Being a creative professional means needing a very specific set of technology to finish your projects. Finding a workspace setup that matches your workflow is almost as important as the design or development skills you possess. In this post we’ll take a look at how hardware options differ among creatives in different industries.
One of the most common setups that can be seen in any creative’s office is two or three (or maybe even more) monitors used in conjunction for increased screen space. A former Google engineer explained through Quora that many Google employees opt for a multi-screen setup.
This configuration is also what Purdue Marketing & Media uses for staff and interns. Digital Development intern Kendra Moyars (@kendramoyars) discussed that she prefers to use a dual-monitor setup because it allows her to see both the code she is writing as well as the mockup or coding result at the same time. “Having two monitors really increases my productivity and makes projects go faster,” Moyars explained.
In studios of digital designers or illustrators, you might see one of these fancy monitors: pen-input displays. Monitors with pen capabilities are the ultimate tool for creatives who like to replicate in a digital environment the traditional methods of pen or brush on physical mediums. Displays like these provide an interactive experience and allow the transfer of artistic abilities into digital media.
The display pictured is produced by Wacom, a manufacturer of many creative-approved digital art technologies. Compare this model—which serves solely as a monitor and requires a computer base to perform tasks—to all-in-one options like the new Microsoft Surface Studio, where the monitor and computer hardware are bundled into one inseparable unit.
The creation of visual effects for motion graphics requires some of the most specialized (that is, expensive) technology. Visual effects artists have offices that are better described as studios and are often jam-packed with high-powered equipment.
The Purdue Visual Effects Lab is one such studio with a multitude of industry-standard compositing equipment. According to Nathan Burdick, a sophomore in Purdue’s Effects Technical Direction major, one of the most important pieces of technology in the lab is the Airtrack camera tracking system by Previzion. The Airtrack is a “small [camera-mounted] receptor that tracks information about spatial positioning in 3-D based on barcodes on the ceiling that outputs, in real time, [the camera’s] location,” explained Burdick. He went on to say that this technology—used in practice on productions like Alice in Wonderland, Man of Steel, and Once Upon a Time—is unique because it gives you “the ability to immerse yourself in any environment you can imagine, all from one little room.”
Freelancers (like myself) and other creative professionals who need the flexibility to pack up and take their studio with them may opt for a laptop over a desktop for portability. Doing so gives them the ability to work wherever they may be without being tied down to a particular location. Fortunately, choosing portability doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing performance. In fact, Digital Tutors compiled a whole list of community-vetted laptops for creatives.
My personal setup consists of a trusty 13″ Macbook Pro and a Microsoft Surface 3. The Macbook Pro is my weapon of choice and is a total workhorse. I spend a lot of time on my laptop and do a lot of multitasking with hefty applications like Photoshop and Illustrator, and my Macbook doesn’t miss a beat. My Surface is reserved for tasks like taking notes and occasions when I need to use the pen capabilities for fine-grain control of my designs and detailed photo editing. Oh, and coffee. No freelancer can be truly productive without a good cup of coffee.
There are a lot of options available in the market for creatives to customize their workspace setup, but the unifying factor in every studio is function. In order for professionals to finish the job, they need to have the right tools, and visual effects artists will need very different technology than will web developers.