Softimage Releases FaceRobot…

March 10th, 2006 by Patrick Boucher - Viewed 31213 times -




And everybody except the targeted audience gasps at the price of 95K for Face Robot Designer and 15K for Face Robot Animator.

People in the OSS and free software world like to talk about free speach vs. free beer. Well, it seems to me like the ever widening 3D application userbase likes to have its free lunch.

Thursday, March 28, 2002 Alias Wavefront cuts the price of Maya down to $1,999 and $6,999 for their Complete and Unlimited versions respectively. To me, this was the start of a democratization process to bring inexpensive professional quality 3D content creation software to the masses. Then came out the learning editions, the tiered pricings and since August 2004 you can even get an XSI version for $495.

Then comes along Face Robot and people are aghast. They’ve quickly gotten used to their free lunch. They clamor for innovation yet they aren’t ready to back-up the company that provides such leading edge innovation.

I can’t even start to imagine the amount of research that was poured into Face Robot and that R&D cost needs to be offset by Softimage. They aren’t, after all, a non profit buisness. And if a product can help you achieve the same quality output in less time, or a better output in as much time, considering the size of animation teams involved in photoreal character animation projects, 95K isn’t that much a big deal.

And let’s not forget that Face Robot is a highly specialized tool.

If memory serves, Behavior was initially around 15K-20K. I don’t really have to remember, I wasn’t the one who coughed up the dough. The Buzz team I worked with at the time was among the first to use Behavior in a commercial advertisment context. As an early adopter of the technology we were one of the customers that helped Softimage offset R&D costs. This brings me to two points.

1 – Behavior is still not being used all that much. Face Robot, like Behavior is a very specialized tool and for most studios, would be nothing more than an experiment. After toying around a bit that studio would go back to their bread and butter shot that doesn’t include a human face or a crowd. Face Robot is aimed at projects, not studios and the studio that has a project to warrant the use of Face Robot should have the budgetary envelope for it as well.

2 – Look at what has happened since Behavior hit market. It is now included with every purchase of XSI Advanced. Behavior has been democratized fairly well by now so who knows where we’ll be later on down the road with Face Robot. For now the people that have already done their bean counting know if this technology is what they need.

The rest of us can wait for the R&D investments to be offset and the competition to heat up in, what is for now, a Softimage only arena.

After all this is what this all boils down to: how much are you willing to pay for exclusivity, new products and most of all: innovation.

Check out the press release and product pages for FaceRobot
If you think I woke up in a pissy mood and am way off track or if you think likewise on this issue, please feel free to comment!

41 Responses to “Softimage Releases FaceRobot…”

  1. Shingo says:

    The concern I have, and no doubt others share, is whether this will turn out to be another marketing blunder from Softiamge. Both Behavior and Batchserve were originally released with the prmise of great potential for bigger studios, and at premium price points. Both are now included as part of Advanced.

    On both those occasions, Softimage squandered an opportunity to add significant value to XSI (Advanced) by being shortsighted. Subsequently, when both were given away as “freebies”, they were perceived as of little value. Both products were innovative at the time, but were soon overshadowed by superior tools.

    Hostory would suggest it is only a matter of time before a more affordable offering emerges to challenge Face Robot.

  2. Luc-Eric says:

    Behaviour and Face Robot are at completely other ends of the spectrum. Behaviour is a programming environment, originally created for game character. It”s impenetrable to most people, but it”s worth seeing what comes out of it when it”s the hands of multiple TDs as they get it for free with Advance. They”d never look at it otherwise. Batchserve is a render queue management system that is actually all comprised of open source items such as MySQL, and custom-made glue, and still require some technical expertise to setup and maintain. Softimage isn”t really activly interested in making tools for render queue management, so that becomes a freebee as well. I mean you got the source to everything anyway.

    Face Robot, on the other hand, is made to be used out-of-the-box without the need to have your own set of programmers and figuring out all that stuff. It”s like if you hired a developement team to make you a facial animation system, except it”s softimage handling the developement and maintenance. It”s especially relevant in the next-gen games market where there is tons of facial animation to produce at higher quality than before. It”s not like the film market where the production times are long, the characters are few, and they”ve been doing something about it for a few years. These guys are suffocating under the amount of animation they”ll have to produce. In many cases, they may not have something to start with, since the previous console allowed only limited resolution.

  3. Shingo says:

    I take your point Luc-Eric and I agree with your rational for the positioning of Face Robot. Mind you, there is confusion surrounding the positioning of FR as a high end product, given that it is a Windows only solution.

    It”s not that I was comparing the positioning of FR with Behavior and Batch serve, so much as draw parallels between what I considered to be marketing opportunities at the time which could have been used to add perceived value to XSI. The way the releases of both products was handled left a lot to be desired and what makes both products less desirable today is the threat that neither will be getting a great deal of R&D attention in the future.

    Face Robot is positioned as a new product, and everyone hopes it does well. IMO FR could have been just as easily released as an option for XSI, all be it cheaper than $95k. But what I think really doesn”t matter here.

    What is certain is that as a new product with potential market share, the release of FR will invite others to develop competing options that will be cheaper. For FR to maintain a position as the vanguard of performance systems, it will require continual attention in terms of future R&D.

  4. Steven Caron says:

    do you know for sure they dont have a linux option in the works?

    currently its windows only, but as luc-eric stated many max houses (windows only) that are in need this type of tool now.

  5. Shingo says:

    Will Mendez just conformed that the Linux version is in the works.

