When Tools Are Free

The three images below aren’t photographs. The rooms and objects in them don’t actually exist anywhere. They were all creating in a computer graphics package. If you click on the images, you can see them in more detail, too.

Each images was made with different software programs. One piece of softwares costs about $5000, another about $2000 and the third software package is open source and totally free. Look at the images – can you tell which one is which?




Three different artists, three different software programs, three radically different price points. One big barrier to entry. One large barrier to entry. No barrier at all.

$5000, $2000, totally free

Thirty years ago, if you wanted to do computer graphics it would have cost you a million dollars for the computer. At least. Twenty years ago, the price of admission was around $20,000. Today, any computer you buy for $600 at Best Buy would smoke the $1,000,000 or $20,000 hardware options by a factor of at least ten.

What happens when the tools become totally free? What happens when any laptop recording studio is a hundred times more powerful than the gear the Beatles used to record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on? What happens when HD camcorders are $150 and your video can be broadcast worldwide, right now?

The art doesn’t get better. There isn’t mor a hundred times more good art floating around, is there? But I don’t think it’s all worse, either. There were plenty of bad albums in 1967, too.

There’s just MORE. A lot more. And it’s not going to stop.

One thing that happens when tools are free; you don’t have THAT excuse anymore. You can’t say, “If only I had the money for that ONE piece of gear….” The tool is available. What are you waiting for? Then it’s a matter of whether you put in your time. Pay your dues. Make it work for you.

So, here we are in 2009 and the tools are out there. Do you really have a story to tell? Do you really have anything to say? Some feeling you want to express, some way you need to connect to other people?

That’s free, too. Now, what are you waiting for?


  1. I think the cost of tools was always a commonplace excuse, but not the real barrier. Ideas, vision, craft, and ultimately TIME to do the work (much less hone skills and abilities) is the real barrier. Having Premiere on your desktop is step one – step two is having 50 hours to make a good edit. Not that everyone with things to say shouldn’t pick up whatever tools they can find – do it! But the failure of so many to find the best, most effective ways to express themselves has a lot to do with the pressures on people just trying to get by day to day. I think media literacy – media PRODUCTION literacy – ought to be the next political frontier.

  2. The tools have been democratised for sure but the barriers lay elsewhere. The workmans dream in the 70’s was the 3 day workweek, with machines doing all the hard work for us, and we the human population lounging by the pool.

    It turned out not to be the case. We work harder longer and for relatively fewer dollars.

    time has become the barrier to entry. It takes more time than money to master these tools. And finding that time between work and family is the new struggle.

    my 0.02 anyway



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