Digital luddites

Whenever I complain something about modern things, I notice how I’ve grown more and more old fashioned and conservative to the extent that I give my bias to shine through without any reservations. One of these things, to some extent, is the excessive use CGI TV and film. I prefer the practical effects and every explosion that’s on the screen needs to have been there in physical form, not as something added digitally in. Same with animation, where majority of the modern animations are just 3D models being played on the screen like bunch of puppets.

However, I was taken back as I realized how little there is actual appreciation for the modern in the communities and circles I usually roll in. The aforementioned example use of 3D is one of them. Sure, the likes of Toy Story and Frozen get good comments them in being completely animated in 3D, but then when 2D and 3D are mixed there seems to be people rising on the barricades. Giant robot animation is a very good example of this, as more and more companies have moved to animate their detailed and complex with 3D models rather than animate them by the traditional methods, even thou nowadays these are rotorscoped on top of 3D models already. The pros of this is extremely consistent footage and constant quality in contrast to 2D animation. This divides people, as there are so many of those who see this a plague killing their favourite high-budgeted hand animated series. The fact in this that they’re already dead and there’s no reason to hate the 3D taking 2D’s place. We’re at a point where the old is being replaced with something new ,and to some extent is already dead and replaced as cel animation died in the early 2000’s. Embracing the new way of doing things with more detail and smoothness with less expenses is hard when you’re grown up the multilevel-shaded hand drawn animation, but without doing so the new can’t flourish.

I wonder when it began. It is hard for me to pinpoint the time when popular culture had a paradigm shift, where the new was considered inferior to old, and old was put on a pedestal over all else and claimed to be superior. That has lead us to have all these remakes, reboots and sequels during the 00’s, so we can make an educated guess that it was during the 90’s where this shift took place. Before that all kinds of new stuff was not just accepted with excitement, but also embraced and taken to a next step level as the fans wanted to see all these new things grow and flourish. Nowadays it seems all the next steps are met with highly negative criticism and wishes to return to the old. Yet, we can’t return to old all the time, we can’t repeat same things in almost same form time after time nor we can have anything new if we can’t move onwards from the old ways.

I am contradicting myself philosophically here, as you’ve most likely noticed. As someone who wishes to work in traditional means is in a world where traditional means have almost completely replaced with something new and more efficient, and I can testify that to some extent it scares me. I may say that The old way is more efficient or whatever you usually hear, but the truth is that it is outside my comfort zone and the things I personally value and have positive stance on. This has changed with the first half of the year as you’ve read, and I have no doubts most digital luddites feel the similarly. All I can say that this is a point where we need to recognize the point of growing up and accept the facts that are there. I don’t think for a minute for it being easy, but a man’s gotta do what man’s gotta do.

Which is not burn the factory.

There is some basis in resisting modern contraptions to an extent in certain fields. For example, it can be argued that pretty much all low budget films that they should not be on high definition as it shows, quite practically, everything in high detail. For example, you can see all the maskings in Friday the 13th Blue-Rei and by all means see how fake everything is. This doesn’t happen with older medias like VHS and LaserDisc, and DVD seems to be in a sort of middleground depending on the release. This can be understood, as most older materials are not meant to be seen to that detail and are designed to be seen on film from a projector or on CRT TV from a cassette.

However, it doesn’t take out the point that these formats also demand higher accuracy and craftsmanship from the modern film makers and does no invalidate how older movies are seen on the screen. Much like one can take the luddite attitude, one could take a stance of wanting to enjoy all the details that they were able to put in making the movie and see all the details no matter how low-budget or not. A well done movie is a well done movie even if low budget after all. I guess viewers can be taken out of the movie and lose their immersion if they latch on issues in the movie. Then again, most people start latching on negative issues with movies when they turn for the boring. Then again, we are taught to be analytical on pretty much anything we come across today. We lose that child like wonder on things, the enjoyment for the sake of enjoyment disregarding the technical quality. I’m generalising this a bit too much, but the point should come across.

Of course, not all new things are good or better than old ones. Nevertheless, disallowing growth of the new will be a disservice on the long run, as all things are made to be replaced and made obsolete. I will always encourage the advancements that might make my work easier, even thou I would deeply hate them.

A matter of ease of use

You open the case, pop in the cassette into the player and press Play. It’s that easy to use a VCR. With disc format it has always been a little bit more convoluted; you open the case, pop in the disc, navigate the menus, and then possibly you are able to press Play.

Convoluted is a keyword when it comes to design of use. You want to avoid it as much as possible. However, making things far too simple in certain fields also produce results that nobody really likes. VCRs are in this regard a shining example in concept, as they require minimal input from the customer to access the purchased content and get the most out of the player’s basic function. However, the design of different players add loads of different features from different speed recordings and numerous other functions I’ve already forgotten about. Nevertheless, this kind of simplicity is always good as one of the goals to achieve in any design.

DVD and BD are a little different matter. Personally I do not find them any worse than using any other playback device in their regard, but I can’t but help to think that something went wrong when designing their interface either on-disc or in players.

While I have nothing against menus in disc formats, I do have a lot against their design interfaces in most cases. How many times have you found a disc that has loads of stupid design choices either visually or in function? Simplicity should and ease of use is lost in some discs, and I have to applaud to a lot of cheap releases for having the right idea of putting the budget into something else than damn menu screens. But no, almost all of the bigger releases have animated menus, menus with music, menus with selections that make no sense. I recall having a disc somewhere, where the menu selection where allocated into the four corners of the screen, and it made no sense how the indicator went between them. You’d expect it to move from upmost left corner to right and then down, but I can assure you that it didn’t. It shouldn’t be that hard to make simple intro screen, perhaps with a theme tune playing in the background, and simple to use menu.

But simplicity also can cause problems. With disc and cassette players it’s easy to make them function with minimal amount of effort from the user, but something like a computer operating system is a different kind of beast.

Windows is arguably the best operating system out there, otherwise it wouldn’t be as widespread and abused as it is. However, with every new iteration new problems rise as they have made Windows into more something that everybody can use.

There used to be time when using a computer required actual knowledge on how the hell you use a computer. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve forgotten loads of DOS commands that old computers needed and I used to be able to code in Pascal quite well, but with these new machines these kind of skills are unneeded. As Windows has been moved more into realm of ease of use, all the most complex functions have been moved behind the curtains of the operating system, thus the user is mostly unable to access these. In older systems you were able to access these for your own pleasure, and thus change various settings for your liking.

I do see and value Apple’s aim with their computers, but making their machines completely closed isn’t really the best option. If anyone would bother making a proper virus to a Mac OS, pretty much every Apple machine out there would be under serious threat. History has shown that pirates and hackers put their effort into systems and machines with greatest value, a reason that one should take notice why either PSVita and 3DS has not been hacked yet; it’s not that it’s impossible, it’s just that it doesn’t have enough reward to do so.

As a designer my aim in most cases is to lessen the customers’ stress to learn something new to properly use any device. However, sometimes it would be better for the customer himself to take matters in their own hands and learn to use something more advanced than just pressing play button. I would really recommend everybody to learn their computers’ OS better, what it does, what different term mean and all that, because then you are able to use your computer better and closer to its full potential. Same with every other device and system out there.

However, that doesn’t allow the designer to make convoluted shit.