ADX Exclusive: Interview With MilViz!
[Developer Interview] Here is the interview I have been wanting to conduct since the summer of 2012 and it's a damn good thing I didn't. Because if I had, I would have missed out on the many exciting new developments in production that our readers and myself are just dying to know about. I am of course talking about Military Visualizations. This is a development company that has drastically changed its military embedded identity into something all FS enthusiasts and commercial armchair pilots alike can enjoy. They have also hit the ground running with all the developments on the way! So come and join us on our next fun Sunday read as we sit down with CEO Colin Pearson and find out just what makes MilViz tick, what they are all about, and where they are going!
Today we are talking to MilViz founder and Creative Director Colin Pearson on what MilViz is all about, what they are up to, and how they manage to be the development company with more simultaneous aircraft developments in production than any other in the business. We’re getting to the bottom of it, come join us!
Now given the massive popularity of our most recent interviews with ImagineSim and LHSimulations respectively, I am really looking forward to making interviews more of a staple of AirDailyX. It's my hope that our review style is anything but common, and gets down to the answers you really want to know. Needless to say, this is not your typical 10 question Q&A you will find on other sites, it's a proper interview. I hope you will find it as entertaining as informative.
So in heading for the base of operations of MilViz in Montreal, I had to think really hard about which MilViz aircraft would be best to fly there. Obviously, their Beechcraft Baron 55 is the only aircraft in their portfolio comfortable enough to seat Dom, Mark, and myself. So needless to say, we all piled into the Sabre jet! Just don't ask how it worked out...
Welcome to Montreal and the headquarters of Military Visualizations!
D'Andre: Hello Colin, it's a pleasure to finally have the opportunity to sit down and talk with you. Thanks so much for making the time for us. The Sabre is one hell of an aircraft.
Colin: Hey guys, all good. Glad you could make it! And I’m glad you like the Sabre… it’s deffo high on our love list too!
D'Andre: Okay, we have so much we want to get to and I know your time is extremely limited given the impressive number of contracts and products you currently have in development so let's get right down to it.
Now as your company name suggests, my assumption is that the foundation of the company was to create 3D models for military contract purposes? What was the purpose behind the initial inception of Milviz?
Colin: Milviz started about 20 years ago with the intent of doing visual effects for TV, Film and video. After awhile though, we realized that we were missing an untapped market and headed into videos (internal and external) for defense contractors and the DOD/MOD of the US, Canada and the UK. We also did some projects for TV, books, and magazines… and one of those, a contract for 72 aircraft, led us into the arms of a 3rd party development for flight simulator…
D'Andre: Wow no kidding! I won't get into your DOD/MOD contracts. I imagine we can put 2 and 2 together and besides, I imagine you can't discuss much about it anyway. But I am quite intrigued about the work your company did for film and television. Have we seen your models on screen? And are there movies or shows we can go look for to see your work in action?
Colin: You have deffo seen MV stuff on screen… Some of it’s been in Die Hard 3, Transformers (2) and 2012. If you've played video games, MV stuff is in there too… I can’t say what exactly is in each as I did sign an NDA about that… same as with most of MV’s contracts.
D'Andre: Bummer, I really wanted to get deeper into that! Now as I am aware, you are the Creative Director of the company, did you create the business yourself or did you go in with partners?
Colin: It was for a long time a one man band but now, we’re about 26 people all around the world with about 8 of them full time.
Dom: Again thanks for the time Colin. We touched on this slightly but more to the point, when and why did you decide to venture into the flight simulation market?
Colin: We did 17 aircraft for AlphaSim. It was, in retrospect, something we should have looked at earlier…
D'Andre: Now as I also understand this, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but from what we currently know, you have several projects in development which include: the King-Air 350i, the Mitsubishi MU-2, the F-100D Super Sabre, the F15C, the T38C, the Bell407, the Junkers Ju87, the vintage B732, and from what we learned from TFDi design a couple months ago, the Boeing 717. I have a feeling there are 1 or 2 more projects likely going on that we don't know about. How is this possible? Are these teams employed directly by MilViz or are they contracted designers working from various places?
Colin: We have several teams worldwide who are all working concurrently on different projects… as an example, the 732 modeling/painting was finished just in time for the coder who had been working on the Sabre to jump on and the B-55 coder was finished just in time to start work on the P-38 Redbull (now released) and he then moved on to the Stuka which was done but was waiting for a coder.
I try very hard to keep the teams busy and to keep a regular schedule of releases but… there are moments when we have so many in the pipeline that it does get a bit hairy… now particularly… there are, I believe, 12 in the pipeline… it’s a LOT.
