Of some relevance to the group

Discussion in 'DVD Video' started by slugworth, Jun 24, 2006.

  1. slugworth

    slugworth Guest

    TECH TIP - Tech Gear Roulette: Surviving Technological Change
    Live By These 7 Rules If You Want Your Budget To Survive Technological
    Change
    Reprinted from harmonycentral.com with the permission of the author
    and publisher Craig Anderton

    I met Billy Bumluck at a video store in the early 80s. We were both
    proud owners of new VCRs; he was browsing in the Beta section, I was
    looking at VHS. "You use VHS?" he asked. When I nodded, he said "Too
    bad, man. Beta is the only way to go -- better picture, more reliable,
    and it has Sony behind it. Your VHS machine will be a doorstop next
    year, so enjoy it while you can!"

    We talked a bit more, and I found out he was a guitarist and
    technology fan, so we kept in touch. A couple years later, I got a
    call. "Hey, you gotta check out this new Amiga computer! It has
    separate chips for graphics and audio, does sampling better than a
    Fairlight, and has some great games." So I went over to his house, and
    sure enough, it ran circles around the Macs, Ataris, and PCs of its
    day. "No more Beta mistakes for me," said Billy. "This baby's made by
    Commodore, and considering they've sold 6 million Commodore-64s, I
    don't think they'll be going out of business any time soon."

    Well, after the Amiga died, Billy had enough. "Okay," he said, "I'm
    getting a Mac. There's a fantastic program called Vision, it'll wipe
    the floor with your Master Tracks Pro. It will be the perfect
    complement to my Sequential Circuits and Oberheim synthesizers." And
    for a while, it looked like Billy made the right choice, especially
    when Opcode added hard disk recording to MIDI sequencing. "Craig,
    nothing's going to stop those Opcode guys. No one else is doing hard
    disk recording and MIDI, I'd buy stock in them if I could."

    Then Opcode was sucked into the BHDC (Black Hole of Dead Companies).
    Billy was pretty shaken this time, and had heard stories of Apple
    going through problems. So about a year ago, he decided to switch to a
    PC. "There's a billion of 'em out there. This is one standard that
    won't die on me." I told him Apple wasn't going anywhere, but he was
    adamant. "Nope, no more obsolete stuff for me, and no more little
    companies. I'm going out right now and getting Logic Windows!"

    Billy never was the same after Emagic dropped Windows support. Last I
    heard, after his savings evaporated with the collapse of Enron and
    Worldcom, he went to a back-to-nature commune in Montana, with no
    electricity or television. Oh yes, and with an acoustic guitar to
    replace his Yamaha G10 MIDI guitar.

    There's a little of the Billy Bumluck magic in all of us. My Commodore
    CDTV sits alongside some other ill-chosen relics of technology past,
    each one representing a costly mistake. But they seemed like such good
    ideas at the time...

    With technology changing on a seemingly daily basis, you don't just
    buy gear any more -- you have to be a soothsayer. How can you protect
    yourself? How can you stay ahead of technology and bankruptcy court?
    Here's the scoop.

    RULE #1: YOU WILL MAKE MISTAKES

    Resign yourself to it. If huge companies can make mistakes after
    spending zillions of dollars on focus groups and product research, so
    can you. Maybe you got sucked in by the ads, maybe you just got taken
    by something that didn't pan out. The object is to minimize these
    mistakes so they don't devastate your checking account.

    Some people end up with Purchasing Paralysis, where they won't buy
    anything out of fear that something better is coming around the
    corner. Well, something is, so get used to it. The secret to avoid
    getting burned is not to lose money on an investment.

    For example, suppose you bought an original, 16-bit Alesis ADAT for
    $4,000. As you sit mousing around with your shiny new DAW, that might
    have seemed like a mistake. But if you did projects on it that earned
    you $10,000, it was a wise investment indeed -- you more than doubled
    your money (better than what you'd get from a bank, for sure).

    Always consider return on investment (ROI). I was debating whether or
    not to buy a Minidisc when it first came out, because they were pretty
    expensive back then, and the survival of the format was in question.
    But I did, and wrote enough articles about MD and how to use it that I
    made money on the deal. MD could disappear tomorrow, and my buying it
    would not have been a mistake.

    So the question is not "Am I buying something that will become
    obsolete?" because you know that you are. The correct question is "Can
    I amortize the value of this investment before it becomes obsolete?"
    If buying something will make you more money than not buying it, get
    out the checkbook. Simple as that.

    RULE #2: RUN, DON'T WALK, FROM FUNNY FORMATS

    Remember the Elcaset? DCC (Digital Compact Cassette)? The QuickDisk?
    The multitrack tape recorder (no, not ADAT) based on video cassettes
    that were used for black-and-white Japanese television production?
    Quad hi-fi systems? Ouch.

    Look what happened to SACD and DVD-Audio: Nothing. While companies
    dithered about which format to support, consumers dithered about which
    one to buy. So they didn't buy any. And now there's a battle shaping
    up over the next high-density DVD format. Won't they ever learn?

    Ultimately devices have to play back multiple formats, like DVD
    burners that can do DVD+R or DVD-R. But that can be tricky to pull off
    in a consumer product.

    Will 5.1 be a funny format several years from now? Probably not, but
    no one really knows. Of the various memory card formats -- SD,
    SmartMedia, Compact Flash, Memory Stick, etc. -- some are already
    starting to fade. Of course, these options create a chicken-and-egg
    situation -- a format can't become established until people buy it --
    but I think I'll let Billy Bumluck be the guinea pig, not me.

    Bottom line: if at all possible, wait until a format is established
    before committing to it. If necessary, stick with an older format
    until you're sure the new one has legs.

