Maximum Throughput Inc, in an exclusive interview with fxguide, confirm that they have just bought Xstoner. Both Xstoner and Max-T are companies we follow closely at fxguide, for their outstanding high end products, so we sat down and talked to Mike Hughes at Max-T, and asked what this means for both Max-T and Xstoner customers, and what this will opens up for the future.
fxg: How has Max-T been going?
MH: Max-T is going extremely well, and the first quarter of this year was by far our best to date. Our Sledgehammer product line has expanded and evolved quite significantly over the past year, and it's showing in the number and type of systems that facilities are adding. Recent purchase announcements we made include REZN8, Postworks, rhinofx, MPC, and Digital Domain. It's interesting to note that each one of these clients uses its system in different ways. We have press releases on our web site outlining some of the specifics.
fxg: Is there any truth in the rumour that you guys are buying Xstoner?
MH: I'm happy to confirm that we closed the deal on April 5th. As a bit of history, last year we started looking for a way to have Sledgehammer work better with Discreet gear. We found Xstoner, which incidentally was developed by a French company called Light, and after meeting up with their team at IBC last September, we decided to work with them and add Xstoner server to Sledgehammer so that we could do peer-to-peer transfers directly into and out of Discreet clip libraries.
With this development came an understanding of the Xstoner technology and how cool and useful it really is. Since a number of the tools that were already developed under the Xstoner framework were also on our road map, the synergies jumped off the screen and we arrived at a deal to acquire the Xstoner technology.
fxg: Will any of the R&D be relocated ?
MH: Yes. Many of us at Max-T have been through technology acquisitions before, and we know one key to success is development continuity.
fxg: Do you think this will open xstoner to a wider audience? We have tested xstoner and loved it.
MH: We certainly think so. With more and more facilities adding desktop seats due to the power of both the hardware and software that is now available, the issues that Xstoner addresses become increasingly relevant. Also, once married to Sledgehammer, a very Discreet-friendly centralized storage solution starts solving a lot of the IT bugbears that plague people today.
fxg: Any ideas on how this will work with max-T in terms of workflow?
MH: You guys have reported on the workings of Xstoner, so I don't need to describe the product, but with Xstoner server running on Sledgehammer, anyone at any seat (PC or Mac) in the facility can visually browse and move material into or out of any Discreet framestore.
So for example, if Sledgehammer is the rendering target for a 3D department, anyone can move CG elements straight off the server (Sledgehammer) to the Discreet artist who's comp'ing the element into the larger scene. He/she needn't worry about file formats as that's all taken care of in the background.
fxg: Does this signal any chance in direction for the Xstoner product?
MH: We'll continue to evolve the product as it stands today. Additionally, we'll use its underlying technology as a framework for an extended image manipulation and management toolset.
fxg: Will this affect current Xstoner users and licences?
MH: Only in a positve way. We'll be offering upgrades to the current installed base
fxg: You seem to be winning the market share position on NAS, how many installed system do you have now?
MH: Funny how success seems to breed success. By this I mean that once you can point to real-world people who are using your products to solve real world problems in production, they open up to seeing what you have to offer. A significant advantage that I think we have is that pretty much everyone at the company comes from the entertainment/post/broadcast side of the business. We know the issues and problems that customers face on a daily basis and we really overlay this onto the products we develop. While our competition is focused on Fortune 500 type "enterprises," we're building product for the people we know, and for whom we've already engineered solutions for many, many years.
When John joined last year as our VP of Sales, he said in no uncertain terms that the most difficult job we'd have would be to get our first 25 clients. I'm happy to say that we have hit the 15 (customers) mark and look to double that between now and mid-year. Should note that some clients have purchased multiple systems, so the unit count is closer to 25.
fxg: How big is Max-T? how many employees do you have ?
MH: We're currently 25 and looking to add more. We've mostly been staffing up on the sales and support side of the business to (a) address the growing market demand, and (b) to ensure that we can provide the best possible end user experience to our growing customer base.
fxg: What do you have planned for NAB 04?
MH: At our booth which is SL1055, we'll be showing both Sledgehammer NAS, the pure file server version of the product, as well as Sledgehammer HD!O, the SD and HD enabled version. We'll also have a Tezro-based flame system, compliments of our friends at Discreet, to show how the systems work together from both a video and GigE perspective, including Xstoner.
One topic of major concern which we'll also be discussing is digital intermediates. With a growing number of companies offering solutions in the data realm of color correction, we're finding that very few vendors are addressing the infrastructure issues associated to making this a workable model - from film scanning through to all aspects post production. We've tested Sledgehammer in the field in almost every regard, and know that it's ready and able to deal with the challenges facilities are facing in this regard.
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