Monday, 24 December 2012

New Software = All the fun of Christmas for adults.

It's been a bit longer getting this blog live, due to travelling back from the States, jetlag and then travelling around the UK. 

Being a studio geek is great nearly all of the time. You get to sit in a dark room, and if you’re lucky enough to have windows, you get to have the curtains closed during the day. You get to play music all day and call it work. Unlimited coffee and tea breaks are almost mandatory. Technically you get to choose the hours you work, and technically you get to choose the work you do. Although this often turns out to be biting people’s hands off if they offer you work!

Some bits are exceptionally cool. You get to buy awesome sexy gear. I remember getting my first Pro Tools rig and installing it over the space of a couple of days – optimising the computer, then installing and registering all the software. That was only a small rig with a small yet powerful interface (M-Audio FW1814). Days like these followed, with new bits of hardware arriving as our empire developed. The best one I have ever seen was when our first HD rig arrived, and everything was loaded off the back of a lorry (not like that) on a couple of pallets. Loads and loads of boxes to be unwrapped and opened. It looked like Christmas Day in the Thomas household all those years ago!

As we’ve adapted and updated the studio, the big purchases are fewer and further between these days, but this morning was a nice change. Komplete 8 arrived, and the excitement I felt took me back to the day when I unwrapped my first Scalextric in the early 80s. I suspect that I had a bit of the apprehension my dad must have felt as well. I was all keyed up by the excitement of it all, but he probably had that little nag in the back of his mind – “ok, which bit of track will be dead? Will the power controllers work?” I suspect he knew that he’d have to put it all together whilst I hopped from foot to foot wanting to drive those little Walter Wolf WR5 F1 cars around (yeah, that reallyshows how old I am). Even then, I held up the same principles of today, as I was always the black car – Never Red. 
Now I don’t know how well Scalextric works these days, but it seemed that part of the fun back then was the game not described in the users manual, called finding-the –faulty-bit-of-track-and-fixing –it-before-The-Queen-at-three. It might be that this game is no longer needed and everything works fine straight out of the box. (If Hornby wish to send me a set to verify this, I’d be delighted to report back...)

Which leads me to the point of this. There’s always that thought that you’ve spent however long installing the software and then you go to run it up and there’s a problem somewhere. I started installing an hour ago and I’ve still got 8 discs to go! But I want to hear it running now...Then there’s the next bit of having to learn how to use it. I suspect the old Scalextric was a bit easier to learn:

Ensure all track works. Check.

Align contact braids (carefully removing carpet fluff from previous death-dive over the banked curveinto the no-man’s land between telly and coffee table). Check.

Squeeze trigger, not too much but enough to get the car moving. Check

Get all excited and send car through crash barriers and hurtling through space into potted Yukka.Check.

Repeat ad nauseum till dad walks off in disgust.

So I could have some tortured analogy about still having to check if all the tracks work, and I guess you could at a push suggest putting the car in the slot is akin to using a preset sound or effect (I said it was tortured). But maybe dusting off previously crashed melodies and songs and coaxing a bit more out of them with the new toys? Yeah, that works, and potentially having a new track spiralling out of control metaphorically into a household plant could be the overuse of presets, too much instant gratification.

It always seems to be the case though, you get your system running properly, then something new comes along, or a new version is released, or a new OS update comes out and you spend the next few weeks running around trying to get everything working again. Repeat ad nauseum. 
I remember being taught that once you get your system working, leave it. Do not upgrade until it is utterly necessary. But I guess these days we seem to be in public beta mode for all of the software manufacturers and upgrading / installing new customer service packs etc is almost a prerequisite. But then we should expect all of this thanks to Moore’s Law and the doubling of computer speeds yearly.

Hornby never did this to you. And you never had to register Scalextric using a challenge and response either…



Christian Thomas is Production Director at Space Studios. He *really* used to wind his dad up with the Scalextric.

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