Tech & Trade Tuesdays: The Industry Has A[nother] Dark Side

tech and trade - eric altmanI don’t ask for much in my line of work. A comfortable chair, computers to do what is expected of them, and for toilets to not explode when I flush them. In this life, we get about a third of what we ask for. I’ll let you guess which of the three things I got today. Hint: I’m currently wearing a wet shirt.

From my surprisingly comfortable chair with the heat now on, I wrestle with another dark, vile, unforgiving aspect of the film industry that I’ve only recently become more involved with. The Technology.

If you’re reading this blog and have had to deal with editing off of a file server, a license dongle, or “unapproved” graphics card drivers (that worked when you left the office on Friday), then you might know what real fear feels like. Much like Hollywood, the technology that runs it is broken, and the fix is not going to be easy.

I’ll get to that fix in a minute. First, let’s dive into what the real problem is. A group of Big Companies have a vested interest in you wanting to cry if you dare think of going it alone. I could name names, but I’m sure they’ll claim the statement to be libelous. No matter, they know who they are. They are called by a facility, small or large, and tell them that a server with the specs they need costs $500,000. The companies try to compromise, but in the end will end up either taking out dangerous business loans, risk buying used products without support, or be left behind without needed technology. The Big Company has an already pre-configured product on their website, with little customization options available, and that website tells you to call for pricing.
Here’s a tip: If you have to call for pricing on something that is already built? That shit be waaaay too expensive. I’m not sure why you have to call… the item they are selling (often a single item even) doesn’t have some large swath of possible price ranges. It is, as I said, a pre-configured doohickey. It has this bit and that bit and a third bit and if you need, either one or another final bit. Well, here’s another tip: If they aren’t telling you the price on a product that isn’t built to order? It’s because they’re going to do the best they can to rip you off. It makes sense to call for a quote on a personally customized system, made to your exact specifications. But otherwise they already know the price, they just need to find out where you fall on the Wealth/Desperation scale. That brings me to another point…

This market doesn’t care about your needs. Are you a small 6 person operation which does some pretty amazing work but at the end of the day, doesn’t need much more than a box with some hard drives and a decent connection… but with one feature that someone at some company deems an ‘advanced feature’? Well, screw you! That’ll still be $200,000 for DAS UBER SERVER! It has the power of a dormant volcano, the storage capacity of a hungry American, and is as quiet as a cat in the night… given that the cat is in heat! Speaking of heat, that dormant volcano is going to need new air conditioning piped into your server room so as to not melt all your shiny new things. You’ll also need more space – Often. Much like the hungry American, you’re gonna start small and expand with the rapidity of an order of large fries disappearing down a gullet. This will require your server room – space available – for the extra chassis that you’ll need. All this will of course, come in a machine that sounds like a plane is always having an emergency landing, so better make sure you have that room soundproofed.

14594978_WelcomeToTheFuture_03112013Final1I haven’t even gotten into installation, “service” and software. I’ll save that for another time.

In the meantime I’ll get to the fix I mentioned earlier. It’s something that We Make Movies had already figured out a while ago. Community. Namely, the Open-Source Community. Their heart lies in software, but the ideal applies well to the physical tech, too. By being curious, adaptive, forward-thinking, open-minded, willing to fail, and selectively dogmatic, a community can take How Things Are Done and throw that old way out and do it better. With that approach, we (LumaForge) have made systems cooler (both figuratively and literally), smaller, more customizable, more powerful, quieter, and most importantly, a whole lot cheaper. All the things that the big boys say are impossible. That they say are “just how it is”.

I don’t agree. I’ve seen the Wizard and it’s not even some guy hanging behind a curtain. It’s an old tape recorder, set on a loop. Repeating over and over again: “You can’t do this. You need us. Be afraid.”

No thanks. I’d rather be over here working with the community to create something better. Something new. Something fearless.