  6. To quote Will Mendez properly:
    > A Linux version is planned.

    I love splitting hairs: ”planned” is not necessarilly ”in the works”

  7. Luc-Eric says:

    FYI : we cannot announce or promise, and therefore discuss product that we don”t ship in the same quater. There are regulations on the stock market now about these things.

  8. Norm Olsen says:

    Wow.. I”m utterly shocked at the overall negative responses from the Softimage userbase as of late. First people complain about Softimage”s new website.. now they complain about Face Robot. Don”t get me wrong.. everyone is definately entitled to their opinions.. and so long as it remains politically correct, it”s all good. Heck, I tend to complain alot.. in a recent post on xsibase, I made some rather ”out of bound” remarks about Softimage (not that I am implying that people here are out of bounds), and it wasn”t until a response from Kim Aldis put me in my place and really made me think things through. And once again, Kim”s response rings true on the Majordomo mailing list with regards to the princing of Face Robot. Softimage is targeting this towards high end studios, not the regular Joe, and the fact of the matter is that alot of research and development went into this innovating new product and that Softimage indeed does deserve to profit from all the hard work they put into this product. Yes, you are paying for innovation and exclusivity as Patrick mentions.. but this is business, and Softimage is doing the right thing in my opinion. Who ever does make use of this product will surely shave off alot of project time.. This saves companies good coin in the long run.

    As far as comparing FR to Behavior and whatnot, I don”t think people should be focusing on whether it will flop or not, or if Soft”s marketing team drops the ball, etc.. Sure, FR may not be available to the masses right now.. but in time it will be. I think its a safe bet. Instead we should be rather greatful that Softimage even bothers to do innovative programs like FR. Sure, not everyone will use it. But hey, at least Softimage brought this innovation to the table. When it does become available to the masses (read.. integrated into XSI Advanced at first, then possibly later on trickle down to Essentials users), there will definately be some users out there who will make good use of it. I am rather grateful that Softimage is focusing on innovations instead of pumping out stale upgrades a-la 3DS Max (Yes, I know that FR is a stand alone app.. but the underlying principal still remains). Sooner or later, these innovations will become available to the masses through XSI integrations, and people in the long run will be more greatful for it. So long as we have companies like Soft constantly creating new and fresh applications, it will surely benefit us all in the long run.

    It may be a hit or miss situation (with regards to market success), but I would rather have a miss that is still a high quality, innovative product that I will eventually be able to use and appreciate than stick with the sub-standard apps/upgrades that is sadly become all-too-standard nowadays in the pursuit to rushing products out the door just to generate fast cash to please the shareholders at the expense of quality and ingenuity.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Cheers,

    NRG

  9. Shingo says:

    I think the reposnse has been predictable, not negative but in fact, quite balanced. Any dissenting views are mainly from those who were expecting a product that was going to be affordable to the hobbyist or reasonably cheap to buy.

    I”m actually pleasantly surprised at the number fo peolpe who have not been shcoked at the price. There aren”t too many software only products out there these days at that price point, let alone in the 3D animation industry. If Softimage makes money out of this, it”s good for all of us, orrespective of whether we ever get to use FR. The company makes a profit and XSI users will ultimately benefot from the R&D that went into it.

  10. Shingo >>> The way the releases of both products was handled left a lot to be desired….

    You got my curiosity. What would have been a “proper” release of these products? Please, do not spare any detail.

    Thanks
    Bernard

  11. Shingo says:

    Bernard,

    To begin with, both were priced out of the ballpark. Batchserve was set at an obscene price point and in hindsight, quite limited. It was said to be aimed at large studios, but all it could handle in XSI related functions. Why would such studios then opt for a solution that did not address the render management of their other tools (i.e. Shake) also? See the logic or lack of?

    Now if instead, Batchserve had been included as part of XSI Advanced (as the oroginal creator intended) then it would have been an attractive feature for XSI at a time when there were few options on the market.

    Behavior came out when there was no comparative solution on the market also, but Softimage priced such that it was unattractive to the public. How many licenses sold at $15k? Again, it could have been a very sexy feature for XSI. The alonfg came Massive and burst the bubble.

  12. Matt Lind says:

    I completely agree with Shingo.

    In my opinion, this is Softimage”s last chance to get XSI on the map where it belongs. They should be using Face Robot as a wedge to get into studio pipelines. Sure it probably cost a bundle to make Face Robot and they need to recoup development costs, but you don”t do that by gouging the first ”x” number of customers and drive the rest away from word-of-mouth bad experiences. As soon as a cheaper competitor comes along what do you do? If you drop the price, you”re sending the message you don”t have confidence in your own product. If you keep the price up, you lose marketshare to a cheaper product inferior or not. The answer is to spread the cost out over time with a lower intro price or else you kill the product”s marketability.

    Softimage needs marketshare more than anything else. They should be slamming the door on competitors as soon as possible, because right now the door is wiiiiiiidddde open. Softimage knows how expensive it is to make such a product, chances are potential competitors do too. Drop the price and you make it less possible for the competitors to jump into the ring because they”ll run the numbers several times and realize there”s no way they can justify the cost of doing business with a shrunken revenue pool. Bird in hand beats two in the bush. Regardless of how many solutions appear on the market, the user base is pretty close to fixed in size. The name of the game is to set the price high enough to profit, but low enough to discourage competitors from appearing on the market.

