Interview with Paul Babb, CEO of Maxon US
MAXON is a Germany-based computer graphics company known for its powerful and user-friendly
CINEMA 4D, a modeling, animation, computer graphics and rendering program. I reviewed MAXON's newest release of CINEMA 4D R12 a few weeks ago and found it to be a
real break-through release. During research for the review, I got a chance to interview Paul
Babb, the CEO of MAXON's USA division.
Paul Babb was born in California and earned degrees at University of California schools. He
worked in advertising and marketing after graduating. Paul started working with MAXON in
1997 and helped them introduce CINEMA 4D to the North American Market. In 1998 he
founded MAXON USA with the parent company and has been CEO in this region ever since.
I've had the pleasure of attending the last 3 years of special MAXON CINEMA 4D luncheons at
SIGGRAPH, where I've met and talked with Paul. He's a bright and cheerful man who has an
endless enthusiasm for CINEMA 4D. There's also a touch of class to his presentations that
makes the MAXON event stand out for me.
I'm very grateful that Paul would take time out of his very busy schedule to answer questions
about MAXON and their new CINEMA 4D Release 12. For more info, follow the links in the
interview and visit MAXON's main website. Renderosity's CINEMA 4D Forum is also very
helpful, so stop by and see what all the excitement is about.
Paul Babb, Ceo of Maxon USA
Renderosity: What is some of the recent news about MAXON and CINEMA 4D?
Paul Babb: Let's see …
- In September we released Release 12, which includes a complete restructuring of our
product line and a lot of great new features.
- Three of our customers have been recognized this awards season for their effects
work using CINEMA 4D – Sony Pictures Imageworks (Alice in Wonderland),
Perception and Pixel Liberation Front (Iron Man 2) and Crazy Horse Effects
- We're currently beta testing a new rebuilt Cineversity (our education and training site).
- We (MAXON US) closed 2010 with 47% growth over 2009.
Renderosity: Although MAXON was founded in Germany, the company now has offices
in several countries, including, I believe, Singapore now. How has MAXON managed to
grow and develop (especially in the US) amid competition from other 3D software
Paul Babb: I believe it has a lot to do with providing a tool that is easy to use and
integrates well with the other software packages designers depend on (After Effects,
Photoshop, Final Cut, etc.). We also have a tradition of providing great service to our
customers. We get great word of mouth from our customers.
Renderosity: I read a recent interview with you, Paul, at C4Dcafe.com (a great site for
C4D users) in which you said "Our biggest battle is getting people to understand how
widely used our products are." Can you tell us some of the markets/fields that CINEMA 4D has impacted that aren't
that commonly known? Also, is part of the growing awareness of just how good
CINEMA 4D is due to users interacting and passing on the news?
Paul Babb: That comment had more to do with the more recognizable studios not
wanting to share what products they use. They do have valid reasons. First, there is the
whole issue of "implied endorsement." And secondly, many of the studios do not want
to destroy the "illusion" by revealing how they accomplish some of those amazing
effects. I'm sure there is a competitive aspect to the latter as well.
CINEMA 4D is used everywhere you'd expect a 3D package to be used – film,
television, visualization (medical, science, architecture, engineering), games, design,
Renderosity: I know that CINEMA 4D has had a dramatic impact on motion graphics in
the US, but I've noticed that the program is increasingly being used by indie
filmmakers, like mdotstrange, masaki yokochi ("Locus") and Doug Purver ("Omar and
his Skyhook+). Why do you suppose that is? C4D's ease of use and emphasis on
training certainly has to be part of it.
Paul Babb: I agree. Ease of use would be first, then accessibility of service and
resources, and interoperability with other apps.
Screencap of main Cineversity page w/enlarged area
Renderosity: Speaking of training, how is Cineversity coming along? Are there new
additions/developments for users there? How does someone new to Cineversity use
the site to learn how to use CINEMA 4D?
Paul Babb: We're actually actively beta testing the new Cineversity right now. Hoping
to have it ready for NAB. One of the big changes is making it easier for users to find the material they need. Also, adding playlists for "getting started," etc.
Renderosity: Congratulations on the release of CINEMA 4D R12 this last September!
It's a major release for MAXON, not only in program developments (new dynamics, new
deformers, improved rendering, etc), but a pretty bold step in changing how the
program is packaged (no more modules). How did this change come about and what
was MAXON trying to accomplish by the change? What is MAXON doing to help
customers who have different module configurations to upgrade to the new release?
Paul Babb: Thanks. The changes came from research. Modularity offered a lot of
flexibility, but was a hassle for the customers to have to have a serial number for each
module, and of course, more work for us to manage all those serial numbers. Most
importantly, very few people were taking advantage of the modular nature of CINEMA
4D. And those who were had a very specific set of modules. The configurations we
settled on satisfied over 95% of current users. Those who fell outside those
configurations were offered a convenient way to upgrade.
Renderosity: CINEMA 4D R12 is quite a strong release for MAXON. Can you tell us some
of the major improvements made to the program? What was the goal in this release?
Paul Babb: Improving the workflow, productivity and enjoyment of artists using our
package is always at the forefront.
- Improved rendering was a big initiative with this release. A lot of the improvements in this
area (true units, IES lights, etc.) also made it easier to integrate our rendering with the
other products under the Nemetschek umbrella (Vectorworks, etc.).
- Dynamics: so much easier to use than before, so much faster and a heck of a lot of
fun to use.
- Python provides customizability and flexibility for users, and it's an industry standard.
- The new deformers and other character tools facilitate not only in motion graphics, but
in those doing character animations as well.
Renderosity: Without giving anything away, what can you tell us about the future
developments of MAXON and CINEMA 4D?
Paul Babb: Hard to say anything without giving anything away ;-) I'll just have to leave
it to "improving the workflow, productivity and enjoyment of artists using CINEMA 4D."
Renderosity: Finally, I know you pay attention to what people say about CINEMA 4D in
reviews and on the net. Is there something that hasn't been talked about in this new
release that you think users should know about?
Paul Babb: Actually, it's pretty rare when our user base misses anything in a new
release, and R12 is a good example. I think I've seen every feature and aspect of R12
Paul Babb at SIGGRAPH 2009
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Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.