HOW TO MAKE MONEY ON VIOLATING COPYRIGHTS!
We are living in very interesting times. We are being molded by the environment and we are trying to pass the upbringing we received onto our children. I have a saying I like to repeat: "We create the history". I imagine that everyone, who works in this branch of business (special effects, video editing and motion graphics) agrees with that statement. What is more, we also create the future.
This article was written for everybody, who buys plugins and lives in a motion graphics; Apple Motion, Adobe Premiere, AE & Final Cut X world. My name is Szymon Masiak, I am the founder and owner of MotionVFX.
We believe in hard, honest work. Everything our company has achieved is the outcome of hard work of the whole team and we mutually struggle for collective success. Everyone of the 15 people in our staff knows that creating a good product depends on making it great and making it original, so we don't tolerate imitating or copying someone else's work. However it may be that not everyone works this way and by stealing from others (yes, I write with full awareness of the gravity of that word) they release products that appear to be an exact copy of our work.
On February 5th 2013 about 3:49 PM (GMT+1) we released a brand new product called mDusts. It's a collection of 100 2K (2048x1152) Apple ProRes 422 files. Despite the fact that the pace we work with is sometimes crazy I try to think of every possible aspect of our products to make every client happy. I think of myself as of a professional and we, MotionVFX, deliver only professional products.
We have worked on mDusts for the last several weeks using RED One camera (which we bought for these kinds of productions), our new video studio and an old vacuum cleaner (we used flour in some shots, but it didn't look as natural as an actual dust from the old vacuum cleaner). We have all the source R3D files, which in some cases were shot at even 4K.
Every company that is a part of the Final Cut Pro X environment keeps an eye on the competition and, from my experience, everyone tries to stay out of each other's way. Besides MotionVFX there are several brands that produce plugins for FCPX (e.g Noise Industries, CrumplePop, Ripple Training, Industrial Revolution or Red Giant), but, from time to time, a less known (often completely new) company arises and releases a product similar to one that already exists in your collection. Sometimes this product IS from your collection and is half the price of your plugin. You put so much money and time into this project and you start to wonder: how is this possible?
Pixel Film Studios was recently taking us aback by the pace, in which they created and released their products. There seemed to be no week without a release of a brand new plugin. I was often wondering: "How is that possible? They have to have at least 50 people in their team to keep it all together!" I was thinking this way until 48 hours after the release of our mDusts, they added a brand new product to their offer. It was called Produst.
One of my Twitter friends, Nate B. sent me a question: "Did Pixel Film Studios straight up resell your dust stock as their own "ProDust?" Ironic that they came out with it days after you guys did." I read the message twice, because I couldn't believe in what I was reading and then I got petrified. I nervously went to their website, watched the promo movie and my blood pressure measurements went through the ceiling.
The process of creating such elements is characterised by remembering certain unique elements or moments (e.g. one speck of dust blown by the vacuum cleaner moving in a specific way).
It is physically impossible for two people to shot two thousand or more organically flowing particles in the same way. There is no way for a camera-shot material to show two different places across the globe with 1) identical dust particles 2) corresponding air flow and conditions.
The first thing our team shouted after watching the competition's promo was: "These are our mDusts!". We started our investigation by purchasing the "competitive" product. In the meantime, one of our team members was browsing the site of our competition (a mirror link can be found here: Original Produsts Site - PLEASE NOTE that they have replaced their promo video last night however we've downloaded their original video which is available here: Original Produsts Promo) and noticed one of our mDust elements used in their promo movie. "I remember shooting this bit!" - he said.
He created a screen shot and overlaid our mDust_042.mov over it. He adjusted the scale, rotation and flipped it, and it turned out that the competition is using our files. Exactly, dust particle for dust particle. You can watch and judge for yourself here (please play it in HD and full screen):
After downloading the product we had purchased, we noticed that it contains 100 files and takes about 15 GB of disk space - just like mDusts. How did they release such a similar product just two days after mDusts' premiere? Read further below...
