CHAOS’ RECENT ACQUISITION OF Anima software maker AXYZ design is just one more sign that Chaos has assembled a powerhouse of software geniuses. (see: Architosh, “Chaos acquires AXYZ design,” 14 Jul 23) It begs the question: What might Chaos do next for the AEC and visualization industries?
Why Anima Matters
Top architecture firms worldwide use AXYZ design’s popular anima 5 software. Firms like KPF and HOK create stunning animations of their projects to win the work and achieve design direction consensus and approvals. “It’s part of the storytelling,” says Phillip Miller, VP Product, Solutions for Artists at Chaos. “You can have a beautiful image of a beautiful building, but it doesn’t come to life until you see people not only in it but moving.”
Diego Gadler, an architect specializing in visualization, founded AXYZ design to focus on making the visualization of people and moving animated people vastly easier than it had been in the past.
“As an architect, I spent a lot of time getting people just right for a visualization, for the client to then ask for a different angle of the image,” says Gadler. “I would then need to redo all this work. This background of frustration made me think about making the visualization of people to animate much easier.”
Born from this perspective, Gadler’s software firm, only seven people at the time of Chaos’ acquisition, has established its anima software as the de facto leader in the animation of people specifically for the architectural visualization industry.
You can have a beautiful image of a beautiful building, but it doesn’t come to life until you see people not only in it but moving.
While Anima 5 has been enjoying its leadership in the market, Chaos, with its market-leading V-Ray and Corona renderers, seeing how popular combining them with anima was becoming. “There is a need for animation and the animation of diversified people by our customers,” says Christian Lang, CEO of Chaos. “It is one of the top requests we are getting from the market.”
The Benefits of In-House
While Lang and Gadler contend they have long held a good partnership, it made more sense for Chaos to acquire AXYZ design, bring anima in-house, and expose it to the Chaos Innovation Lab.
“As a technology company, there are always three options we have,” adds Lang when talking about bringing in AXYZ design. “We can either start developing it by ourselves, look at the industry and see who we can partner with, or acquire the company and bring them in-house.”
Christian Lang says the right option depends on the circumstances, noting that you bring in companies in-house when, technically, together, you can do things that can’t be done separately.
And philosophically, Chaos and AXYZ design match in that both aim to democratize visualization technologies and bring them to a broader market of users. “That is why we are a good fit within Chaos,” says Gadler, “because we think the same about these technologies.”
Product Plans – Enscape Question
Currently, anima’s technologies marry well with Chaos’ V-Ray and Corona renderer and numerous other tools in the market, including those of competitors (e.g., Arnold, Octane, and Redshift).
One interesting question was, “What about Enscape and animated people?” After all, Enscape has a good library of people, but none of them animate. (see: Architosh, “Product Review: Enscape for Mac SketchUp,” 30 Nov 22)
“So the question is, of course, valid because we have thousands of architects out there in the market asking for animated objects and animated people,” says Lang. “So, looking forward, there may be some areas in Enscape where we plan on doing something.”
As an architect, I spent a lot of time getting people just right for a visualization, for the client to then ask for a different angle of the image.
With the acquisition only closing a little over a month ago, it’s understandable plans still need to be ironed out. “The bottom line is, the plan is to get anima technologies into the hands of as many people as possible,” adds Lang.
Product Plans – AI, Simulation, and the Mac
While Chaos maps out the strategies with anima and other AXYZ design technologies, Diego Gadler is highly excited about his team partnering with the creative powers of the Chaos Innovation Lab, which is led by Chaos co-founder Vladimir Koylazov—”the V-in V-Ray,” as Lang puts it in our meeting.
“At Chaos, there is a special AI research group within Chaos Innovation Lab,” adds Lang, who goes on to add: “I would say that some of the brightest people in the whole industry are now together in one team at Chaos Innovation Lab; they are looking at advanced technologies—game-changing technologies—and that is what we expect from an innovation lab.”
In terms of AI (artificial intelligence), Diego Gadler, Christian Lang, and Phil Miller all agree that so much innovation can be created with AI for the visualization markets. It’s near blue ocean terrain still.
And today, anima 5 leverages machine learning, a type of AI, in its Neural Crowd technologies. “We replaced our older local motion system based on motion capture with our new neural motion engine,” notes Gadler.
The new system for crowds may also provide opportunities in motion simulation markets. “I have been in contact with the [Bentley] LEGION people who have asked me about the possibility of linking their dimensionally-based human points with AXYZ design people and making a much better visualization of the physical behavior of people in a crowd simulation.”
“From our point of view, we can imagine that,” he says, without promising any more info on such a collaboration.
At one point, anima also worked on the Mac platform, which is highly meaningful to V-Ray, Corona, and Enscape users. “The Mac market was only meaningful to us back then because of Cinema 4D,” says Gadler, who explains that with a team of seven before, they had made the hard choice to stop supporting it.
“As for the future of anima on the Mac,” he adds, “the key driver is always the customer. Technically, it is possible; there is no limit to taking anima to the Mac.”
Christian Lang chimes in: “If we want to serve Chaos customers well, we most likely need to supply our technologies independently of the platform.” Lang also adds in our meeting that if Chaos does bring AXYZ technologies to Enscape, it will work on both platforms.
The Future of Visualization in AEC
Visualization in AEC has evolved rapidly for years. Lang says there is so much more to do, particularly with real-time rendering.
“The future is about using visualization today as an optimizer of tomorrow’s design workflows,” says Lang. “In film, it is the same idea because it is a workflow idea.”
Moving toward workflows is partly because the quest for realism has largely been met. “We are now entering a phase where the renders look better than reality,” adds Gadler.
“Real music aficionados can hear the difference between digital and old analog; they can hear the warmth in the music, which is why they love the old analog records,” says Lang. “This is why visualization is a universal language like art and music where the digital part is almost too perfect.”
The future is about using visualization today as an optimizer of tomorrow’s design workflows. In film, it is the same idea because it is a workflow idea.
So, tomorrow’s digital technologies must bring in “imperfection” to obtain even greater realism. When I ask Lang what that may entail, he says “locality” and insists this is a new tier of expertise that nobody has truly excelled at.
“We must show the local identity of environments, and Chaos is looking at this for the future,” he adds.
The Chaos world looks bright with a world-class innovation lab and continued intelligent acquisitions. It is exciting to think about what comes next for this growing AEC industry software company.
To learn more about anima 5 and AXYZ design, visit their website here.