Category Archives: Design

Pick a Card, Any Card

Much hay has been made about the removal and consolidation of the various ports of the old MacBook Pros to the USB-C-only setup of the newly announced MBPs. A ton of it presumes to know what “professionals” use and need, and some has been close, but most of it conflates photography with video professionals, and frankly, I’ve heard so many outdated assumptions that I felt I had to speak up. So here goes.

No one in video cares that the SD slot is going away. No one. NO ONE.[2]

Yes, it’s a bold statement, but here’s a very basic list of the types of storage used to record and deliver video to editors:

  • SD Cards (yay, I don’t need to use an adaptor 🙄)
  • microSD Cards (in fact, my latest two 4K cameras both use this format, so I get to use an SD adaptor)
  • SxS Cards (because Sony hates everyone)
  • RED Cards (which are a type of SSD, but they have a weird connector, because of course they do)
  • SSDs (via mSATA connections or sometimes eSATA)
  • AJA Pak Recording (yet another type using SSDs)
  • CF Cards (which most pro still cameras used at one point)
  • CF 2.0 Cards (because Blackmagic needed another type of storage for their pro cameras, maybe?)

The list goes on and on and on. There are USB 3.0 drives, or Thunderbolt Drives, and just a mind-boggling plethora of things we need to connect to our Macs to ingest footage and get to work.

While I love the idea of a wireless future, currently it’s impossible for us to do our jobs at all via any wireless solutions because even the fastest WiFi is not going to cut it for video.  For the foreseeable future, we’re going to need a way to connect these drives, and while we used to use a cable that had USB-A on one end, we will need some with USB-C on one end, and whatever madness on the other. No big deal.

Is the SD card really that useful for video editors like me? Currently I have a still camera, one video camera, and an audio recorder that use SD cards. So, yes it’s useful, but I also have two cameras that use SSDs, and two that use MicroSD cards[1], and they all need adapters of some kind, so it’s not useful enough to worry about its loss from my next machine. I’ll need to get an SD reader, and my CF reader doesn’t do CF 2.0, so I need a new one of those anyway, and the microSD cards need a reader, or I need the micro-to-standard-SD adaptor, that I have approximately 17 of littered about the office, of which I can generally find one when I need it, and that will be sorted. My SATA connector just needs a USB-B-to-USB-C cable and I’m good to go there. The readers I have for the RED, AJA and some other cameras, again, just need a B-to-C or a MicroUSB-to-USB-C or they can use the A-to-C adaptors.

As USB-C/Thunderbolt is delightfully fast, the fact that it’s an external adaptor for all my cameras instead of just most of my cameras is really a benefit. The adapters work and they aren’t that expensive.

But wait, don’t you want the HDMI port?

I honestly forgot my MacBook had one, and I bought the Thunderbolt-to-HDMI adaptor anyway. It honestly never occurs to me that it’s there.

But Apple’s making you buy new adaptors!

Yes, as soon as I get a new MacBook Pro I will need a stack of new adaptors to use with all my stuff. Yes, it’s a bit of money, but it’s not terrible overall, and guess what – I actually use my adaptors constantly and they do wear out. I need to get a new set every year or two anyway, so that’s on cycle for me. In fact, that Thunderbolt-to-HDMI wore out recently, and, again, forgetting that I have an HDMI port, I replaced the dongle immediately.

But what about the RAM?

What about it? It’s 16GB for heaven’s sake. Right now I edit 4K video, from cameras as light as the Phantom 4 drone and Osmo system from DJI, to the extreme density of the ProRes HQ files of the Blackmagic Design cameras, to RED raw and CinemaDNG using the 8GB ON. MY. FOUR. YEAR. OLD. LAPTOP.

The speeds when I’m working with the original media are abysmal, but they are on the Mac Pro (no shock there) and will be on the new MacBook Pros as well because if you’re cutting with multiple 4k streams, especially ProRes & CinemaDNG streams, the amount of data you’re trying to move can easily exceed the bandwidth inside the computer, let alone the RAM. To be quite honest, it’s just ignorant to work with uncompressed, original media like that, on almost any system available today. Create and use Proxy Media, and if you don’t know how, spend the $35 on and learn how. It’s good business anyway.