    Softimage has had their chances in the past and have blown them bigtime. Unfortunately, I already see the ball heading towards the ground. Despite the popular vote, I”ve always taken the stance that lower price is better for the marketshare, and history has shown I”ve been right. I don”t see this latest situation any different. Softimage makes good software, but can”t market to save their lives. Sooner or later they”ll have to. I”m betting towards sooner.

  13. Norm Olsen says:

    Matt,

    I have to say that I disagree (somewhat).
    The tactic that Softimage is using isn”t new. Ever walk into The Sony Store and see a brand new TV that sells for a very high price? Only to walk into the store a few months later and see that same TV selling for less? Keep walking in at intervals and the TV price keeps dropping (this is one of probably many examples). My point is, State-of-the-art technology is rarely (if ever) cheap when it first arrives (think the inventions of the TV, the car, the VCR… the list goes on and on), . Companies clearly capitalise on this (until the competitors ”finally arrive at the party” so-to-speak).

    All this talk of ”last chance” for Softimage and ”the ball heading for the ground” is alittle premature imho. Let”s not lose sight of one thing here.. Face Robot is NOT Softimage”s meal ticket. XSI is their flagship product (and in all probability will always be). Soft is already executing what you are suggesting (but with XSI instead of Face Robot). That is to sell XSI at a very attractive price point ($500 for fnd). Thanks to this license pricepoint, XSI is making alot of progress into main stream (sure.. it will take time to build a truely massive userbase..but then again..every app goes through the slow, one-customer-at-a-time kind of ordeal). Let”s put it this way..XSI had to come down in price, or it wouldn”t survive. Is it still alive? Yep. And the product keeps getting better and better. I have a feeling the same will be said for Face Robot.

    As far as Im concerned, the only real threat is when the competitors start arriving with competing products (that will probably have to sell for less in order to compete). Now obviously, we don”t know what [they] are doing behind closed doors. But I think that Soft can (and should) capitalise while they can. Once the threat arrives.. then it”s plan b time (which would be what you are suggesting all along..which is to lower the price point so that competitors will have trouble wrestling away market share). I do agree with you on a few points. Yes, Soft needs market share (who doesn”t?). But when Soft has created this new kind market (all alone), they have at least some time to enjoy it before everyone else.

    You may be right all along.. It may be a terribly flawed plan. I suppose only time will tell if Soft is right or not. I suppose the aurgument can go either way. If Soft were to bundle Face Robot with XSI Advanced, they can get perhaps more seats sold (but this would take alot longer to recoup their R&D costs.. add to this factor the possibility that some studios may not be willing to integrate XSI into their pipeline, but would be perhaps willing to adapt an external seperate program like Face Robot).. If there are no competitors in the field of facial animation for quite some time, this can
    damage the recouperative costs in the short term. (yes I do understand that its the long-term that is important here). I guess only time will tell if it pans out the way Soft is hoping for.

    Cheers,

    NRG

  14. Luc-Eric says:

    That thing about Softimage, gaining market share and Face Robot (price) being the last chance…

    Face Robot isn”t XSI, it”s a another product and market, one where the tool is developped closely with a small number of clients. That”s what”s in the price. You”re buying technology and a relationship.

    XSI is a separate product. It”s 450$ and couldn”t be more accessible. It”s got its own feature set and innovations in developement. Face Robot technology isn”t the only thing that Softimage is working on.

    As far as Behaviour and Batchserv, it”s wrong to say that price could have been dropped. Cheap software sold to thousans of clients is much more complicated and expensive to develop than software that sell to a few targetted clients. The requirements are completely different. There”s several additionnal million and years of R&D to make a limited release product go mainstream. ”Massive” is still a limited release product nowdays, and it started ten years ago this year, and only became publically available in 2003. So calm down about everything being as simple as lowering the price.

  15. chrisg says:

    To add to the discussion on a rather simplistic level, FR looks extremely cool and we”d all like to play with it. We”d all love to bash it around in production and see what it can add to our work. 99% of us can”t afford to do that. Ergo, 99% of us are kinda sad, despite being able to see the reasoning behind the pricing structure.

  16. Shingo says:

    Luc-Eric,

    Please don”t take this the wrong way, but when I hear marketing spin like “Face Robot is an entirely different product to XSI”, I can”t help but roll my eyes. I appreciate that a lot of money, innovation and time went into creating FR, but for those of us who saw the earlier demo”s, it did run inside XSI.

    Yes FR has come a long way since then, been improved a lot and and been given some sexy UI to make the tool focussed, but are you honestly telling us that XSI and FR doesn”t share the same architecture?

    I woud expect Fr to benefit fom usnign XSI as it”s foundation. It would be ludicrous if it didn”t, but my guess is that there is nothing stopping Softimage from incoportating FR as an additonal module inside XSI if that was their goal.

  17. Matt Lind says:

    >>>
    I have to say that I disagree (somewhat). The tactic that Softimage is using isn’t new. Ever walk into The Sony Store and see a brand new TV that sells for a very high price? Only to walk into the store a few months later and see that same TV selling for less? Keep walking in at intervals and the TV price keeps dropping (this is one of probably many examples). My point is, State-of-the-art technology is rarely (if ever) cheap when it first arrives (think the inventions of the TV, the car, the VCR… the list goes on and on), . Companies clearly capitalise on this (until the competitors ‘finally arrive at the party’ so-to-speak).
    >>>

    [Matt]
    I understand what you”re saying, but this isn”t quite the same thing.

