Saturday, September 14th, 2013
One of the nicest things about Atlanta in the early fall is that you get a few beautiful days with low humidity, and that’s what today is, happy to say. Our old house gets a little cooped up from a summer of fending off heat and humidity, so it’s a treat to be able to open the front door, the porch room door, a window or two inside, and let the fresh air circulate through.
Sammy peered into my office and said “you didn’t open your window in there?” Well, it’s an old window that has a lock on it and there were a pile of cobwebs and other moo-gray (that’s the phonetic version of a Sammy Spanish term for, well, schmutz) and the windows were filthy and…
Y’know, as usual, I’m glad she spoke up. A little key-fumbling, sash-rattling, window-cleaner-spwooshing, de-cobwebbing, and my early afternoon has the warm breezes from the back yard coursing through my sometimes way-too-closed-up and dusty office.
Ahhhh. MUCH better. Enjoy your Saturday.
Tuesday, September 10th, 2013
Hello from a nearly end of the summer in Atlanta, a place I am indeed generally positive about.
It’s been one of those days where I’ve had to chase around mysterious problems with our shared webserver, which sits in a rack in Chicago, and is tended to by me and an employee of the hosting company who is based in South Africa. They’re good people, although sometimes I think their business instincts are as rumpled around the edges as mine are.
At any rate, Positively Atlanta Georgia has been around, mostly as a WordPress-based weblog, since the last century, and I have been distracted a great deal of this year with web design work I’ve done for other folks and of course television design and, well, it’s been a good year for interesting design projects.
I’m distracted as well by the myriad ways people tweet and chat and toss pictures at each other online in small, less-than-bite-sized chunks.
Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
In late November, I got an email from Flickr saying “hey, you know your lapsed Pro subscription? We’re giving you a free Pro account again through late March.” A $29.95 value!
And so they did. And to honor their marketing strategy, I made the most of the past few weeks, uploading and tagging and exploring and doing all that stuff that you’re supposed to do with a social photo-sharing service.
I felt a loyalty of some sort to the once cutting edge service. I joined up in, I dunno, 2004 sometime, posting pictures of then cutting-edge technology, or of our travels on back roads.
And then the other day it reverted to the free mode, where I only see the last 200 pics and the interface becomes decorated gaily around the edges with ads. “Come back!” says Flickr. Give us your $29.95! Ah, well, I would, but there’s Instagram and there’s 500px and there’s Google Plus and really there are way too many places for me to share pictures for my own good.
I’d been using Instagram now and again in kind of a low-energy experimental way and I had a general sense that no one was looking at the pictures I uploaded and no one certainly was clicking on the heart-shaped button that indicated they liked what I put out there. Okay, fine. I didn’t have a lot mentally invested in what I was uploading—I used it more as a vehicle to play with square-format imagery (like I did with SX-70 pictures in the old days.) And the filters—yeah, it was fun to mess my pictures up in various creative ways.
I tried (purely as a science experiment) tweeting links to Flickr and Instagram pics and sure enough, that seemed to generate some…viewership? Linkership? But still, I felt as if I was dropping pictures into some Instagram vortex, never to be seen nor admired again.
That’s because, of course, I was missing one important part of the game (hey, I never read the instructions.) Unlike on Twitter, where, if you search for any word in the text that accompanies an image you’ll get a hit, on Instagram, it’s all about the hashtags. Yeah, those things beginning with that octothorpe (#) that are quite popular with the kids these days are the ONLY thing that Instagram searches and indexes. So a photo with a clever caption (hey, I went to school to learn how to write a clever caption) was pretty much invisible in the Instagramvese. Fill that space with a cascade of #hashtags and apparently the bored people who explore page after page of images will seek and find your Apple 2-ish screenshots or your fine train pictures or your attempts to bring Sohio back from the dead or your pictures of your brother’s family cat.
Suddenly, it appeared that people worldwide were liking my work! Ah, how reassuring. Or at least it would be if I didn’t inspect more carefully and discover another, nastier part of the Instragram ecosystem: a lot of those likes were coming from bots, fictional people, or semi-fictional people who would like you to buy what they’re selling, even if it’s only advice on how to get more likes.
Eugh. Started to feel a bit like the whole somewhat greasy, somewhat distasteful Facebook ecosystem, which I’ve stayed away from like the plague it is. And I guess that’s not surprising, considering who bought those fine entrepreneurial Instagrammers and their technology.