Mark: Amazing! That's a LOT of products in development! Now on the same breath as the above question - is there any further information you can provide to reassure potential customers that all these projects will follow through to completion. There has been some concern over the number of projects that MilViz currently has in development and I’m sure some reassurance would be very much appreciated.
Colin: We will absolutely follow through on these projects. There is a substantial financial interest vested in each as well as a desire to see them through. That said, there are some projects that we dropped and with good reason. The Harrier is a good example of that… We didn't want to be in a fight with Razbam so we backed off. Now of course, things are a bit different so we might not back off next time…
D'Andre: Now in the instances with the Bell 407, and Boeing 717, we understand that you are working with other known development teams. How to these collaborations come together? Do they approach you or vise-versa?
Colin: The Bell 407, I approached ERS and asked if they would mind working with us on the 407. The idea was to have more control over what went into the product. We do plan on working with them in the future on our other rotorcraft.
The B-717… well, we were approached a while back but… we passed on it and then Collin approached us (a year later) and we agreed to move on it. However, it does need to be clear… we are contracting on that one and are not really part of their team.
Mark: Do you ever see MilViz moving into other simulations platforms such as X-plane? Some developers seem to make the transition seamlessly while others avoid these platforms altogether. What is your position?
Colin: We are looking at ways of getting into Xplane but it does require quite a fair bit of extra work on our part to make that happen. We are also seriously looking at DCS…
Mark: In your opinion, what is the single biggest challenge facing third party aircraft developer’s right now?
Colin: The fact that what the client thinks he should be paying is the same as it was 3 years ago but now he/she expects what they gets now: fantastic quality in the graphics, code, systems and FDE. Our time to market is a killer and the profit margin is getting smaller and smaller. It’s extremely worrisome. As well, if I may, the piracy is a big problem. More and more people are not paying for the products and, instead, just stealing it.
D'Andre: To piggyback on that a bit further on this, a 2 part question if you don't mind. As it's clear your foundation relies heavily on military type aircraft, what prompted you to get into civil aircraft? Might we see a larger aircraft than the 737 from MilViz in the future? Vis-à-vis, NGX?
Colin: We’re doing GA (and larger) because there’s a market there… We are doing this for fun but also to make money so that we can do the more… esoteric of our projects. In terms of big planes, we are probably going to do a C-130J. We have access to all of the info/manuals and a trainer… as well as actual pilots. So it’s a no brainier. (this is NOT an official announcement)
Dom: The C-130J is very intriguing! To shift focus a bit, how do you analyze the FS market today? A few developers are expressing serious concern about a drop in sales lately. To be more specific, in scenery development, some developers are taking more and more time to develop a heavy airport sceneries in hopes they will pay off bigger. It also appears that Aerosoft is challenged by the difficulty of launching new internal projects given the fact that outside developers are producing less products for them to publish.
We are not asking you to comment other developer strategies, but in your opinion, is there such a thing as a "right business model" in FS simulation?
Colin: I can’t speak as to right or wrong. All I can say is that it’s a tough market and it’s getting tougher. There is a big problem with piracy and that’s not helping at all. Development time for any project is anywhere from a year to three years… that’s a looooong time to be without cash flow.
Dom: Very understandable. It's very interesting to see how the development community adapts to this ever changing market. Another thing we are starting is continuous improvements in features techniques. Carenado has developed a new knob feature that helps pilots to better handle VC control functions. Is MilViz developing and implementing any new never before seen features in future aircraft?
Colin: We are but they will, for the moment, stay secret.
Dom: We have noticed something of a growth on FS development companies using Twich as a means to involve the community in product development. Do you have an opinion so far on Twitch ? Do you find as more of a it a tool for promoting new products or for improvement methods with the help of the flight simulation community?
Colin: We like twitch. It’s easy to use and the ads are, so far, unobtrusive…
D'Andre: Colin, we have taken too much of your time! I again want to thank you for having us and taking the time to answer all these questions Without a doubt, MilViz is quickly becoming one of the leading aircraft developers in the business. We look forward to what the future holds for MilViz and the position it's establishing within the flight simulation community.
Without a doubt, MilViz is taking flight simulation by storm. Lately, we have seen many legendary developers slow their development projects and we have also seen many developers abandon flight simulation all together. Sad as this may be given the current market, we are also seeing many new developers arrive on the scene. MilViz obviously being one of these more recent companies.
We are excited about all the current projects making their way through the development tube at MilViz and as always, when they arrive, we will be here to get you the First Look!
As always, thanks for reading!
D'Andre Newman | Dominique Mason | Mark Hrycenko