    >>>
    All this talk of ‘last chance’ for Softimage and ‘the ball heading for the ground’ is alittle premature imho. Let’s not lose sight of one thing here.. Face Robot is NOT Softimage’s meal ticket. XSI is their flagship product (and in all probability will always be). Soft is already executing what you are suggesting (but with XSI instead of Face Robot). That is to sell XSI at a very attractive price point ($500 for fnd). Thanks to this license pricepoint, XSI is making alot of progress into main stream (sure.. it will take time to build a truely massive userbase..but then again..every app goes through the slow, one-customer-at-a-time kind of ordeal). Let’s put it this way..XSI had to come down in price, or it wouldn’t survive. Is it still alive? Yep. And the product keeps getting better and better. I have a feeling the same will be said for Face Robot.
    >>>

    [Matt]
    ….and if they had properly marketted XSI in the first place, they wouldn”t have had to sell out. My point with Face Robot bundling is that XSI has lost traction to penetrate studio pipelines on it”s own. The window came and went. As you say, XSI is the flagship product. For XSI to get into a pipeline it now has to dramatically outperform the competition in order for a studio to justify the inconvenience and expense of retooling and retraining. XSI is a good product, but it doesn”t outperform the competition by a wide enough margin to make the justification in most customer”s eyes. Therefore, if XSI cannot penetrate on it”s own merits anymore, it needs outside help. That”s where Face Robot comes in.

    >>>
    As far as Im concerned, the only real threat is when the competitors start arriving with competing products (that will probably have to sell for less in order to compete). Now obviously, we don’t know what [they] are doing behind closed doors. But I think that Soft can (and should) capitalise while they can. Once the threat arrives.. then it’s plan b time (which would be what you are suggesting all along..which is to lower the price point so that competitors will have trouble wrestling away market share). I do agree with you on a few points. Yes, Soft needs market share (who doesn’t?). But when Soft has created this new kind market (all alone), they have at least some time to enjoy it before everyone else.
    >>>

    [Matt]
    but that”s exactly the flaw. Sell at 95K now while some competitor comes in at 10K and what do you do? If the 95K pricetag drops to say 20K, you”ve pissed off all your existing customers and sent a message that further price cuts may be on the way. the customer then stops buying because they”re waiting for that next price drop. As a result, sales stagnate and the competitor starts taking over simply because you”ve confused your own target audience. The size of the price drop also acts as an indicator of the confidence level Softimage has in Face Robot. Drop the price too much and the customer thinks twice about what they”re really buying. Competitor gets a closer look and probably more sales if for no other reason than buyer weariness. the solution to the problem is not overprice Face Robot in the beginning. Sure, you”re giving up some cash in the short term, but you”ll gain a lot more in maintenance contracts and pure volume in the long run. When the product hits it”s saturation point, you need volume to sustain it”s existence or else it loses development power from lack of funding and eventually disappears because nobody buys it from the lack of development.

    >>>
    You may be right all along.. It may be a terribly flawed plan. I suppose only time will tell if Soft is right or not. I suppose the aurgument can go either way. If Soft were to bundle Face Robot with XSI Advanced, they can get perhaps more seats sold (but this would take alot longer to recoup their R&D costs.. add to this factor the possibility that some studios may not be willing to integrate XSI into their pipeline, but would be perhaps willing to adapt an external seperate program like Face Robot).. If there are no competitors in the field of facial animation for quite some time, this can
    damage the recouperative costs in the short term. (yes I do understand that its the long-term that is important here). I guess only time will tell if it pans out the way Soft is hoping for.
    >>>

    [Matt]
    My stance on this whole thing is mostly because XSI hit the market with such a thud compared to what it should”ve done. If XSI were selling better and had the originally anticipated market share, I”m pretty sure I wouldn”t be making the suggestion of putting Face Robot into XSI for dirt cheap. But at this point, I see XSI in perilous situation that could get really bad if action isn”t taken. In the overall market I”m currently seeing a ”calm before the storm”. I”m worried of what will happen when the brewing storm arrives in 12 months or so.

  18. Shingo says:

    “In the overall market I’m currently seeing a ‘calm before the storm’. I’m worried of what will happen when the brewing storm arrives in 12 months or so. ”

    What calm before the storm are you referrign to Matt? are you referring to the Autodesk/alias merger giving Softimage a killer blow?

  19. Bullit says:

    “For XSI to get into a pipeline it now has to dramatically outperform the competition in order for a studio to justify the inconvenience and expense of retooling and retraining. XSI is a good product, but it doesn’t outperform the competition by a wide enough margin to make the justification in most customer’s eyes.”

    That is the issue. I think an up front ease of use is essential.
    About FaceRobot, Softimage has the duty to know better the market, but didnt happened in the past (at that time i was in 3DsMax land) and SI was heading for a SGI fate. Now if FR in a pipeline can improve the the quality or speed to warrant 95K i dont know.
    500$ for a XSI is good to catch new artists or artists that are unhappy with their tools. But it isnt enough to change an already made investment.
    Now to change that SI must invest in areas that show automatic quality recognition. Maxers show Vray/Brazil renders and most people wonder the quality and speed, i believe many people didnt get out from Max because of that, i know 2 or 3. While i can say that XSI is much better to use than Max but i am talking an abstration i have no evidence than my word for it, so in BBS and Forums world i am not at the same impact level than a render picture. FR could be a kind of Vray for XSI. “See my facial animation it was made in x days not weeks!” If not SI will have to find another thing to get same results.

