creative Environment 2.6 was released, featuring file management, metaclay, clusters, flock animation, weighted envelopes, channels, and an expansion of the open system policy. The Creative Toonz 2-D animation package automated the more tedious tasks involved in 2-D cel animation, such as inking-&-painting, while still maintaining the look of hand-drawn images and characters. With computer workstations advancing to be able to handle video, Softimage began the development of Digital Studio, as a step towards integrating the 2D/3D production pipeline. The power of a post-production environment in a software-based solution is consistent with Langlois' original vision for the company. mental ray®, an advanced stand-alone rendering system and Particles, an interactive particle animation system used to create natural phenomena such as clouds, snow, fire, etc. became part of the Softimage stable.

In 1994 Softimage merged with Microsoft Corporation. Creative Environment 2.65 was released which featured expressions, dopesheet, ghost mode, and shape interpolation. The IDEAS (Interactive Developer's Entertainment Authoring Software) with ProPlay and ProPlay Plus was released. This software included Softimage Creative Environment, NURBS support, polygon and color reduction tools, dynamic simulations and inverse kinematics. It also Featured Eddie compositing, video-effects software, distributed ray tracer and the 3-D particles kit. Much of this system was aimed at the evolving game developer market.

Exploiting the power of the Pentium processor, Softimage developed the first high-end product on Irix and Windows NT in 1995. Creative Environment became SOFTIMAGE|3D with a release that featured NURBS modeling, relational maudlin, trimming, instantiation, polygon reduction, tangent-to-path, constraint, Q-stretch, expressions, motion control, Actor, Particle, mental ray rendering, and Metaclay. (Langlois received a Scientific and Engineering Award from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in 1998 for Actor). User-interface enhancements included hot-key remapping. The SOFTIMAGE|3D "extreme" version included Osmose (virtual reality), the new Virtual Theatre (featuring performance capture and real-time compositing), and mental ray. The SOFTIMAGE|Toonz version 3.5 and SOFTIMAGE|Eddie version 3.2 were also released.

The next two years saw the release of SOFTIMAGE|3Dv 3.5 and SOFTIMAGE|SDK Trance, "Sumatra"(code name) and RenderFarm, and SOFTIMAGE|DS, one of the world’s most comprehensive nonlinear production systems (NLP™) for creating, editing and finishing videos. SOFTIMAGE|DS enabled users to seamlessly integrate picture and audio editing, compositing, paint, image treatment, special effects, character generation and project management into one environment.

In 1998 Avid Technology, Inc. acquired Softimage. The two companies joined forces to develop the next generation tools for digital artists. The Animation Sequencer was introduced, and in 1999 "Sumatra" became the world’s first nonlinear animation editing system and merged all 3-D animation, editing, and composting tasks. In 2000 The Motion Factory, Inc., was acquired. The Fremont, CA-based company specialized in applications for the creation, delivery and playback of interactive rich 3-D media for character-driven games and the Web. In 2001 Softimage entered into an Xbox tools and middleware agreement with Microsoft, and they announced support for Linux. Softimage and Electric Rain collaborated to bring Flash, EPS, AI and SVG exports to SOFTIMAGE|XSI customers. Michael Stojda became the Managing Director of the company in April of 2001 after working at Softimage and Avid and managing a wide range of effects, editing, and finishing products at both companies.

Softimage customers include some of the most prominent production studios, such as Industrial Light and Magic, Digital Domain, Sega, Nintendo, and Sony . They have used Softimage to create animation for hundreds of major feature films ( Jurassic Park, Titanic, The Matrix, Men in Black, Star Wars – the Phantom Menace, Gladiator, Harry Potter, AI: Artificial Intelligence, Pearl Harbor, Queen of the Damned ), games (Super Mario 64, Tekken, Virtual Fighter, Wave Race, NBA Live) and thousands of commercial, corporate and student projects.

