A new graphics card for your console? Interview with the creators of the mClassic

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During years, one of the strongest arguments PC fans have against consoles fans is the fact that computers are easily upgradable and consoles are not. That’s where mClassic comes to play.

mClassic, an HDMI device that enhances graphics and pixels for your consoles, current or retro, providing you with a better gaming experience and allowing you to find details you never noticed before.

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We had the chance to speak with Amine Chabane, founder and CEO of Marseille Inc.,  manufacturers of the device, and with OG Arabian Prince, founding member or N.W.A (Yes, those) and chief designer for this project.

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Amine Chabane
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OG Arabian Prince

So, how did they started? Why did they create this? And we know you’re thinking “Is it a scam?”. Well, take a look at what they told us:

Collectible 506: What was the inspiration to create this company?

Amine Chabane: As  the founder and CEO of the company way back in 2005. I just had the privilege from a young age of doing research in mid 90’s, to be exposed to video processing and it’s something that we consume every day. Creating better visual experience is not only great for entertainment, I personally think that’s actually healthier  for you and that’s pretty much the idea behind it. There´s a content lag and if we could be there making sure that we can enhance the content lag while display evolves, there’s an amazing opportunity for a company like us in Silicon Valley.

C506: So, how did you actually start? You know, like saying “we have this idea”. Was it difficult to start?

AC: We were a group of scientists and experts in Silicon Valley working on a chip for a company, a big company, and we were doing video stuff all the time, I mean we were doing compression chipsets. And from one discussion to another discussion, a bulk of the business unit, a group of engineers, came to me and said “You know we want you to start a company because we’re getting frustrated by the overall situation and there’s something amazing to be done and we want you to lead that effort.“ I initially refused; I said this is not how you build a company. And after a couple weeks of reflection I ended up becoming a reluctant CEO and I said the only requirement would be that we call it Marseille since I come from the south of France. And it became history.

C506: Ok so how long did it take to launch your first product from 2005 when the company started?

AC: So the first chip was from 2005 to 2012, pretty much, like we  spent two years on a concept and eight years on developing technology, algorithms and system and eventually the first product that we sold was a chip for many major manufacturers to enhance video.

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Marseille’s first product: the mCable

C506: So you were doing it for third parties and then you just started doing it for yourself Is that correct?.

AC: What happened is that we were starting to build chips for the industry to make a better TV better player better newer devices. And very quickly we realized that as an innovator we  were better off and received a lot of requests from retailers. We were better off to build our own products. Our first product, the mCable. It was revolutionary product. at that time it was too good to be true it was crazy to put a full-fledged graphics processor inside HDMI  cable connector to this have drove the industry crazy it was like “what is that?”. We realized that having powerful chipsets was great, but in order to really lead innovation the best way was to go all the way by not only building the underlying technology but also building the full product. And that’s where some of the major benefits of the partnership with O.G. Arabian Prince which is now you’re talking about not just building a chip, but building a system and publicize it and making sure that you become part of hopefully a lifestyle of consumer.

C506: When you were manufacturing for third parties, did you receive some kind of feedback or some suggestion? Like “we know that you can reach up to this level but for our company’s sake or  technology’s sake let’s just keep it up to  this level even though you can do better, keep it like this.”

AC: It’s a very good question and I was trying to be polite but you’re pressing my button. What happened is when you are in an innovator position, for example one of the first 4K TVs, The first ever 4K panels shipped from Japan to United States were shipped to our research lab in Silicon Valley and we assembled one of the first 4k TVs, the entire hardware. We were really really ahead of ourselves when 4K was not even conceivable. We were demonstrating all around the world 4k. If you go on YouTube you’ll find some video of appears 2011 or 2012. Very quickly we realized that we were a trouble maker because some of the manufacturers who were doing, for example Blu-ray players, they wanted them to get stuck on HD and for keywords to address for them like “you know we want to sell more HD players before we bring the 4k.” So that was one issue but the second issue was that all the new brands now you know they are not our grandpa’s brands. We’ve been around the block for the last 20 years. I would say in the last 15 years of tenure there’s been a major shift. I mean who was BYD?  Who was GoPro? Who was Oculus? I mean, come on, you’re seeing a set of new brands that is coming out of nowhere where basically it has direct access to consumer and it’s way way more powerful than the old brand. I don’t want to put some down, but I mean it’s you take the millenium generation and go and tell them about Panasonic and they’re going to be confused. Toshiba, Sharp what are they? That’s where you realize that not only they were slow in adopting new technology but also outdated.

