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."