In the Spring of 1997 through an endowment provided by Daniel Langlois, the Daniel Langlois Foundation was established. It is a private philanthropic organization whose scope of activity is international. The purpose of the Foundation is to further artistic and scientific knowledge by fostering the meeting of art and science in the field of technologies. "The Foundation's mission is to promote contemporary artistic practices that use digital technologies to express aesthetic and critical forms of discourse, to encourage interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary research projects and, in general, to support the development of projects calling for cooperation between people from a variety of fields, such as artists, scientists, and engineers or technologists ," explained the Foundation's Director of Programs, Jean Gagnon.

Side Effects

Based in Toronto, Canada, Side Effects Software was established in 1987 by Kim Davidson and Greg Hermanovic, an animation director and programmer respectively. This duo founded their new production/software company on a 3D animation package, PRISMS, which they had acquired from their former employer Omnibus. Side Effects Software developed this procedural modeling and motion product into a high-end, tightly-integrated 2D/3D animation software which would incorporate a number of technological breakthroughs.

Prior to co-founding Side Effects, Hermanovic worked as the Director of Research at Omnibus. When the company went bankrupt in 1987 he teamed up with Director of Animation, Kim Davidson, to buy the rights to the company's PRISMS 3D animation software code. The two partners incorporated Side Effects and set out both to provide content for the Toronto broadcast market and to continue developing PRISMS. In the time that has elapsed since then, the company has turned its attention fully toward development and grown to become one of the world's leading 3D animation software providers. Throughout his career with Side Effects Software, Hermanovic was the driving force behind the implementation of such cutting edge innovations as: procedural modeling, morphing and CHOPs (nonlinear, nondestructive motion editing). Hermanovic was experimenting with C-music and algorithmic composition as far back as 1982. In February 2000, he founded Derivative, Inc. to bring professional special-effects technology to the VJ (visual jockey) scene. Derivative produces innovative tools for designing and performing interactive 3D artworks and live visuals.

Davidson also owns Catapult Productions, which was founded in 1992 for the purpose of creating entertainment using computer character animation. Their specialty is children's content. He graduated from the University of Waterloo with degrees in Architecture and Mathematics and has done extensive graphics programming since 1980. He was the animation director at two large commercial animation houses in Toronto from 1986-1990 and worked on or directed over 300 hundred computer animated pieces in that time.

PRISMS was used extensively to create visual effects for broadcast and feature films in the late '80s and '90s. Early film projects included: Apollo 13; Twister; The Fifth Element, Independence Day and Titanic - the last two having won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. The company would continue to develop and support PRISMS until version 7.1 in 1998.

At Siggraph 1996 Side Effects Software introduced Houdini: a next-generation 3D package that would prove to be more sophisticated and artist-friendly than its predecessor. From the following year to the present Houdini has been honored with numerous awards including an annual CGW Innovation Award. Houdini is used around the world to develop cutting edge 3D animation in the film, broadcast and gaming industries. To better serve the needs of its West Coast clients, Side Effects opened a Santa Monica, California-based office in 1995. The positive results can be seen in such recent hit movies such as Fight Club, Hollow Man and X-Men as well as Academy Award winners: What Dreams May Come and The Matrix.

In 1998 the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences presented a Technical Achievement Award to Side Effects Software principals Kim Davidson and Greg Hermanovic and programmers Paul Breslin and Mark Elendt, for the development of the procedural modeling and animation components of PRISMS. Whether it's procedural motion/animation, or motion and audio editing, Side Effects Software has proven itself time and again to be an industry innovator. Some of the first breakthroughs that Side Effects included a high-end commercial 3D animation package:

1987 First to put a GUI on a procedural modeling system

1988 First to incorporate an expression language in the user interface

1989 First to add metaballs; First to have a polygon reduction tool (greduce)

1992 First to include a particle system; First to have a morphing package (mojo)

1993 First to have integrated motion capture (moca); First to include time frame sampling (tima)

1995 First to integrate all components (modeling, animation, rendering, compositing) into one executable;First to support NURBS, polygons, and Beziers as "equal citizens"

1998 First to have audio editing (Chops); First to put a GUI on a procedural particle system; First to introduce hierarchical splines

1999 First to port to the Linux O/S

Autodesk (3D Studio and Autodesk Animator)

Autodesk Inc. was founded in 1982 with a focus on design software for the PC. They went public in 1985. Note: if you really want a trip, read John Walker's online history of Autodesk at http://www.fourmilab.ch/autofile/ told through the letters and memos from and to the inner circle of the company.