So I think that that’s kind a little bit of frustration seen  in some of the brand and  we also got those. I mean one of the first incarnation of the products you walk with the manufacturers in China. They cut corners. They don’t really do. I’m not saying a Chinese manufacturer are all bad. That’s not true. I’ve seen a lot of amazing technology coming out of China. However, at the end of the day unfortunately too often for reasons of cost they cut corners. For us, we aim no less than becoming the next premium AV consumer brand bringing smart accessories to the mass market for creating a better picture and experience. And you don’t need a PHD to use the product. That is what we hope for.

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C506: Yes, it seems pretty user friendly, I’ve noticed. There are some words that you just previously said that caught my attention and they are “too good to be true” of the product. How have you been facing these skeptic people saying, “It just make things just a little bit better. There’s no big difference.”

AC:  We’re going for a lot of interviews and it’s a pleasure to be talking with you because you really have a different angle on this. I think that what’s interesting is two things. Number one is and this is how this partnership with Arabian Prince kind of started. I think that having the crazy idea of launching or reinventing HDMI cable category is murky. I’m an engineer I’m a scientist. I can sell because of necessity, but at the end of the day deep in me engineering is still there. So I think that this idea of putting a supercomputer on a chip inside this HDMI cable it’s almost too clever. And it’s annoying because, for the last 15 years you have manufacturers that went and will go to China, they will put a nail polish on the connector making it look like gold make it latching on and selling that crap, pardon my French, as a premium cable to consumers. Consumers didn’t know any better at that time and they will pay premium for a cable that does absolutely nothing because  HDMI is digital and it either works or it doesn’t work. You cannot enhance the HDMI signal by simply having better wire that’s a complete scam. 15 years down the road you’ve got this young company in Silicon Valley startup that goes and says “hey, here is a new HDMI cable.”, so imagine the reaction of the consumer who got scammed by all these fake products. Today you Google HDMI and everybody is going to tell you’ve got to be out of mind to waste your money on HDMI cable so you know it was very provocative to do it.

But in the meantime, it sounded too good to be true. However, what was great was when the customers started to buy the products and use them, then they became addicted to them so we’ve got thousands and thousands of customers who love the product, but the marketing challenge of going and educating the world that is not just a cable it’s huge.

The problem was as smart as the product was you know it was the success of shiny HDMI cable was killing us before even we were born. So the idea reinventing yourself repositioning the products, cutting the cord and make it better than ever and appealing and adding amazing feature based on all the feedback that we have received from thousands of customers is basically what we’ve done with the product that we’re about to launch, mClassic and that’s exciting.

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C506: I understand. Let’s go a little bit specific into MClassic which is the newest product. When  I heard about the mClassic, the first thing that came to my mind was one of the biggest scams that videogame companies pulled on people and it was the expansion pack for Nintendo 64. The enhanced capacity was already on the hardware and this was just like the key to unlock that enhanced capacity.

It took many years for Nintendo to kind of admit that. I have been researching and some people say “This is some kind of expansion pack, it’s already on the hardware of the devices and these guys are just pulling the same thing they did to us years ago.” So, how can we say this is different? We already know the mCables. But in this case how can you say to people that this is not some kind of expansion pack.

AC: Arabian you want to comment on that?

OG Arabian Prince: The funny thing is that’s the reason I’m part of the product project right now is because I met it last year at E3 gaming convention. I was greeted at the stand by Gina (PR for Marseille). We’ve done some work together before, and she told me about the product. And I got to take a look at it at E3 and I was the person who was the skeptic like oh “OK let’s see how this works, what it does.” And I looked at it, they showed it to me a couple of different ways and explained it to me. I was like “Hmm OK I’m smart enough I get it. It does work.

So this is amazing why doesn’t everybody know about this? And there’s nothing else out there like this. And I think part of the reason is you’ve got a lot of people like me who have been burned in the past by companies claiming that they can do things or claiming that their product does things.