  20. max says:

    the only problem is that the price should be ”confidential”.
    if facerobot is a ”niche” product also the price is. and that”s ok.
    but why the price is freely available to anyone and facerobot
    is just presented as a ”mass” product ? take the example of
    massive. it is not presented as a mass product and no one,
    ever, has pointed out the high price. it is just there for those
    that need it. and those that need it do not need any advertising
    to see if they need it or not. we got months of advs and banners
    presenting facerobot and now the surprise that is available only
    for those that can invest on it. do we see adv, baners and a like
    for massive ? and why ppz are already ”merging” facerobot with
    xsi.. because of that. because the high technical aspect can”t
    be managed in such situation and no one in the middle market
    will ever think that niche products like facerobot needs different
    paths of developing and are actually still in the path of being dev.

    also without a strong diversification from facerobot and xsi.. and
    you can”t just ”say” facerobot is not xsi… ppz obviously, sooner or
    later, will complain that xsi is not a ”complete” 3D product compared
    to others and this will confuse them again.

    facerobot is just a bad example of advertising. it was presented
    prematurely. and not as a technology but as a product. that means
    always a mass product and we see it just now. the only thing that
    could be different from behaviour I think is that when facerobot will
    be available to anyone it will be a really different product.

  21. Matt Lind says:

    >>What calm before the storm are you referrign to Matt?
    >>are you referring to the Autodesk/alias merger giving Softimage a killer blow?

    [Matt]
    No. We”ve already seen several times in the past that mergers take a few years to get on track and do any damage to the competitors in a 3D market. There”s no way Alias/Autodesk can create a brand new 3d product in such a short time either.

    To the point: if Softimage is going to make any gains it has to be now, not next year or thereafter. they”ve already been shut out of the day-to-day 3D stuff where XSI competes. Their only chance is getting into the growth markets such as facial animation, hardware rendering, etc… If they blow that too…?. Many products heading into those growth markets are on the way, whether they like it or not, it”s Softimage”s job to shut the door before they get there.

  22. Simon Pickard says:

    I was discussing this with Kim last night, after about 30mins of banging heads I started to see his point.

    Face Robot isn”t about xsi, it”s about Softimage.
    Having it standalone, at that price, is currently the best thing for Softimage. I agree with Matt that it”s probabbly not the best thing for xsi.

    Personally for xsi I”d have loved to have seen face robot intergrated into xsi 5.5 adv and sold that way. It would have made a lot of noise out there and hopefully made large scale houses question if they were still with the right software or not.. But is that the best thing for Softimage? Or is the ease of intergrating it into most pipes? The question is what will make Softimage the most money?

    My only fear I guess is if this trend continues how does it effect the development of xsi? If special projects instead of creating amazing tools for xsi adv focuses on high end strandalone tools for everyone say? I”m sure more of these tools must be in the works.. Body robot makes perfect sense as a followup product. But then again xsi uses can still these products as well as anyone else so…
    I guess I”ve always wanted xsi to do better than it has, and I saw face robot as a way to stick it to the other 3D packages. I wish Softimage the best though.. I”m sure there were many late nights trying to sort of this stuff out! :)

    Regards,
    Simon.

  23. Shingo says:

    If this comes off for Softimage as a company, then more power to them. Having just read Tim Miller”s post on cgtalk, I am more assured of what this tool can do. I have no concerns about whether XSI will suffer, becasue it can only benefit from any R&D that goes into FR.

    Personally I have seen th esame arguments made about Behavior and Bathserve i.e. that they are different products, that they provide advances in productivity etc., so I am probably a bit cynical. Behavoir is a great product who”s development seems to have ground to a halt, which is a shame.

    Irrespective of the arguments, the price is just so unrealistically high, that there is no way it can remain there indefinately. This could hurt Softimage, because everyone is betting that once reality hit;s home, Soft will be forced to reduc the proce significantly.

  24. Marc-Andre says:

    But do other 3d software user know that Face Robot can be used in their pipeline? It seems to me that it is not clear to those users. They think it”s another tool for XSI users only…
    The video don”t help either since F|R”s interface is so much similar to XSI…

  25. Robin Bird says:

    While Will mentioned that a Linux version is in the works I agree with Patrick as he did not give an ETA on when that would happen, which backs up Luc-Eric”s comments about the market and Sarbanes Oxly rules thanks to Enron.

    Marc-Andre: It appear”s that FR will support Point Oven and from the white paper on Softimage.com the bottom of page 8 mentions the following about XSI 5.1:

    Designed to fit easily into today’s mixed-tool pipelines, and featuring built-in support to read and write assets from 3ds Max and Maya.

    So it appears they are focusing on supporting mixed pipelines.

  26. Markcus Dunn says:

    >>everybody except the targeted audience gasps at the price of 95K

    I bet they blinked once or twice. No matter– if the price is too high, the market will force it down. It can be a blunder because it opens the door for other compaines the move in with something similiar at a more reasonable price.

    >>new products and most of all: innovation.

    It”s easy to say it”s innovative, but you can also say it”s unproven, and new and different doesn”t always mean better.

  27. kim aldis says:

    >The concern I have, and no doubt others share, is whether this will turn out to be another marketing
    >blunder from Softiamge. Both Behavior and Batchserve were originally released with the prmise of
    > great potential for bigger studios, and at premium price points. Both are now included as part of
    > Advanced.

    The problems with Batchserve and Behaviour had nothing to do with marketing and they”re very different to Face Robot. Batchserve was, and still is, an unfinished product and Behaviour, there”s only a small handful of people anywhere in the world capable of figuring out how to use it.

