The Foundry Slashes Prices on Sparks

The Foundry today announced that it was slashing the prices of its Sparks by approximately 90% in response to no longer being a part of the Autodesk Spark program. While it may still find a full solution, this is a complex issue that we have been tracking for a month. To get the full implication of what is happening, fxguide spoke directly to the Foundry’s co-founder Simon Robinson.


The dispute that is discussed here seem to have been fully resolved and the Foundry will once again fully develop Sparks for the Systems products in a special new unique Developer deal. This also means the dramatic price reduction will finish Feb 14th 2009. After that date prices will return to normal.


To hear this discussed directly, listen to this week’s podcast where Mike Seymour talks to Foundry co-founder Simon Robinson about the news and what it means for users.

Autodesk runs the Spark developers program called the “Autodesk® Authorised Developer Network programme”. This program allows people to develop sparks for the Autodesk System’s products. Arguably the first ever spark maker in the world was the Foundry, who along with GenArts, started developing plugin Sparks for the Flame way back before Autodesk even owned Discreet Logic.

In December 2008, Autodesk advised the Foundry that there were not going to be renewing the Foundry for 2009. This does not ban the Foundry from making or selling Sparks but it does remove them from the support structure of developing for Autodesk system products. As it stands today Jan 5th, 2009, fxguide believes that Autodesk undertook this decision for sensible business reasons – namely that the Foundry now develops and sells Nuke.

There are many benefits of being in the program – access to beta software, direct lines of communication to the Autodesk engineering team, but one of the biggest is the use of a special copy of the primary applications themselves. Put simply: if you had to buy a flint, flame, smoke, inferno etc to develop for them then the costs of Sparks would be prohibitive. For many years companies like the Foundry has been able to get access to the applications – virtually free copies of the applications – so they can test develop and support their plugins. Clearly these version of the applications were not for commercial use, and often had watermarks, but they are vital for any company writing plugins – any company that is not a commercial post house and therefore might have real machines already.

By removing access to the host machines, Autodesk makes it hard for the Foundry to support their Tinder, Furnace and Keylight plugins. A point Autodesk has acknowledged. And so for the last few weeks Autodesk and the Foundry have been working to try and find a mid-ground where Autodesk can let the Foundry have machines to test on, but not full access – which is clearly unfair to Autodesk as they compete now with the Foundry at a ‘Nuke” level. Autodesk has given very strong verbal confirmation that it is keen to find this middle ground and in no way wants to stop the Foundry from developing sparks for the Autodesk systems community. The problem is that the deal to end the Developer Network program ran out Jan 1st. 2009. As of this week, the Foundry have deleted and destroyed all Autodesk material – in line with the ending of the Developer contact, and they are left with no way to even check a bug report.

Faced with no Autodesk written deal, the Foundry has decided to drop its prices for the month of January, and offer the products ‘as is’.

So what happens from here?

There are three options moving forward:

1. Autodesk does supply some written deal moving forward and the Foundry returns to a similar arrangement than before – less connected to R&D perhaps, but more than able to support their products and prices return to former levels in say Feb. 2009.

2. Autodesk feels it can not provide what the Foundry wants, and the Foundry continues to sell it sparks on a ‘buyer beware’ level of support at the greatly reduced price – until some time when an upgrade to Flame or Smoke breaks them. This would see no new R&D done on Foundry Sparks.

3. Things take a turn for the worse and the Foundry steps away from Autodesk system products all together. The community looses.

In any case what does this mean to you?

1. If you just bought some full price Foundry plugins – call your sales guy and according to the Foundry “we’ll sort it out and make you happy”.

2. If you wanted some great plugins and the risk of them no longer worked at some point down the track does not worry you: buy all the sparks you want. For US$1000 it is hard to believe a single job could not justify them in a busy suite.

3. If you just happen to have Foundry plugins already – they will still work, there is no licensing problems – no time outs. The only question is … if there is some new flame/smoke upgrade down the track, will the SDK change and if it does will it then break the Foundry’s sparks? For the last few years the SDK have not changed much so there is a reasonable chance they will work on later releases – but now just no guarantee they will.

4. If you are on Toxik – you are unaffected. Toxik uses the OpenFX plugin and this does not affect that.

5. If you are on Shake or Nuke, Scratch, After Effects or any of the other products that uses other Foundry plugins – this makes no difference. Pricing remains the same, development and sales remain unaffected.

6. If you are a Foundry user with a Burn Farm – the Burn nodes will now be unlicensed – there is no cost and no limit on the number of Burn nodes you can have running any of the Foundry Sparks – they are free and unlicensed as of today.

What does this mean to the Foundry?

While the Foundry started with Sparks – it has grown much much larger now and the loss of revenue will have no noticeable difference from the Foundry, they see no layoffs, staff changes or cutback – the revenue from the Spark sales just isnt that big for them.

What does it mean for Autodesk? In many respects, one can see Autodesk’s problem – it hardly wants to provide ‘commercial in confidence’ information to a competitor. Hopefully for the sake of its customers it can find a mid-ground that allows the Foundry to still support Autodesk customers without having to compromise their own operations. From our reporting of this incident, there is almost no-one at Autodesk who does not want to see this resolved favorably for all concerned, the delay may just be the difficulty of inventing a new Developers program and getting it clearer by Legal – during the holidays – at short notice.

From Autodesk senior management down to their PR team have been keen to move this issue positively forward, one can only hope it is the nature of big companies that they are more constrained and thus less able to instantly respond than perhaps was needed in this case. If that is true, a mid ground will be signed off on and development can continue. If not the community stands to possibly lose a great area of image processing plugin value for the Systems products.

