News for the ‘Synaesthesia’ Category

Synaesthesia is now one of the best things in life…

By which I mean it’s now completely and utterly free. Go download it now, and start using it to make films and video more efficiently.

The rest of this post will concern why I’ve made this change, and perhaps to wax lyrical on software development.

I’ve never really considered myself a software developer, but rather a filmmaker. I’ve written and directed a couple of shorts, but I consider my role in filmmaking to primarily be one of support. I help people make their films, usually in a technical capacity. Over the years of doing that, I conceived a spreadsheet template that grew into a database, and a fully-fledged software solution. I did this, mostly, to make my working life easier. There’s only so much data about a project I could hold in my head, and scraps of paper, both of which have their faults. I created a system that would tie a lot of the elements of filmmaking together, that worked well on both low- and bigger-budget films.

Around five years ago, it occurred to me that, although very niche, the database and associated tools would be useful to other people making films, maybe enough that I could work on and support it for a living. I set about (I want to use the word “weaponising” here, but it doesn’t quite work) making the system usable by people other than myself. After a year of that, and based on some feedback, I then changed the look and feel to how it is now, and finalised my list of everything the software had to do before I would be happy to ask money for it. That was another couple of years of tinkering.

At that point I got serious about it. I took a gamble and spent the better part of a year working on it exclusively (much to the Surreal Road bank manager’s chagrin) to get it complete, had a beta test with a small number of participants. Perhaps I should have taken the lukewarm reception as a sign, even at that point. When I talked to people directly about Synaesthesia, they were often excited, but when people actually used it, less so. Likewise, the bank didn’t look too kindly upon my business plan for the software, and industry journalists (save those who then used the opportunity to sell me advertising space in their publications) were uninterested. More signs, perhaps, but this was during the height of a global recession, and in any case I was having too much fun. This was going to change the way people made films.

Synaesthesia was released on January 18th, 2012 with a price tag of $399. 6 months later I dropped the price to $199. Because I had the foresight to track these things, I can tell you since then, the trial version has been downloaded directly from this website 32 times. The software has actually been used by 111 “unique” users.

I have sold 0 copies.

Clearly, it’s not setting the world on fire like I’d hoped. Looking back, I think I can identify a few reasons for this, such as timing, and even the incredible awkwardness of trying to build a desktop application on top of a Filemaker database (I’ll be surprised if you can point me towards a single Filemaker-based application that can auto-update like Synaesthesia can), but more than anything, I think perhaps there’s simply too much of “me” in it.

Successful films (and stories, natch) work best when the creators impart a little of their souls into them. The best stories tell you about the human condition, and have personality, two features that must be powered by personal observation and honesty to some degree. Software doesn’t work like this. It is merely a tool to do a job, and having something that confounds expectations of how software works (especially on Macs, where all applications look alike), will turn many people off. Next time (if there is indeed a next time) this is something I’d probably seek to change. Simplify things. But only if there’s a way of making something that isn’t bland.

I still maintain that Synaesthesia is the best tool available for collecting information during a shoot. I’ve looked at the competition in every respects on this, and I believe Synaesthesia wins out every time. If the final barrier to entry– price– can be removed to allow more people to see if I’m right, then that wins out over trying to make money on it.

Posted: March 15th, 2013
Categories: Synaesthesia
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Synaesthesia for Filemaker Server…

While Synaesthesia was originally conceived as a single-user application, it was built using the Filemaker framework. Filemaker is a popular database software solution, and is most typically used in a server/client environment. That is, multiple people can log in to a single database (hosted with Filemaker Server) and make changes simultaneously. It’s a very effective system (and very popular within the film industry).

We now feel Synaesthesia is mature enough to be used in a multi-user environment, and with that in mind, we are in the process of optimising the current version for use with Filemaker Server. With that in mind, we are going to be rolling out a limited beta version of Synaesthesia specifically for Filemaker server.

If you are interested in the power and capabilities of Synaesthesia and already have a Filemaker Server system, we want to hear from you. Go to our Synaesthesia for Filemaker Server beta signup page and let us know some details about your setup. We aim to start the beta programme in a few weeks time.

Posted: June 28th, 2012
Categories: Synaesthesia
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Synaesthesia manual now available in iBookstore…

A specially-formatted iPad version of the Synaesthesia User Manual is now available on the iBookstore free of charge. Presented in landscape format, it has all the same information as the regular PDF version, and also includes the general overview video.


Posted: February 16th, 2012
Categories: Synaesthesia
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Synaesthesia now available…

After nearly 5 years of development (including 2 years of beta testing), I’m pleased to announce that Synaesthesia 1.0 is now available to buy.

It’s been a long time coming, and it still amazes me that there’s not anything else on the market quite like it. With productions increasingly moving towards digital acquisition (and with companies becoming focussed more on environmental impact), it seems that the time is right to end the use of paper-based annotation and logging. Synaesthesia helps you to do that, and more besides.

Starting out as a way for me to work a bit more efficiently on complex productions such as Earth, it soon became apparent that the same tools would be just as useful on a low-budget, independent production, so we gave it a test-drive on an in-house project.

Three years ago we decided the time was right to make it available to others, so work began on adapting the system to make it user-friendly. Then 2 years ago to the day, we announced the availability of the software as part of a beta programme. Initially we thought it was reasonably close to what the final product would be like, but then 2 years went by.

In that time, we’ve listened to feedback, and implemented a bunch of new stuff. We added integration with third-party products like Final Cut Pro (7), Shotgun, Assimilate Scratch, and Final Draft. We added the ability to export everything to CSV files, and created a format that can be used to share data between Synaesthesia systems. We added other features like file checksumming and automatic updates based on feedback, and improved the performance and usability as we went along.

All this, and it still runs on PowerPC macs (running OS 10.5). I wonder how many other applications released this year will be able to make that claim.

If you haven’t yet had a look at Synaesthesia, now is the time to do so. There is a free 30-day trial available on the product website, and you can check out our overview video below.

Synaesthesia demonstration from Surreal Road on Vimeo.

Posted: January 18th, 2012
Categories: Synaesthesia
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Synaesthesia Beta 14 released…

Lots of fixes and tweaks in this version. I’ll let the release notes speak for themselves on the majority of fixes and additions, but I want to focus on one little button:

check out

You’ll now see this button in the Reel Breakdown and throughout the Asset Manager. The purpose of this button is one of the reasons I created Synaesthesia in the first place, and it’s a considerable milestone for it to be included.

Here’s the scenario: during the lifetime of a production, reels (and other assets) that are created will be sent out to post facilities, loaned out to people, and so on. How do you keep track of all of this? Until now, you could do this by simply changing the reel’s (or asset’s) location. The problem is, that doesn’t tell you where the item belongs.

With the check-out system, you still have the original location stored, but there’s a record of who it was checked out to, and when. Nothing earth-shattering, but useful when you later try to track down that reel that’s gone missing. And it’s as easy as going to the reel breakdown and clicking a button (or via the Asset Manager).

Checked out location info

Also, Apple today released Final Cut Pro 10.0.1 which has a brand-new XML format. So expect support for that in the next version of Synaesthesia (maybe…).

Current Synaesthesia users will be notified of the new version when running the application during the next few days, otherwise it can be downloaded as usual.

Synaesthesia has been in beta now for almost 2 years, and I believe, is almost production-ready.

Posted: September 21st, 2011
Categories: Synaesthesia
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