As for actual editing on a 15″ screen? Meh, it’s not bad.[4] I do it daily. It doesn’t feel cramped to me, but it probably took me a little bit to get used to it, honestly I don’t recall. The reason that I edit on a laptop is that I do a lot of field editing, it isn’t an option I can avoid – I have to do it, so I get it done. Even at my desk, tho, where I can easily attach a huge monitor, I don’t. I just edit away on my 15″ retina screen, no second display at all, with my trackpad of all things, and I’m probably faster than 90% of the pros out there. I scream through my edits, and I’ve had other editors watch me work and they are dumbfounded at what I do. I’m not the only one who works this way.

I do wish I could see my 4K projects in pixel-for-pixel perfection, but I’ve had exactly 2 projects be finalized in 4K. I can and do connect and play those back from 4K sources, usually a Roku[3], but sometimes from YouTube[5]

Having three 5K monitors floating in front of me, one with pixel perfect views of my canvas, another with my timeline, and the last with my coloring tools, will be awesome, but do I need them to get through my job? Nope. That I’ll have that option is awesome, but it’s not make or break for me. For those who can’t work with one small screen, these new MacBook Pros are beyond compelling, because almost every video editor these days does some road editing. Additionally, the touchbar, with its ability to let me go hands-on with my timeline is incredibly compelling to me.[6]

I know that I’m just one guy, in Montana of all places, but this is my livelihood. I do just fine with what I have, and I’m looking forward to getting a new MacBook Pro with the touchbar because I want the overall increase in speed and processing it offers, and because the ports are all cleaned up to just USB-C. In fact, that’s a huge win for me.

A Line in the Sand

Vesper, by Q Branch
Vesper. Collect your thoughts.

I’ve been a fan of John Gruber’s Daring Fireball since it launched, and if you were to rummage through my t-shirt collection, you’d find a rather odd stack of DF t-shirts that basically chronicle the life of the site. When he and the team at Q Branch decided to launch Vesper, a note taking app, it was a foregone conclusion that I would purchase it. It’s a great app, and I use it often, and love the care and detail that these fanatics have put into this simple, delightful tool.

I was disappointed that it was $2.99.

Why would a trio of fanatics make an awesome tool that works exactly as it says it does, looks beautiful, launches quickly and never crashes price their app as if it were a throw-away? What the actual fuck?

Thank the gods we’re moving past this madness. The pricing on the app store has devalued the work of engineers and programmers and designers and it’s about time that it  absolutely comes to a halt. Panic has been pricing their apps higher for a while, and needs to continue, but when I brought that up to people, they pointed out that the functionality of their apps makes it more likely that they would be bought by people who do programming or design, and they know the gig. While Vesper is for everyone, while Transmit is not.

The OmniGroup also prices their apps at a sustainable level, and seem to be doing ok, but again, their apps are a bit more focused, and while the argument that Omni apps are also for a niche-ish market can be made, I own several and have used them for years. OmniOutliner was my go-to for notes before Vesper, even tho it really wasn’t designed for that.

The latest update of Vesper includes a line in the sand against the desperation pricing that is destroying great app development on mobile devices. Vesper will now cost a very reasonable $9.99, and I’m hoping there’s a way I can re-buy the app.

I spend $5 on a coffee, and $12 on a martini, which are even more ephemeral than the 1s and 0s of an app, and last quite a bit less. I spend at least $10 on a meal, and sometimes a shameful amount above that, and it’s not like I’m starving myself to redirect some of that money towards paying for good things. I am not alone in this, and if you don’t think the stuff that you shove into your $800 hand-held computer should work well and afford a life for those who make them, you are an asshole.