For the Foundry, CEO, Bill Collis, sums up their position as : “We cant sell something we cant support without full disclosure, it just wouldn’t be fair to customers. Without a legal agreement in place, we cannot guarantee how long we will be able to continue to provide these Sparks. We love the quality of the Autodesk Systems users, these guys are normally at the cutting edge and while they may not be financially key to the company – this is where we started, this is a group we love working with and we really hope we can find a way forward. But doing the right thing by our customers has to be our number one priority.”

Press Release from The Foundry

London, UK. January 1st 2009.

The Foundry announced today that effective immediately, the company is significantly reducing prices on plug-ins for Autodesk® advanced systems, as it is no longer part of the Autodesk® Authorised Developer Network programme and can no longer guarantee continued development or support. The decision follows notification by Autodesk that they will not renew their development license with The Foundry, citing competitive issues. The decision ends Autodesk’s® twelve-year development relationship with The Foundry and its users.

Autodesk® have provided a non-binding, verbal assurance to The Foundry that may be sufficient to enable The Foundry to continue supporting Autodesk® plug-in products (Sparks). Due to the uncertain nature of this assurance, The Foundry can only guarantee ‘best effort’ support to their Autodesk® plug-in customers at this time. The Foundry is also unable to predict whether it will be able to develop or support future releases on Autodesk® systems platforms.

The Foundry, formed in 1996, was the first developer of Sparks on Discreet Logic’s® Flame® systems and has continued to bring its Academy Award® winning technology to digital artists through a variety of highly regarded and popular plug-in products including Tinder, Furnace and Keylight.

Chief Scientist and Co-Founder, Simon Robinson comments: “The Foundry was originally established to develop Tinder on Discreet Logic® so it is particularly sad that this relationship is altering so significantly. We’d like to thank our loyal Autodesk® customers who helped us build The Foundry into the successful company it is today.”

CEO, Bill Collis, adds: “Our customers always come first and we will, of course, continue to support them to the best of our ability. However, without a legal agreement in place, we cannot guarantee how long we will be able to continue to provide this service. Many of our Autodesk® customers are key industry players who have strongly influenced our development path and we are committed to keeping them informed about any changes in service or development.”

Effective 1st January 2009

Furnace GUI = $1000 / £650 VAT
Tinder GUI = $1000 / £650 VAT
Keylight GUI = $500 / £325 VAT


For more information on our Autodesk® plug-ins, please visit where you’ll also find examples and client testimonials.

Notes to Customers:
The Foundry cannot guarantee to make any new builds after 1st January 2009. Bug fixing or upgrades to future versions of Autodesk® systems may not be possible.


Why have you reduced your prices so significantly?
Due to the lack of any formal agreement with Autodesk®, The Foundry is currently unable to guarantee a desirable level of support to their Autodesk® customers or guarantee development of software for future Autodesk® releases. Therefore, The Foundry feels it is only fair that this is reflected in a significant price change.

Why can you no longer guarantee support?
In order to support Autodesk® customers effectively, The Foundry is reliant on Autodesk’s® provision of current and historic software versions. At this time we have no Autodesk® licenses and are not clear when that situation will change, or under what terms.

What is the ADN (Autodesk® Developer Network)?
The ADN provided The Foundry with the technical access required to develop plug-in products and provide support to their customers. Full information on the Autodesk ADN can be found here.

Can you continue as normal outside the ADN?
Autodesk® have given The Foundry a verbal assurance of support outside the official programme. However, without any contractual obligation, development would be a big risk for The Foundry. The Foundry is hopeful that some support might be possible, but can make no guarantees.

I bought Autodesk® plug-ins at full price recently. Where does this leave me?
Please contact [email protected] or your personal Foundry sales contact with your specific query and we will respond.

How long will the reduced pricing be available for?
The reduced pricing will be available for the whole of January 2009. It is unclear at this stage whether this offer will be extended.

What does ‘best effort’ support mean?
The Foundry always endeavors to support their customers to the best of their ability and will continue to do so. However, if your query is complex and we do not have software in house that enables us to replicate and try to solve the problem we will be limited in the assistance that we can provide.

What does this change in relationship with Autodesk® mean for The Foundry?
The Foundry has grown considerably since its early days, when Autodesk® plug-in revenue was fundamental to the business. However, Autodesk® customers still include some of the industry’s most influential innovators and The Foundry will work hard to provide them with their technology via other routes if necessary.

What else does The Foundry do?
The Foundry has developed and marketed its highly respected Nuke compositing system with marked success since 2007.

The Foundry’s plug-ins are also now available on a multitude of other hosts including Shake, Nuke, Fusion, Final Cut Pro, Avid DS, Combustion and After Effects.

The Foundry’s large Academy Award©-winning research team contributes significant advances in image-processing, both inside Nuke and in new plug-in technologies such as the stereo-3D toolset, Ocula.

Together these products have facilitated great visual effects on recent block busters Australia, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Quantum of Solace, The Dark Knight, Prince Caspian, Sweeney Todd; The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, IronMan and many more.

Will I be able to use my Foundry plug-ins on future versions of Autodesk® systems?
At the current time, The Foundry has no formal agreement with Autodesk® and therefore cannot guarantee to make their Autodesk plug-ins compatible with future versions. The Foundry hopes very much that an agreement will be reached that enables them to do so.

What plug-ins does The Foundry make for Autodesk® systems and what do they do?
The Foundry produces 3 plug-in sets for Autodesk® systems:

Keylight – an industry proven green and blue screen keyer that is particularly efficient where hair and reflections are involved.

Furnace – this set of 40 plug-ins uses Academy Award© Winning motion estimation technology to solve every day compositing problems such as retiming, degraining, matchgrading and wire removal.

Tinder – is a set of 90 eye candy plug-ins. Blurs and flares that extend the creative possibilities of your Autodesk® system.