Apple buys video effects technology

The deal with Silicon Grail opens new doors in Hollywood, moving desktop computers closer to closing the gap with powerful workstations.

Apple Computer has quietly purchased technologies from digital effects company Silicon Grail, extending its recent push into the high-end motion picture production market.

Through the deal, which was finalized early this week, Apple acquires two core products from Hollywood-based Silicon Grail, Chalice and RAYZ. These so-called compositing tools provide the layering and special effects that occur in today's digitally enhanced visual effects films such as "Titantic."

"Apple has acquired technologies from Silicon Grail, a developer of compositing software for filmmakers and postproduction professionals," Apple spokeswoman Alicia Awbrey wrote in an e-mail. The company "intends to use the acquired technologies in future products."

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The move comes after Apple's February acquisition of Silicon Grail's chief rival, Los Angeles-based Nothing Real. Together, the deals promise to beef up Apple's popular line of QuickTime desktop digital video tools with new products for creating high-end digital effects.

That will give Apple the muscle to reach a new kind of customer that Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs is intimately familiar with: producers of high-end, digitally enhanced movies. Jobs heads Pixar Animation Studios, a computer animation movie studio that has produced a string of hits, including "Toy Story."

The deal comes as the upper-crust digital effects market is undergoing tidal shifts. While graphics intensive work has traditionally been carried out on workstations, powerful new PCs are increasingly able to handle the job, offering a potential new market for Apple hardware.

Ray Feeney, president of RFX and founder of Silicon Grail, said changing technology and fallout from Sept. 11 primed the sale.

"It takes a different kind of manufacturer to have the resources to pursue that kind of marketplace," he said. "I believe that Apple's lining things up to be an important influence in the motion picture industry. What it means is that Apple is now in serious conversations with a different class of customer."

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