Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Slaying Goliath… a word to my students

Another school year over. Another group of seniors graduating. I’ll miss this bunch. As a graduation present, I give them the following reading assignment.

Being a complete Malcolm Gladwell fanboy, my heart races just a bit whenever I crack a New Yorker that features one of his articles. This week’s issue features Gladwell’s How David Beats Goliath. While primarily focusing on improbable sports and military victories, the main thesis applies to all facets of life. Applied intelligently effort can beat talent. It’s evident in my students’ work. As I grade final projects, I see that students who may lack key technical skills overcome that deficiency by sheer force of will – spending hours on complex workarounds to get the desired result.

Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Outliers are multiple must-reads, with Blink worthy of a trip to the library. In Outliers a recurrent theme was practice trumps God given talent. Within reasonable limits, virtually anyone can be an expert in anything after 10,000 hours of practice. Of course to spend the equivalent of nearly every waking hour of just under two years at anything requires passion. Just like your dad told you: Passion + Effort = Success.

If what you do doesn’t make you jump out of bed in the morning eager to get to work, you won’t be any good. I’ve left several jobs and a couple of careers not because I was burned out or miserable, but simply because I’d lost my passion for what I was doing. As another school year ends, I again counsel my students not to do anything they don’t love. If you want to direct, don’t work at Banana Republic. If you want to edit, don’t take a job at an insurance company. Don’t think about money. If you love what you’re doing, you’ll be good. If you’re good, the money will come.

Some of my students have gone on to careers far from the daydreams they passed the time with in the back row of FT504. I’ve taught future special education teachers, web application developers, nutritionists, and a few bankers among the many writers, editors, producers, and directors I’ve had in my class. Now my own kids are thinking about college and what they want to do with the rest of their lives. It’s not what they do that counts, just how they do it.

My day job still fires me up, but there’s that extra bounce on teaching days during the semester. I don’t really look forward to summer vacation as an adult the way I did as a kid. Good luck, graduates. You’ll be missed on campus. Fare thee well.

The old man and the outlier

Tonight FRONTLINE airs June Cross’s latest film, The Old Man and the Storm. (Trailer below) Due to PBS carriage rules, you have to check local listings, though in most places FRONTLINE airs at 9 PM. The film was edited by Robert Salsbury – a frequent contributor to many of the online editing communities I frequent.

Having recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers – which I highly recommend – I was struck by how much anyone’s success is attached to opportunity. Gladwell uses extreme examples, outliers, to illustrate his point, but any reader can’t help but pause in awe over the number of turning points in his life due to unexpected opportunities.

My big professional turning point came back in 1996 when I was given my first opportunity to use a little known Mac application to animate the still images for a primetime documentary. Until then, such work was always done on a traditional animation stand. With a lot of late nights, I made it work. In hindsight, the producer who hired me took a chance, and that chance led me to a career in motion graphics. Shortly that led to a creative director role in a dot-com consultancy… and so on until I landed here at Avid.

So what this have to do with The Old Man and the Storm? The producer who gave me a shot in 1996 was June Cross. So in my little way I’m returning the favor by turning over my humble blog for a day as a promotional vehicle. (And the application was After Effects.)

Settled in and back to blogging

Six weeks into my new career I’ve stopped introducing myself as “the new guy” at meetings. The deluge of information has subsided at least to the point that I once again have time for things like reading for pleasure, participating in online communities, and personal blogging. BTW – I now blog with my colleague Greg Staten for Avid. Topics of interest to current and future Avid customers and users will be covered in Source/Record.

For a couple of years I’ve used this space to help me work out ideas — get something out there, start a discussion, and synthesize the results. I’m hoping to get back to that a little bit by discussing some of the broader topics affecting media pros.

In a way a I feel like a corporate Rip Van Winkle. Though I’ve been in and out of large organizations my whole working life, I hadn’t been in the employ of a good-sized corporation in eight years. That’s an eternity in business. What’s most surprised me in upon my return to the cubicle is evolution of multitasking behavior — Blackberrys and laptops in meetings, at lunch, even at drinks after work.

Alas, I can’t multitask. My 1960s model brain doesn’t allow for multi-threaded processing. I have always assumed that feature wasn’t released into the human genome until the mid-1970s. It turns out I may be mistaken, and to this day the human brain doesn’t multitask. An article in The New Atlantis makes me feel much better about my 40-something cognitive capabilities.