(screenshot from original Produst Delivery - click to see it full screen.
Original files were replaced last night by Pixel Film Studio so don't bother downloading them)
This is how original files were packed:
(screenshot from Speed Download software showing when we have downloaded Produsts)
I decided to purchase and compare Produst with mDusts after I discovered an order in our mStore that was placed by Chrisitna Austin less than 10 hours after mDusts' release.
I don't know whether you know that Pixel Film Studios is run by David Austin and his wife Christina Austin. After looking into the log file I noticed that mDusts were purchased by Christina on February 6th 2013 around 02:17 (GMT+1). Coincidence? We think not, but we are not lawyers or the police. We are just software and application tools developers trying to make great, unique and highly useful products for our customers around the world.
Five people (including me) started comparing the files. Produst's files were created on February 6th 2013, so Mr. and Mrs. Austin had to work hard that day to only scale down the files to HD (our files are sold in 2K resolution). We knew our files well, but would we be able to proof that Pixel Film Studio sells our files without permission and for half of the original price? The answer came after a few minutes of comparison. Watch the video below and draw your own conclusions.
Hard to imagine, isn't it? On the example above you can see how our mDust_05.mov was flipped in X axis, scaled down and slowed down to about 97% of its original speed. The additional "blue dust" was added to draw our attention away from the fact that this is our file.
Here is the video with both files next to each other:
Now I was certain: the footage sold by Pixel Film Studio was created from our files!
I kept talking to myself that coincidences like that may happen, but still, I kept comparing the files.
Here is our mDust_019 and Produst 038 comparison:
It turned out that we were absolutely right! These were our files. Sure, they were modified, moved around, scaled and sometimes slowed down... BUT THEY WERE OUR FILES!!!
You can download both files here to compare them by yourself: mDust_019 and Produst 38.
As an addition, here is our original R3D file to compare: mDust_019_R3D_File.zip
Make sure to compare the dates! Our R3D files were created in November 2012!
Here's another example where our mDust_023 was rotated, scalled and mixed with another file to create Produst 68 file:
What should I make of it? Maybe you can tell me? Maybe you are a victim of fraud as well? Maybe I should quote the guy from the television and say: "Check it and start fighting for your rights"? If that's what making plugins in Pixel Film Studio looks like then maybe it is time to ask yourself a question: is your plugin bought, modified, repackaged and sold for half a price?
Additionally, I must say that a couple of companies similar to ours reacted to one of our Tweets during the weekend, suspecting similar behavior from the PFS's side. They asked me to remain anonymous, as they are conducting their own investigation.
Moreover, Pixel Film Studio has a couple of other products in their offer that on further examination appear very similar to ours.
For instance, On October 10th 2012 they purchased our mLooks product. A couple of weeks later they released 2 similar plugins - Provintage and Provogue. They've also purchased our mFlare and released something called Proflares. Conclusions? Draw them yourselves...
You will probably ask: what did I do to clarify the situation between me and Pixel Film Studio. I sent them an e-mail, which you can read below. Additionally, I wrote a post on their Facebook profile, stating that their product violates MotionVFX's copyrights. I got banned and my post was removed. The same thing happened to other people, who wanted an explanation: what are the differences between your product and mDusts?. All those questions began to dissapear. Moreover, all my comments from the Produsts promo on Vimeo were deleted.
Here's my correspondance with Pixel Film Studio:
(Click the image above to read it in full screen)
Am I really mistaken? Am I really incapable of recognizing my own work? Or maybe I'm just a silly Pole, who is not a native English speaker? I leave that for you to decide. Just remember that we have all the original R3D files, from which mDusts were created.
In the end you might wonder: how did I realize that it was them, who bought our product? Checking the mDusts orders we came across the Austin's address. All we had to do was compare the surnames and locations with Pixel Film Studio's data. Later on we bought their "product", compared the files and everything became clear. We were defrauded. Not only MotionVFX, but everybody, who bought anything from Pixel Film Studio. Maybe some of their other products were based on your files?