    RULE #3: FOR WINDOWS, BUY CUSTOM-INTEGRATED COMPUTERS

    Here's the absolute wrong way to buy a computer: Go to your local
    office supply store or electronics superstore and ask for their best
    price. When I tell this to people, they always say "But for $500 I can
    get a 2.4 GHz processor, a DVD drive, 512 MB of memory, and even a
    monitor!" Okay. But does it have the option to put in a graphics card
    that handles two monitors? Are there enough slots in the motherboard
    for a couple DSP cards like the TC PowerCore or Universal Audio UAD-1,
    along with a real sound card to replace the built-in sound functions?
    Is the USB 2.0 or 1.1? Are there FireWire ports, or will you need to
    add a card for that? And when components fail, are they expensive
    proprietary parts available only from the manufacturer, or
    off-the-shelf stuff you can pick up at Fry's or CompUSA?

    That's not all. I can call my system integrator and get actual
    technical support; if you go for one of the systems specifically
    designed for use by musicians, you'll be way ahead of the pack. Sure,
    it will cost you more in terms of the initial price. But after 5
    years, a couple of upgrades, and minimal downtime, you will be ahead
    by thousands of dollars in terms of value received.

    RULE #4: THERE'S NOT THAT MUCH DIFFERENCE AMONG SOFTWARE, SO DON'T
    AGONIZE OVER IT.

    This is not to minimize the fact that software can have very different
    vibes. But every DAW can cut, paste, and copy, accept plug-ins, go to
    the beginning and end of the file, etc. Remember that music software
    is a few major features, and thousands of little ones. The main point
    is that you want to look at deal-breakers and deal-makers, not which
    keyboard equivalent you use for the MIDI transposition function. Zoom
    out and get the big picture of what software does, because ultimately,
    that's what you'll be depending on every day.

    RULE #5: BE WARY OF BUYING THINGS BEFORE YOU ACTUALLY NEED THEM

    One friend recently asked if he should upgrade to a system with a
    96kHz sampling rate (he already does 24 bits). I asked if his delivery
    medium was CDs; yes. I asked if any clients had requested 96kHz
    recording; no. Was he happy with the current sound of his studio? Yes.

    So why did he want to go to 96kHz? Because "Everyone's doing it, and I
    don't want to fall behind. Maybe I can attract more clients if I go
    for 96kHz."

    The key word there is maybe. I told him to stay with what he had until
    a client said they needed 96kHz for their sessions, or he got gigs
    where the delivery medium required 96kHz. That's when to take the
    plunge: when you can amortize the gear with actual income.

    The advantages of waiting are that as the technology improves, prices
    become lower, and existing companies have a track record, so there's a
    better knowledge base of what to buy and what not to buy. It's almost
    never a good idea to buy a piece of technology "just in case." Wait
    until there's a demonstrable need.

    RULE #6: NO LISTENER GIVES A DAMN WHAT MIC PREAMP YOU USED

    Or which software, computer, monitors, mic, etc. The only people who
    care are gear heads, and I assure you, gear heads do not make up the
    bulk of the music-buying public. I've used a lot of different DAWs,
    and you know what? My music sounds pretty much the same on all of
    them.

    All the matters about music is its emotional impact. No one listens to
    mics; they listen to singers. No one listens to amps; they listen to
    guitarists. Remember this when you are tempted by hype to think that
    there is "magic" gear that will make your music better. Gear can make
    your sound better, but it rarely makes your music better. (I treasure
    gear that is so wonderful to play that it indeed inspires me to play
    better.)

    And before you get too worked up about sound, also remember this: most
    people wouldn't know good sound if it ran up behind them and said
    "boo." People think MP3s sound just fine. They didn't care if the
    Dolby switch was on or off on their cassette decks. They listen to car
    stereos that have almost nothing but low end. Get the picture? It may
    be heartbreaking, but all that effort we put into making the best
    possible sound is appreciated by a minuscule percentage of the
    listening audience.

    Now, I'm not saying don't make great-sounding music. Always do the
    very best effort you can in anything you do. But in the context of
    buying gear, if it takes you 30 hours of work to earn the money to buy
    a brand-new whizbang microphone, your music might actually be better
    if you spent that money on books about harmony theory, took a course
    on screenplay writing to improve your lyrics, or just went on a
    vacation and collected some real-life experiences to fuel your muse.
    Then, maybe you'll have a real reason to pick up that whizbang mic.

    RULE #7: THE BEST WAY TO COPE WITH TECHNOLOGY IS TO PUT IT IN ITS
    PLACE

    I have a hammer that's 20 years old. I'm sure that since then, the
    metals used in them have been improved, the handles have become easier
    to grip, and the weight is now distributed more ergonomically. But you
    know what? It drives nails just fine.

    My main hardware synthesizer is 16 years old. My DAT deck is a TASCAM
    DA-30 (the original one). Then again, I have some fantastic soft
    synths, and two flat screen monitors. The point is, I don't let
    technology rule me ("You have to buy a better DAT, you must go
    surround"). I rule technology: I pick and choose those things that are
    going to help my music.

    I also either jump in as an early adopter, pay the premium price, and
    milk something for all it's worth, or get in on the tail end of a
    technology when it's proven, reliable, and inexpensive. I bought one
    of the first Panasonic DA7 digital mixers, and now you can buy them on
    blowout at a fraction of what I paid. Do I mind? Not at all: I've
    gotten so much use out of it, and made so much off of projects done
    with it, that not buying it would have been a major mistake.

    I'll leave you with this: when it comes to technology, you're the
    boss. Fulfilling your needs is all that should matter. Good luck
    making the right choices!
    slugworth, Jun 24, 2006
    #1
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