I want to talk about a quiet revolution that ’ s taking place in the creative world, but first, I want to start with this image.
I ’ m hoping some of you have seen Ratatouille, one of Pixar ’ s smaller blockbusters. The film is about Remy - a humble rat who aspires to grand feats in the world of cuisine. It ’ s a sweet little film and it revolves around a simple premise put forward by Gusteau, a famous chef that “ Anyone can cook. ” What the film ’ s really tackling is the creative process itself, suggesting that the door to creativity is open to anyone. What does any of this have to with mobile devices?
Well what ’ s on your smartphone? I ’ m not talking about temple run or shazam or facebook - I ’ m talking about your stuff. What marketers like to call your personal media - the photos, the music, the video - everything that represents the digital you.
...Now another question. How much of it did you create WITH your smartphone? I ’ m guessing a lot more than you think.
The last 5 years have seen a dramatic transition in the way we ’ re using mobile devices. For devices that started out as tools to consume content, smartphones and tablets are evolving to become a generation ’ s preferred choice for creating it. People make music with their smartphones, they take and edit photos with them, they shoot and edit feature films with them, they draw and paint with them and most intriguingly of all – they use them to creatively collaborate. The premise I want to explore here is that the most exciting mobile apps aren ’ t the games, aren ’ t the instant messengers or social networks, but the apps being used as creative tools- and that the next great wave of creative will come from mobile devices.
As far as making something of genuine creative worth, the old saying we clung to as established creatives went “ If it was easy, everyone ’ d be doing it. ” Well it is easy now, and everybody ’ s doing it. Of course, that ’ s the kind of arrogant generalization made by someone who gleefully ignores the benefits of experience, theory and professional training.
Who I ’ m describing, of course, is Gen Y. And these bright, entitled young things are the creatives who will replace us.
So this raises a few questions we need to consider. Firstly, do these apps give real scope to be legitimately creative? Second is what I ’ m calling the Precision Dilemma Thirdly is the work transformative? Are there aspects of it which could only be achieved on smartphones or tablets - and fourthly where is this headed in future?
Let ’ s tackle the first question - are they really being creative? Let ’ s use photography as an example.
The naysayer argument goes like this - sure, you can take a decent photo on a smartphone nowdays, but what people produce is really nothing more than a bunch of presets and filters. It ’ s not genuine work, it ’ s just something to slap up on Instagram, Path or Facebook. No lasting value. FIlters and presets are the bane of the creative elite, who generally believe presets only exist to make amateurs look like professionals.
My response is, absolutely. Making an amateurs feel like professionals is what Photoshop did ten years ago. There ’ s not a digital creative alive who didn ’ t get the same buzz playing with the filters and presets in Photoshop when they started out and saw what it could do. Whatever we might think of one-touch filters, these are formative creative experiences. It gives confidence to explore further and dig deeper into what ’ s possible. This always was, and always will be a good thing!
In fact, most high-end design packages are now scrambling to provide presets to match the effects and styles available in apps like Instagram or Path.
Plus, apps like Camera+, Snapseed or iPhoto on iPad allow staggering levels of depth and nuance in image editing which can, in skilled hands reach genuine levels of artistry.
This leads us to question two - the precision dilemma. Touch interfaces (the best ones at least) are all centered around play, and play is the crucible of creativity. Interacting through touch feels inherently creative. It ’ s a dimension that software developers weren ’ t completely prepared for - but consumers were by nature. The QUESTION is are input methods like touch precise enough? Can you really create something to a professional standard without having to rely on a mouse or physical keyboard? Not only is the answer YES, but it can be done cheaper, often faster and by anyone at all - and that ’ s a far easier sell to start dabbling in creating.
The best place to start in proving this is an app like Paper. Paper lets talented artists create stunning illustrations via an incredibly simple, clear intuitive interface. But beyond that, paper wins purely because the experience of using it is fun. Everything you ’ re seeing here has been created entirely in the Paper app - an app that costs just a few dollars.
In the world of music, the examples are even more striking. Music software developers have noticed mobile as the most powerful platform to connect with new consumers, and they ’ re taking it seriously. Music apps like GarageBand, dJay or Music Studio let people record, edit, mix and master music at a fraction of the fraction of the cost of similar packages on desktop machines. All with the additional portability and immediacy of a touch device.
