Weta’s Moviemaking VFX Tools Are Being Sold for $2.2 Billion

Weta’s Moviemaking VFX Tools Are Being Sold for $2.2 Billion
Might be a while before you can use them to make a Gollum of your own though. (Screenshot: Warner Bros.)

Game development platform Unity has acquired the technology division of one of the biggest VFX studios in moviemaking, Weta Digital, in a move that will make the tools behind the effects in some of the biggest movies around accessible on its platform to creators outside of the company for the first time.

Variety reports that the $US1.625 (A$2.2) billion acquisition from Weta Digital — co-owned by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, producer Fran Walsh, tech entrepreneur Sean Parker, Weta Digital senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, and CEO Prem Akkaraju — will give Unity the Weta Digital suite of VFX tools and technology, as well as the 275 engineers in the studio’s technology division. The remaining employees of Weta Digital in its animation and FX teams will exist as a standalone business now known simply as WetaFX, and which will still maintain Jackson and Akkaraju’s majority ownership.

What the sale means is that Unity will now be able to licence out Weta’s digital tools to creators in multiple industries, be it games or VFX, making them available outside of Weta’s own confines in an unprecedented level of access for the first time. Although further details have yet to be announced, the tools will be released as a subscription software service through the cloud, and Unity believes wider access to the tools that helped build digital effects in the likes of Avatar, the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, Game of Thrones, MCU movies like Black Widow, Shang-Chi, and Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers Endgame, will allow creators to begin preparing to make “real-time 3D content for the metaverse.” As long as we all don’t get Gollum avatars, we’ll be fine.

“Weta Digital’s tools created unlimited possibilities for us to bring to life the worlds and creatures that originally lived in our imaginations,” Jackson said of the deal in a statement provided to the trade. “Together, Unity and Weta Digital can create a pathway for any artist, from any industry, to be able to leverage these incredibly creative and powerful tools. Offering aspiring creatives access to Weta Digital’s technology will be nothing short of game changing, and Unity is just the company to bring this vision to life.”