Autodesk buys Wonder Dynamics

Today, Autodesk announced that Wonder Dynamics, the makers of Wonder Studio, will become part of Autodesk. This is a powerful move for the company and one that will enable even more users to experience an accelerated artist-friendly AI workflow. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Bringing Wonder Dynamics into the Autodesk Media & Entertainment portfolio extends our history of empowering artists with innovative and accessible solutions that break down barriers to entry,” said Diana Colella, Executive Vice President of Media & Entertainment at Autodesk. “In the 1990s, we helped artists learn how to use computers to create 3D graphics, leading to the industry we see today, and Wonder Dynamics is our next step on that journey. By embracing emerging technology, we want to help teams and creators of all sizes and skill levels create more content more easily, so everyone has the power to bring their inspiring stories to life.”

Wonder Studio is an AI-powered tool that enables artists to automate VFX work easily by providing a range of innovative, integrated tools that allow artists to start animating complex live-action and 3D scenes immediately.

For example, below is a promo we made for this story using Wonder Studio, along with some of the key passes and elements it provided. We filmed this without any special considerations on an iPhone and then rendered it in the cloud inside Wonder Studio – and then exported various passes for possible editing or adjustment.

 

Wonder Studio is a browser-based platform that allows people to drag and drop a computer-generated character into any scene using AI. It easily replaces a live-action actor with a Mocap version of the digital character. The results and effectiveness of this multi-tool machine learning / AI approach were immediately apparent. From shading and lighting to animation and ease of use, Wonder Studio was highly successful and impactful almost immediately.

It replaces any actor in the scene with a 3D character without the need for any other human intervention at up to 4K resolution. All the normal VFX tasks are performed automatically – from plate clean-up to camera tracking and character animation. But it does this not as a final solution, although you could use it as such, but rather, it allows each part of the VFX process to be exported. This means immediate results – but is built for artists to refine and adjust. This makes Wonder Studio incredibly useful but also a wonderful tool for young artists wanting to get into the industry and learn. Immediately, they can get great results, but importantly, they get the elements and layers to further explore and learn with.

Wonder Studio already exports to Maya – including inferred motion capture data

Wonder Studio is highly compatible with 3D tools such as Autodesk’s Maya. Autodesk’s acquisition of Wonder Dynamics should allow more creators to add 3D animated characters to their projects and stories while minimizing the learning curve and automating typically complex and time-consuming processes.

Wonder Dynamics was co-founded by VFX Supervisor Nikola Todorovic, who is CEO, and actor and producer Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One and X-Men: Apocalypse), who is President.

fxguide first spoke to the guys in April 2023,  (see our fxguide story here), and we spoke to them again about this new move and what it might mean for them and their customers moving forward.


fxg: Congrats on the deal. How will Wonder Dynamics work moving forward? Will it remain a standalone unit?

Tye Sheridan: Thanks! Yes, working with Autodesk, we expect to maintain continuity both for the team and for the Wonder Studio, so there should be very little impact on the development team or on customers with this announcement.

 

fxg: Will you and Nikola remain involved?

Nikola Todorovic: Yes, we both will remain involved. The vision will continue, and we don’t plan to slow down—quite the opposite.

Tye Sheridan: As artists ourselves, we are extremely grateful to make movies for a living, and we’ve always wanted to help other artists realize the same dream – regardless of their location, social status, or budget.

Nikola Todorovic:  With Autodesk’s support, along with Diana Colella and her team’s commitment to innovation, we now have the perfect partnership to continue this mission at scale and redefine the narrative of what’s achievable in the realm of storytelling.

Clean plate output. Mike is removed (top left) with AI and the clean frame output as an additional pass.

fxg: You have had great success with the ability to export to Maya, do you see more Autodesk integration now?

Nikola Todorovic:  Yes, we have actually been collaborating with Autodesk for some time on Maya export so it’s great to hear it’s successful. It’s hard to say now exactly what we will do going forward in terms of integration because prior to closing the deal we could not really strategize with their product teams but Autodesk is committed to what we do both to help current users of 3D products like Maya and Blender as well as what we are doing to make it easier for artists to create 3D content in general.

