Blackmagic Design Founder and CEO Grant Petty has earned a reputation as one the industry's straightest shooters. He has also caused more than a few disruptions along the way, both with BMD's own aggressively-priced products, and with acquisitions of highly-regarded industry names including DaVinci, Echolab, and Teranex.
The addition of Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD recording and 4K playback to Blackmagic Design's HyperDeck Studio Pro, a new line of battery converters, a new 2 M/E ATEM audio mixer to go with ATEM's live production switchers, a new version of DaVinci Resolve, new converters and much more -- all of these raise the question, just what business is Blackmagic Design in?
This is exactly the question raised by Creative COW Founder & CEO Ronald Lindeboom and Creative COW Magazine Associate Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson. Needless to say, Grant has strong, sometimes surprising opinions, and barred no holds in this conversation. While he doesn't shy away from controversy, what shines through Grant's conversation is his love for this industry, and, as he puts it, his goal of "blowing people's minds." We're pleased to let him tell you about it in his own words in this energetic recorded interview.
PART 1: WHO IS BLACKMAGIC?
On Blackmagic's strategy: "I've never really thought too much about what Blackmagic is, so I've never really been constrained by anything. To me it's just making things that people need, solving problems that people have - so let's just do it. I don't really have a grand strategy."
On acquiring Teranex: "We had a Teranex unit in our post-production facility in Singapore, but I hadn't thought much about it. The guys in Singapore said, 'You should really look into this,' and I said, 'Oh yeah, you guys really like that, huh?' The next step was meeting the guys at Teranex, and I found myself thinking, 'I've got to stop grinning because the deal's not done yet, but what a smart bunch of guys! How awesome would it be to work with them?'"
Before being acquired by Blackmagic Design, Teranex processors could cost US$90,000. Now, with the same conversion, but with better I/O options (including Thunderbolt), in a smaller, quieter design, is only US$3,995. Other Teranex models now begin at $1995. Click on image for larger view.
On corporate life: "Moving from post-production to manufacturing, I've been really shocked! There are some horrible people in this place! I mean, they are really nasty! I mean, the things they say! I mean, these sales guys will often say ANYTHING to make a deal! I've always remembered the things I didn't like it when companies did, and tried not to do them."
On mistakes: "We're not always going to do everything right. We're human. We make mistakes. In fact, we're going to make MORE mistakes than other people, because we try more things. The reality is that my main concern is that we don't screw things up. Because it's not competitors and things that are going to cause us issues. It's ourselves. WE'RE the people who are goings to balls this up. We just have to stay humble, stay respectful and know our place. It's important that we don't get weird, we don't get arrogant, we don't get business-y, and remember who gives us the privilege of building these things.
On The "Pyramid": "Everybody analyzes this market the same - 'Ooh, it's a pyramid. The top end people are at the top end of the market, products are expensive, volumes are low. And then the bottom is a wide market but the prices are low.' I've always hated that pyramid! To me, the pyramid enforces class structure. 'I'm a poor person so I have to use sh^t, and there's nothing I can ever do about it. I'm never going to move up the pyramid because I don't have any money.'"
"My big thing is, if you don't have any money, it doesn't mean to say your brain is turned off, or you're stupid or you don't have ambition. From my point of view, you want to move up, you want to do great things. If you want to do that, you should be able to buy products that let you do that. That's how you get rid of class structure. I'm trying to remove it, and just let people be creative."
On business school: "MBA school is where people take out your brain and put in a lookup table of things that you have to do, because of how things happened before."
PART 3: GRANT PETTY & RONALD LINDEBOOM, BUILDING BUSINESS ON INDUSTRY FANDOM
On new products: "I don't know about you but I'm extreeeemly nervous before we do any new product announcement because I just don't know how it's gonna go. Are we doing the right thing?"
"I mean, there are so many companies that are doing it wrong. What makes us think we can do it right? We're not any smarter than anybody else. What are we doing? Surely this can't be right!"
On other people's work: "When you see somebody's showreel, and you've seen the work they've done -- it almost sucks the air out of your lungs. You say 'Oh my god! Look at that! Look what they've done! They used our products on this? Oh my god!'"
