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|Headquarters||Cambridge, MA, USA|
|Products||Visual Effects Plug-ins|
GenArts, Inc. is a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based developer of visual effects software for the film, broadcast and advertising industries. A majority of traditional video content such as movies, commercials, television shows, newscasts and music videos include at least some special effects created in a GenArts product. GenArts create visual effects software and plugins that integrate visual effects such as glows, lightning, fire and fluids into post-production video editing software from companies like Apple, Adobe, Autodesk and The Foundry.
GenArts is best known for its traditional role in high-end production environments, where high budget and broadly distributed video content is being created by a large corporation. This has changed since 2008, when new leadership, product development and a series of acquisitions broadened GenArts' focus, product portfolio and customer base. GenArts now creates plugins developed for smaller budget video editing tools typically used by smaller studios, the videographer market, or creators of content distributed solely online on websites like YouTube.
Karl Sims founded GenArts, Inc. as Genetic Arts in 1996 in Cambridge, MA as a developer of Discreet Spark Plugins. In 1997 Gary Oberbrunner joined GenArts as its second employee. The company name was changed to GenArts in June, 1999. GenArts' first office space was in Karl's barn. By 1999, three years after the company was founded, GenArts had achieved significant commercial success, a pace of growth founder Karl Sims says he did not expect. Karl won the MacArthur "genius grant" in the '90s for his work on artificial evolution.
Between 2000 and 2004 GenArts released Sapphire Plug-ins for Autodesk, Avid, After Effects, Shake, Final Cut Pro, Combustion, Premiere, Digital Fusion, Quantel with Synapse and 844/x. The company had 220 image processing and synthesis effects by 2008. Prices of the software was also reduced.
After creating plugins for the video editing software, GenArts has made the shift to supporting applications such as Avid, Final Cut Pro and Adobe After Effects that support a broader market of video creators.
In 2019, Karl Sims and Gary Oberbrunner each won an Emmy Award, recognizing their "outstanding achievement in engineering development" of Sapphire Plug-ins.
Leadership and corporate strategy
In 2008, GenArts received funding from Insight Venture Partners and appointed a new CEO, Katherine Hays, to execute on a new growth strategy. That strategy involves consolidating a highly fragmented visual effects market into a standards-based, single vendor, off-the-shelf approach Katherine believes will simplify visual effects for customers. The company has also focused their own R&D on standards, often acquiring popular plugins for a specific video editing software and developing it for other systems. After being a single product company (Sapphire) for over a decade, the new CEO appointment and growth strategy kicked off a series of acquisitions and new partner relationships.
- June 2008: Katherine Hays took office as CEO and founder Karl Sims moved to a new role on the company's board of directors.
- January 2009: GenArts acquired UK-based SpeedSix, which brought GenArts the Monsters and Raptors brand plugins. GenArts planned to extend those plugins to Avid and After Effects users.
- May 2009: The Open Effects Association was formed with GenArts as one of seven founding members striving to create open industry standards across the visual effects community. GenArts’ Chief Scientist Gary Oberbrunner is a Director of the Association.
- June 2009: GenArts partnered with Lucasfilm to make digital effects for video games that are more consistent with the effects in the movies the games are based on.
- November 2009: GenArts acquired wondertouch, producers of a sprite-based particle emitter visual effect product called particleIllusion used to create fire, water, explosions, comets, clouds, pixie dust, fog and other natural phenomena. wondertouch had 10,000 customers.
- Early 2010: GenArts acquired the Tinder plugins from The Foundry, leaving The Foundry with their remaining Furnace, Keylight and Ocula plugins. The brand had a 90% market penetration of Autodesk users. GenArts intended to expand Tinder to Adobe After Effects and other platforms.
- 2010: GenArts expanded the availability of different plugins on various editing software systems. Monsters became available on Adobe After Effects, Autodesk, Nuke and OFX. Sapphire 5 became available on Adobe After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Nuke, Avid, Smoke and OFX. particleIllusion is released for Adobe After Effects on PC and Macintosh computers.
- March 2011: Former Artisan Entertainment CEO Amir Malin was appointed to the board of directors.
- April 2011: GenArts partners with USC to provide their plugins to video arts students.
- January 2013: Genarts partners with Vimeo to create Vivoom, allowing Vimeo users to apply Sapphire-type filters to their videos.
- April 2016: Katherine Hays departs GenArts to spin off Vivoom, and is replaced by George Naspo as CEO.
- September 2016: Genarts was sold to Boris FX.
GenArts supports Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro, Avid Systems, Autodesk systems, Nuke, OFX platforms and Sony Vegas Pro. GenArts’ product lines include the Sapphire, Sapphire Edge and Sapphire Accents brands. The acquired particleIllusion and Monsters GT brands are consolidated under Sapphire Accents:
- Sapphire - This product line has 220 effects in nine categories: Adjust, Blur & Sharpen, Composite, Distort, Lighting, Render, Stylize, Time, and Transitions.