And when it comes to gamers especially, they are very wary, because a lot of them thaught themselves as being technologists and being you know very very savvy when it comes to technology gaming and stuff. So, if you’re going to do something for a gamer you can’t pull the wool over their eyes, especially most gamers are very very savvy in social media and the world will know very very quickly. So it’s a different world than the average consumer and if you’re going to bring a product you’ve got to bring something that works and something that stands up to the standard of a gamer. And I think that’s what we’ve created. I looked at the product, I saw it work and I just came up with a design that actually fits the gamer and gave the gamer a respect and said “hey, no one’s ever created something that is similar to a graphics card for game console.” If you think about it and you know if you’re a gamer if you play any kind of games, most people never get rid of their game consoles. They keep them and they just sit and collect dust every now and then they crank it up and fire up a couple of old games. And now, you have the ability to upgrade your game consoles and have better graphics and you only could do that on PC before. Gamers are spending between three hundred and eight hundred dollars or more on graphics cards for their PCs. And here we have a new product that’s less than a hundred bucks that you’ll be able to buy and upgrade the graphics on your game console. So it is definitely a no brainer once people wrap their head around it.

AC: I like to add what Arabian Prince to summarize what he says that the product speaks by itself. Use it and once, you get used to it and you’re gonna  love it and we know that just based on the feedback we have received for mCable and knowing that mClassic is better than mCable, It’s a no brainer. But, one thing that we need to be clear on is we know the reviews that we have received from the influencers are spectacular, all the major independent influencers. Actually, some of them highly respected for being no pity on reviewing products praising our product. So from the technology view we’re highly respected for being able to deliver technology. I think the gap was really not about the technology but getting the math to understand the brand and the product right.

When you are a company that has been around the block for long and so on and so on really it’s really to give a chance once for all the early adopters of design and technology to know that we exist as a brand (trough IndieGoGo). The goal is to have the live campaign on July 21st on Tuesday. And what we will make sure with is that you have access hopefully you know maybe a couple days to a week maximum before then that. But we have been swamped by so many questions and requests and the overwhelming feedback from E3 and what we will do what we’re trying to do is to deliver.

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Shame on you, Nintendo

C506: Next generation in consoles is coming maybe in one or two years, no more than that. A person that gets a mClassic probably will enjoy it for two maybe three years that this current generation will remain. So the mClassic is designed to at least support the next generation, two more generations, or how often a mClassic will have to be changed in order to be used on next generations?

AC: I think at the end of the day you need to look at two things. I mean I’ll go back to Arabian Prince comment as a gamer. Most gamers actually  keeps their previous consoles. so the reality is the mClassic is going to enhance the content of your game console, once you have it is forever.

Now the question is if Marseille will bring another new mClassic  in a year,  two years in four years. And the answer is yes, because we believe that as we can recreate the real world experience or better on a display there is a room for improvement. And that is our commitment to the industry.

You cannot say that. mClassic becomes obsolete necessarily. It’s just that eventually you will have an 8K game console. Every six or seven years the game console gets upgraded for the last 20 plus years now. So eventually, the mClassic become obsolete. Maybe it becomes not practical for the latest and greatest console but you can still leverage it for billions of gaming consoles. And on top of that another maybe potentially billions of hundreds of millions of streaming boxes. So, the idea behind it is kind of like since we’re fixing the content the only thing that will make you want to upgrade the mClassic is maybe for better visual enhancement better algorithms or simply a new interface.

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C506.- So, mClassic won’t have such a thing as firmware or things like that that you may have to connect somewhere else to update?

AC.- The short answer is No. However, let me be very clear with you. What we’ve been trying to do is this analogy that actually mClassic is in all fairness  the world’s first addon graphics processor to a game console. You cannot replace the graphics capability of your game console. The only way to upgrade it today is to replace the game console. So having a dongle for ninety-nine dollars that you’re going to be able to plug in the back of console make it as the world’s first addon graphics processor for today’s console

C506.- Im just trying to make the questions consumers may have.

AC.-  The question is in order to upgrade you know for ninety-nine dollars. The goal would be like “hey, why don’t you go and get a new graphics card?” And since our price range is sub hundred dollars it becomes a no brainer. Why not getting a new one in two years, four years instead of just upgrading some software on it? You know what I mean

And as the market expands we could conceive to become more sophisticated for certain gamer or to upgrade to different settings like a graphics card, different level of sharpening different level of depth of field etc. So all this could be coming in the future but for now really is to since it’s quite disruptive. Let’s make it as simple as we can upgrade it.