It’s 2015, people. Pay for the art you like. Pay for the work put in to make the great tools that improve your life. Pay for music. Pay for entertainment. And pay well, because your life is short, money isn’t the goal, and if you continue to focus on keeping it, you’ll find that old Montanan saying is true; Money is just like manure. If you don’t spread it around it’s just a pile of shit.

Post Gender Presentations

There has been a lot written lately about gender as it pertains to professional conferences on web technologies. First off was Jason Kottke presenting the question. Then I caught Eric Meyer, the Patron Saint of CSS, who responded with a resounding “meh” followed by John Gruber’s gender-fireball post, and a comment of clarification by Zeldman in the linked list. Truly Eric received the torment he knew he was setting himself up for. Ouchie. And so totally not deserved. I suggest reading those articles and comments, and then coming back here. I’ll wait.

Back? Good. I love discussing gender, because as a gay man in 2007, it’s certainly a topic that provides countless hours of amusement. And frustration. And a couple of attempts to rewrite the U.S. Constitution. It’s also a subject that, when taken out of context, is beyond frustrating, it’s insulting. And that’s where I think this discussion has gone.

If you look at what Kottke presented, yes, there is a dearth of women speakers at web conferences, and most especially those that focus on HTML and CSS. Kottke is particularly off when he says:

…it seems to me that either the above concerns are not getting through to conference organizers or that gender diversity doesn’t matter as much to conference organizers as they publicly say it does.

Gruber goes off into the realm of Title IX, which has, truthfully, done a world or three of good for women in all things. However, he misses the point of Kottke’s piece, which is that things are inequal in a professional setting. Title IX doesn’t really apply there, so going off into the studies of who got educated where and for what is off-topic. Interesting, and well worth reading, but off-topic none-the-less. And don’t think I’m against Title IX, nothing could be further from the truth. We are all improved when everyone receives an equal chance, which is what Title IX was designed to do. And amazingly, considering it’s legislation, it seems to do relatively well.

Notice that I said “everyone receives an equal chance” and not “everyone receives everything equally.” and for good reason. Title IX doesn’t mean that there will be a women’s football team at your local high school, but it does say that for every men’s sport there shall be an equally funded women’s sport. Don’t care what they play, but they get the game. That’s equality at it’s finest. Which is what Gruber was leading up to.

However, it’s not what Kottke was on about at all. Kottke is about specific equality for professional roles. Can’t, and won’t, happen. Not because it’s a bad idea, but because after giving everyone equal chances, what those people do with those chances will be quite unique to each individual, and therefore, we are unable to predict their results in such a way that we could ever guarantee that there is a 50/50 split along the sex lines.

Meyer doesn’t mind this situation, not because he doesn’t want women around or thinks they are inferior, but because he, quite rightly, sees that while there are fewer women there, overall the web is very well represented by both sexes. And, in this case, gender means less than nothing.

While I, having been discriminated against because of an external trait (e.g. who I have sex with) and have had professional roles given to others because of it, I still agree with Meyer. Kottke thinks that having a vagina attached to some of the speakers would improve the quality of the presentation. That’s thinking that a woman who happens to be a mom can only socialize with other moms if all are either a) not drinking, or b) if they want to drink, they must be chaperoned by someone with a penis.

I don’t see how being male, female, white, black, brown, purple, queer, asexual, cancerous, capricorn or a carrot would matter if you happen to also be a professional in the web-standards-meets-development world. I would, honestly, attend a speech given by a carrot if that carrot was recognized as a leader in the field. That’s what professional speeches are all about.

I have a huge problem with people getting so bent sideways in the effort to be politically correct that they lower the quality of the product. I know it’s rough, and I can’t say that I understand why people are racist, sexist, homophobic or just flat out fucked-up, but I do know that for a conference where people are going to learn about a specific topic, finding the best people, regardless of gender is more important than counting the number of XX’s versus the number of XYs sharing their knowledge.