At the end of the day we all lose if we steal from each other.
We hope this is an honest mistake but all the evidence to date certainly seems to point in the other direction. If you feel you have been wronged in any way we would love to hear from you. We are pursuing all the legal avenues open to us, but frankly we would rather make more great products for you than spend our time building legal cases.
On behalf of everyone in our company and for the thousands of great customers, partners and friends we have around the world, I apologize for any confusion.
I wrote the above article and made all the comparisons between Feb 8 - 11 after downloading Produsts from Pixel Film Studio. In the meantime, Pixel Film Studio replaced their Produst trying to make it looke more like their own production. It was probably a very intensive weekend for them to replace elements they have stolen from us, as they even released a 9 min long video showing that they didn't steal anything. I'm glad we had downloaded the files they have originally started to sell before they replaced them.
Also a few minutes ago I've got an email from a friend who received the following message from Mr. Austin: "We are trying to do damage control MotionVFX has been posting slander all over the internet about our company and we are trying to defend ourselves peacefully. Very easy to prove him wrong But he has been making fake composites of our stuff and his to ruin our brand. Not cool. We made a sample of each of our dust effects so people could compare. Im trying to handle this peaceful but he never responds to emails.".
My comment: this is pathetic.
Today's morning I have also received an email from a different company, which would like to stay anonymous, saying: "There are some pretty suspicious things - for instance, their film grain pattern appears to be taken from someone else and then tiled to make it "different". This seems so be their approach - take other people's assets and then mash them up to hide the origin.".
Judge it for yourself.
* UPDATE, Feb 14, 2014
Yesterday, I received the following explanation from Pixel Film Studio: "Szymon, we sincerely apologize. After reviewing the work of one of our former employees, we realize that they used some of the footage of your product. Something I was unaware of at the time of sending the emails to you. A totally unnecessary move since we have hours of dust footage of our own and was not the intent at all. In an attempt to cover up his lazyness, his work the files were switched after 8 hours within launch of the product.".
Also, on FCPX's Facebook page Mr. Austin wrote: "Pixel FIlm Studios has come under fire lately from MotionVFX. The shame is it is justified to an extent. We had a employee resign yesterday after feeling an enormous amount of pressure on the things that were done to complete Produst.
Unfortunately young employees sometimes don't realize the things they do and how they can effect the people around them. This employee is great person who just made a bad decision.
We created all footage in our office and have hours of film shot with our cameras to create the desired effect. After reviewing the first 20 pro dust composites with this employee, everything was fine. We left him alone to do his job and tell us when he was done. We packaged it, made a demo and sold it.
The next morning I got an email from motionvfx staying we were pirating footage. To my knowledge… "That was CRAZY!" We had spend the whole day recording the necessary footage to complete the day earlier. Meanwhile the employee was already fixing the mess after guilt. I still have not seen the footage containing the Motion Dust. Lesson learned… When your name is on something… Make sure you know every dent and scratch!
We looked at our records after and it showed new versions of the video were uploaded from his house and the office. 8-10 hours after the original release. Therefore we will be refunding all the customers who purchased in the first day and require they delete any footage off of their computers immediately. We will also send them a new download of our footage Produst as an apology.
This can happen to anyone and unfortunately MotionVFX capitalized on this moment to ruin competition. Mission accomplished? Maybe… However, we have awesome effects and will continue to do so moving forward. We would like to take responsibility as a company for this and apologize to MotionVFX. This is the only time this will ever happen.
This does not reflect our company culture one bit. Our company culture is to have freedom, treat our workers like gold with an enormous amount of trust. Moments like this… it didn't work out for the best.
Thanks everyone for the support!
Even though we don't buy this story, we accept the apology. We will not start any legal action against Pixel Film Studio. Let's all move on. I hope this article will be a great lesson for everyone.