Welcome to the latest edition of our Innovator Spotlight series. Today, I would like to introduce Matthias Hinrichs, Global Product Manager for Visual Control Systems at HARMAN Professional Solutions. Matthias lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and leads the development of lighting control systems that facilitate the operation of Martin lighting fixtures and video elements. From hardware and software development to working on user interfaces and infrastructure, Matthias serves as a vital member of our international console design team.
Matthias discovered his passion for lighting when he was 12 years old, while working at his first internship in his native Germany. After building custom lighting fixtures for a theater class, his teacher invited him to spend some time at a community theater, where her husband was the director. Matthias was awed by the experience and set his sights on becoming a lighting professional.
While attending the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, Matthias launched his career as a freelance lighting programmer, working in television, on installations and touring the world with an Irish dance show. In 2003, after moving to the United States, he began to work as a technical support specialist at Martin Professional in Simi Valley, California. After stints as a business development manager for Martin’s U.S. rental lighting and as a product manager for consoles in the U.S., he was promoted to his current position seven years ago.
During his years at Martin, Matthias has co-authored numerous controller and fixture patents. His focus, however, has always been on advancing the artistic experience of lighting designers, directors and programmers while improving the visual experience of audiences. “What we do at HARMAN is foster creativity by enabling people to use many kinds of lights in many different ways. The nicer and easier we make the creative process, the happier they are,” he said.
“I work with a great development team, and one thing we’re very conscious of is reducing visual clutter on screens and providing a clean, efficient interface. People don’t really notice user interfaces if they’re good, but they surely do if they are bad. By stripping away a lot of extraneous elements, it makes it faster for them to work, because there isn’t any visual clutter in their workspace” he said.
In the last few years, much of Matthias’s focus has been on the Martin M-Series of products that range from the flagship Martin M6 console, with its six configurable modules and extensive built-in processing power, to the M-Touch, one of the most affordable professional lighting consoles on the market.
“I’m really proud of what we have been able to achieve with the M-Touch,” said Matthias. “We took all the power of larger consoles and drilled it down to a very compact product that people can toss in their backpacks. It can operate in any kind of lighting environment. Plug it into the right laptop, and you could even drive a huge concert with it. It may not be the most effective way to do it—there are very good reasons that large console surfaces are out there—but technically, you could make it work. You see a similar thing in audio with people mixing on an iPad.”
Matthias and his team designed the M-Touch without conventional faders and buttons and decided to instead create an extremely durable touch surface. “We have pictures of people using them at Burning Man. They were so full of dust and dirt that you could barely read anything, but the M-Touch continued to operate. Because the surface is an all-in-one touch membrane, it is very rugged,” he said.
Another facet of Matthias’s work that he is passionate about is exploring how the use of technology differs for people around the world. “Something that’s true in Germany might not be so in the U.S., Brazil or Australia. Each country has its own philosophies and ideas about how to do things, and that’s so valuable for us to understand,” he said. “I’ve been in India a couple times now. I‘ve been to China, Japan and Brazil, which have been amazing. And, of course, I go to Europe quite often. One of the things I love most about my job is that I get to develop friendships and relationships with so many talented people, in different places, who provide input and perspective on our products,” he said.
When he’s not traveling, Matthias works out of his home office on software development, testing and support. He also spends a lot of time researching new trends in lighting design and computer technology. For fun, he and his wife like to tend to their garden, watch movies in their JBL-powered home theater, foster cats for the Humane Society and go on vacation to places like Hawaii, Key West and, of course, Germany. Matthias also enjoys refurbishing and maintaining the two vintage pinball machines he recently purchased.
Thinking about other hobbies, Matthias said, “For me, working for HARMAN isn’t even a job; it’s actually my hobby and what I love. It’s what I do every day, and it never feels like I’m going to work. We help people by providing the tools for great entertainment, and I am very fortunate to play a small part in it!”
HARMAN appreciates having an innovator like Matthias on our team! Many thanks to him for his contributions to lighting and the interesting insights into his work process.
Do you have what it takes to become a HARMAN Innovator? Introduce yourself in the comments and visit https://jobs.harman.com/ to learn about our current opportunities at locations around the world.