Education: Then and Now.

Then:

  • Teacher: Learn these passages from the Bible by heart.
  • Student: I shall sir, but may I enquire as to the reasoning?
  • Teacher: This is the way it is done by all, and ye shall not quibble upon it.

Now:

  • Teacher: Here is Maya, you’ll be learning that.
  • Student: OK, but why Maya?
  • Teacher: It’s the industry standard.

Don’t be hard on poor teacher, it is the industry standard. But in tonight’s programme we’ll be asking just what makes something the industry standard? Sex? Drugs? Enormous space ships piloted by toads? Or something less obvious?

Industry standard applications are at first glance an ill sorted lot. For every prissy convoluted overly complex video editing tool there’s an almost Neanderthal audio suite. But after some reflection and much alcohol we can start to invent a common thread. As with Shakespeare’s villains we have a noble figure of humanity, troubled by a fatal flaw, which eventually leads to their failure.

Maya.

If you make 3D for a cinema there’s a 90% chance you use Maya. (Unless you’re one of those crazy bastards that uses Houdini because you also like riding your sports bike off a cliff onto a moving trampoline.) Recently Maya was bought by Autodesk because they wanted to lose money on two major applications instead of just Max.Yes, the leading 3D animation tools lose money hand over fist – the ones that actually sell are the ones that professionals would not touch with a stick. Here we can post a rule:

Rule 1: if it’s easy to use and very affordable it can’t be the industry standard.

The quality of Maya can be seen time and time again in the results. A nobleman among programs. But look at the interface:Mayahem

Here we have dynamic menus, pop down menus, pop up menus, radial menus, ‘shelves’, dialogues, and a really really bad case of iconitus. If this was a teenager it’d be ‘edgy’ or just ‘pimply’. Now I have very little experience with Maya so far and I may be yet to understand but either this interface grew over years of tinkering or the person that invented it has florid hebephrenic schizophrenia. Either way it breaks so many usability and educational concepts it needs a specially minted medal.

Pro Tools LE.

It’s been said before – it needs to be said again. There is a moment when you are teaching Pro Tools when you have to explain that if you have an hour long programme to bounce down and it’s due on air in 45 minutes, it’s Game Over. The student looks at you like you are insane, knowing at least 5 other programs that will export that audio in 5 minutes and asks, what is this?

You’ve got two ways you can run this message. Official: Pro Tools HD is hardware based and LE has to fit in with that and besides running the mix through the hardware insures always that what you hear in the mix down is what you get – no surprises. Alternative: That PT needs to pass that signal through that big fat blue dongle called an M box to make damn sure it’s a legit copy of PT. The student looks at you like you’re a tool either way.

When you get to RTAS, they are questioning you again. Yes that’s right, the effects that you use in Pro Tools only work in Pro Tools. Yes, industry standard means no one else in the industry uses them. No I am not a tool, kindly refrain from looking at me like that.

Rule 2: there has to be some convoluted reason why it won’t work with anyone else’s software.

Fortunately, Apple has come up with Audio Units as part of their ‘we are the computing equivalent of North Korea’ strategy. They make Digidesign look good. Speaking of Apple:

Final Cut Pro.

Most common question in any FCP class: why do we use this when every single other application we use is by Adobe? I have Premiere, why can’t I use that? Can I do this at home on Premiere instead? I tried barking at them but recently a stony silence showing lots of teeth seems to work best.

No kids, you have to pretend that the Pr isn’t next to Ae and Ps in the dock. Final Cut is the industry standard, and it’s much to do with a fight between Apple and Adobe over Intel versions that by a process of attrition let Henny Penny reach the top of the coop. Besides Final Cut is fun to use – it comes with games! Adventure game: move your mouse slowly over the interface looking for hidden features! Puzzle game: using the resize bar at the bottom of the timeline, puzzle out which way the timeline is going to zoom. Gambling game: which way will the fields in your PAL video export flip this time? Wish it came with a shoot ’em up.

Rule 3: Overcoming arbitrary behaviour of industry standard tools provides teaching businesses with income.

Actually if you just want to edit video efficiently use Vegas.

Photoshop.

Ps is the good guy. The prince charming. If you ever grumble about photoshop then you need to be forced to use an alternative for a few days. That will learn you. If you are very bad we’ll make it The Gimp.

Quark.

Actually this is a cautionary tale. When I was a layout grunt, there was Quark. That was it. When Adobe first brought out Indesign, there was good natured shaking of heads. Everybody used Quark. The printers used Quark. What would you do with Indesign? There would be nowhere to get the damn thing printed! Just as I was ‘being made redundant’, a job came in from somewhere in Asia. An Indesign file. My job was to remake the whole thing in Quark, but we had to get Indesign to open it. It was a bit like Illustrator so that was alright, but no one more senior was going to touch the filthy thing.

Rule 4: Industry standards can change mighty fast.