When everything is possible, nothing is amazing

When Everything is PossibleWe recently put up a new poster in the back bathroom, a gorgeous bit of work from Hatch Show Print made for the 2016 edition of Blobfest, our town’s wonderful, crazy celebration of the early Steve McQueen movie that was filmed right here in Phoenixville. To add to the sprucing up, my wife bought a new rug for the room, put it down, and declared that it really tied the room together. And so it did.

And then I thought, you know what would really tie the room together? If the poster were the rug. If that great image  (and, sorry, I don’t have a good capture of it) of a sleek alieness (now a word) were reproduced into a mat — that would be pretty cool.

And then I was dismayed by how very, very simple that would actually be. Time was, if you wanted some kind of a custom image woven into a rug, you had to find someone who knew how to do custom work, have them plan it out and figure where to put what colors of thread, and pull the whole thing together. There would probably be graph paper, and some attempt to render a piece of art with some cool continuous tones and smooth ink lines into a medium that, in its own way, resembles pixels, because in a rug you can only have one tuft of one color of yarn occupy a space, and you’re stuck with a rectilinear grid. It would be crazy expensive, and a lot of work. If such a thing existed, it would be amazing. Similarly, to get an image custom woven into a normal fabric pattern (not a tufted rug) would be even more complicated, and it would be less likely you could find someone with the capability. So if such a thing really existed, it would be fantastic, just for its rarity.

Of course, today, you just go to a custom rugmaker on the web, and send them a digital art file. They run it through some software that tells the machinery what to do, and for a couple of hundred dollars, you have a rug. The only real effort was the effort of the original designer – everything else was figured out by computers.

So, ten years ago, if I had walked into the back bathroom and found a custom rug version of the Blobfest poster, I’d have been blown away. That would have been really amazing. But now, now that it’s eminently possible, it’s just not that amazing.

I feel the same way about digital imaging, especially CGI in movies. Now that anything you can think of can be rendered with some level of believability, sometimes seeing those imagined worlds or impossible feats just doesn’t seem like anything. Look back at a movie like “The Blues Brothers,” and think that every single police car crash (and they were legion) actually happened. That’s impressive. Today, they’d all be CGI’d, and not really mean anything. The effort isn’t in the act, and while the artists creating these worlds are extremely talented, and they’re able to bring things to screen that might not even be possible with practical effects, somehow it’s just not . . . amazing.

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