“Hey, while you’re here, do you want to come downstairs and see my new Media 100 system?”
Little did I know that innocent question would send us in some pretty exciting directions.
Ilana and I were not long out of college, newlyweds, and making a living doing freelance video productions work out of our tiny townhouse. Our college pal Mike Weiner tagged along with us on a road trip to Pennsylvania to drop off a camcorder we’d sold on an AOL forum. While we were there, the buyer invited us downstairs and showed us some video. Playing off a Macintosh computer. And it looked like video.
Understand that in 1995 this was a Big Deal. Back then, video playing on a computer was usually the size of a postage stamp. But this was playing back on a broadcast quality monitor. And it looked like video. Not blocky, stuttering, overly digitized video. Just…video. Mike and I stood there with our noses a couple of inches from the screen, amazed at what we were seeing. It was one of the first Mac based video editing systems, called Media 100. And for under fifty thousand dollars it could do things that previously required over half a million dollars in video editing decks, controllers, switchers, routers and audio mixing boards. The opportunity presented by this development did not escape us.
The three of us spent the long drive home scheming, figuring out how we could get ourselves one of these fancy new Media 100 systems. Between the stuff we already owned, the few bucks we’d all socked away, and the available balance on our credit cards, we could just about make the numbers work. And so, thanks to the dreams and innocence of youth, we were off and running. Soon we had an edit system, some camera gear, and a handful of clients.
We needed a name.
We sat in Mike’s apartment, brainstorming. These new computer editing systems broke the image down into individual pixels, the smallest elements of an electronic image. And it was a cool word, a new word at the time. (Pixar was still experimenting with short films back then, and making software, so they weren’t really on the map, yet. Toy Story had yet to be released.) Pixel Playhouse (too whimsical) Producer’s Playhouse (ditto) Pixelworks (does it?) Pixelcraft (almost made the cut) were all considered. In the end, Pixel Workshop won the day. For us, the word Pixel represented attention to detail and the digital nature of our craft, while Workshop represented our vision for bringing together craftspeople of different skills and disciplines to work collaboratively together. We liked the combination of high tech and traditional.
So Pixel Workshop was born.
We officially opened for business April 1st, 1995. (The fact that it was April Fools Day did not escape us.) Our first office was cozy, four rooms and a small lobby area. We kept the white walls for a few years, afraid we’d offend the corporate sensibilities of some potential client if we showed our true creative colors. Our biggest client was the University of Maryland department of athletics, and we produced most of their highlights videos and coach’s shows, traveling with the teams.
After three years we were busting at the seams, and needed more space to hold our ambitious plans. This was at the peak of the internet bubble, and we expanded to over seven thousand square feet of space to house multiple edit suites, graphics workstations, a small studio and workshop space.
The double whammy of the internet bubble bursting and 9/11 hit our industry hard, and business got slow, while the country held its collective breath. We downsized, moving to a smaller facility, jettisoning the studio space and streamlining our operation. It was the right move to make, as we saw countless colleagues in our industry close up shop. We survived, and came through the challenges stronger and smarter than ever.
Today, we continue to provide top quality video, multimedia, web, interactive and social media production and consulting services. We’ve earned the respect and trust of our clients, who keep coming back for creative, innovative solutions. And we continue to have a lot of fun doing it. We feel very lucky to be in an industry that provides so many opportunities to learn and grow, and to share those experiences with others.
– Dave Bittner