C506 This question goes to Arabian Prince, what are the video games that you were playing while you were growing up?

OGAP.-  Well I come from the before times which you would call it when gaming first actually started in the late 70s and the 80s. So we’re going back to the early early like even before Nintendo came in when you’re looking at the early games on not even PC or my  Commodore 64,  Texas Instruments G.I. 99 and Colecovision and all those so I came up in that era.

And then, when the whole gaming craze started with the Nintendos , Intellivisions and Colecovisions I was at that. I was a teenager that was playing when everybody else was playing Duck Hunt and then  Pac Man and Asteroids and arcade games. So when it got to the point where it was about consoles in and actually first person shooters I was one of the first you know was a great champion back in the days playing Quake live and Quake before and DOOM and Castle Wolfenstein, All the early FPS is before this craze started.

So I’ve been around doing this in and I’m actually either produced or worked on over 100 video game titles for Fox Interactive for Universal and Saban and we’re done a feature film and television special effects. So I come from a history of doing a lot of this stuff.

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C506 What about you Amine, did you play video games when you were young, do you still play videogames?

AC.- It’s funny because my passion is more on music and video than gaming. So, I come from the video background more than the gaming background. We’ve been recognized by one of the most trusted technology houses in Hollywood, Technicolor, for recreating the content as was intended by movie director. My kids play gaming more than me I was more like this. Nerd scientists that that got exposed to a very advanced algorithm at a young age and every time I had time to play was more playing guitar or martial arts than anything else.

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C506.- Now that you mention Technicolor, is this project already backed up by any other big company besides Technicolor or any sort of certification?

AC.- I think it is very clear from the technology. If you just google mCable I must say you’re going to see we are highly respected in terms of visual performance. We did design with Toshiba in the past, Toshiba is known for being so picky in terms of visual enhancement. In the early days of 4K we’ve done some partnership with Sharp which was with the most advanced group in Japan. From an industry standpoint that’s not what is lacking for Marseille, to have a proven technology and even more important nowadays with a gamers is all the major influencers will have review  the product and express their feedback on it. Again, results speak loud and clear that the technology is proven.

C506.- What can what can we expect and what’s next for Marseille besides mClassic. Do you have any other projects in development that you may give us a little sneak?

AC.-  (Laugh) You know there is no doubt that you know every time we launch something we’ve got so many requests already and there are two directions that for sure Marseille will invest in. 8k is around the corner, content is still lagging like crazy. So, there’s no doubt in what we’ll do in the next couple years but those are big investments. Earlier when you were talking about enhancing the product, there’s so much that is very limited how much you can do by enhancing your product just based on software and at one point in time the type of enhancement we do require massive hardware observation.

So, what I’m looking forward eventually is to come up with a new set of product lines that follow on mCclassic, on mCable and beyond that will take advantage of higher visual expectation with 8k and beyond. That’s one direction and I thought we were done but it looks like that the retro gamer wants more than that. We’ll probably do a mClassic OG at one point in time and that’s all I have, but what I can tell you is that when you look at all these consoles and you look at all the visuals from the picture enhanced there’s so many amazing people that we foresee ourselves bringing to the market in the coming years.

C506.- One last thing you would like to say to people before we wrap up?

AC.- To me it’s very simple, please spread to the world. Check out the product, join or campaign, buy It. Is not just about money but it’s actually making sure that you’ve got a benefit from us and makes sure that other people benefit from it. I’m sure that from the technology standpoint you won’t be disappointed but we really need you the word of mouth for people to know that we exists and that that would be highly highly appreciated.

C506.-  Arabian Prince one last thing you would like to tell us?

OGAP.- Just like I said, for me it’s all about the gamer and it’s all about the experience. I’m a gamer, I’ve been a gamer my whole life. And I just want products to come out and support us and make the content look better. I want to have better gameplay so that’s what we seek, better pixels, better graphics and gameplay. And it’s one of those things you want in a game because if you have that, then you’re a better gamer you’re able to get to the kill faster get to your goal faster. So, for me, this is what it’s all about, making things better.

C506.- And as a gamer I would like to tell you that we really appreciate that. Thank you very much guys for this interview.

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You can purchase your mClassic trought their Indiegogo campaign. The campaign has been a huge success, reaching 11 times its goal as of today. Dom’t miss the chance to have this revolutionary product, try it and watch your games like you never did before.

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