Why Artists Hate Their Software

Lead, follow, or get out of the way!
 – Thomas Paine


Die Software

I swear at the software programs I use all the time.  I belittle them, chastise them and generally try to get them to behave exactly the way I want.  And I’m not the only one who does this.

One of my good friends has affectionately nicknamed FCP “Final Slut Hoe” and “Spinal Cut Pro” on different occasions.  Another has taken to slamming her mouse repeatedly on her desk when an application stops responding.  Another would just put his head down on his desk when he heard his drives start to spin up, because he know the application would stop responding for a while.

So why do artists experience such program rage when dealing with their software?  Specifically software that allows them to do what they supposedly love?  To understand the answer, you have to understand how an artist thinks.

Designed to be Ignored

All software designed for production, be it video editing, writing or spreadsheeting, should (at its most basic level) have a singular function: to act as a conduit between the creator and their product.  A novelist, for example, uses Word to get their sentences out of their brains, onto a page and into manuscript format.  A video editor is the same way; our software is designed to get our ideas from recorded clips into finished product.

The best software does this so well you almost forget it’s there.  It allows you to move at the speed of your thoughts and throw your ideas and inspirations onto the screen without any blockage or pausing.  As soon as you have to stop and focus on the program instead of the art, the program stops doing its job.

Think Like Your Software

Often, it’s a matter of putting aside the way you think your workflow should be handled, and taking the time to understand how the program “thinks”.  I’ve been going through this process with FCPX (and I got a lot of pleasure out of creating the pic for this post).  It can be a rough transition, refining your workflow to make it mesh with an application’s.  And sometimes the two never meet and you simply can’t use the application effectively.

I’m naturally curious.  For me, it’s a frustrating challenge to learn these new processes.  I think that it makes me a better artist, because I can work in different ways and I’m not confined to one workflow.  I like the idea of choosing a workflow based on the project, rather than trying to shoehorn every single client into the same process.

But along the way, I might swear at my applications.  It’s all part of the learning curve.

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