The present and future of post production business and technology

How has technology become so pervasive?

Recently we’ve started a regular evening walk and, being the kind of guy I am, I wanted to track how far we walked and in what time. Naturally there’s an app for that! What struck me though, is that this app tracks position and elevation: a trick that requires tracking four GPS satellites. This tiny little iPhone in my pocket is tracking signals from four different satellites – each about 20,000 miles away – while I walk!

That led to thinking about the technology and how far we’ve come in my lifetime. Technology has served me well, in particular the “Internet”.

Back in 1995 I purchased a modem for the express purposes of getting connected to the (then) Media 100 Users Group that I’d heard about at the (one and only) Sydney Media 100 User Group meeting. I was about six months into my Media 100 experience and very keen to learn more.

The other goal was less easy: connecting to AOL so I could access the After Effects group there because I heard that’s where the very best After Effects Gurus would be found.

In many ways that first email community – that eventually became the International Media Users Group today that organizes the Monday night NAB MediaMotion Ball – was my first introduction to social media. That 24K/bit modem – eventually a massive 56K/bit modem – opened up a community of like minded people across the world. That connection – low bandwidth as it was – opened the world to me. It became obvious that my propensity to digital wasn’t that way-out or unusual on the world stage, unlike my local stage where I was the only post house in Australia’s sixth largest market to be digital at that time. (Thus becoming the de facto effects house.)

It wasn’t possible to take the technology for granted back then, particularly on dial-up, but inevitably we put up our first website in late 1995, among the first 500,000 sites on the Internet.

That modem purchase has a direct connection to our decision six years later to set up our own distribution, which lead to a permanent move to the US, and to high speed, always on, Internet.

That I take for granted every day, until it’s not there when I need it! And the services and technologies that have been layered back over that basic web connection – both on my laptop and phone.

Where would we be without search engines? We’d all be working much harder, accessing a magnitude of order fewer information options. Those writing code would have to work out every nuance for themselves. If it wasn’t for the Internet (and the original we’d have each had to work out the quirks and techniques for that new Final Cut Pro software! Instead, in the way it had with that Media 100 email group, myself and the other pioneers – Josh Mellicker, Steve Martin, Kevin Monahan (a.k.a. Telly), Lisa Brenneis – could share what we learnt and help solve each others, and the rest of the growing community’s, problems and issues. We shared our knowledge long before we met.

And Wikipedia? Compared with the “best of the old” – Encyclopedias at the Library along with other reference books, a minimum of six months out of date – Wikipedia is an amazing resource. Built from people’s spare time they’d have otherwise likely squandered.

Of course, it’s not just search engines and Wikipedia. There are mapping services that I use almost every day and so much more.

But it’s the iPhone – and other similar smartphones – that really bring home to me how much technology has transformed my life. I’m a latecomer to the iPhone, waiting until the current iPhone 4 because the confluence of iPhone features that I desired, and my actual need for a smart phone hadn’t worked out well before that.

Now I carry a computer in my pocket that is more powerful than the Blue and White G3 we purchased to beta test Final Cut Pro version 1. Of course, it has editing software built on top of the all-new AV Foundation (that also powers Final Cut Pro X). Just this weekend I shot some HD video and edited on my phone!

Not to mention, the phone always knows where it is: I doubt I could get lost even in Boston (where I have managed to get lost more than once)! It tracks my walking – and gives me calories I’ve burnt along the way. It hooks into Twitter, Email, Web, Maps. I have the Square device and software, so I’m able to accept credit card payments anywhere.

Over the time I’ve been on the Internet, I’ve watched Avid’s Media Composer go from Version 4 all the way through to 5.5 (or realistically version 13 or so if we take the Adrenaline experiment into account). From low data rate proxies to full online HD, high quality video.

I’ve watched Final Cut Pro come, go and be replaced by an all new Final Cut Pro X. Camera quality has been increasing almost exponentially while dropping dramatically in price.

We’ve gone from high barriers to entry to anyone who wanted a career in creative film/TV or video production, to an open democratization that has, in some ways, gone a little too far to the “wide open, don’t need any training” direction.

The one thing I haven’t experienced in that 16 years of my digital life, is things staying the same. Change is the only constant.

There will always be change. To think that we have reached the pinnacle of any technology or industry is ludicrous. Our tools change. The techniques change. The workflows change.

And we change. We adapt. Or we find another place – another career – where we’re more comfortable.

The only change I don’t welcome is one that interferes with the freedom of the Internet, or a change that takes down the infrastructure.