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Unity acquiring Oscar-winning visual effects studio Weta Digital

Planning to bring Weta's VFX tools to Unity developers

Unity, makers of the popular 3D engine of the same name, have announced they're acquiring Weta Digital, Peter Jackson's visual effects studio known for fanciness in films including Planet Of The Apes, Lord Of The Rings, Avatar, and The Suicide Squad. They plan to bring Weta's tools to Unity developers, which is quite an arsenal to offer in the rendering arms race against Unreal Engine.

The announcement explains that Unity have "entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Weta Digital, specifically its artist tools, core pipeline, intellectual property, and award-winning engineering talent". The VFX service teams of Weta Digital will live on seperately as WetaFX. Unity say they plan to "cloud-enable these tools and ensure they easily integrate with the workflows artists already use," working with them in tools like Maya as well as moving content into the Unity engine. If you work with Unity yourself, yeah, you'll still be waiting for specifics on how all this will actually work.

They'll be paying $1.625 billion through a combination of cash and stock.

Unity's announcement details the tools Weta are bringing. They cover tech including renderers, simulated water and cloth, facial performance capture, hair and fur, muscle and skin, feathers, plants, terrain, biomes, simulated smoke and fire, live previews of mixing CG and camera footage, production processes, and more. A lot of fanciness.

"The unified tools and the incredible scientists and technologists of Weta Digital will accelerate our mission to give content creators easy to use and high performance tools to bring their visions to life," said Marc Whitten, the general manager of Unity Create Solutions. "This pipeline has been developed with an artists-first mentality and the result is an incredible set of tools capable of the pinnacle of visual effects (VFX) forged within the uncompromising schedules of hundreds of film and TV productions."

Unity unfairly has a reputation for jank and ugliness. I think it largely stems from how games built in the free version would forcibly display a Unity splash screen at startup, while developers who paid for it could (and would) disable that. This meant Unity became associated with indie games which were often less fancy and polished than commercial releases. To be clear, I adore that Unity enabled so many passion projects and walking simulators, but many people are, y'know, fussy babies.

But Unity can make 'fancy' games, of course it can, you just might know not you've played them. Unity games in recent years include Pokémon Unite, Subnautica, GFTO, Fall Guys, Outer Wilds, Hollow Knight, Valheim, Desperados 3, Legends Of Runeterra, Untitled Goose Game, BattleTech, Cuphead, Yooka-Laylee, Hearthstone, and Firewatch. The company have also made a push to show off their fanciness with a series of short films. Buying Weta Digital does feel a bit like a big "Oh my god will you please shut up already."

Oh, I suppose I should mention that because 2021 is a worse version of 2007, Unity's announcement also goes on about using Weta's tools to "unlock the full potential of the metaverse" and blah blah blah.

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