 

FXfxgG:Do you expect a transfer of your various ML engines into the broader Autodesk eco system – after all your tracking, inpainting, motion estimation are all tools that could be useful in other products?

Nikola Todorovic: Perhaps. My understanding is that Autodesk is very interested in helping us add to their growing body of research in ML applications. It is very important to them and something they have been doing for over 10 years, but it’s hard to say exactly how, what, or even if until we have had time to get to know each other better.

 

fxg: How will this affect people on subscriptions? Will the prices and terms remain as they are?

Tye Sheridan: Our immediate focus is continuity and making sure customers have as little impact from the acquisition as possible. Autodesk has said that’s their goal too

 

fxg: Will the backend data processing remain the same in terms of your infrastructure?

Nikola Todorovic: For now yes but we can probably expect it to evolve as we work more closely with Autodesk’s data scientists. They have a lot of expertise that I am sure we can learn from just as they will be able to learn from the things we excel at. We have had some great preliminary conversations that our combined expertise will help unlock new ideas.

 

fxg: In broader terms, what does this mean for your roadmap? For example, you have been directly involved in some high-profile films—will you do more or less bespoke work looking forward?

Tye Sheridan:  Our roadmap remains the same, and if anything will be accelerated with the boosted engineering and infrastructure resources we gain as part of Autodesk. We will continue to work with clients as we always have.

 

fxg: Does this unlock any new options for your roadmap moving forward?

Nikola Todorovic: This is the most exciting part of this deal for us.
Being a part of Autodesk opens up a level of development, engineering and infrastructure resources that will allow us to work faster and in a more ambitious way than ever before.

 

fxg: We are all waiting for a more accurate facial animation pipeline and, thus, dialogue. Is there any news on that front?

Nikola Todorovic:  Point taken, we are working hard but nothing I can share right now.

 

Blender is already supported in Wonder Studio

fxg:  We were all hoping for integration to MetaHumans and other non-Autodesk pipelines – is that off the cards? How Autodesk specific will you be from now on?

Tye Sheridan: In our conversations with Autodesk, they have reiterated their commitment to open ecosystems, and that if our tools can help artists, they want us to explore this as unfettered as possible; for example, they were very open to our Blender workflows.

 

fxg: How big is the company right now – how many in your team?

Tye Sheridan: We are a relatively small startup, but we are not publicly disclosing any of the operational or financial details of this deal. However, we believe we are and will be adequately resourced to do what we need to do.

 

fxg:  What motivated the move? What drove the deal from your side?

Nikola Todorovic:  We’ve been working with Autodesk on the Maya integration for some time now, and it quickly became apparent how passionate the company is about helping creatives and small teams punch above their weight. This very much aligns with our vision at Wonder Dynamics. When the conversations opened up about this deal, we realized how much faster we could achieve our ultimate vision of making digital content creation tools more accessible to a broader range of artists and creators.

I think one of the more interesting discussions we had with senior leaders at Autodesk was the current misconception that AI is a one-click solution, and that’s why we are excited to join a company that, at its core, supports the iterative nature of 3D and storytelling. We put a lot of effort into building an AI tool that does not replace artists but rather speeds up the production process, makes things more efficient, and helps productions save costs. We firmly believe that our alignment with Autodesk will only amplify that vision and further push the boundaries of ethical AI and emerging technology in media & entertainment.

Tye Sheridan: That resonated with the Autodesk folks who believe the same thing.

fxg: thanks so much.

For over a decade, Autodesk has incorporated the use of AI to enhance a variety of tools necessary to help creative professionals tackle challenges across industries, including Media & Entertainment. Autodesk’s latest 2024 State of Design & Make report finds that 78% of business leaders believe AI technology will enhance their industry and 79% agree that it will lead to increased creativity. Autodesk also acknowledges its responsibility and is committed to AI’s ethical and responsible use.

It is worth noting: ‘Aether Media, Inc’. is Wonder Dynamics, as it is referred to throughout this article. “The foregoing descriptions of the contemplated effects of the proposed acquisition are subject to the acquisition’s completion and Autodesk’s ability to successfully integrate Wonder Dynamics in all respects,” Autodesk stated.