    People do want something for nothing these days. It”s endemic. Problem is, the only thing you get for nothing is nothing. In the long run. You won”t believe some of the responses, both private and public, that I got when I suggested I might charge for a plugin.

    People and companies need to be reimbursed for their effort and their talents. A company that isn”t healthy is no good to anyone, neither for the company or it”s customers.

  28. Meng Yang Lu says:

    Sadly, software is one of those things that take time and lots of brains to produce. I don”t squirm at the price knowing that larger studios can allocate budget in the millions for facial development. In that regards, this is a cost cutting tool, not a price gouge to us lowly users. It”s not like Softimage is selling us scalpels for $40 a pop when they can buy it from China at 10 cents a piece. They took the risk to invest their resource to try and make something innovative and useful. And who can blame them for trying to recoup some of the costs?

    The problem with this industry is that we have a lot of very smart people with bad business sense. We give stuff away, not realizing how much it”s worth. No wonder everyone wants stuff for free!! We”re all broke because we give away things that should have put a coin or two in our pockets. And then when a product come out that has a price tag on it, the community as a whole flips out.

    We”re not going to get compensated for our efforts if our actions give off the impression that it”s not worth much. I”m glad Softimage realizes that. Maybe we should support their decision and think of other ways of acquiring F|R instead of using the mentality of forcing the price down. I think it”s a serious issue when the demands of 3D is rising but the wages are dropping. It doesn”t abide by the laws of Supply and Demand. Hopefully, something will change soon. If this keeps up, I would think I”m better off selling fruit smoothies at the mall if the wage difference is negligible, and the scenery would be much better. ;)

    peace,

    Lu

  29. >>> My stance on this whole thing is mostly because XSI hit the market with such a thud compared to what it should’ve done. If XSI were selling better and had the originally anticipated market share, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be making the suggestion of putting Face Robot into XSI for dirt cheap. But at this point, I see XSI in perilous situation that could get really bad if action isn’t taken

    [Bernard] Getting down to earth, what would be proper “action”, Matt?

  30. Matt Lind says:

    [Bernard] Getting down to earth, what would be proper “action”, Matt?

    [Matt]
    How do you mean?

  31. “…I see XSI in perilous situation that could get really bad if action isn’t taken”.
    What would be that action?

  32. Matt Lind says:

    I think the discussion has already covered that.

  33. Matt, it”s pretty clear you are in favor of a lower price. Let me summarize your comments:

    “[...] In my opinion, this is Softimage’s last chance to get XSI on the map where it belongs. They should be using Face Robot as a wedge to get into studio pipelines. [...] The answer is to spread the cost out over time with a lower intro price or else you kill the product’s marketability. [...] Drop the price and you make it less possible for the competitors to jump into the ring because they’ll run the numbers several times and realize there’s no way they can justify the cost of doing business with a shrunken revenue pool. [...] the solution to the problem is not overprice Face Robot in the beginning. [...]”

    But you did not answer the question. So the question is: how much would pay for such a product? That, imho, is a *much* more important question.

    And also, you suggest using Face Robot as leverage for the success of XSI. Isn”t Face Robot intended as a standalone product? Then, what would be proper “bundle” strategy? Just pricing? And what pricing?

  34. zamolxes says:

    If there were similar technologies on the market, Softimage wouldn”t have had the guts to be cocky about FR… they just take advantage, shamelessly, of a gap in 3D, a gap that seriously needs to be filled ASAP.

    I hope Softimage will be able to “support the software properly” [Tim Miller] ASAP and make it available to the 3D comunity. FR has to be a soft for everybody, and I”m sure it will be, especially as similar technologies get developed in parallel. but I just hope they bring down the price this year, not in the years to come. FR shouldn”t be more expensive than Maya or XSI, and then it would bring tons of money to Softimage. I mean, how can you make money if you don”t sell your product???

  35. Norm Olsen says:

    [zamolxes] …”I hope Softimage will be able to “support the software properly” [Tim Miller] ASAP and make it available to the 3D comunity. FR has to be a soft for everybody, and I’m sure it will be, especially as similar technologies get developed in parallel. but I just hope they bring down the price this year, not in the years to come. FR shouldn’t be more expensive than Maya or XSI, and then it would bring tons of money to Softimage. I mean, how can you make money if you don’t sell your product???”

    We seem to keep going in circles here.

    Zamolxes, you mention that FR shouldn”t be more expensive than Maya or XSI. Why is this so? Because you can”t afford to spend $95,000? Did Softimage include people like you and me in their research to fill the need that big corporations need? The key words here are “corporate” and “needs”.

