More info from Topaz about this new direction:
Why did we create Filter Studio?
Topaz Labs has always been about making products that provide value to two groups of people: those who love to make better photos and those that who use photography as a means of artistic self-expression. For the first group we have made several technologically advanced plugins such as Denoise, Remask, and Adjust. These products compliment programs such as Photoshop or Lightroom which are weak in their respective areas. For the second group we have made products such as B&W Effects and Texture Effects that simplify a specific workflow. We are proud that those products provide clear value to our users. That brings us to where we are today.
Over the years we have received many requests for a program that includes the following features:
1. Easy to use - Much more intuitive and easier to use than Photoshop. This is particularly relevant for those who are less computer savvy.
2. Powerful - Use the most advanced technologies available to achieve the best results. It also needs to have access to all of our existing tools in an integrated way so that they can work together seamlessly.
3. Creative collaboration - Easy for the user to share their creative ideas and explore new ideas in the community.
We have also identified a 4th feature that we believe will be indispensable:
4. Fast Improvements - We want to deliver the newest advances in photo processing much faster than our current platform.
We are developing "Filter Studio" as a standalone desktop application and plugin to achieve these 4 goals.
How will we achieve these goals?
Easy to use
We have chosen to use an "Effect" centric design. The "Effect" panel and grid view allow anyone to find and try a look with a single click. "Effects" also provide a way to pre-arrange workflows for certain tasks.
The editing panel allows you to combine any image "Adjustment" into an "Effect" and adjust all the parameters interactively. In fact, we have developed the image processing engine using very powerful "node"-based editing (we are not currently exposing the full editing interface because we feel it is confusing. We will gradually expose more and more aspects of it). Another key is the new engine takes full advantage of GPU computing power. This allows us to use many complex algorithms that the CPU just cannot process fast enough.
This is what sharing "Effects" are for. We designed a cloud back-end so that users can share their creative ideas and explore ideas in the community "Effect" repository. We should like to continue to explore this area later on.
When fully implemented our new image processing engine will allow us to deliver new "Adjustments" through Filter Studio in a matter of days instead of a matter of months. The current product/plugin release cycle is much more cumbersome than an Adjustment based release cycle. This will really empower us to address users needs quickly. It also allows us to convert new research advancements into a workable product quickly.
These are very lofty and difficult tasks. We are trying our best, but we know we cannot do it by ourselves. This is why why we are counting on our user community to help us focus on the tasks that matter most to them. We really appreciate an open and honest discussion on these 4 top-level features. Feel feel to tear our ideas apart! You will be doing us and the photography community a favor. Neither us nor photographers need "just another photo editor".
We are not abandoning the old products, etc.
We created Topaz Studio to solve a number of issues:
We've released a number of really cool plugins over the years. We are proud of that.
Each of them bring something really unique to the table. As our number of programs increases so does the "technical debt" we acquire through the development process. Each time we start a new product they function as a new home, built from the ground up, and every time we start another project we begin again, basically from scratch.
This results in a lot of time in development being spent on reinventing the wheel so to speak, instead of building a better car. It slows down our development significantly, to the point where we can't produce new products a quickly as we'd like. Even if we could produce new products quickly, the business model of making 17, then 23, then 30, then 40 products is not viable. At this point even updates to current plugins take longer than we would like because you have to reacquaint yourself with the old project.
In order to address that issue we've been working towards building something like Topaz Studio for a long time. It has been the development dream, a shared codebase for developers’ interchangeable parts which allows us to quickly develop, perfect, change, pivot, and be as flexible as the current environment allows.
Think of it like high rise condos now, instead of houses. It all uses the same foundation and same structure. We can customize each condo and build new ones very quickly all within the same framework.
We're committed to free updates to new versions of products for life. But this means we have to make new products to get new revenue because users once they own our software, don't ever pay for that again. Developing updates is an arduous task. It is almost as arduous as designing a completely new product. In some instances we basically have to tear the whole house down and rebuild it.
Topaz Studio solves that problem. If we want to add a new slider, or new technology, or new functionality to an adjustment it's as simple as repainting a room. We feel like this helps us deliver on our promise of free upgrades for life better. If we wanted to change all of our sliders from blue to red, it is much faster to update one product (Topaz Studio) than to do it individually to all 17 products. This system is meant to solve that issue by being agile, flexible., and quickly updated.
Everyone has been asking for a home for their topaz products
It’s frustrating to have to open Adjust, close Adjust. Open Clarity, close Clarity. Open Impression, Close Impression. All of this, just to take a photo from out of the camera to something you are happy with.
When you consider all the preprocessing and post-processing that each of those applications take, about 1/3 of your time working is spent waiting. We know we can do better.
We've created Topaz Studio as a way to be a home for all of your Topaz Filters. The mission of Topaz Studio is to work towards unifying all of our plugins and technology into one framework. The first step is to at least make our own plugins available to be used within Topaz Studio. Eventually we want to integrate them as a full part of Topaz Studio so that you don't have to go through that annoying Open and Close process every time you want to process a single image.
Pricing and Competition
This new model will allow us to provide that same Topaz Standard, more quickly and at a lower cost, which we feel would make us even more effective.
You may also notice many of our products contain some of the same basic functionality, masking, noise reduction, some finishing touches. When we make a plugin that fulfills a certain role, we do our best to give you what you will need, use, and love. We want to make each plugin truly useful by itself. This solves a problem we have right now where our products are more expensive because it takes a lot more of an upfront time investment to develop.
The Topaz Studio model allows us to create very modular adjustments, that each accomplish a very specific task. They allow us to focus on a very specific functions and implementing them to our standards. It also allows us to offer that technology at a much lower price, because we're not having to recover all the development time spent framing and pouring the foundation of that new house.
The pricing on the current site is just placeholder stuff. We haven't gone through the actual pricing process yet. Our goal isn't to nickel and dime our way to success. We want to provide quality products, quickly, and available at a much lower price-point than our users are used to.
Topaz Studio represents something we've been working toward for a long time. We are at the start of something new. This does require a bit of a paradigm shift from the old way of doing things. We are not planning on a releasing Topaz Studio and moving on to the next product. We are not done.
The idea is to build something that lives up to our standards of quality, remains stable, and is timesaving and useful; then continue to evolve and iterate from there. I doubt very much that Topaz Studio we release in public beta is going to be the same as the version that exists a year from now.
We’ve faced a number of issues of the years developing our plugins and the technical debt that we’ve incurred in the development process has stifled our ability to innovate quickly, update quickly, and address issues quickly. Free updates don’t mean anything if we’re only able to update every 5 years. Topaz Studio will allow us to rapidly increase development and update time, provide a real home for all of our Topaz products to be accessed, and provide for seamless integration of our older and newer plugins as we continue to evolve this product.