Randi Altman
November 4, 2009


The first tool to be released from GenArts, a maker of visual effects plug-in software, will happen in mid December with Particle Illusion for After Effects. That will be the first time that Particle Illusion technology is ported to a host platform, something Wondertouch customers have requested.

The Wondertouch acquisition includes ParticleIllusion SE, all Emitters and Pro Emitters, ParticleIllusion for After Effects, and all additional intellectual property from Wondertouch.

In addition to this technology, the deal gives GenArts (www.genarts.com) access to a customer base of over 10,000, “ones that are very different from our current GenArts customer base,” explains CEO Kathryn Hayes. “So it allows us to add to our family of customers a new customer group that we aren’t as familiar with yet.” It also allows GenArts to add Wondertouch founder and creator of the ParticleIllusion product, Alan Lorence, as a full-time employee focusing on particle development.

Hayes says the acquisition is part of a plan and vision the company laid out about a year and a half ago. “I joined GenArts in 2008 and at the time set out to expand and grow the company through acquisitions, internal development and innovation, as well as strategic partnerships…  all in line with several changes we are seeing in the industry.”

One of those changes, she says, is the increased need for special effects — to recreate reality, as well as what one might think of as traditional visual effects. “The second is a shift in more of the work being done in post production versus filming it on set. That drives up the need for effects, and as a result our customers are wanting to move away from proprietary in-house development of effects tools and toward purchasing those tools from a vendor. There is a real need for company to fill that gap.”

As for Lorence, “My goal with Wondertouch was to provide any artist, regardless of level expertise, with a way to create amazing VFX simply and quickly, and we’ve done that with Particle Illusion.  Our customers know our products as an integral and important [part] in their workflow.”

He says he is excited about the acquisition because “over the last few years, the company was growing and I was spending more time managing the company as opposed to focusing on development and enhancing ParticleIllusion and related products. It was time to figure out how to get my focus back on my passion, which is really development and furthering particle effects creation. GenArts has a fantastic technical team and are highly regarded in the industry, so it’s a perfect fit for what I was looking for in terms of moving Wondertouch forward.”

According to GenArts CMO Steven Bannerman, the price of ParticleIllusion will not change; it remains $299 for a new license. But that doesn’t mean the affordable price it meant to attract smaller VFX companies. 

With the larger houses, they typically build 80 percent of their tools in-house, with 20 percent built by companies like GenArts, says Hayes. “They want to flip that,” says Hayes. “The days of one person creating a tool for specific show and lack of ability to be able to then have multiple artists working on that scene or even multiple locations working on that scene and — even the ability to outsource a part of it – those days are gone.”

Hayes points to their relationship with Lucasfilm as an example of
how things are changing: Lucasfilm companies, including ILM, Lucasfilm Animation and Lucasfilm Animation Singapore, are including GenArts products as a standard component of their compositing pipeline. The companies are also working together, exchanging ideas to help advance specialized VFX technology.
“[What] we are seeing from companies like Lucasfilm and many of the big players is the move to a standard set of tools they can purchase, freeing up their team to solve hard problems,” she says.

Wondertouch and ParticleIllusion will continue to operate as stand-alone brands, according to Bannerman, and wondertouch.com is still the place to go to buy those productions. “It’s going to be business as usual for them,” he says.