But I’ll probably toss a few more things up onto Instagram, if only to play with their filters. (And I keep a backup of all these images so, hey, they’re just pixels tossed out there in one sense.)
Tuesday, December 18th, 2012
Did I mention that on our recent trip to the northeast we spent the night in Breezewood, the fabled town of one thousand motels? The midnight home of truckers aplenty? The western end of an abandoned chunk of the Pennsylvania Turnpike? And once the stopping place for transcontinental buses bound for New York that might have picked up a passenger or two in Columbus, Ohio? Yeah, that one.
Sunday, March 25th, 2012
Spending a little of my time away from the hospital wandering around, and on Sunday morning I decided to wander over to one of the Best Buys—Lansing is Apple Store free. Sure enough, there was a lineup of maybe 20 folks at the door, and although that translated to a line of maybe a dozen in front of the iPad sales table, they were willing go get what they could, pretty much sight unseen…all the demo units were iPad 2s.
I guess I can see why Apple made a marketing deal with Best Buy a few years back…if this scene is being repeated in the Fort Waynes and the Springfield Ohios of the world….well, that’s a way to move quite a few of the magical tablets.
Monday, January 16th, 2012
There’s a fair amount of consensus among the online sources I read that Apple is at least neglecting, if not outright abandoning the pro marketplace, and more specifically the world of television professionals. Today brought an Ars article entitled Why the video pros are moving away from Apple. I read reports of large production houses that used dozens of Apple’s Final Cut edit systems who are reluctantly switching to Avid—the only other viable option, they say.
I also detect a fairly healthy backbeat—voices saying that programs like Final Cut Pro X are the future, tape is the past, and that the universe of people who need truly pro-level tools to create graphics, animation, and to edit, finish, and deliver broadcast and film content is, really, get over yourselves, a niche market.
I’m not so sure. If you define “niche” in terms of raw sales numbers, you may be missing the outsized influence that edit and graphics rooms filled with Macs around the world have on the creative community.
Because those workplaces exist, there are students in schools everywhere learning Final Cut, Motion (and 3d software like Maya and Cinema 4D, and 2d essentials like Adobe’s After Effects, Photoshop, and Illustrator). They work (for the most part) on Macs. They come through a training regimen ready to walk into edit suites and design houses and create material that actually works on “real” projects.
Video pros like to use the word “workflow” a lot, and the reason for that is simple. The stuff they make is part of a whole—the opens and graphics of a larger program, or a package that shows up within that program, or a program that fits within a stream of programming throughout a day, or a commercial or interstitial that has to bridge the gaps between programs. When you’re part of a team, you’re handed material, you work with that material, and you hand it on in a way that meets certain standards and fits in the puzzle in a predictable way.
That’s being a pro. That’s being part of a team. In television-land, you may be part of a closely-knit unit of a dozen or fewer. On a film, you may be one of hundreds. The amount of raw material you work with and have to sort through is staggering. Metadata is your friend. Doing it right—frame rates, codecs, interlace, gamma—is part of the job.
Workflow is part of the job. It’s not just a “nice to have” option.
Starting a few years back, Apple was able to deliver hardware and software that made it easier to not just create content, but to do it in a way that fit into professional workflows in such a way that it made creative professionals’ lives easier.
It wasn’t just that you could make movies or television bits. You could, with these tools, make “real” stuff. Stuff that met standards. Stuff that could air without jittering or blowing out the color on your TV.
It was interesting to me that in a world increasingly filled with iDevices, Steve Jobs spun out the now well-known analogy that iPads would be more like cars with automatic transmissions, but, he said, we’ll always need trucks for the heavy lifting of content creation.
With the release of Final Cut Pro X, some in the creative community saw a slick sports car that Apple designed that, sadly, was not street-legal. Very cool, very shiny, but pros often found no way to use it to do the heavy lifting of their modern workflows.
We still need fresh new trucks, with tricked-out power and industry-leading features. At CES this month, manufacturers showed off 4K camcorders…a higher-than-high definition that makes my hard drives wobble at the knees just to contemplate.
We’ll all be editing on iPads someday? Well, if the largest iPad would only hold, say, 10 seconds of 4K video, that might be a challenge.
To do a professional job of content creation, those fresh new trucks, the 2012 models, will need:
- The fastest processors and maximum RAM, of course.
