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Macworld 2010 and a 2011 Wishlist

February 18, 2010

Just got back a few days ago from our annual trip to San Francisco for Macworld Conference and Expo. In case you’re wondering why an artist would go to a convention for Mac users, the short answer is: I’m a Mac User. The longer answer is: my husband, John C. Welch, is something of a Mac IT guru and semi-infamous in the Land of the Mac Geeks. Every year he speaks at and/or teaches sessions at Macworld. This year he had five sessions, I think, plus a live version of the podcast he does with Peter Cohen (of the Loop) and Darby Lines (aka “the Angry Drunk“). By their powers combined they are the Angry Mac Bastards, and while their podcast on the show floor was much less profane than usual, it was still as funny. (Basically their podcast revolves around mocking stupidity on the internet and in the Mac community–you can listen to them here: http://angrymacbastards.com).

This makes my fourth year attending Macworld, and I have to say that despite many of the predictions that this was going to be a dead year for the convention I was pleasantly vindicated to see that it was not. It was just as crowded and interesting as years past, with the notable (and for me, anyway, not so lamentable) loss of Apple as a showfloor vendor. Honestly, I never spent much time in the Apple booth. I was far too busy hunting through the smaller vendors and looking for something that would be useful to me that I couldn’t see just by going online or to the store.

I also got a chance this year to attend a session presented by Ninja Mountain podcast regular Patrick McEvoy. He demoed for the session attendees a walkthrough of his painting process, using Photoshop and Painter. It was great and I learned a lot more than I had expected to (and I’d expected to learn quite a bit). Everyone in the audience seemed interested and those who asked questions were following well. I’m hoping that Patrick decides to come back again next year and teach another session or two.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I love Macworld and I definitely want to see it continue. I think its a great opportunity for people like me to be able to check out vendors and software and hardware that we wouldn’t ordinarily get a chance to. It’s also an amazing learning opportunity, with tons of sessions for everyone from basic users up to the hardcore IT guys like my husband. The problem I’ve found, however, is that there is a lot of stuff there geared toward photographers and people interested in photo editing… but that’s ignoring a huge chunk of Mac users who use their computers creatively but aren’t interested in photography. There also seem to be other gaps that it would be nice to see filled, at least from my perspective.

After a chat with my husband last night I decided I needed to sit down and make out a wishlist of things I’d like to see at Macworld 2011. Things that would interest me and other Mac users that I know, that would help us get more out of our computers.

Show Floor Exhibitors I’d LOVE To See:

Wacom

I have been looking for a Wacom booth since the first year I went. I’d heard they’d had a booth the year before I started attending, but they’ve been a no-show for the last four years. Well, unless you count their products occasionally appearing as part of a demo booth for another product. The reason I want Wacom there? Simple. There’s NO OTHER WAY to try out their products. I’ve been a Wacom user for years. I started with a Graphire (which was a gift). Eventually had to replace it because, let’s face it, I’m HARD on my toys, with a second Graphire. Then I got an Intuos at work, and another one for home (another gift), and finally my Cintiq (which was an amazingly generous gift, too). Now… back when I was using a Graphire, I was really interested in seeing what an Intuos or a Cintiq could do. But you can’t hike down to your local Best Buy and try one of those babies out. In fact Best Buy doesn’t even carry them in store, as far as I can tell. The best they’ve got on hand is a Bamboo (the new Graphire equivalent). The Apple Stores carry them… but not out where you can play with them. They hide them in back rooms and you have to ask for them. And what do you do if, like me, you live in a town with no Apple Store? Well, then you go online and check out the specs and talk to people and try to decide if the upgrade is worth the expense. If I’d had the opportunity a few years back to play with an Intuos, you can bet your ass I’d have saved up my pennies and bought one. Instead I waited till I got one at work. And if I’d had the chance to try a Cintiq? I might still be saving my pennies for it, but it would have been way up there on my list of Things I Want to Purchase. Right now, I’d love to try out one of Wacom’s 6D Art Pens, but I don’t know anyone local that has one I can borrow, and the various artists I do know who have them are split on the topic of their usefulness. If I had the chance to try one out at Macworld, I’d be able to make a better decision about whether or not it was right for me to purchase.

