Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Brain Crack!

This will be my first fiction writing post. For those who don't know, I write fiction. Look over that way at the links for a couple of samples out in the wild --------->

Thanks to Jenny Jo Reinhart (through the one and only Brad Parks) for sharing this on G+. It leads to the most important thing to remember if you want to be a writer, the single piece of advice every writer, teacher, or writing coach gives: write. This should be obvious, but it's the act of writing that makes one a writer. Otherwise, you might be a hip frood with a headfull of awesome, but unless you let that awesome out somehow nobody else will ever see it.

The biggest thing that helps me is socializing my writing life. It's easy to fall into the stereotype of the isolated, solitary writer. Think Thoreau alone in his cabin. Virginia Wolfe in her own room, with lock and key. Hemingway drinking alone because he's threatened to punch out everyone else. Go get the drift. Writing can be solitary. Especially if you have a full-time job and a family and can only write at 4AM when everyone else is in bed (it's 4AM now). So what to do?

One choice is a critiquing group. Not is avoiding the shame of having to face the same people every few weeks without a new work to show a tremendous motivator, but everyone can benefit from an objective eye telling them whether or not they're as awesome as they think. I've had a room full of people not "get" a story in which I really believed, or tell me what was wonderful about something I wasn't sure about. More about those experiences in a later post.

Another experiment I've been tinkering with are "writer hangouts". You can meet other creative types in a coffee shop, a bar, on a rooftop, or through the magic of the internet, chat for a few minutes, then get to work. I tried it the other night on G+ (hosted by the one and only Mary Robinette Kowal) and, while at first other faces flitting too and fro on my screen were a touch distracting, the "ticaticataptaptap" of fingers on keyboards is a great motivator to keep my fingers dancing across they keyboard.

Now, that being said, back to work. After all, none of the stories here in my head are going to write themselves.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My my, what a big screen you have!

We've all seen them. Conference rooms the size of a walk-in closet in which the client wants (and the salesperson sold) a display the approximate size of Rhode Island. As a pointless just-for-the-heck-of-it mental exercise you calculate the optimum viewing distance and, as experience and common sense tell you, it's someplace in the next room. You put it in anyway, and the client is not only delighted, but seems underwhelmed by the reasonably-sized display in the net room over. You go on to the next job, your faith in clients to make good decisions at an all time low. Until the next time.

So what really is happening here? Is everyone being seduced by the "wow" of an oversized display? If you take the time to ask (and can do so diplomatically) the answer is often an attempt to duplicate the home-theater experience.

Commercial applications are all about transmitting information. Displays need to be readable with enough detail for given tasks. If you can read the text on the powerpoint presentation and see the facial features on the far-end videoconference participants you're doing fine.

Home theater, on the other hand, is about an experience. To see the image isn't enough, you need to be immersed in it, almost overwhelmed by it. SMPTE and THX each have guidelines which specify a display that essentially fills ones field of vision. If a commercial installation is to be used for conferencing or document review, there's little need for this. If it will sometimes play media then many clients want at least as engaging an experience as they get at home. And that means BIG.

So the moral of the story? One size, in this case literally, does not fit all. When you see something strange and outside of normal best practices, ask. Knowing that a more theater-like experience could create an opportunity to upsell, adding upgraded speakers, for example, or a surround sound processor. If it's a more vague, "We just want everything to be big" or that there's a similar size room with a huge display in a different facility and they want them to match -- well, you always keep the right to secretly believe that some people are a little crazy when it comes to their AV choices.

At the very least you'll better understand what your client wants and why they want it. Knowing, as they say, is half the battle.

Look for my next entry (a writing one!) later this week.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Greetings and Introductions

Welcome to my blog. As you can see from my profile, I'm a parent, technologist, and in quiet stolen moments, a writer. For those wondering:

  • As a technologist I manage commercial audio-video projects for AVI-SPL. My favorite thing about the job is the blend of technical, social, and time-management challenges it often involves. There's a real feeling of accomplishment when in turning over a large-scale, sophisticated system to a satisfied end user knowing that ones efforts made it happen.
  • I'm the parent of two wonderful children; a four and a half year old girl and a 6-week year old boy. The smartest thing anyone told me on the birth of our second child is that I should be prepared to learn that I know nothing; that different children are so different that it's easy to be complacent and not realize what a grand adventure of exploration you're in for. Again.
  • Finally, writing. I'll add links here to published works as I finish them, but they get finished very slowly. All short fiction. My first love is science fiction, but as of late I'm writing more and more fantasy and less and less SF. There's even the occaisonal story with no speculative element at all.

That's the introduction. This blog will be mainly about the wonderful world of commercial AV and about writing. 

Why put them together, you ask? Wouldn't it make more sense to have two blogs? Perhaps, but one thing I feel video on demand, internet searches, and online searchable newspapers have cost us is the serendipity of stumbling across something you'd not have ordinarily sought out, but finding it interesting anyway. So, I encourage my writer-friends to read my musings on AV and my AV friends to explore my writing hobby with me. 

See you on the blog!