- Increasingly, the GPUs—graphics processing subsystems—need to be hugely powerful, upgradable, combinable—they’re the core of the powerplant of future content creation, if I haven’t bent a metaphor too much there. New software, from Apple and elsewhere, will rely on them more and more with each rev. You may need not one but several, working cooperatively, in one box.
- Huge flexibility in i/o options. This includes bringing things in and getting them out in almost every conceivable way, including to videotape when appropriate. Sure, Thunderbolt is a good start in that direction.
- And software, including operating system software, that works hard to keep all the bits circulating at max speed with minimum complications.
Now the nice thing, the win-win, about Apple putting energy into creating systems like these, and the key to why this is not just a niche market question, is that development success here leads to staggering improvements in all the behind the scenes slickness that makes iOS so powerful in devices. There’s no doubt that all the work spent in making type, animation, transitions, and movement work on professional content, software, and systems paid off in huge benefits when Apple wanted to bring modern design slickness, speed, and elegance to things you hold in your hand.
They have to keep that innovation in every part of the pipeline. Mac OS X has to remain, at its core, a pro-level, configurable operating system. It’s gotta run on high end boxes. And those boxes have to run a complete suite of pro-level creative software that not only serves those who must work within very particular and demanding workflows, but establishes a great test bed for the next innovations for iOS and our increasingly device-filled world.
Seems to me Apple abandons this workflow at their peril.
Thursday, January 5th, 2012
I’m sitting on the futon couch in Sammy’s dad’s living room, and her dad is paging through this morning’s NY Times, which shows up at 4 am in the mailbox across the road, along with the Wall Street Journal, which Sammy’s brother Gordy is reading. Their postures are remarkably similar in the way that direct relatives are. They’re both sitting to get as much daylight from outside as possible. Although it’s cold, it’s sunny and bright, and we’re grateful for that. It just as easily could have been the dark grey cloud helmet of winter that seems to settle in here and make people’s lives, well, dim in addition to cold.
We’re here to help with the pile of mundane tasks that accompany the passing of a loved one. Sammy’s mother—Nick’s seven-decades-long wife—left the stage just as 2011 turned into 2012. The basic chores—moving, disconnecting, finding places for things— have gone well, and we’re hoping to leave things in a good place for her dad to make his personal adjustments to life more alone.
Somehow being up here in winter always puts me in the mind of beginnings and transitions. Cold, darkness, and vast, flat stretches of midwestern dormant agriculture will do that to you.
Hope your year is starting with enough light to burn off the winter doldrums.
Sunday, October 23rd, 2011
Ten years ago today the original iPod was introduced. (Ours is on a shelf next to a Brownie camera in our dining room.) Sixty years ago last Thursday the CBS ‘eyemark’ logo created by William Golden and taken and ran with by legendary CBS design guy Lou Dorfsman was introduced. (Dorfsman’s book about his CBS design career is in our downstairs bathroom.) Nine days ago the newest iPhone, the 4S, became available for sale in the US (and a handful of other countries…we watched the rain-soaked first adopters outside the Apple Store in downtown Montréal.) Four years ago last Wednesday Sammy and I were in “our” Apple Store picking out her desktop machine, which in some ways still looks and “feels” new. In 1999 on October 23rd we were in CompUSA (where? wha?) picking out her blue-and-white G3 desktop, which is…well, I have no idea what happened to it. That day “feels” as if it’s long, long ago. But our data stream reports we had sushi with Bill, Morgan, and Miranda after picking up the machine.
I can string all this data out on a timeline and it still doesn’t “feel” like a linear progression that makes any kind of sense. It’s more like a half-hearted attempt to line up Billy Pilgrim’s unstuck jumbled bullet points of an existence. Our modern digital devices say we were here, or there, at discrete moments. On this day in 1992, we were in Little Rock Arkansas, and while archaeologists met, Bill Clinton’s war room moved him closer to the White House in rented space just down the street from our hotel. We saw Jim Carville in the bar. The next day, we’ll eat at a Hunan restaurant in Benton, Arkansas. Last year on October 23rd we went to Trader Joe’s and spent $39.27. Some of that on chocolate-covered almonds, I don’t know.
And a year or two from now, I can pull out my phone and ask “Siri, where was I on this day in 1977?”
And it’ll still feel completely abstract.