I want more brilliant people, I don’t care who you are or how you fuck. I don’t even care if you do. I want you for your mind, and guess what, Kottke is wrong to reduce the talent and knowledge of the people involved with these events to their gender. Alas, I’m a bit chubby and have a decent set of tits if he truly thinks that physical traits make a shits difference.

[UPDATE] I see that Zeldman has joined the fray with more on his blog, but I disagree that it’s a fundamental part of the conference planner’s concerns. He thinks it’s important to include women, I think it’s more important to not exclude women, and those, truly, are completely different tasks. Oh, and I still think I’m right.

Design’s Function

Andrei is back, which is a great thing. I don’t always agree with him, but his passion for design can not be overstated, and he generousity with knowledge via tutorials on his blog is one of the reasons I have any skill at all on the web. His latest rant about The Culture brings back a discussion argument between my first-year architecture professors and me. just about every day of my aborted attempt at being an architect. I’ve never been one to create art for art’s sake, always having tied design and function together.

Design and Function tend to hand-in-hand in all things that fall short of Fine Art. At least, that’s how it seems to me. This is true of all arts, from music to painting to sculpture. When you add in the function, whatever it may be, the art seemingly slips below the highest calibre of fine artyistry, yet becomes something more at the same time.

Let me give you a quick example: music. When created as art and art alone, it can be amazing. There are many times that music moves people in astounding ways and yet, it’s not a story, it’s not a message, it’s not a function, and people are moved because of their own internalized moments leading up to that art. Since it’s music, and only music, the fine art, it’s the pinnacle of human existence. However, it’s not functional; it doesn’t need to be.

When you add in a story, then the music changes. It delivers specific feelings and emotions, creates characters and scenes, and moves along with a plot, and does this for entire courses of people. And that’s a function. In adding the function the music isn’t truly less artistic, the artistry just isn’t left alone.

Architecture is a realm where form and function balance each other out just about equally. An architect has to understand the artistic beauty and the pedestrian function of the final product in order to succeed. I understand this thinking very well, while I have had nothing but issues when forced to separate the two. When given the task of creating something that is just beautiful without being functional at all, I might as well just turn in a blank page. I’m better off avoiding the attempt.

Design and Function define the web. It’s finding the balance between the two that makes it a challenge. Yes, having all links underlined makes it easier to determine and locate text functioning as a hyperlink and that which isn’t. However, that doesn’t mean that having a link in a different color or font-weight is less easy to see – in some cases, it’s much easier.

Sites like Craigslist and the really-cool-yet-never-really-designed-web-tool team at 37Signals are making piles of money, which is the name of the game, but they still lack design. That lack is core to this surge of people who verbalize that design is unnecessary.

Quel suprise: the design community is just as loud, shouting that not only is design necessary, but that the art is superior to the function in any application. Nothing like standing up for yourself only to find out you really did leave the house without your pants, but that’s about where things are. I also find it quite humorous that many people on both sides are trying to win by volume, not by treatment and test-case, but by expounding on their own, quite admittedly self-serving ideas, which gets us nowhere.

Let’s set the Way-Back MachineTM and head back to…

Imagemaps, those lovely tools of yester-cyberyear, have a great amount of design, allowing for literally any image to be a navigation system – no matter the artistic convolutions. However, the lack of functional interaction and self-perpetuating education inherent in these tools is a big part of why the technique failed. Some were beautiful, no question. But artistry, which is design without function, cannot succeed in a functional world. Imagemaps are the digital equivalent of the Spruce Goose.

In this corner: we have the modern antithesis in 37Signals’ Backpack, which lacks design in a way that isn’t completely crippling to it’s usefulness, and I have hopes for it. I’m not holding my breath, however, because what it does for functional ability it lacks horribly in ‘pleasure to use’ and for those of you who don’t think that’s important, remember why you don’t have an outhouse. Indoor plumbing is 50% sewer you invited into your home, because frankly, the alternative is much worse, and that’s a function of it’s design.

That’s not to say that the functions encapsulated in Backpack weren’t designed well, they mostly were. But there is a lot they can do to make it better, too, and just like outhouses are better than camping waste-management facilities (think: leaf-as-toilet-paper), there is something better than Backpack out there.

