Australia’s film-industry disruptor, Blackmagic Design, has released a suite of new products it hopes will propel it back to its pandemic highs – including a free app for shooting cinematic, feature-film-quality video on your iPhone. CEO and founder Grant Petty takes aim at those who tell him he shouldn’t be giving it away.
“I always laugh a bit, in a nice way of course, when we get asked about how we’re going to monetise free apps, and to think in terms of setting timeframes for profitability,” Blackmagic CEO Grant Petty tells Forbes Australia.
“First off, we are profitable. And we definitely want to sell products and make a profit to keep growing and hire more people. But you have no idea how many MBA-type thinkers have told me we have to charge a monthly fee for DaVinci Resolve (Blackmagic’s video-editing, post-production software) or have told me to think of massive profits instead of helping solve our customer’s problems. Blackmagic does not look at our customers as targets to squeeze as much money as possible out of.”
Blackmagic, founded by Petty and Douglas Clarke in Melbourne in 2001, made its name by selling studio-grade video editing technology for a fraction of the price of its competitors. Then they bought daVinci Systems which sold video kits for around $500,000 – and they started giving that software away too.
Petty and Clarke’s wealth soared to an estimated $1.4 billion each at the height of the pandemic’s home-video boom. But after-tax profit fell by $108 million to $45 million in 2021-22 as sales drooped and supply chains snagged.
Petty remains unconcerned by such detail. “I know this is hard to believe, but lifting profits and thinking of profits as a quarter-to-quarter or year-to-year thing is something I only think about when people outside the company ask me. I know it is an easy way to keep score, but that way of thinking crushes innovation.
“We are a company that solves problems for customers and gives customers the chance to grow. And as customers learn and get better at their craft, they buy more Blackmagic products. I think it is a very logical way of running a business.
“The Blackmagic Camera app is the same idea. Can you imagine all of the ways that creative people will be able to grow by having digital film camera controls for shooting cinematic, feature film quality on their iPhone?
“These customers grow and pick up DaVinci Resolve hardware and software. Or buy one of our ATEM switchers to start streaming. Or begin using Blackmagic Design cameras along with their iPhones to do different projects.
“As for whether we are hoping that the new Blackmagic Cinema Camera 6K, Micro Studio Camera G2 and the other products we just launched will lift profits for this year, I absolutely do expect that.
“The products are shipping now or about to ship and will increase the number of people and types of markets using high-quality video from us. It has been incredibly humbling to hear the reaction from around the world to them.
“Again, being profitable is important, but if your only goal is to see massive profit growth every month, you lose the ability to experiment and innovate. We are a self-funded company and don’t have to answer to anyone demanding profits on a randomly made up time frame. We have to help solve customer problems and doing that will keep us profitable and able to grow.”
Blackmagic’s new lineup
- Blackmagic Cinema Camera 6K
- Blackmagic Studio Camera 4K Plus G2
- Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K G2
- ATEM 1 M/E Advanced Panels 20 and 30
- Blackmagic Videohub 80×80 12G