- Sapphire Accents - A package of extra visual effects from the Monsters GT and particleIllusion products. The Monsters GT product has 50 effects that are similar to Sapphire, like fire, fluids, lightning and blurs, but with specific, unique looks to those effects. particleIllusion is designed for particle effects and used standalone or as an After Effects plugin. Effects in particleIllusion are created through parameters in such a way that there are an infinite number of particle-based effects that are possible.
- Sapphire Edge - Uses the same visual effects engine as the Sapphire product, but is designed for ease-of-use and only available for Sony Vegas Pro and Final Cut Pro for now[when?].
- FX Central - An online library of pre-built, pre-configured looks that is updated each month.
Breadth of use
Some examples of effects created with GenArts’ products include the lightning created by superhero Storm in X-Men III, Ironman's glowing palm and chest and the fire in his jet boots and the emperor's lightning type effect in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Sapphire was also used to create the Diamond Girl character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Many Bollywood productions like Little Krishna and Aladin have used software from GenArts. GenArts’ software has been used on at least one Academy Award-nominated film from 1996-2012. GenArts has been used in a large number of feature films like X-Men, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, several Star Wars movies and the Matrix Trilogy. It's also used in newscasts, music videos by Lady Gaga and Beyoncé and television shows like Lost and CSI The company has 29,000 customers including Disney, Lucasfilm, Paramount Pictures, MTV, Univision, Televisa and Warner Brothers.
- By Mike Seymour, fxguide. “GenArts’ Katherine Hays - the First 100 Days.” December 23, 2008.
- By Geoff Poister, DV.com. “In Review: Effective Asset.” March 2010.
- By John Dickinson, MotionWorks. “Unplugged 26: Steve Bannerman - GenArts.” June 12, 2010.
- By Wade Roush, Xconomy. "GenArts Inks Major Visual Effects Software Deal with Lucasfilm." June 8, 2009.
- BusinessWeek Profile
- Press Release. "GenArts' Oscar Streak Grows To 12 Consecutive Years."
- By Lewis Wallace, WIRED. “GenArts Team up to Bring Hollywood-Style VFX to Games.” June 8, 2009.
- GenArts Our Company
- By Walter Schoenknecht, NAB Show Daily. “The Storyteller’s Secret: Visual Effects.” April 12, 2011.
- By Galen Moore, Mass High Tech. “GenArts acquires visual effects from The Foundry.” February 16, 2010.
- By David Cohen, Variety. “GenArts Deal Steps up its Software Use.” November 3, 2009.
- By Wade Roush, Xconomy. “In Wondertouch Acquisition, GenArts Adds Fizz to its FX.” November 3, 2009.
- By Beth Marchant, Studio Daily. “Q&A: GenArts CEO Katherine Hays.” January 30, 2009.
- By Annemarie Moody, AWN. “Open Effects Associations Formed at NAB 2009.” May 20, 2009.
- Gary Oberbrunner on LinkedIn
- By A.J. Wedding, Microfilmmaker Magazine. “Software Review: particleIllusion 4 for After Effects.” January 1, 2011
- By Mike Seymour, fxguide. “GenArts Buys Tinder Plugins from the Foundry.” February 16, 2010.
- Multiple Press Releases here, here, here, here, here and here
- By Carolyn Giardina, Hollywood Reporter. “Amir Malin Named to GenArts Board of Directors.” March 23, 2011.
- By Audrey Doyle, Digital Content Producer. “Motion Graphics for the Masses.” June 1, 2004.
- "Boris FX | Boris FX and GenArts Announce Significant Merger of Industry-Leading Visual Effects Software Companies". borisfx.com. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
- Supported host platforms and some of the product details are collected from various product pages at genarts.com
- By David Basulto, Post Magazine. “Genarts Monsters GT for AE.” September 1, 2010.
- By Michael Burns, Macworld. “Monsters GT V6 review.” October 8, 2010.
- Toolfarm profile on Monsters & Raptors
- FlashValley. "Wondertouch particleIllusion 3.0 Part 1."
- By Corey Boutilier, Independent Film. “GenArts at the 2009 NAB Show in Las Vegas.” April 26, 2009.
- GenArts 2010 and 2011 reels
- By Corey Boutilier, Independent Film. “GenArts - Visual Effect Software.” June 21, 2010.
- Press Release. “GenArts Lends Visual Cache to VFX Oscar Nominees for 14th Consecutive Year.” February 28, 2011.
- By Jay Rizoli, Mass High Tech. “Hays brings massive media skills to GenArts.” October 31, 2008.