    I think a big problem with the general public viewing the FR situation is that we seem to be focusing on the way [we] see it. [We] see it as an absurdly priced product that [we] can”t afford. I think [we] need to finally understand that FR is a) a seperate entity apart from xsi, and that b) it is developed, (and as a result, geared towards) corporations.. not the general 3d users.
    Yes, it is awefully tempting to imagine that FR can be nicely integrated into xsi (and I do see this happening perhaps many years down the road, a-la Behavior), and yes, this would most likely add to the xsi userbase. But [we] seem to keep having problems wrapping our heads around the simple fact that Softimage has a different game plan for FR than [we] would like. There are perhaps countless business factors that [we] are not aware of. I don”t think Softimage would go ahead and develop / spend tons of money on a product that might only sell 1 or 2 seats. Is it not possible that perhaps Soft has conducted alot of research with big corporate players who have expressed (in one form or another) a need for such a product?
    I think it”s time that [we] stop and think about it from a larger corporate standpoint instead of our own (very limited) view of things. There are perhaps tons of business factors that [we] are not aware of. The cost of FR is peanuts from a standpoint of corporate dollars, which is spent more heavily on employee salaries and R&D. So if such a product can save corporations alot of time down the road, then perhaps FR sounds like a very good investment at $95,000 (+animator seats). Corporate pockets are much, much deeper than ours (something [we] seem to lose sight of). Don”t worry. They wont go bankrupt buying FR. As I said before.. Employee salaries cary a much heftier price tag than FR does..
    As far as I see it.. once the demand has been met, and the sales of FR have tappered off… Im sure that Softimage will not let this great innovative technology go to waste.. I think it”s a very safe bet that it will make its way into xsi advanced. We just have to wait awhile.. thats all.

    What companies are paying for right now (which we just established as peanuts) is just what Patrick Boucher mentioned in his original post.. innovation and exclusivity (for now). Companies understand this. It is the nature of new technologies. Perhaps thinking about the much bigger picture (that [we] have very little insight into) might shed some light as to why FR is currently not for us (at this time). This may be all for the better for Soft”s bottom line instead of executing FR our way.

    -NRG

  36. vs1 says:

    zamolxes:…”I hope Softimage will be able to “support the software properly” [Tim Miller]

    that is why the software costs 95k you have to build a team to deal with face robot. the special prjects devision is not going to be doing fr forever it is not what they are there for. you also should not rob XSI of it”s development staff. you therfore have to hire and train more people. you also want them to be capable of dealing with high end customers as FR is a specialist tool and an extreemely complex one at that. you therfore want to make sure that the team has experience with dealing ith the various problems of developing the software before opening it up to the mass market. thus you want to limit the userebase and display the software at the same time hence the high price, and if you thin i am beeing silly soft was advertising that they were hireing people a couple of month ago.

    you cannot release a mass market product effectively if you have not developed a staff who can deal with the logistics. the price will come down but when it does softimage will hopefully have a killer FR teamrather than a rushed mess

  37. Matt Lind says:

    >>>
    But you did not answer the question. So the question is: how much would pay for such a product? That, imho, is a *much* more important question.
    >>>

    I”ve been discussing this with a few colleagues over lunch with consensus agreement. If I were running a studio, I wouldn”t plunk 95K on Face Robot. Why? because for that price per seat, I could hire my own development team to develop a facial animation application that works to my needs, not some canned system developed for a different studio whose way of working is different from mine. Even if it takes longer to develop and doesn”t mimick the full feature set of Face Robot, an in-house developed application has several advantages that make it much more cost effective:

    1) I own the source code
    2) I can distribute it to any number of nodes at no extra cost.
    3) I can make any changes I want per #1
    4) I don”t have to wait 12 months for the next release to get a bug fixed or feature implemented, again per #1.
    5) I retain competitive advantage.

    so, looking at the market, who is Softimage selling to? It”s already been stated that there are few film studios. Very few post houses will invest other than the upper echelon houses that have a lot of jobs involving facial animation. That leaves games studios. Having worked for several games studios myself which often had deep pockets, I can honestly say none of them would buy Face Robot because games studios are more tightfisted with money than film studios or post houses. Games studios also take great pride in developing their own tools. So more likely than not, they”ll look at Face Robot with the same criteria I outline above. So the question remains – who is Softimage selling to at 95K?

    >>>
    And also, you suggest using Face Robot as leverage for the success of XSI. Isn’t Face Robot intended as a standalone product? Then, what would be proper “bundle” strategy? Just pricing? And what pricing?
    >>>

    I think the mistake is making Face Robot a standalone product. If it were tied into XSI then it would help XSI”s cause and also gain from it”s availble features. Granted, not every application under the sun can or should be integrated into a single application, but integrating Face Robot makes sense. XSI is tauted as being the best 3D animation package – why screw that up by making the pipeline disjointed?

    Softimage”s problem is that they confuse the market with their intentions. They roll out XSI and say they are only going to support a few select clients who want that support relationship – sound familiar? Yet today the product sells at a basement level price because they shot themselves in the foot not understanding the direction the market was heading. Talk about brand identity problems.

    If softimage is going to sell Face Robot at 95K, then they”ll have to roll out another brand to do so because they can”t sell a product at an entry level price like XSI and sell a highend priced product at the same time. That”s why Honda and Toyota have Acura and Lexus respectively. They make the NSX or whatever sports/luxury cars they want and put them under a different label so they hvae their own identity which the consumer identifies with. If they flop, then the flagship brand isn”t affected. If the spinoff brand succeeds, then the company has two successful product lines. Brand identity lies in the mind of the consumer, not the seller. Softimage hasn”t learned that yet.

    As for all the arguments about having to charge a high price to justify the expense of developing the Face Robot product – that”s entirely softimage”s problem, not the consumer”s. Softimage has to learn that too by taking a more long term approach to recouping costs. To do that requires getting the product into as many hands as possible and as soon as possible. If that means simplifying the feature set, then so be it. When other products start appearing on the market, Softimage needs to have an existing user base locked up. they need to make competing products work harder to get users by not only forcing them to make a better product at a better price point, but also a product that is good enough to justify switching a pipeline from one product to another. that”s exactly what Alias does to Softimage with Maya – and look how successful it is. XSI does a lot of things better than Maya, but not by a big enough margin to justify a pipeline switch. Softimage has to learn that game too…..boy have they got a lot to learn ;-)

  38. Matt Lind says:

    Upon re-reading the end of my last post I realized the tone may be misinterpreted compared to what I was trying to get across. So let me replace and rephrase it by saying Softimage needs to do 2 things:

    2) Get more in-tune with the overall 3D market and how the market views their products (not how Softimage or it”s long time users view their products). This means Softimage has to focus on people not familiar with their products and resolve why those people are not buying them. they also have to get out of the 1990”s way of thinking.