Corel/ArtRage

Adobe has always been one of the big guns at Macworld, though they were absent this year. I’ve been a Painter user for five years now, and I’ve fiddled with ArtRage a few times. What I’d like to see on the show floor are demos done by professional artists (or even hobby artists) using these products and showing people what exactly they can do. So many beginning artists turn immediately to Photoshop–which, admittedly can be a powerful painting tool in its own right–but many of those just making the switch to digital would probably find it easier if they started with programs geared toward traditional artists. Giving them an opportunity to play with these programs on the floor, hands on, would let people decide for themselves if the software was something they’d be interested in purchasing. And seeing pros use these tools is always inspiring and shows users new ways of using tools that they might not have thought of themselves, demonstrating the flexibility of the product in a way that simply viewing a final finished image can’t.

Adobe–with a twist

Usually Adobe’s booth focuses on digital photography and photo editing and so on. No problem. Would it kill them to demo what Adobe can offer artists, too? You’d be surprised at how many people out there are budding artists who might be interested in learning digital, and seeing how flexible their program is might be the thing that pushes them to purchase. Even if YOU aren’t artistically inclined, maybe your kids are or your sister or brother. You never know. Yeah, I know I’m pushing the “lets see more than just photography related stuff” but honestly, while I’m a decent photographer (and many of the other artists I know are too), we’re often far more interested in how Photoshop lets us DRAW than we are in getting rid of red eye. Most of the people I know (even the non artists) who do digital photography, don’t really do much with their photos after taking them. Maybe they upload them to their roating digital picture frame or their phone, but I don’t know many who even do the basics like red eye reduction or zapping zits with the healing brush. On the other hand, I know lots of people who will open up their copy of MSPaint and doodle while on the phone or who have downloaded Brushes for their iPhone for the same reason. People like to draw, even when they can’t. It’s soothing.

Just something to think about. Especially with the iPad about to hit the market. Think of how many people are downloading drawing programs for their iPhone. Now think about how many are going to want to doodle or draw on their iPad…

MySmithMicro

I’ll be one of the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of Poser artwork on its own. I’ve only very, very rarely seen it done well. However, it can be useful for artists who have a hard time finding or taking pose references. They used to make a product that was essentially just FOR artist figure reference, but I can’t find it in their product line anymore so it may have been discontinued. A shame, because that was the one Poser product I would really consider purchasing. Other than Poser they also sell (make? Not sure?) AnimeStudio and MangaStudio… neither of which interest me, but I know a ton of other artists who would love to see these products demoed. I remember last year they had a small booth that demoed a couple of their products, but it wasn’t really a friendly kind of atmosphere, or the kind that encouraged you to step up and check it out. (Seriously guys, sticking one bored artist in front of a cintiq to demo ArtRage without some kind of mirrored monitor to show what she’s doing was lame. If there’s a crowd, no one can see, and if there’s not a crowd but just one really irritating little kid that keeps asking “but what does that button do?” I’m probably not going to approach. And playing with Poser on my own is… tedious. I’d rather see a demo by someone who knows what they’re doing with it.)

ZBrush

Pretty much read all of the above. I’m not a 3D artist by any means, and playing with the demo version had me lost after awhile. Be nice to see someone using it who knows what they’re doing.

What I’d like to see Sessions on:

Dedicated sessions

on learning pretty much any of the software I listed above. Right now most of the “creative” sessions are limited to those people who want to do photoediting, but do we really NEED three seperate sessions to show us how to mask something in Photoshop or reduce red eye? It’d be wicked great if Macworld could partner with a site like ConceptArt/MassiveBlack (which I believe is partially headquartered in San Francisco) to get some pro artists in to do sessions at different levels on any of these programs. Not to mention the massive draw ConceptArt/Massive Black seminars generally have for the artistic public would likely boost conference sales if users knew there were sessions they would want to attend. I know I was jazzed last year when Android Jones and Jason Manley were doing a session for Corel that wasn’t much more than simply TALKING about the product. I’d kill for a chance to see Android doing his live art thing on the show floor at Macworld, because I might not have a chance to see it otherwise. I’m not talking something as intense as the huge Art School conferences that Massive Black does every year… maybe just a handful of more basic classes and one or two more advanced tracks for pro artists. It would definitely be something I’d spend money on and I know other people who would, too.