On fandom: "Wow, we've impressed the Sony guys? Or when people like Apple say something complimentary to us? You think, 'Wow, you guys don't realize how mind-blowing this is!'"
On careers: "This is what I do. Maybe I could do other industries, I don't know. It's hard to tell. I don't ever care to find out. I just love this industry."
On his job: "I don't think you have to be that bright to be a CEO. It's not that difficult."
On product development: "That's the process: can we do something great here? Yes! So let's have a go at it."
On the future: "People think the strategy is deeper that it is, but in some ways, it's really just, let's just keep this constant pressure on ourselves to do better."
Autodesk introduced a new Smoke that features an editor-friendly user interface, connected editing and effects, lower system requirements and a much lower price. Aimed at the multi-tasking editor, the new Smoke allows editors to handle all kinds of visual effects tasks on the editing timeline.
Broadcast Pix is coming to NAB with new Video Control Center 3.0 software, which adds features and functions to Granite and Mica systems. Mica is showing for the first time in North America, after an IBC 2011 debut, and NAB attendees will also get a good look at VOX, voice-automated production.
With the release of Adobe Creative Suite 6 Production Premium, Adobe's booth at NAB 2012 was packed every day of NAB 2012. Editors in particular came to check out all the dramatic changes made to Adobe Premiere Pro, including a redesigned interface that makes it friendly to users of other NLEs.
Walter Biscardi went to NAB 2012 with every intention of documenting each day and sharing the vast (and often overwhelming) wealth of information he would glean from the NAB SHOW floor. Well, day one left him needing tons of caffeine, and a lot more sleep - so we're wrapping up now, after a flight home and some time for Walter to catch his breath.
While at NAB 2012, Debra Kaufman sat down with Blackmagic Design President Dan May to talk about the Blackmagic Cinema Camera as well as other news from the company, including Teranex 2D and Teranex 3D Processors, a new family of high-end broadcast standards converter processors, and a release of the Desktop Video 9.5 software update with support for Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 video software using Blackmagic Design's DeckLink, UltraStudio and Intensity capture.
AJA Video Systems brought out the big guns at NAB 2012, including T-TAP, a powerhouse in a small, inexpensive package for delivering 10-bit 2K, HD and SD (with embedded audio) from any compatible Mac. Elsewhere, the company released firmware to support Avid DNxHD and offered a post pathway for the 4K output of the new Canon C500.
Avid focused on broadcasters at NAB 2012, introducing Interplay Sphere, a cloud-based editing initiative, and a Multi-platform Distribution Platform for making it easier than ever to distribute to TV, web, social media and mobile. The company also unveiled numerous broadcaster-friendly products, including the AirSpeed 5000 server and Avid Motion Graphics. For the pure editing crowd, Avid unveiled a cross-promotion deal to offer Symphony's color correction and finishing capabilities for a fraction of its usual cost.
Boris FX came to NAB 2012 with new versions, each of which expanded the capabilities of the company's toolset of visual effects, compositing, titling, and workflow tools: Version 8 of its flagship Boris Continuum Complete, Version 2 of Soundbite and Version 6 of Boris Graffiti. The company also announced support for Adobe Creative Suite 6 and Avid DS.
ATTO Technology showcased its entire line of storage and network connectivity products at NAB 2012, including its new Thunderbolt Desklink devices ThunderLink and ThunderStream. Also featured was a technology demonstration of the Celerity 16Gb/s Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapters (HBAs), the FastStream SC SAS/SATA RAID Storage Controller with 8Gb/s Fibre Channel connectivity to SAS/SATA storage, ExpressSAS 6Gb/x SAS/SATA Host Bus and RAID Adapters and FastFrame 10Gb/s Ethernet Network Interface Cards.
At NAB 2012, Anton/Bauer, a part of Vitec Videocom, a Vitec Group company, debuted its QRC-CA940 Gold Mount solution for the new Canon EOS C300 digital cinema camera and also showcased the MATRIX Cheese Plate, a new mounting plate that can be used with the company's Gold Mount Solutions for the Sony PMW-F3 camera and NEX-FS-100; Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 7D, EOS 60D Digital SLR camera and the EOS C300; Panasonic AG-AF100 series professional HD camera and RED EPIC digital cinema camera. The company also unveiled its Customer Support On-Site Maintenance Program.