These aren ’ t just musical toys either. What you ’ re seeing here are pro grade synthesizers like AniMOOG or drum machines like DM1 running on tablet devices. These apps are based on existing technologies that cost hundreds of dollars. The tablet versions cost about ten dollars each.
This is where the big names enter the scene. Damon Albarn chose to record and produce the entirety of his new Gorillaz album using just two iPads. The sheer wealth of pro-grade music software available for tablets and smartphones now are giving a new generation of musicians opportunities their parents could never dream of having.
It ’ s changing the world of film too. The 2012 Oscar-winning documentary Searching For Sugarman was partially shot using the 8mm Vintage Film video app. Why? Because they ran out of money to shoot it traditionally. The app costs $2. It was the story they told and the film they made that won an Oscar, not a ten thousand dollar camera.
So what does all of this lead to? Where is the world of mobile creativity headed in the future? Collaboration.
No presentation can be taken seriously without a least one diagram, so here ’ s mine. Whenever you merge creative tools with social tools, it inevitably breeds collaboration. The blueprint for this was laid years ago by the early app-native social networks (Instagram, Path etc), but now a wave of new apps are emerging with creative collaboration at their core.
Vyclone, for example is an app that allows groups of people to shoot videos of events from multiple angles separately, then pool the footage, remix and cut it together and share it all within the same app.
Remote jamming is fast becoming a hot trend in music technology. Apple ’ s Garageband app, for example allows multiple musicians to arrange wireless “ jam sessions ” via the app and rock out as a group without any need for a studio.
Pixplit is an intriguing collaborative art concept which is fused, like Vyclone with its own social network. It lets mobile photographers contribute separate photos then merge them together in a single collaged image which can be shared with the community. This is one of my favourite examples of what this new wave of mobile collaboration is going to bring to creative.
And lastly, a silly example of creative collaboration. Welcome to French Girls. French Girls takes the “ couch painting ” moment from Titanic where DiCaprio is painting Kate Winslet, and she whispers “ paint me like one of your french girls ” to its logical conclusion. It takes the “ draw something ” idea of drawing by correspondance and adds the irresistable idea of submitting your own photo to be interpreted as art, and then doing the same for someone else. It ’ s like PaintRoulette, and loads of fun.
So let ’ s summarize. What mobile devices have done is remove the barrier to entry for gifted amateurs by taking full advantage of the amazing power of these creative devices. They ’ re already in the hands of people who might not even consider themselves creative and they are fast becoming the key digital creative tool of this generation. They are the new Moleskine – always at hand, less expensive and more accessible than the arcane software of the past. Tomorrow ’ s creatives are already instant masters of this new medium. Some day they ’ ll tell their children about a time when “ professional ” creative software needed a large box to run on, took months to learn and cost hundreds of dollars and they won ’ t believe them.
I ’ d like to close by bringing us back to Ratatouille, which has one of the simplest, most profound endings of any movie I ’ ve seen based around the idea of creativity. Anton Ego, the embittered restaurant critic whose cynical assumptions have been blown out of the water by how delicious Remy the rat ’ s cooking is, writes in his review: “ In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto, "Anyone can cook."But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist can come from anywhere . ” The new definitely needs friends - and hopefully the examples we ’ ve seen demonstrate why. Thank you very much.
Creative Devices - the Art of Mobile Collaboration
CREATIVEDEVICESthe art ofmobile collaborationRick Salter / Creative Director / Webling Interactive www.webling.com.au
how much of it did you createWITH YOURSMARTPHONE?
THE MOBILE SHIFT mobile photo web editinggames ebooks 3D illustration consumption creation feed video layout/ filmmakingreaders design music music stores production
IT IS EASY NOW,AND EVERYBODY’SDOING IT. One copy of the Camera+ app is sold approximately every 3 seconds 7 million illustrations were created in the Paper app within 2 weeks of release 40 million Photos posted to Instagram every day. 100 million users in 2 years.
In many ways, the workof a critic is easy.The world is often unkind tonew talent, new creations.The new needs friends.In the past, I have made nosecret of my disdain for ChefGusteaus famous motto,"Anyone can cook."But I realize, only nowdo I truly understand whathe meant. Not everyonecan become a great artist;but a great artist cancome from anywhere.