    1) Stop sending mixed signals by making up their minds once and for all as to who their target consumer is, then structure the entire company and product line to go after them. This is related to #2 in that Softimage may want a particular type of consumer, but will have to face the music and realize that their desired consumer is not their most likely consumer. If joe freelancer is the one asking for their product, then Softimage has to stop trying to appease the big studios and start appeasing joe freelancer (or vice versa if that”s the case). In other words, find the path of least resistance until the marketshare improves dramatically. When they have marketshare, THEN they can start using that as leverage to get the clients they want. Can”t put the cart before the horse.

    3) Pay me a very large commission if they follow the advice and profit because of it. ;-)

    In short, Softimage has an identity problem. They don”t see themselves in the same light as everybody else sees them. until that”s resolved, they”re not gonna improve their market position.

  39. sam says:

    I keep reading posts from people who seem to be completely clueless about how to run a business.

    It cost Softimage a lot of money to develop face Robt. They need to sell it for a lot of money to recoup the costs of development while they can. Someone will eventually create a similar tool and sell it for cheaper. At that time SI will have to cut their price to match the other tool IF the other tool is on par with what SI has. This is what happened with Behaviour.

    >>If there were similar technologies on the market, Softimage wouldn’t have had the guts to be cocky
    >>about FR… they just take advantage, shamelessly, of a gap in 3D, a gap that seriously needs to be
    >>filled ASAP.

    This is a ridiculous statement. Because there are no similar technologies on the market it gives SI the well deserved right to brag about FR. They created a solution for a gap that seriously needs to be filled and are recouping their cost. If no one buys FR at the current price the price will go down. I think there will be companies that are willing to buy FR at this price because it is a tool they need.

    Eventually all the research done on FR will find it”s way back into XSI and XSI will be that much better for it.

    I”m not a “long time user”, in fact I”ve been using it less than a year. The thought and innovation in XSI has really inspired me and has made me both a better animator and a better modeler. Coming from near 10 years experience in lightwave, I can honestly say that lightwave can”t touch this program. I tried out both MAX and Maya, but they don”t have the feel or workflow that XSI has.

    I can”t say for certain, but I”m going to guess that all the time SI spends on these special projects (such as face robot) have a big part in how the current version of XSI works. Has anyone thought about where the Max and Maya support for 5.1 came from?

    >>Pay me a very large commission if they follow the advice and profit because of it.

    And how much will you pay them if they follow your advice and lose a lot of money from it? Softimage has been in business for a long time and seem to be doing a very good job at the moment. How long have you been running a similar business.

    >>It’s easy to say it’s innovative, but you can also say it’s unproven, and new and different doesn’t >>always mean better.

    Again with the ignorance. Face robot has been used on several projects already and has received some rave reviews. How often must something be used successfully to be considered proven?

    >>Please don’t take this the wrong way, but when I hear marketing spin like “Face Robot is an entirely
    >>different product to XSI”, I can’t help but roll my eyes.

    Why? It”s not part of XSI. It is not sold as part of XSI. It is not advertised as part of XSI. Does it contain code that was in XSI? Sure. They”d be fools to rewrite every bit of the code they need when they already have a lot of it in XSI. Could they plug this into XSI fairly easily? Probably. Does that make it part of XSI? No!

    I keep seeing one or two people mentioning (over and over) that XSI is in trouble. As a new user, I”ve been surprised by the number of other new users that have been showing up on CGtalk. To me it looks like XSI is growing fairly rapidly. Development definitely doesn”t seem to be slowing down.

    With all the people leaving other packages such as lightwave (currently struggling to add features that other packages have had for years, yet still sticking with a horribly dated interface) or Max/Maya (unhappy with the merge) this looks like it could be a great time for XSI. There are free demos available, there”s Foundation for low budget users or people who want to experiment with it more before buying essentials/advanced and there are tons of excellent video tutorials available from various 3rd parties.

    So, basically what I see going on with face robot are a bunch of people who can”t afford it trying to make things seem bad for softimage because somehow they think it will make face robot cheaper. And then these people expect Softimage to take business advice from them? I don”t think so.

  40. Shingo says:

    We were talking to Softimage recently and they pointed out something interesting. Sny pictures produces 100-200 thousnd mocap clips every year. they don;t even blink at prices like 98K becasue in the scheme of things, it will make money for them.

    Everyne needs also to remember that FR is a v1.0 beta product. It has not been publivly release and it is ceratainlty not finished in that regard. it wil lcontinue to develop and having seen it up close, I am convincd thre is nothing out there publicly available that does the same thing – not by a long shot.

  41. Asdf Infinite says:

    I think Softimage is making an impact with FR”s price tag. Whether you guys like it or not, the price is sending an interesting message: “we are highend”

    It”s a subconscious effect, but it most certainly added some stature to the Softimage brand. Most people think Maya Maya Maya.

    And now people are turning their heads.