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cmiVFX - Chris Maynard's Interview

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Il nostro amico e collaboratore Matteo Migliorini lo scorso mese di Agosto ha sottoscritto un account su cmiVFX storica casa di produzione di e-training professionale basato sul settore dei Visual FX. (SideFx Houdini, The Foundry Nuke, Eyeon Digital Fusion Autodesk Flame, ecc ecc). Abbiamo chiesto a Matteo di contattare Chris Maynard (fondatore del servizio) per porgli un paio di domande più specifiche.

1) Hello Chris Maynard, thank you for your time. Let's start with the interview .... can you tell us how/when you start the project "cmiVFX" ?

Back in 2003, i was still working in post production as well as designing software user interfaces for a new training company that was working for large government contracts as well as commercial entities. For example, we would create computer based training modules for First Responders (Police, Fire Fighters, Homeland Security) all the way too making foot fungus medicine commercials for television. Each week, something new. I came forward to my boss at the time asking him to consider doing software training. He thanked me for my idea, but shrugged it off and told me he wasnt interested. Well, now here we are going on 12 years later and over 50 people strong and growing. The first video was for Shake using an SGI machine. Nobody in the design world ever heard of it, and Apple Computer had just bought it after my second or third recording. (Still on SGI at the time) When i released the first set, it was an instant hit. Overnight, i was in a new office of my own, doing recordings full time from then on.



2) Can you talk about the services you offer? It? only learning or you looking also on another services?


cmiVFX is a company on the move. We are growing in all directions based on the communities needs. We have been rebuilding an idea we started 4 years ago called cmiUniverse. A collection of web based apps to help collaborate the whole world together on post production projects. We are about to launch several modules very soon. We are actually using a few of them in-house right now for management. We think the world is going to be really excited when they see what we started. On the other end, all of our mentors are real world production people. I am no different. Just other day i had to start helping on a tv series. In this particular area, we are like ninjas. We dont get a lot of credit because we sneak into bigger facilities, help them out of trouble, and sneak back out. Later, they all become customers of the training site, and the world is a better place! :)

3) Who are/is your customers ? young students or professionals?

Our current line of customers are now ranging from entry level to professional with divisions between them. We have been trying to act as a responsible organization, teaching real life issues to students, and high end research and development to professionals. Due to the fact that a good portion of our customers are also learning institutions, we have to let them take our materials and try to teach them in their own way. When we first started off, we were not thrill about doing all the work and having others teach it. However, there is a hidden value to being copied all the time. First of all, the people who are teaching are still students of ours. No matter what, they came to us first to learn how to do something. If they want to teach at ( - So far, every known school in VFX is a customer of ours - ) another school, we are ok with that. We are all about spreading the knowledge to help drive innovation. One day, one of their students might become a mentor for cmiVFX after seeing the connection between what they teach, and what we invent years before. So to define the answer even more, our training solution is now a self growing, word of mouth, profit sharing organization that lives and breathes for the student no matter if they are in Grade School, College, A boutique in NYC, or a large facility like Disney or Pixar. We are everywhere now, and in the future we will be using our new applications based market to bring in everyone else in the industry who is not looking for training, but looking for efficiency in daily duties. (Expect news this holiday season)


4) I want compliment with you because the quality of your product is very high and more resech in different aspect (subject, istructor, audio and visual editing). I try to imagine your workflow and I think is very long so... Do you have a team or make all by yourself?

When it comes to training, Every single video is edited by me in the end. A formula is agreed upon by several members all the time however. I always like to include all my project managers, recruiters and mentors in the process of our growth. Also, the use of our dedicated programmer, i am able to design all the website visuals personally, to allow for the content to be created by the instructor. Over the years, i have invented several content management systems for in-house efficiency. We never use third party web apps. Everything you see at cmiVFX.com is hand made by us, designed by me. I depend on my profit sharing partners to deliver amazing training so i can deliver it in new and interesting ways. Currently, I am in the middle of creating something very big. I could have done a mediocre job doing it myself, or i could hire great people to help. Obviously i chose to bring in a single programmer who can work with my very fast chain of thought. I give him all the credit in the world for keeping up with me. So far, besides our mentors delivery training, our programmer has been the only one able to keep up with me on some level to maintain new growth in the sector. We had decided as a group to hire a few people a few years back that completely set us back 3 years in development however. But in the cloud of disaster dust comes new revelation. We were able to take this disaster and use it in our favor by changing our future plans to meet the latest in technology. That being WebGL. We are doing things with a web browser that people struggle with in Maya or Modo. (Not to discredit either of those apps. Both are excellent). The future of this industry is very clear to us though, and if we launched our concept 3 years ago as planned, it would have fallen on deaf ears. Nobody would have understood it, because its too new. When we first started doing Video On Demand, there was NOBODY else doing anything like it. Vimeo wasnt even around at the time of our first VOD system. We literally invented Video On Demand on the internet based on American Television systems, and i could not have done that alone. I relied on finding individuals to build random puzzle pieces for me to assemble myself. Now i have someone to assemble for me, allowing me to create all the inventions that will drive the next decade of VFX. (I promise to release it in stages to not scare everyone half to death)


5) How do you selected you?e istructor? All people can collaborate with you?

