I love when my passions for technology and filmmaking come together. This is one of those instances when something comes along that truly blows my mind.
Valve Software is the company that brought Team Fortress 2, Portal, and Left 4 Dead, the popular PC and console games into the world. The company recently released in beta the Source Filmmaker, a movie making tool that allows people to create animated films using Valve’s Source game engine, for free. The company says that its game engine is a completely different way of making animated films. Among many other breakthroughs, the Source Filmmaker combines multiple technologies to allow users to edit in a three-dimensional world without worrying about the usual hassles that Hollywood filmakers deal with.
“By utilizing the hardware rendering power of a modern gaming PC, the SFM allows storytellers to work in a what-you-see-is-what-you-get environment so they can iterate in the context of what it will feel like for the final audience.”
Basically, instead of adding layers upon layers, frame by frame in 3D till you get a final product, people can edit while seeing what the audience will see at the same time. You can edit shots, add action, and record dialogue all while still being in this video game world. Watch the video below to learn more, and then read ahead.
Now, I could go on and on about the technicalities of the Source Filmmaker, while boring all of you reading this post :). If you want to learn about that stuff, be my guest go to http://www.sourcefilmmaker.com/ and read their FAQ’s. It’s an incredible piece of software. But, the Source Filmmaker has touched upon something that can change the way we create visual media: the ability for anyone to make a high quality product.
Many of us have a story we want to share. Perhaps we are touched by something that happens in our lives. And we want to let people know about it. People compose songs, paint paintings, write poetry etc. And in the same way, many of us enjoy films and would maybe one day like to direct or produce live action, or animated films. But to make a high quality animated film up till now, you had to have expensive software and hardware, as well as a college degree in animation to do so. But, now that has changed. The Source Filmmaker could be the beginning of a time where anyone and everyone can create. It doesn’t matter whether it is a seventeen year old high schooler, or a sixty year old retired doctor. The tools are simple to use, so simple in fact, that they fall away, and all that matters is the story that you want to tell.
Source Filmmaker is currently invite only, but will be released to the general public soon.
Tablets in general are fairly new devices. Microsoft tried doing tablets a couple of years back and failed horribly. They tried taking an existing operating system, like Windows XP or Vista, and tried “adapting” it to work with touch, so the cursor on screen became your finger. The whole interface was very clunky and crashed often. It became clear that for tablets to work well, a whole new user interface had to be created around touch movements.
Then the iPhone came. And just as Steve jobs said, it revolutionized the mobile phone. iOS, the mobile operating system that iPhones run, was praised for its easy of use and reliability. It was one of the first phones to whole heartedly embrace touch interface and execute it well. iOS it turned out was also suited for tablets, and in 2010, Apple unveiled the iPad.
Since then, there has been no good competitor to the iPad. I think Microsoft has finally figured it out.
There are two basic reasons why I think the new Microsoft Surface is a good alternative and competitive tablet to the iPad.
1. It’s actually different
iOS and Android undeniably look the same. While they are both different, and better than each other at certain things, they look the same. The same icons on the home screen, the same “home” button, the same notifications bar, and so on. That is not true with the Microsoft Surface OS (either Windows RT or Windows 8 Pro, but I’ll get to that later). The Metro interface as Microsoft calls it, is completely unique and looks amazing.
It has “tiles” on the home screen that are animated and show information relevant to the app. For example, the Weather app shows the weather for the day on the tile itself which changes as the weather changes. This information is shown before you even enter the application.
And believe it or not, it actually does run Windows. The same Windows that will run on PC’s this fall, that are not tablets. But a new Windows OS, built from the ground up, that is optimized for touch. These kind of UI differences make Microsoft Surface unique and intriguing to the consumer.
2. Content Consumption and Creation Device
Something the iPad has always been good at is content consumption. We watch movies, we read books, we play games, we browse the internet, and so on. One thing the iPad struggles at in its ultimate quest to beat the laptop is its inability to create content. Let me give you a couple of examples.
I am writing this post on a laptop. Why not an iPad? Well, there is no keyboard on an iPad for me to type on. Of course there is a virtual keyboard, but there is no tactile feedback, making it easier to make mistakes. Microsoft Surface fixes this. It has a Smart Cover that attaches to itself magnetically. What is different about these covers is that on one side, there is a actual keyboard and trackpad that you can use to type and control the Surface, on top of the virtual keyboard and touch interface. This makes it easier to write blog posts, surf the web, edit a photo etc.
Another problem iPad’s have is the fact that they don’t run a full blown OS, but a mobile one. One of the Microsoft Surface tablets runs Windows RT, which is a mobile OS. However, there is another Microsoft Surface tablet that runs full blown Windows 8 Pro. Windows 8 Pro is made for touch control, and runs very well on the Surface. It also has the power to run professional applications like Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office. And because of the keyboard and trackpad, the Surface becomes just like the familiar laptop, and gives you a comfortable device to produce content, as well as enjoy it.
I really like Microsoft Surface. It seems to target both business users and regular consumers, and I think it has the power to do well in both markets. It is unique and different from every other tablet out there. And, its Microsoft. If you are still using Microsoft products (Xbox, Skype, Windows PC’s, Hotmail, Windows Phone 7 etc.) the Surface is for YOU.
For more about Microsoft Surface, go to: http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en/us/default.aspx