RS: Tell me more about your film looks plugin -- FilmTouch. Isn’t that a me-too product, since there are lots of other film looks plug-ins by your competitors?
MF: Well, what our plug-in competitors have done well, in my opinion, is approximate a lot of historical and classic film looks. That can be handy for some projects, but in our discussions with video editors, what they more commonly want are attractive treatments to enhance their footage. In many cases, it doesn’t matter to them if the film look has a particular Fujifilm or Kodachrome feel, or whatever. They just want the treatment to make their output look great.
So we let go of doing a “me too” film looks plugin and instead loaded ourselves up with all sorts of real-world test clips that were white-balanced a little off, too dark or bright, etc. -- the kind of footage situations video editors face everyday, whether from their own camcorder or from stock. We also made sure that every one of those clips included people, because skin tones in some well-known plug-ins -- I won’t name names -- some of their presets actually end up giving skin weird green casts, skies unreal blue tones, etc. Those are visual cues people relate to in the real world. Some of their presets plug up shadow areas or blow out highlights. That’s not acceptable to us. We looked very carefully at those issues in designing FilmTouch Pro, making sure that its 500+ presets didn’t create such problems. We then wrapped that in a highly adjustable, hardware-accelerated architecture so users would not have to wait to get great results. And they could tweak as much as they wanted to tailor the presets to their exact needs.
RS: Nowadays there are a lot of effects plug-in providers. What distinguishes Pixelan from the rest of the pack?
MF: Well, we price our plugins very affordably, but try to make them deep. We pack in a lot of flexibility and power through custom interfaces and lots of adjustable controls. We’d rather our users have a few deep plugins from us than dozens of single purpose “pluginettes” as we call them, which we see lots of users having a hard time even remembering they have.
We also really focus on customer service. We get a lot of joy doing that, believe it or not. Good service is so hard to find in the software world these days. We are intentionally a small company, even though we have been very popular over the years. We aim to respond to user inquiries within a few hours instead of a few days. Even quite often on weekends and holidays, because we know users can be left hanging trying to complete a project then and need answers quickly. We want to provide service like we ourselves would like to get. We don’t farm any of it out. You get long-time Pixelan employees -- often me -- responding on a daily basis. Even though I founded Pixelan and am its head honcho, I still like to do customer service, to keep my pulse on what users are experiencing. Lots of testimonials about our service are at our website.
RS: You’ve mentioned plugins for Premiere, Vegas, etc. but what about Lightworks? We have a lot of Lightworks users on our site.
MF: We like what we see in the Lightworks environment. Hopefully over time their plugin architecture will support having us on board. Since our plugins are affordable and do a lot of things Lightworks currently cannot, it would be a good fit. Time will tell.
RS: And what about Mac users?
MF: We actually started out as Mac developers. Those early spices were only on the Mac. But in later years an arrogant Apple wasn’t much interested in supporting plugin developers. So we left the Mac and license some of our Mac effects to other Mac developers, such as GeeThree. Times have changed though and we intend to come back to the Mac in a big way in 2014.
RS: In closing, I am wondering what lights your inner fire these days. What other passions do you have?
MF: Well, I love fine art nature photography and am an avid hiker. I try to get into the wilds for at least an hour every day, often to photograph. Sales at my photography website create donations for the animal world. I am also working on my first children’s fiction book, a middle-grade novel that takes place in the desert, another environment I love. All of this is mixed in daily with guiding Pixelan, designing new plugins, and answering user questions.
RS: So does Pixelan have more cool stuff cooking in its kitchen?
MF: You bet. 2013 was a very active year for us. We released FilmTouch 2 and added CyberLink PowerDirector, Magix Movie Edit Pro and Video Pro versions to our entire plug-in product line. We hope 2014 will even top that. Stay tuned!