Software of the Spectacle

Final Cut Pro X means Apple has abandoned professional artists

by Flick Harrison

Guy Debord said that the main function of our society is now the production of spectacle. The spectacle alienates us from life and each other. Facebook, for instance, transforms our relationships into images of those relationships, mediated by Facebook’s own hidden desires.

Fifteen years of engagement with the Final-Cut-Pro-using professional class is, at best, a good self-funding, street-cred foundation for the new consumer version of FCP, called FCP-X.  It could be compared to the free itunes app of yesteryear which slowly led us to the Itunes Store and thence to the app store, iphone and ipad.

Since Photoshop or thereabouts, the line between artist / consumer / producer has blurred for many reasons.  Web 2.0 was a major result / acceleration of that, when the content between ads suddenly became user-generated instead of professionally-produced.  Popping out a lower-cost, easier-to-use version of FCP should goose the whole production stream in that direction, not only helping fill the million-channel universe with consumer-produced stuff but driving the wages of pros down.

Final Cut X fits perfectly into this paradigm – it’s part of Apple’s mission to stop selling software / hardware and start selling experiences. You produce video with Final Cut X / Imovie / whatever because it’s a way to keep you on the mac, where you’ll get app-store suggestions etc. and listen to Itunes where you’ll buy things.

Then you’ll post your movie on Youtube so that other people will spend more time on their computer watching it, where they’ll get ads pushed at them.

Professional content producers are a bit of a problem in this system because they expect to get paid for producing content, and because they have a set of specific needs.  Apple is smart to abandon them because the rest of the public will buy whatever software Apple puts in front of them if it is “slick” and “fun,” and they’ll learn to accept its paradigms rather than vice-versa.

Senior artists in any discipline are a problem, partly because they want to get paid, but also because they are interested in ideas and formal play rather than spectacle.  They try to make work that reduces their own and their audiences’ alienation rather than increasing it, even work that exposes the spectacle itself.

There is anger and dismay from professional editors who now feel they need to abandon Final Cut and the whole Apple suite of pro products.  The most sophisticated, team-based and integrated-workflow tools of FCP have been dropped, as if those skills and experiences are irrelevant to the art form in which they earn their crackers.

What’s left is only spectacle.

4 Replies to “Software of the Spectacle”

  1. Very interesting blog Flick.
    Apple have done this trick before – when they moved into “lifestyle” consumer products and away from tools for design/ arts professionals. I can remember Steve Jobs saying he wanted the company to be like Sony.

    Apple likes to have the image of making computers that serious creative pros use, they bathe in this image while ultimately abandoning them.

    It’s arts-wash?

  2. I have an uncle who used to be an architect. When architects started using computers in their work he continued to draft by hand until one day he found himself so far removed from his profession that he was no longer employable.

    That’s an extreme example, but technological innovation is merely a reflection of the evolution of our collective conciousness. The technology is an extension of ourselves and there’s always more to the story than appears on the surface. From our limited perspective it’s easy to judge a trend as either positive or negative, but this is a senseless mind game because ultimately we don’t really know where the technology is heading.

    Take facebook and twitter – two trends in human interaction that I strongly resisted for numerous reasons. But the real value of social media was largely unforseen by most. It’s a kind of non-linear communications technology that allows the right people to connect with one another at exactly the right moment in a seemingly serendipidous way – and yet there’s no coincidence involved because the unifying factor is human conscoiusness. I’ve resented these technologies in the past, not because they are shallow, but because they have forced me to change who I am and how I interact with others.

    As a longtime user of Final Cut Studio I don’t expect to like Final Cut X – but that may be my issue above anything else, just as my uncle’s reluctance to touch computers was his personal issue – it had nothing to do with the technology itself.

    I learned to edit on a Steenbeck flatbed editing table. At that time, due to the inaccessability of editing technology, film editing was a highly specialized skill. Final Cut changed all that and Final Cut X will change it even further, to the apparent detriment of “professional” editors. Actually, what makes us professional is not the desire to get paid but rather a certain skill set required to perform at a certain level. As the option for available tools expands (and the entry level price point continues to drop) the field becomes more and more diluted making it increasingly difficult for professional editors to make a living. And so we have to re-invent ourselves – something which few people embrace though the end result is always positive.

    Jean-Luc Godard once said: Until film is as cheap as pencil and paper it will never be an art form.

    In Vancouver the various filmmaking crafts are protected by unions such as IATSE. To me this system represents a form of racketeering. The truth is that when it comes to editing, the available talent pool has grown immense. The unions seek to establish a barrier between “professional” and “amateur” editors by denying work to qualified non-members and successfuly restricting access to the union. Such actions are immoral and unjust and create and energetic imbalance that will eventually find resolution. Over time, new technologies emerge and eventually the union and all it represents will have ceased to be relevant.

    Incidentally – there’s a lot that is worrysome about Apple these days. Apple is interested in proprietay technologies and in control. Unless Apple can trascend it’s own corporate mindset it will eventually be displaced by the open-source movement. (This from a life-long Apple user whose brand loyalty precedes the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984).

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