As often as we talk about it, I'm a little surprised that we're just now building an issue whose explicit theme is "We're making this up as we go along." We touched on it in the "Non-Linear Creativity" issue, which Ronald Lindeboom observes in his "Back Forty" column is the most downloaded PDF among our issues: our careers inevitably take unexpected turns because our jobs often didn't exist just a few years ago. Maybe you wanted to be an astronaut when you grew up, and now you are. But I didn't see any Digital Imaging Technician costumes in the store last Halloween, and I'm pretty sure I won't see any this year either.
The "Making It Up" issue assumes that, by now, you can describe your job to somebody at a party without having them look nervously for the exit, or pretend their phone just notified them of a new tweet from 50 Cent. The fact is, though, that our jobs keep changing. Words like "broadcast" and "post" are now so flexible that they're downright wobbly. We talk about creative "solutions," but the problems have apparently been learning a thing or two about creativity themselves. "Out of the box" solutions can't work when your problems won't stay in the box.
We actually had a rather pleasant problem recently. Title designer extraordinaire and longtime COW member Rob Ashe has worked with late night host Conan O'Brien's team for several years and timeslots. He called to tell me about some new technology that they're working with on Conan's new show for TNT, but it became clear that the personal and creative dimensions of the story were too good to pass up. Rather than try to jam two stories into one, we got Rob to write a story focused on his creative processes. We then worked on a second story with Conan's Senior Editor Dan Dome, about how their facility design enables the show to get from stage to screen in a couple of hours, integrating Grass Valley servers and asset management with Final Cut Pro editing.
Funny thing: it wasn't that long ago that a lot of broadcasters were calling Final Cut Pro a gimmick, and a lot of NLE guys were calling Grass Valley dead. They were both wrong. I'm thinking they're okay with that. The almost non-existent difference between working in broadcast or post on a show like "Conan" is made possible by overlapping feature sets and jointly-developed integration between products and companies that a couple of years had no connection at all.
You can see the same pattern with companies like Blackmagic and their customers. The company got on the map with I/O for FCP post, an admittedly small part of their product line at the time, which now also includes 288 crosspoint routers and a 2 M/E switcher for live broadcast. You can read a tiny capsule of customer Chris Pelzar's CV when you get to his story, but it made me realize that someday a kid is going to ask his mother if he can design LED boards for P Diddy when he grows up. Digital signage has some issues that Chris saw being solved in post decades ago, and in broadcast more recently, so he is applying those solutions in unexpected ways that are changing the entire industry.
Other unexpected twists I found in putting this issue together: seeing a major animated feature include 400 desks in its budget, because it turns out when you scale up, people still have to sit down; an approach to ending human trafficking that might include short films, home concerts and coffee; and working around corporate IT barriers to online video sites by having them pay you to put your video on their intranet. Yep. Taking their money to solve your problems. I'm okay with that.
I'm also okay with a bunch of new problems. Making things up as you go along means that what looks like the end of the road doesn't have to be the end of the story.