Pixar Animation Standard

In case anyone is questioning Pixar’s position as the undisputed leader in digital animation, they have gone ahead and released for free another digital animation application, this one called the Universal Scene Description tool. It is basically a method for pulling together different assets from different animation applications in a seamless manner.

What makes this interesting to me is that back in July during a trip to Boston, I went to see the amazing “The Science Behind Pixar” exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Science. It was a very hands on demonstration of how Pixar develops it’s amazing digital animation movies. What was exceedingly clear from the exhibit was the painstakingly detailed production process that Pixar applies to each and every one of it’s movies – from the tiniest short to the most epic long form movie. The rigor and attention to detail that was demonstrated in the exhibit was stunning – I can only imagine how it works within the overall Pixar operation – but what was more impressive was the way they made the exhibit so easy to understand and consume, whether you were 14 or 41 years old. They easily demonstrated all the steps that Pixar goes through to produce their movies – from Modeling, Creating Realistic Surfaces, Animation, Simulation, Lighting and Rendering the Imagery. To say that they have the animation production process down to a science is a gross understatement.

By releasing this as ‘open source’, they are doing their best to bring some standardization and rigor to the industry they work in, a subtle dig on the fact that there are so many apps, processes and standards that don’t fit into how they produce their products.

So many folks in the media and around the world talk about Steve Jobs’ influence on the technology industry from his time at Apple (which I am not at all questioning), but after seeing the Pixar exhibit at the Museum of Science, and watching the multitude of movies that Pixar has produced, you can’t help but wonder if what he created at Pixar has been more transformative in the movie and entertainment industry.

Droid Still Does?

There has been a lot of talk about the iPhone’s arrival in Verizon stores and how it will be a game changer relative to Verizon’s investment in Android phones (via their “Droid Does” campaigns). But as Dan Lyons (of Fake Steve Jobs fame) openly questions, is iPhone too late to the Verizon game here?  A clear benefit of Android is its flexibility and the ability for the user to have more control of the experience, while Apple’s iPhone is a very rigid and controlling experience, where Apple (or Steve Jobs) is almost dictating what the user wants and needs:

The iPhone is like omakase, the style of sushi where the chef chooses what you’re going to eat, and might even tell you how to eat it, no wasabi allowed on this, no soy sauce allowed on that. Definitely no California rolls.

That’s the way Apple has always been. One of Apple’s big failures 15-20 years ago in the PC “wars” was the fact that it would not cede control over its licensing and distribution…and on that war, it got its ass kicked by Microsoft from a market share perspective (Yes, Apple’s products are more profitable per user but that’s a story for another post). We’re actually seeing signs of this scenario repeat itself with Android surpassing iOS in terms of installed devices and market share .

The game is much different now with Applications, Mobile, Social Networks and, most importantly, the clear shift of power and conversation to the customer through the Internet and self publishing tools. You could argue that Apple’s “rigid” approach is a metaphor for the old school marketing approach, where the “brand” talked to the customer as opposed to talking with the customer.

No doubt that Android has its flaws, while Apple has some amazing features and benefits. And there is no way to avoid the fact of their recent success and valuation in the marketplace. But to me, it will be very interesting to see if people will be willing to let Apple dictate the experience so rigidly with something so personal as your personal mobile device. Combine this with Apple’s recent announcement that they will be taking 30% of all subscription revenues and its impact on publishers’ iOS content and service offerings, and you really have to step back and wonder how this will all play out