Dr. Edward Hallowell, a Massachusetts-based psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and has written a book with the self-explanatory title CrazyBusy, has been offering therapies to combat extreme multitasking for years; in his book he calls multitasking a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.” In a 2005 article, he described a new condition, “Attention Deficit Trait,” which he claims is rampant in the business world. ADT is “purely a response to the hyperkinetic environment in which we live,” writes Hallowell, and its hallmark symptoms mimic those of ADD.

I’m not quite sure no one can successfully multitask. In fact, I’m pretty certain my teenagers and students excel at it. So I assume younger workers can pull it off somewhat. But for now, I feel better that science is on my side when I choose to bring pen and paper over silicon to a meeting.

Avid names new product designer

That would be me. It’s official. I’ll be joining Avid May 1 as a (not the) Product Designer for Editors. We made it public at the Avid customer event last night in Las Vegas. How’s that for new thinking?

It’s a great time to be joining Avid. The recent product announcements are exciting and point to a much needed, and oft promised change in direction. Media Composer with hardware at $10,000. Now we’re talking. Xpress Pro gone. I’m not in mourning.

Over the years I’ve had some colorful exchanges with Avid management. As a journalist, blogger, reviewer, and commentator, I never hesitated to say what was on my mind – sometimes more diplomatically than others. Every company has its own culture, but I have always found Avid to be among the most open to constructive criticism. That weighed very heavily on my desire to come on board. I’m joining a great product development team – Owen Walker (Media Composer Product Manager), Greg Staten (Product Designer for editors), Steve McNeill (Product Designer for editors) Olivier Karfis (Product Manager for editors) and Tim Claman (Director of Product Management for editors).

Between now and May 1 I’ll be winding down my activities with Kingpin and Xprove. I leave both in very good hands. Dave Bryand will take over Kingpin, and Dan Sharp will join Dave in heading up Xprove.

While Avid and I were in discussions, I chose not to blog. It wouldn’t have been right to comment on the release of Final Cut Server or Avid’s recent product lineup changes without disclosing that I was actively seeking to join Avid.

My blogs, here and at ProVideoCoalition, will change. The reality is that I just won’t have the time to put into writing that I had before; and working for a publicly traded company puts limits on what I can say about Avid, its market space, and its competitors. Enough interesting topics remain, and writing serves a very important role in my professional development. Putting words to ideas helps me think concepts through. Getting feedback from readers lets those ideas evolve.

Keep those calls and letters coming.

Announcing ProVideoCoalition.com

This blog’s about two and a half years-old. I have no recollection why I started it. It just seemed to happen, and I fully expected that I’d sooner rather than later lose interest in it. Though I’ve gone through a few dry patches, I’ve been remarkably consistent in this endeavor (at least by my standards).

It’s relatively easy to transition from magazine writing to blogging. Once you’re on the PR firm’s mailing list, you’ll remain there, and my years at DV Magazine got me on a lot of lists. I still had access to the key personnel at the major players in our business, so I got a few scoops.

I also made a few mistakes. Some entries weren’t properly sourced. Other entries often came off more harshly than intended. What I didn’t have as an independent blogger was an editor — that extra set of eyes reading the copy and asking, “Do you really want to say it that way?” At DV I had one of the best in the business in Jim Feeley.

Bloggers don’t usually have the luxury of a publisher. Someone pounding the pavement to keep the money flowing, so we can all afford to do this. Google AdWords just don’t cut it. At DV I had Scott Gentry. A real class act who never asked the writers to pull punches out of concern over angering advertisers. He knew that if readers valued our work advertisers would have to come along. All he demanded was that we be fair.

At DV I also had a stable of colleagues who were so good at what they did that my reputation was enhanced by having my name on the next page. When I started writing for DV I was in awe of Chris and Trish Meyer, Adam Wilt, Mark Christiansen, and, later on, Bruce Johnson. The late 1990s and into the early part of this decade was the heyday of DV. We were a great team, sharing perspectives and sometimes sources.

As much as I enjoy the freedom of being writer, editor, and publisher of my blog, I much preferred my situation at DV. So when Scott Gentry offered me a spot on ProVideoCoalition.com, I jumped at the chance to be reunited with my DV band mates. Ever wary that the reunion tour often fails to live up to expectations, Scott’s invited some new blood — most notably Mike Curtis of HDforIndies, and he’s built a mechanism for new blood to continue to be infused.

Going forward, my primary blog will live at ProVideoCoalition.com/index.php/fcapria. This blog will be renamed “Even More Capria.” It will be a little more off-topic, a little more personal.

PVC gives me the resources to put more time into my writing. It will provide me more access to key thinkers in our space. I hope you join me over there. Links to my RSS feed and to the home pages are below, and will be featured in the right sidebar here.

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