Adobe Substance: behind the 3D champion, a French success story

What do the games have in common? Fortnite and call of duty, like a blockbuster Blade Runner 2049, or an ad for furniture from a Swedish brand Ikea ? They all use 3D to perfect their graphics, their special effects or the rendering of their products on screen. And more specifically one of the leaders of this market, namely a suite of tools called Substance 3D, owned by Adobe. This division has experienced double-digit growth in recent years, is among the highest among creative companies and is worth nearly $150 billion. Cock-a-doodle There! At the origin of this success is a Frenchman. The creator of Substance, Sébastien Deguy, is from Clermont. L’Express met him at the Adobe Max show, held in mid-October in Los Angeles (United States).

Its history begins with a thesis, carried out at the end of the 1990s, then with a first teaching post on Softimages software, which was then used in films such as Jurassic Park. In the 3D world, Sébastien Deguy specializes in “texturing”, or how to “faithfully (and digitally) reproduce the appearance of metal, wood or plastic”, he says. This method, apart from the cinematographic industry and its large method, remains in its infancy.

The day after his doctorate, obtained in December 2001, he founded the Allegorithmic company, without leaving Clermont-Ferrand. But very quickly, the video game world was the first to take an interest in the prowess of its very first version of Substance. Sony and Nintendo are on the rise and their consoles, like the Playstation, are finding a place in homes. The best studios are, therefore, quite logically, in Japan and the United States. “One day one of them contacted us from Los Angeles, his name was Naughty Dog, continued his colleague Vincent Gault. We didn’t know them, but with them we were working together for the first time. intensively .” The game is worth the candle. Not on the map is finally an international card, which is rewarded with several prizes, while Naughty Dog’s rating is increasing, prompting it to drop Not on the map in some titles. Allegorithmic for its part is carving out a real reputation in the sector. Orders are pouring in. So today, “95% of the studios that publish the most ambitious games – also called triple A, as Assassin’s Creed o call of duty – use the Substance tool”, added Sébastien Deguy.

Sébastien Deguy (left) head of the 3D and Metavers section at Adobe.

Sébastien Deguy (left) head of the 3D and Metavers section at Adobe.


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Head to the metaverse

Allegorithmic growth is “exponential”. It continues from 2019 under the control of Adobe, which buys the company for an amount that remains confidential to this day; perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars. In the American giant is tumbling new features, such as the Sampler, which allows you to build a scene, a 3D object that automatically uses simple photos taken from a smartphone. But also a new amount of customers: Louis Vuitton, BMW, Ben & Jerry’s or even Nike, famous brands in the world. For them, 3D is a new way to digitally reproduce real products for their websites. “Click-through rates are exploding thanks to 3D imaging,” says Sébastien Deguy. It’s also a way to design prototypes in spades in a more economical and ecological way. “For the 2022 World Cup national team jersey, which Nike is making, we reduced the number of prototypes made by 75%,” said Jalaj Hora, head of innovation at Nike, in the Adobe Max lounge.

“From now on, almost half of our turnover comes from the retail trade”, sums up Sébastien Deguy. Always with it french touch. “Many of our teams are in France, including at the original site in Clermont-Ferrand. There, we also work with schools and research institutes, because the quality of engineering in France is incredible” , observes the forties. As well as artists. Parisian photographer Lionel Koretzky is notably at the origin of lights that can be applied to Sébastien’s 3D tools. “It’s amazing to think that now we can use real light, digitally, and fully configure to reproduce the real conditions of a photo shoot, in all its complexity and unexpected circumstances,” explained this in the end.

This quest for greater realism brings Substance to its next big challenge. Adobe recently partnered with Meta, embedding a “3D Modeler” tool into its new Meta Quest Pro. The idea: to create new virtual worlds with your hands and joystick using thousands of 3D objects designed by the company. The famous metaverse. A big responsibility. Especially on behalf of a Meta whose vision is still hard to convince. The project, in any case, does not scare Sébastien Deguy. “Whatever happens, and whatever direction the metaverse takes, we are now certain that the future will be held in 3D”, he breathed. For him, the American dream is just beginning.


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