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Macromedia, Autodesk to bundle 3D tools

The companies enter into an agreement that will give Autodesk's 3D designers a free copy of Macromedia's Director authoring tool for Shockwave movies.

Macromedia and Autodesk's Discreet unit entered into a bundling agreement that will give Autodesk's 3D designers a free copy of Macromedia's Director authoring tool for Shockwave movies.

The companies are eyeing each other's audiences in an attempt to make some progress in the so-far losing battle to popularize 3D on the Web.

Discreet's 3ds Max software, a widely recognized leader in design tools for 3D computer graphics in Hollywood movies and popular PC games, wants to make inroads on the Web. Macromedia, whose Shockwave movie player sits on more than 200 million desktops, according to the company, wants to get Discreet's many 3D authors to start using its Director software to create Shockwave Web movies.

"We're amazed and excited that 200 million Shockwave players have been downloaded to view rich media, and our hope is that they will be viewing not only rich 2D content, but 3D content as well," said Terry Ragan, director of product marketing for Discreet. "We're hoping to extend our reach in terms of getting these authors knowledgeable about Discreet, and without a doubt we're hoping that leads to higher revenue and sales."

The bundling agreement is hardly Macromedia's first foray into 3D on the Web, a notoriously perilous arena strewn with the bodies of previous contenders. Macromedia in April released a version of Director 8.5 with Intel's 3D software, a 3D Web collaboration that launched more than a year ago.

But as Tuesday's announcement indicates, the release of the upgrade to Director has not succeeded in bringing 3D to Shockwave's masses.

"Since Version 8.5, Director has had certain standalone 3D authoring capabilities," said Jana Hildebrand, senior marketing manager for Director and the Shockwave player. "But Macromedia feels that in order to help 3D succeed on the Web, it's very important to partner with the leader in the content-creation space. Obviously that's Discreet."

Discreet, too, has forged other partnerships to pursue its Web 3D ambitions. In February, the Autodesk unit launched a "Web studio" that included plug-ins from 3D Web companies Cycore, Ideaworks3D, Pulse, RichFX and Viewpoint to help transfer 3D models and animations created with 3ds Max to the Web.

On Friday, Discreet will announce the addition of another Web 3D plug-in included in the Web studio, this one from Redmond, Wash.-based WildTangent, which in April secured Sony's endorsement and investment.

Macromedia and Autodesk's announcement comes as the computer graphics world prepares to descend on Los Angeles for the annual Siggraph conference.

Discreet's 3ds Max 4 sells for $3,495. Director 8.5, free under the bundling agreement, normally sells for $1,199. The companies have entered into a six-month bundling agreement, with the option to extend it based on the popularity of the offering.