Monday, February 22, 2010

Larry Ellison: The James Cameron of the Sea

I don't really follow sailing at all, but I am totally fascinated with Larry Ellison's (his Bio is pretty amazing) fancy boat that just won the America's Cup.  It is a technological masterpiece, and takes sailing to an entirely new place.  In fact, it doesn't even really look like sailing anymore.

The 187 foot carbon fiber mast doesn't hold a fabric sail, instead there is a rigid wing.  There are 250 sensors providing 26,000 data points per second.  And you know those guys, also knows as "grinders" that we used to see frantically cranking on the winches in any race footage?  They're gone.  Replaced by motors.  Guess what they're doing now?  Writing software for the computers that took their jobs.

The NYT did a piece on these guys, grinders made obsolete by machines.

There is something about this that makes me think of James Cameron and Avatar.  A craft once done manually, using professionally trained hands and eyes, taken over by computers and machines.  Some might say that what Cameron does isn't really filmmaking, and what Ellison does isn't really sailing.

I remember the days of taking film to the New Lab in SF (click the link to see where they are now).  The bumpy drive down a pee-soaked alley to an enclosed parking area, shared with an auto repair shop.  I'd park by the barbed wire fence, and go through the back door, down the long space, seeing familiar faces on both sides of the counter.

At the time, it seemed kind of tedious -- driving to/from the lab at least twice for each shoot, editing thick rolls of 120 film at the various light tables there, checking the bulletin board on the way out for deals on used lighting and camera gear.  But now that human component of the process is gone -- replaced by digital sensors, microprocessors, and Adorama.  Yes, film is slower,  more complicated, and expensive, but it's more human.  And I miss it.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil says in a recent Esquire piece by Steven Poole, that by 2045, $1,000 will buy a computer a billion times more powerful than the human brain.  And this isn't a stab in the dark.  It's based on Moore's Law, which says that computing power doubles roughly every 18 months.  What will our cameras look like in 2045?

And if Larry Ellison is currently the James Cameron of the Sea, who is the James Cameron of the Still Image?

1 comment:

akripke said...

Humor me while I think out of the box for a quick minute. If I were to imagine the next stage in photography which would really blow me away and take photography to the next level it would be seeing photos in 3D (without glasses). I'm not talking about the cheapo reflective card that you find in a Cracker Jack box. This 3D image would provide the experience of being in the picture, providing depth perspective, panorama and fish-eye landscapes that you cannot capture with today's technology. This 3D picture could also cater to your other senses as well like smell, touch, taste, and sound. Call me crazy, call me far-fetched, call it impossible, but I'm sure the guy who thought up that boat design was also called crazy at one point. It is said that the 3D technology is coming for the motion picture industry, but no one knows when. It's fun to think without boundaries. You never know what you may uncover.