Autodesk in 1986 began efforts to develop an animation package. Key developers were Jamie Clay and Autodesk founder John Walker. Autodesk's first animation package was AutoFlix (for use with AutoCAD and AutoShade), and AutoFlix 2.0 which included the Animation Tool Kit for AutoCAD.

In early 1988, Gary Yost left Antic, developers of software for the Atari, to pursue a contract development deal with Eric Lyons and David Kalish at Autodesk and to begin work on Autodesk 3D Studio (code-named THUD after its principal developer Tom Hudson), and Autodesk Animator. Gary brought Jack Powell along, too, and the Yost Group, Inc. was born. (The Yost Group was eventually bought by Autodesk.)

At the 1989 SIGGRAPH in Boston, Autodesk unveiled a new PC based animation package called Autodesk Animator. As a full featured 2D animation and painting package, Animator was Autodesk's first step into the multimedia tools realm. The software-only animation playback capabilities achieved very impressive speeds and became a standard for playing animation on PCs.

This early PC based animation software was used to visualize how nano machines might look. This animation was used in the BBC documentary "Little by Little" and was the first time an Autodesk animation product had been used for broadcast television.

Shortly before the release of the next generation of 3d Studio in 1996, the product MAX, the Multimedia Division of Autodesk was renamed to Kinetix, A Division of Autodesk. MAX shipped as Kinetix 3D Studio MAX. Since its release in 1997, 3D Studio VIZ continues to gain more acceptance within the architectural community for design and visualization. As a result it has shifted more specialized architectural users from MAX to VIZ. 3D Studio VIZ enables professionals in the architectural, land design and mechanical design sectors to design in 3D Studio VIZ and then transfer the images directly into a CAD environment.

Discreet, a division of Autodesk, was established in 1999 after Autodesk acquired Discreet Logic Inc. for US$520M and merged its operations with Kinetix®. Autodesk is the world's leading design and digital content creation resource. The company provides software and Internet portal services to help customers drive business through the power of design. One of the largest software companies in the world, Autodesk helps more than 4 million customers in over 150 countries turn designs into reality.

From an investment banker's research analysis: "Since its launch, 3D Studio Max has had a phenomenal impact on the 3D animation market. Originally priced much lower than some of its counterparts who’s products ranged anywhere from $10,000 to $45,000, 3D Studio Max was quickly viewed as the attainable solution for professionals that had some price/performance issues. It continues to maintain strong price/performance value for users and the product’s expectancy remains high. One of the key success factors of 3D Studio Max has been the product’s ability to address the needs of a wide range of 3D animation professionals. Of all the animation packages 3D Studio Max runs across more vertical markets than any other package. Its largest user base continues to be within the game development sector. Aside from game development, it is used in film and broadcast, corporate design, industrial design and visualization, educational, forensic, and now Internet design."

One of the keys to this broad base of users is it’s open architecture and support of third party vendors. This has enabled the product to build up over 100 plug-in products for more specialized functionality. Third party developers can develop standalone software modules (plugins) which can interface with the 3D Studio product. One of the more prominent plugins is Character Studio, developed by Susan Amkraut and Michael Girard of Unreal Pictures. Girard and Amkraut were the creators of the famous animation Eurhythmy while they were students at Ohio State, and developed the cult legend "Dancing Baby" as a test of their software. In 2004, Autodesk division Discreet acquired Unreal Pictures.

In January of 2006 Autodesk acquired Alias for $197M in cash, bringing the StudioTools and Maya software products under the Autodesk banner.

All the pictures of this section are copyright (computer graphics museum)