The art of mobile collaboration

The art of mobile collaboration
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What’s on your smartphone? No, not the apps – I’m talking about all your stuff. The photos, the music, the videos – everything that represents the digital you.

How much of it did you create with your phone? For devices that were originally built to consume media, smartphones and tablets are evolving to become a generation’s preferred choice for creating it.

People make music with their smartphones, they take and post-process photos with them, they shoot and edit feature films, they draw, and most intriguingly of all – they use them to creatively collaborate.

The old adage we clung to as established creatives went ‘if it was easy, everyone’d be doing it’. Well it is easy now, and everybody’s doing it.

This is a generalisation of course – an off-hand remark that ignores the benefits of experience, theory and professional training. The sort of thing Gen Y is famous for. And they are the creatives who will replace us.

This raises some questions – the first of which is ‘are they really being creative?’.  Take photography – think Instagram, Path or any camera app and you immediately think of filters. Filters everywhere. Often misused and the bane of pro photographers and the creative elite, we often sneer at presets and filters as crutches to make amateurs feel like pros.

The truth, of course, is there’s not a professional creative alive who wasn’t excited by discovering their first Photoshop effect. These are formative creative experiences. They build confidence, they prompt enthusiasts to explore what’s possible. This is, and always was, a good thing.

Apps like Camera+ or Snapseed allow staggering levels of depth in retouching that can, in skilled hands, reach genuine levels of artistry.

The second question is the precision dilemma – can you really produce professional creative work with an inexpensive touch device?

The answer is yes, and it can be done cheaper, often faster – and by anyone.

Apps like Paper for iPad have allowed artists to create stunning illustrations via a simple, intuitive interface. It costs only a few dollars.

Music apps like GarageBand, dJay or Music Studio offer insane levels of sophistication in music production at a fraction of a fraction of the cost of similar packages on desktop PCs.

Damon Albarn, of Blur and Gorillaz, recorded an album entirely by himself using two iPads and the $5 Garageband app. The acclaimed 2012 documentary Searching For Sugarman was partially shot using the 8mm Vintage Film video app for iPhone. Why? Because they ran out of money. They won an Oscar.

This brings us to the future of creative mobile apps – collaboration.

Whenever you merge creative tools with social tools, it breeds collaboration. A wave of new apps are emerging with collaboration at their core.

Vyclone allows groups of people to shoot videos of an event from multiple angles separately, then pool, remix and cut the footage together and share it. Pixplit is a collaborative art concept enabling mobile photographers to contribute separate photos then merge them together in a single collage. Even Apple’s Garageband app allows multiple musicians to arrange wireless ‘jam sessions’ and rock out as a group without needing a studio.

By removing the barrier to entry for gifted amateurs, by fully exploiting the power of the modern smartphone, mobile apps are fast becoming the key digital creative tool of this generation. Tomorrow’s creatives are already instant masters of this new medium. Some day they’ll tell their children about a time when creative software needed a large box to run on, took months to learn and cost hundreds of dollars. They won’t believe them.

Rick Salter is creative director at Webling Interactive. 

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