Friday, May 18, 2012

Perspective

I think the Mac Performance Guide hit the nail on the head:

As I wrote back in December, Apple shows a disregard for its professional users in the way it arbitrarily changes programs like Final Cut, and when it also provides no guidance as to whether a crucial product might continue. When there is credible speculation of the Mac Pro being discontinued, Apple's silence speaks volumes. Professionals need to know they have a path forward, any vague guidance in the affirmative would address the issue.

When we jumped into this Novacut adventure (nearly 2 years ago now), we choose Ubuntu as our primary platform because we felt that Ubuntu would provide the best long-term, low-risk ecosystem for creative professionals. The strengths and trajectory of Ubuntu were clear, and my spidey-sense was telling me that we couldn't count on Apple to continue to make an OS and hardware suitable for professional storytellers.

Back in July 2010, my take on Apple was definitely a subtle reading of the tea-leaves, and I easily could have been wrong. But as luck would have it, we played the right cards. Today I would feel silly if we had bet on Apple.

If you're a creative professional who depends on Apple products to do your job, I think now is the time for some soul searching, the time to think about risk-reduction. Likewise if you're in the business of selling software or hardware that depends on the Apple pro creative ecosystem. Of course, I'm just a some guy on the internet (plus I have obvious bias), so please weigh the evidence for yourself and act in your own best interest.

But for what it's worth, at this point I'm personally 100% convinced that Apple is a dead-end road for creative professionals, and that Ubuntu is the creative platform of the future. Apple is a publicly traded company, and its board of directors are obligated to maximize Apple's profits. So I recommend keeping a keen eye on where Apple is making money. As much as it pains me to see artists and small companies blindsided by, say, FCPX or the mysteriously disappeared Mac Pro, the harsh reality is this is just the result of Apple executives doing their job, and doing it well.

And Novacut isn't the only pro video editor with an eye on Ubuntu. Last month at NAB, EditShare demoed Lightworks on Ubuntu. I think it's quite telling that EditShare is now clearly prioritizing the Linux port of Lightworks over the OSX port. EditShare seems very in-tune with their customers, and I have no doubt this flip is because there is now more demand for Lightworks on Linux than on OSX.

Momentum

If I sound extra enthusiastic, it's because last week we were at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Oakland, California. Although it was our fourth UDS, there was an electricity in the air that really set this one apart. For example, Canonical announced they expect Ubuntu to ship on 5% of all PCs sold next year. This is deeply important for us, because if you can't readily buy great Ubuntu hardware, there's not much point in Novacut running on Ubuntu.

Speaking of great Ubuntu hardware, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carl Richell, the CEO of System76. We really hit it off with the System76 folks, and they just happen to have a passion for bringing artists great hardware on which to create. If you're looking for a laptop on which to run Novacut, I highly recommend their new Gazelle Professional, which will be released this Monday (May 21st). How does this sound: quad-core Intel i7 (ivy bridge), 16GB of RAM, and a 95% NTSC gamut 1920x1080 matte display!

We were hired to film for the week, and our main responsibility was filming the Ubuntu Cloud Summit. Not only can Ubuntu hold its own against OSX on the desktop, Ubuntu is also an absolute champ in the cloud and on the server. Ubuntu isn't just lower risk than OSX, it's a superior technology on which we can build a far more practical and productive solution for storytellers.

Novacut is designed for distributed rendering and storage, so that you can spread both rendering and storage across any combination of your workstations, local clusters, and the cloud. In fact, the Novacut and Dmedia "servers" that will run in the cloud are the exact same "servers" that run locally on your desktop (which saves us a huge amount of work, by the way). We can do this because we're building on the same core Ubuntu platform all the way from the desktop to the cloud.

The same Ubuntu that will be shipping on 5% of PCs next year also has the server muscle to power Instagram and Wikipedia and the cluster that rendered Avatar. Ubuntu even runs on ARM-powered devices, on everything from the humble Vodafone Webbook sold in South Africa to this 192-core Calxeda server. No other platform currently has this kind of reach. Novacut wants to help the storytellers of the world tell their stories on the world stage, so a big reach we need indeed.

Story Arc

While at UDS, I also had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu. Did you know that before starting Ubuntu, Mark flew to space aboard a Russian Soyuz and spent a week on the International Space Station? I reckon something about the perspective of seeing the world from space played a part in Mark deciding Ubuntu was the most important thing to do next.

Did you know I was lucky enough to be in Porto Alegre, Brazil when both Ubuntu (at DebConf4) and the Creative Commons (at FISL) were first announced? And that before my trip to Brazil, I spent a year train-hopping and hitch-hiking around the US, daydreaming about ways in which technology could help empower storytellers?

I think we have all the ingredients here for a wonderful story, where artists and rebels and dreamers struggle together and, against all odds, slay every dragon that stood between them and a more beautiful world.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hanna Sköld: The Maker of Meaning Makers

When I discovered Hanna Sköld's work, my imagination was immediately captured by her artistic bravery.  She not only makes assets from her films available to her fans via Creative Commons licensing, but also finds ways to highlight fan-made trailers and homages (e.g. showing them at film festivals alongside her work and on her interactive website).  With her newest film project, "Granny's Dancing on the Table," she has extended her creative generosity to involving her fans in the screenplay writing process!  She's hosted writing workshops and online share-memories-about-your-granny events to facilitate this collaboration.  What I find most interesting about Hanna's approach to film creation is that it engenders creativity in others.  It makes a space for her fans to interact with her stories so that they can find their own story within her story.  It allows people to actively participate in the making of meaning.  And let's face it, meaning making is what keeps us from cannibalizing ourselves and our fellow man.  For without meaning making, we become self absorbed, hungry ghosts that indiscriminately devour what's in our path.  Meaning making is that thing that keeps our moral compasses in working order - that thing that helps us problem-solve as opposed to impulsively react.

In other words, I am of the same opinion as Hanna: "Story-Telling has the power to change the world" (especially story-telling done by story tellers gutsy enough to allow their fans the creative license to build on what they've created).  And because I'm a true believer in the power of tall and short tales, I'm compelled to encourage anyone who will lend me his/her ear to give to Hanna's Kickstarter campaign a chance.  She has 16 days to raise around $40,000.00 so that she can finish producing "Granny's Dancing on the Table."  This challenge may seem impossible within the context of an individual bank account, but it becomes totally plausible inside a group of enthusiastic meaning makers.  So story lovers and tellers unite!  Unite for this amazing project that has made room for us to recognize and explore our humanity!