mamoworld tools by Mathias Möhl are advanced plugins for leading Animation and Visual Effects software companies.
Mathias Möhl is the co-founder of mamoworld and has developed popular After Effects extensions including Squash & Stretch, iExpressions, MochaImport+ and Auto Lip-Sync. Developing extensions to generate passive income has become more and more popular during the last few years, but very few people manage to do this as their full time job.
In this interview, we talked with Mathias about his transition from Bioinformatics researcher to running a VFX software company, extension development, and the challenges that are involved with this business model.
Welcome Mathias! You’ve had an amazing career path – from bioinformatics to VFX. How did this transformation occur?
I studied computer science, wrote my diploma thesis on computational linguistics and then did a PhD in Bioinformatics. I published a lot of papers, gave lectures, my dissertation was awarded the top score of summa cum laude and the German Research Foundation even offered me funding to start my own research project. But in the end I rejected all that and started mamoworld instead.
While I was a PhD student, inspired by Stu Maschwitz’s “DV Rebels Guide”, I created a short film with a few friends. To help make this film I wrote my first After Effects script, Tracker2Mask, and shared it online for free. Publishing scripts like this was the direct opposite of my research at university; while the research was highly complex, only a few experts really cared about it. At university, I did almost no programming and was mostly focused on doing mathematical proofs, i.e. whether a given problem could be solved by any computer in a reasonable amount of time. Compared to that, my first Ae scripts were quite trivial, but I got a ton of feedback from very happy users.
I enjoyed the theoretical work at university, but I eventually reached the point where I wanted to do something with more practical applications.
How did you and Andra Möhl come up with the idea of creating ‘mamoworld’?
When Andra and I became a couple, she noticed that developing these extensions for Adobe After Effects was not only what I loved to do but could also pay our bills. She has a background in marketing and business management and encouraged me to turn my hobby into a business. So we both quit our jobs and started mamoworld.
Without Andra, I would probably still work at university and would never have dared to start my own business.
How do you identify the loopholes in industry standard packages that inspire you to create motion graphics and VFX plugins?
The ideas for my first Ae scripts were born while I was doing really tedious rotoscoping work for the short film I mentioned earlier. Instead of spending hours with boring, repetitive tasks, I enjoyed spending the time to come up with an automated solution. A lot of my ideas are still generated that way. Whenever I used music in Premiere Pro, for example, my first step was to manually create beat markers. Thanks to our extension BeatEdit for Premiere Pro this has now become obsolete, as this funny video demonstrates.
When I started doing mamoworld tools full-time, I worried that I might quickly run out of ideas. But I actually have way more ideas than the time I would need to implement them. Typically, I refine and think about an idea for one or two years before I actually start implementing it. Ideas are like wine – they need some time to mature. So it is very good if you are not under pressure to come up with new ideas quickly.
Does it ever happen that after releasing a plug-in for a piece of software, the company solves the problem in their next update and your tool become obsolete?
You always have that risk as a third party extension developer. But so far it has never happened to us. An important aspect is that software companies like Adobe or Foundry are happy to have a healthy ecosystem of third party developers and they have limited resources for their own development. So when we solve a problem for them, it is very likely that they consider this problem solved and focus on other, remaining problems.
Which programming languages do you use to write mamoworld plugins and tools? Please elaborate on your answer.
The language you choose really depends on the kind of problem you want to solve. mamoworld tools had been coded with different programming languages. With the C++ API of After Effects, for example, you can do many things that you cannot do with the ExtendScript API, and vice versa. So we first decide what we want to do and then see which API, and hence which programming language, works best to achieve it.
- MochaImport+ for NUKE is written in Python.
Kindly give brief details of some of the mamoworld tools.
BeatEdit automatically detects the beats in your music and visualizes them as markers in the Premiere Pro timeline so you can easily make your cuts in sync with the beat.
With Squash & Stretch, you can use the collection of ready to use behaviors to create animations in After Effects in no time. They are carefully handcrafted by professionals and controlled by an intelligent system that adjusts them to any layer. This is particularly useful for projects with a tight deadline or budget, but also to quickly bring your first concepts to life. And since it‘s all based on keyframes, you can adjust the animations it generates however you want.
Check out Squash & Stretch Promo Video.
Among our most popular tools are the iExpressions and Auto Lip-Sync for After Effects, as well as MochaImport+ which is available for both After Effects and NUKE. We’ve got loads more popular After Effects extensions, like GridGuide or Skin Retouch. You‘ll find all of them at https://aescripts.com/authors/m-p/mamoworld/.
The mamoworld iExpressions are hugely successful. Tell us more about them.
The expressions system is one of the most powerful features of After Effects, but in order to use it you need to know how to program. With iExpressions, using expressions becomes much easier and more accessible. It contains a large collection of more than 100 ready to use expressions, each of them with an intuitive user interface. The applications range from generating random text or simple links, right through to physics simulations or automatic walk cycles for character animation. With iExpressions, you can do all these without reading or writing a single line of expressions code.
Since iExpressions generates normal expressions, it also plays well with other third party products. Here is a tutorial we published recently on how to use the iExpressions walk cycle for a zombie rigged with the Limber extension.
How have users responded to the mamoworld tools and plugins?
One of the greatest things about the VFX industry is the community. People are very positive and grateful if you develop tools that make their work easier. When we started mamoworld, the biggest relief for Andra was that she could now do marketing for products that the users really love, instead of motivating them to buy something they don’t need.
We also contribute to the community with free tutorials and many of our extensions are available for free or on a Name Your Own Price basis.
Will mamoworld create its own stand-alone motion graphics and VFX software?
Developing extensions has a lot of advantages compared to developing a standalone app. You can build on a base of functionality that is already available in the host app and really focus on the little things that are missing. mamoworld tools works on this notion. It also gives you access to a larger user base: it is much easier to convince an After Effects user to try a plugin than to close After Effects and launch another app.
Where do you see mamoworld in five years?
In general, Andra and I want to continue focusing on the development of extensions, in particular for the Adobe Creative Cloud products.
I have so many ideas for new products and I can’t wait to see them become a reality. To speed up our development, during the last years we‘ve started involving more external people. The core beat detection engine of BeatEdit, for example, was developed by research groups at the universities of Porto and Victoria. For promo videos, UX and the Squash and Stretchbehaviors for example, we worked with a number of external designers. We want to continue involving more and more people with these kinds of collaborations and the biggest challenge I see for the next five years is to find skilled, creative, and reliable people to build long-term partnerships with.
We thanks Mathias for providing in-depth technical details of mamoworld tools. We wish Mathis and Andra a great future ahead.