What i love about our customers, is that many of them have the drive to become a cmiMentor. I can smell a cmiMentor almost in the very first email they send me. Often there are times that i try to make a cmiMentor out of someone who doesnt fit the profile for a variety of reasons. First off, if i create that new variable of person, it might reach a demographic that we are currently not reaching. So by trying lots of different personalities, we are able to see which ones serve the group best. The hardest working people will make the most money. We are profit sharing remember. We never collect our mentors funds. The customers pay the mentors on each and every sale using our split pay system we helped design with Paypal as our partner. This concept of profit sharing, is one we hope to spread to the rest of the industry. I know for one, that many of you out there deserve a lot more than what you are getting for the amount of work you do. Our system kind of fixes that. It defines what % of work you did in relationship to the project itself and defines the % you should be paid. Basically, if you do half the work.. shouldn? you get half the money? I think so. That is why our mentors come back over and over again, and thats why our customers come back over and over again too. The sensation of sharing is a trickle down phenomenon.

6) Usually how many new video/products you promote/create in one year?

Normally we aim for 3 - 8 new titles per month. However, we are about to release our new project tracking system that will expand that number to brand new heights. We had to come up with and idea that would maintain quality, and originality without sacrifice. 3 years later, we are on the brink of releasing a system not only to manage our company, but to let the world manage themselves. We are going to test it for a while before throwing it out there incomplete like so many others do. We arent creating vaporware to attract funds. Thats a mistake i see all the time in other companies and groups. If you dont have something, tangible.. it might be better to give the idea away to someone who can do something with it. Unfortunately, greed is only half the reason people dont share. Some people are starving and need something in return. (If only there were companies that offered profit sharing to help ease that pain)


7) You have many titles based on Houdini and post production software (NukeX for example) and this makes your offer very professional / sectoral level. Why this choice?

Many years ago, i saw the potential in procedural applications. I challenged others in layer based systems to do the same thing as me in the same amount of time and they could never come close. So i spent a lot of time taking the hardest stuff out there and making it common knowledge. You should see what im up to next! Let? just say that more people will be doing fantastic work with much less effort in the next few years and we are all proud to be a big part of that reason. Keep in mind that we are officially taking 10 - 20% of our effort to help more entry level solutions now. And when people ask for topics, the immediately get forwarded to the project managers to start finding solutions right away. I usually do some quick Research to find a path for them before sending it their direction. Without my initial research, requests can clog up the pipeline with overlapping topics. I eliminate that problem by testing the waters prior to giving it to the rest of the team.

8) I noticed that the latest releases are moving your production on popular application like as Cinema 4D, your customers are changing or are looking to expand your trade?

Ironically, C4D was an app that i always used since version 1. I was always fascinated by its shading system. Most people dont realize how excellent it actually is. This is the one place where layer based solutions really are great for building shaders. They have one of the easiest User Interfaces out there for making this beautiful quicker. Until recently, they werent focused on character animation, or dynamic FX. They were really stuck in the motion graphics world because of their ease of use, and their ability to render out things with their network rendering solution. We will continue to grow as all apps grow. So if other apps begin growing in the market, you can guarantee that cmiVFX will be right ahead of that curve. We work with the companies on most of the apps out there. We help design the tools, test bugs, invent features, and most of alltest interoperability with other apps. This is priceless for the vendors and while getting a bug report from us is the last thing you want to see, its also the first thing you want to see to prevent others from seeing it upon release day.
We have added a bunch of new apps over the last year or two, and have quite a few more coming. Expect some heavy twists and turns on this new road of VFX. In the next few years you are going to see some amazing things delivered in ways even sci-fi writers havent dreamed yet.


9) In recent years CG community/users have witnessed significant changes by the software house on our pipeline, I? referring to the fact that Autodesk was retired Softimage | XSI or Naiad has been implemented in Maya (Bifrost) or more post-production/compositing users has risen from Fusion to Nuke very quickly. Based on your experience twenty years what do you think we can expect for the future? A unique software like Houdini? or a passage of many users to open sources software (Blender for example)?

There is a new kid on the block. WebGL. Your chrome browser has the ability to do anything that a software program can do if programmed properly. i have seen equivalents of mud box and ZBrush right in three.js a new framework to let VFX developers program in javascript and python instead of QT.
Our new apps are based on this technology. We are making some amazing things such as non linear editors and 3d apps with near realtime 5k output. There is lots to do still to make these technologies production ready, so i put the world to work on it along with a bunch of others. If any of you are interested in this future solution to VFX, make sure to contact me directly. We are interested in working with hardworking, innovative people who can see past all the hype that goes on in the trade shows.
We dream of making our new solution partially open source. We feel that if we make the framework better, then developers can focus on making stronger modules. Such as tying our node system to someone else? stereoscopic 3d optical flow tracker. I know i hope to find as many like minded people to join cmiVFX.com if not for training, for co-development of the future of VFX.
I wish everyone out there good luck, and you can always find me at cmiVFX.com!



THX Chris.


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