Getting the Most Out of Your LiveStream

Live streaming sessions are becoming more and more popular with artists nowadays. I was an early adopter of the format with my Ustream sessions, and since then hundreds of other artists have jumped on the bandwagon. Most of us are self taught in using Ustream or Livestream and aren’t professional broadcasters in any sense. I’d love a session to talk about milking the best quality screencasting (or video for those traditional artists who do this) out of these programs, how to optimize my stream for less jumpiness, the best kinds of headsets or microphones to use, best ways of outputting, how to integrate video or audio, etc.

Specific techniques

Watching Patrick’s session last Thursday got me thinking about all the different kinds of art out there and how many different ways artists use various programs. While a session dedicated to learning the tools in Painter is useful, it’s also useful to see an artist who works in mulitple programs to achieve a specific kind of style or image. For instance, a session on how to do webcomics or manga using MangaStudio and Photoshop. Or how to scan images in Photoshop and turn them into Painter custom brushes or textures. That sort of thing.

Social Media Marketing for Creatives

We all know that social media is a key way of connecting with our fans and possible clients, but many creative people are at a loss as to how to apply it to themselves. There are tons of blogs out there for those who dwell permanently in the Blogosphere and who use social media constantly to market their blogs and writing. Companies usually have people working for them who handle their social media exposure. Creative professionals, however, are usually on their own trying to work and navigate the murky waters of the internet. I’m not sure what benefit I’d get from a Facebook fan page, though I know other artists who have them and use them well. On the other hand I’ve amassed something of a following on Twitter that hasn’t hurt me at all in terms of upping my sales. There are tons of social media galleries and art sites out there (dA, ConceptArt, CGSociety, Etsy, to name a few), as well as all the other sites that can be adapted by creative users to help get their work out there and noticed. A session that explores these from the perspective of either a creative professional or even just the individual with a homebased or freelance business, would be great.

To sum up:

Regardless of whether Santa brings me everything or anything on my Wishlist next year for Macworld, I’m still planning to go. I can usually find a few sessions to interest me, and while this year there wasn’t much on the show floor for me, that changes drastically from year to year anyway. I’d encourage anyone who is a Mac user who would like the opportunity to learn more about their computer and more of what it can do for them (and who can afford it) to consider going. And if by some miracle somewhere up there in the Macworld chain of command someone hears my wishes and manages to grant even a few of them… you can bet it’ll make the experience for me even more worthwhile.

Oh, and one other thing, IDG? Can we pretty, pretty please have some more electrical outlets on the second floor of the west hall by the tables for people to plug in their laptops? Being relegated to the painful, cold, and awkward metal benches that were quarantined way off in the corner because they were the only spot on the floor that had easy and safe electrical outlet access was not a fun experience. Thanks!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2010 7:58 pm

    My 2¢: With apologies to JFK… “Ask not what your Macworld can do for you, ask what you can do for your Macworld!”

    I used to complain that there was not enough sessions about Network Management. So I got together with some other geeks who manage networks and created one! If public speaking terrifies you, then just organize a BOF session. Or write up a session description and pitch somebody who you think SHOULD/WOULD speak. To me the best sessions are the ones where EVERYONE, including the “audience” contributes to the general knowledge. Making that happen is not IDG’s job so much as it is the collective responsibility of the attendees. Macworld just provides the framework.

    BTW: Nice to see you (and John) again!

    –Chuck

  2. July 13, 2012 3:52 pm

    You can just never go wrong with a Mac…but most of the PC world just doesn’t understand

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