Throughout art school I constantly saw students, armed will little more than an iBook, desktop printer and a can of spray adhesive, churn out incredible projects. There should really be a TV show that demonstrates creative projects that home users can do using a computer and other common gadgets. It would be a kind of techy version of Martha Stewart Living, or Good Eats with Alton Brown. With the right host it could be beloved by Midwestern scrap-book moms and hipsters alike.
Personal computers have obviously made huge changes in how we all work, play, and communicate. For designers, musicians, filmmakers, writers and other artists the personal computer is a powerful content creation and production tool. However, to most people, despite the ever diminishing differences between the tools used by professionals and the average home users, the computer is little more than a gateway to the internet, crude messaging device, and game machine. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that, but the personal computer can be, and is, so much more. The original Macintosh, which in many ways is the grandfather of all present day computing, had the expressed purpose of making people more creative. In “Insanely Great: The Life and times of Macintosh, the Computer That Change Everything”, Bill Atkinson, one of the original engineers of the Macintosh, is quoted saying:
“We’re going to make it so easy to be creative that people will have no excuse not to confront their own artistic ability.”
Obviously this has certainly happened on some level, and the explosion graphic design, digitial films, music, and other artwork in recent years is evidence. But still this vision has not reached many computer users. Thus the main purpose of the show is to demonstrate how fun and rewarding creative projects using computer can be. The show can also serve to demystify aspects of computing that leave many home users confused and discouraged.
The format would be just like Martha Stewart Living or Good Eats with Alton Brown; lots of demonstrations, with the occasional field trip, special guest, and skit. Episodes would fall into two basic categories:
- Creative Projects which rely heavily on a computer, printer, digital camera and other mainstream technology
- Technical Projects which demonstrate and explain common home technology projects, and problems (such as setting up a home network, or choosing the right printer)
Either type of show could be supplemented with reviews and comparisons of products used or recommended in the episode. All software and equipment used in each show should all be very mainstream (nothing too complicated or expensive). Each project should be thoroughly explained using diagrams and demonstrations, but not to go into obsessive detail. Most importantly each show should be narrow enough in scope that the project can be shown without omitting any important steps.
The potential audience for the show is anyone
with some interest and curiosity in technology
and who also enjoys crafts and home projects.
Really the biggest determining factor for the
audience will be the projects covered. So
the projects should demonstrate how to be
creative but also leave room for adaptation.
Some potential viewers include:
- Recent computer owners who are looking for something to do with their computer other than browse the web and play games.
- Young DIYers who have read “ReadyMade” or “Make” magazine.
- Parents and teachers looking for fun and creative activities to do with their kids.
- Families that want their home computers and technology to work better for them and work better in general.
- Creative young people (12 and up)
- Readers of Walter Mossberg’s “Personal Technology” article
- Viewers of Mythbusters, How It’s Made, etc.
The depth of explanation should be at the level of “what you need to know” so that viewers have a very good understand of what’s going on and how to think about their projects, but not go into excessive detail. Basically viewers should have more knowledge about the technology than if they asked the local electronics store salesman, but less than if they read an anandtech or tom’s hardware article.
Here are some ideas for topics and projects, some of which could probably be completed in a single episode others would have to be part of a series:
- Making a Cook Book for Family
or Favorite Recipes
Topics: still photography tips, page layout, basic typography, basic book binding techniques
- Setting up a Home Wireless network
Topics: different hardware, sharing files, NAS devices, streaming music
- Photo-retouching and "Photoshop-ing"
Topics: retouching faces and bodies, color correction, editing people into scenes or other photographs (magic wand, clone tool, etc)
- Photo Printing
Topics: color/contrast correction, non-destructive image resizing, megapixels and dpi, printer calibration
- Creating a Comic book using photographs
instead of drawings
Topics: scene photography, layout, graphic photo effects.
- Podcasts and Spoken Word Recording
(probably a multi-part project)
Topics: audio recording tips, audio editing tips, burning CDs
- Maximizing your music Library
Topics: lossy vs. lossless formats, ripping techniques, iTunes smart playlists, network music players
- CD and DVD Cases and Labels
topics: different CD and DVD case options, different label options, formatting labels for printing
- Making a Short Film
Topics: frame composition, lighting, tripods, editing
- Making a Short Film with Special
With special guest from Ryan Weiber and Michael “Dorkman” Scott (those kids that made those sick Star Wars fan movies http://ryanw.michaelfrisk.com/ryan-w/ryan_vs_dorkman.html)
- Making your own toys and games with a computer. Such as creating your own Monopoly style game, or putting you and your friends’ faces on a game of Guess Who.
- Creating a Magazine or Zine
Topics: paper sizing options, printing options (Kinkos), page layout vs. cut and paste layout, typography
The single greatest challenge will be developing
projects that can be done on most home computers.
That means not using advanced or professional
applications or equipment. For example, instead
of designing a book in a desktop publishing
program such as InDesign or Illustrator, Microsoft
Word should be used. Also for the more technical
projects, thorough explanation of the hardware
being used and why is important.
The other significant challenge is finding a network that would be willing to take a chance on such a new style of TV show. A channel like G4 seems like an obvious fit, but in fact is not mainstream enough, instead TLC/Discover channel or PBS may attract a better audience.