Am I a Mac or am I a PC?

Whenever I show footage, invariably I get the question “Are you making this on a Mac?” or even more pointed “So, you are making this on Mac, right?”.  What’s interesting about this question is that it’s both irrelevant and reveals more about the person asking the question than whatever my answer might reveal about me or the film.

The reason it’s irrelevant is very easy to answer – the film is made using primarily Adobe Photoshop and After Effects – which are functionally identical on both Mac and Windows. What people are really asking, I suspect, is “What kind of person are you?” – “Are you like me?”.

Apple has done a great marketing job of creating a brand identity that their users feel really great about identifying with. There is some “special” about Macs and somehow you can create something “better” using the same program on a Mac than other computer systems.

And if we understand the placebo effect, there is probably some truth about that, thus reinforcing the belief that it matters what computer operating system you use. And if you tap into the human ego’s need to strongly identify with groups, peers and external identities, we now end up with the silly concept of “Am I a Mac or PC?”

But that still leaves me looking at the person who is usually eagerly awaiting me response. Whatever I say invariably disappoints. If I respond about Photoshop or After Effects, their interest level drops instantly. If I say I’m primarily using the Windows platform it can literally end the conversation.

And if they ask “Why?’, then things get difficult. Because the truth is that it would be much more difficult to make this film using Macs because it would cost a lot more. Those that dig around the website will discover the film is being created on home-built computers and servers, many built of scrap parts from other machines. This literally reduces the cost of the film by almost 2/3rds over using store-bought machines and storage systems.

If you want to build your own computers easily, you have to look primarily to Windows or Linux operating systems as Apple closed this market over a decade ago. A few enterprising users have semi-illegally created Hackintosh’s but they are difficult to tweak, overclock and easily maintain over a couple of years as your primary, heavily used machines.

And there’s more. The processes used to create motion using real photographs requires pushing Adobe Photoshop and After Effects beyond their limits. Which means a 64-bit operating system and software, when possible. Currently, Windows XP 64-bit is the fastest and most stable way to do this. This is all currently changing but for the last 3  years, this has been true.

Finally, I like building computers. It’s fun, cheap, creative and practical and I’ve been doing it for many years. But the real bottom line is the hardware and software are simply tools, not creative elements in themselves.

One of my pet peeves about the whole “Mac or PC?” is that the question is long out of date. Apples are now PCs in that they both use the same computer processors, motherboards. In fact all the same hardware that Windows, Linux and other Intel based machines use. The only difference is the operating system, so the question should be “Mac or Windows?” or better yet “What operating system do you use?”

But that’s not really what people  are asking. So my real answer to the question of “Am I a Mac or am I PC” is “Neither, I’m Stephen, nice to meet you”.


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