The current debate is that it’s taking on a very scary coloring – Religion, which we’ve got pleanty of, thanks. Or, perhaps I’m wrong, but Mac-vs.-Win. It’s no longer about ‘what’s best for this application’. Instead it’s becoming to antigonistic camps lead by their purists and zealots, who intiate debate only to enrage the other side, and create havoc instead of solutions. Frankly, Andrei is one of those people, but I suspect that it’s one of the driving forces of his success, too. Andrei was designed to be a functional designer, with an amazing talent for art. Andrei also designed the UI of Photoshop, which then seeped into the rest of the apps in what is Adobe’s Creative Suite. He didn’t do it completely alone, and it’s been modified since he created the UI, but please, it’s his work. Some love it, some hate it, and some just wonder what the hell it’s supposed to be. Personally, I feel he owes me several hours of my life back. Some of those hours are covered by what he’s given freely on DxF, but Andrei, I hate to tell you, you’ve got a long way to go.

What I can’t argue with is that Photoshop’s UI is impressive, expressive, expansive and, once you’ve gotten a bit of a tour and some time using it, very well thought out. There are choices that were made that I don’t like or understand, but considering all the complex thinking about tool inter-functions and that, when the modern UI base was adopted photographs were still be processed in labs for almost all true arwork, it’s clear that the UI is actually beautiful, too.

Photoshop is, thanks to Andrei and to due to many other talented people, a true digital tool-set complete with every single tool having an analogue to every tool a photographer who spent years honing and learning their art. There is always something telling when you realize that Adobe is the world’s second-largest sofware firm, behind only Microsoft. However, Adobe comes by the lion-share of the market by creating outstanding products, and for a while it seemed they might do it again. I hope they do.

This debate isn’t going away soon, it’s just going to get worse and more angst-ridden. Why? Because when someone screams and someone else screams back, it’s back to the toilet metaphor, and it’s all going down the drain. This argument is a lot like that, now. Heck, I even managed to unintentionally snark at Jeff Croft, the source of my current infatuation with All Things Django. So the debate is raging, and many have a good, strong, righteous rage-on going with them as they attack.

Instead of making a better mousetrap, we’re making a lesser house. Ah, well, at least we won’t have more mice, right?

Parts of OS X are gay?

Ok, so that’s a bit inflammatory and out there, but I had to. Over on John Gruber’s excellent Daring Fireball you’ll find a discussion of voodoo and the various merits of “repair permissions” and the like. I enjoy just about everything that John writes, having learned a ton about the computers I use and about web standards and the frustration joy of doing web sites the right way.

Anyway, here’s the part that made me laugh:

Even if you “verify” permissions and it shows some that don’t match, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. They might be wrong, but they might just be different but still OK.

Yeah, so some of the permissions have changed since install, and while they are kinda punky lookin’ buggers, what with their mohawks and tattoos and the fact that the boys all kiss each other, and not in that ‘christian-greeting-another-christian’ way, aside from all that, they are still OK.

And they say diversity is hard to find.

Gruber, thanks for the giggle, although I’m sure you never intended it, it was most welcome.

Finally, a new look

It’s been a while, and the site needed a new look. It’s needed a new look for many moons, but as my time was fleeting and there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the old look, it’s not something I bothered to change.

The Department of Homeland Security notwithstanding, it’s better safe than sorry. So, a newer, more advanced and less crackable version of WordPress was released and I decided to update my site.

And it broke the look of it! Curses!

So I finally got around to making the artwork and color changes to the documents that control such things, and now it’s all better. And it’s a refreshment of the old look, rather than something completely new.

the fuzzed lookAnd no, you are NOT losing your mind, there was another look that manifested over the weekend, and while it was fun, it was not the sort of look that, after spending any time actually looking at it, that I could stand. However, it was pretty and was fun to make. And it’s good practice for what I’ve got to do next for work.