Exclusive! Plug pulled on Socratto

“Socratto is Dead” rumors have been flying around the effects industry this week, reaching a fevered pace yesterday. Ordinarily we’d hold of posting such news without direct confirmation from the company, but word has come from many directions…..

The Socratto rumors startedwith several emails and anonymous posting over the last several days, similar to this one:

“a socratto [employee] left yesterday, he told me, and this is confirmed, that socratto is dead. All the artist are leaving and the future of the code is not known.”

Sony has told fxguide that it has decided to stop development of the Socratto application, but there hasn’t been any decision on what to do with the core technology. “The changing market conditions and technology trends demanded that we re-evaluate our current position and better leverage our resources,” according to Greg Dvorken of Sony.

It certainly has been a tough time this year for the post-production industry and as budgets have shrunken, the outlook for the product has probably diminished — especially when you consider its rumored very high price point (we’ve been told between $500,000 – $750,000). Take a look at the 5.0/8.0 poll as a case in point. This is an incredible software release, but almost a quarter of the respondents have considerable budgetary concerns. There is simply not a lot of money being spent right now in the industry. Couple this with the increasing price to performance ratio of desktop systems like Apple’s Shake and such a highly priced system is a tough sell.

The problem signs were there over the last several weeks. At least one of the initial beta sites had already returned their Socratto — not a very good sign for a product that had been in development for so long. One of the head R&D developers was let go from Socratto in the last several weeks or so. The company also felt that it would take a considerable amount of additional time to develop the underlying technology of Socratto into an actual product.

No one is currently working on the Socratto project, but Sony still has engineers working internally on proprietary software for “various advanced internal projects” We’ve been told that the staff was let go or told of the decision on Tuesday of last week.

While it is somewhat unsurprising, it is also a sign of the state of affairs right now in business. From artists and engineers who worked with the Socratto development staff, we’ve heard that there were some very talented and hard-working people working on the project, including some ex-discreet folks. Best of luck to all of them.

Is Sony abandoning the effects market? No…just the specific product. “Sony will continue to push the envelope of technology and currently has
dedicated engineers focusing on proprietary software for various advanced
internal projects,” says Dvorken. “Whether that R&D is applied specifically to a project, expanded into an internal pipeline or eventually developed for a commercial market is not yet known. ”

How does it impact other companies? “As sexy and exciting as the film and video effects business is, there is an underbelly that is ferocious and not for the faint-hearted,” Marc Dando, director of 5D, commented. “It is always sad to see your counterparts retire from the race but it galvanises the survivors and I can assure you 5D has the energy, determination and inspiration for the long haul.”