Friday Defunct

It’s one of those Fridays…. We have a fun saying here “Deine Mudder hat das Internet gelöscht.” (“Your mother deleted the Internet.”) and mine did indeed that. Well, not exactly. Luckily for you and me she’s running offline, but she did manage to send her Excel toolbars into oblivion once again and then didn’t know how to restore them. I guess I should buy her a tube of cyano glue so she can fix them in place. :-)

Speaking of glueing things into place, I still have a lot of devilish fun teasing people with this video I did eons ago and yet nobody seems to be able to figure out how I did it with 100% After Effects, no additional plug-ins and just a few simple expressions. And to rub salt in everybody’s wounds – this is just one of many stock projects for this kind of marker that I often use to add callouts and other info to technical visualization 3D stuff or infographics. Which in itself of course makes a point – why on this planet hasn’t somebody come up with something like this which is mathematically pretty trivial, probably easy enough to program (after all, it is just a stroke like effect) and could make a lot of people happy? I find it weird that plug-in vendors still prefer to develop the 500th color correction tool or, which is the latest trend, everybody comes up with their own GPU accelerated 3D tool, but nobody even thinks of solving these mundane problems. You know, everyone marvels at those fictional interfaces in movies and as a matter of fact there’s a ton of tutorials and clips from users out there trying to re-create those, yet getting anything going just in After Effects is still a major cramp in the rear parts. It’s no wonder that on movies they are writing this stuff in Processing or other custom frameworks or use 3D programs, be it just to render image sequences for further treatment in a compositing app like they did in Tron Legacy (some examples here). If nothing else, haven’t tools like Plexus shown that exploring new directions can be just as productive and perhaps even financially successful? *argh* I really wish someone came up with some infographics/ datagraphics suite for this kind of stuff. I’d buy it in a heartbeat if only to get better performance than my own expression-based concoctions.

On that note, someone got all wound up because Astute Graphics, makers of VectorScribe bought the IP assets from another vendor. Yeah, sure, it’s not so good for the user if he has to buy one more expensive plug-in to now get another plug-in "free" which was cheaper before or even truly free, but before running off calling it a scam and seeing a conspiracy, people should consider a few more things. First, such deals are a normal business transaction – one side agrees on selling or licensing something, the other pays a lot of money and then both move on. It happens around you every day and on much bigger scales than those, by comparison, small garage shop deals. Sticking with the business side of things, you have to realize that in order to make a living of selling such stuff, you have to reach a certain size, have to build a distribution network, deal with customers. Many people do not have the will or power to put up with this. Many of those tools were only ever developed by single people to solve a specific problem and they never even saw it as a commercial prospect. At heart they still are artists or programmers or geeks and often prefer doing other things than dealing with pesky buyers or maintaining a website to sell their things. You know, there’s a reason I shut dow my own server because in the end exactly that happened (aside from my ilness and a million other things) – I got tired with all these things that stole my valuable time. Also make no mistake – as widely as Illustrator may be used, the plug-in market for it is pretty small because despite its shortcomings, the program already does a lot out of the box and thus most plug-ins are highly specific and specialized like for dealing with imported CAD drawings. So in the end the question is: Would you rather they let those tools disappear completely? Is it not better to keep those tools alive, even if it may cost a bit more and gives one company lots of control over a single market? Trust me, over the years I’ve seen so many nice After Effects plug-ins go down the drain that in fact I wish someone would have bought them. As a last point there is also a technical side to consider. Having plug-ins developed by the same vendor removes redundancy, improves their interoparability (that is how they all work together) and may in fact make them more stable, more speedy and more user friendly because they are based on the same code. So when the next time you hear about someone selling his IP to someoen else, stop for a minute and think about their motivations!

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