So I've been a persistent lurker here. Haven't really contributed anything of value, but I've been thinking a lot about this, so here goes.
Some background: I started in the music business, recording garage bands for fun, working as a FOH mixer in small venues, then eventually on tour, and as a tape op, and assistant in small to middling sized analog studios. I've been working as a boom operator and utility for the past 15 years, and only recently did I make the transition to mixing. I'm very proud of my inheritance - I've been very blessed to have worked under engineers and mixers who have taught me a great deal about the technical, the political, and the brass tax of this business.
For the past few weeks, I've been on the fence about going fully digital with my cart. Keeping in mind the FCC spectrum auction, and the anecdotal shrinking of available frequencies in my current setup, I recently acquired some digital wireless, and I'm in the process of folding this new technology into my existing setup. I also got my FCC license, in the hopes that it may reap future benefits.
My reason for posting is that acquiring this piece of gear seems to have opened up a philosophical Pandora's Box for me. For the first time in a long time, I find myself challenged by the puzzles presented by this change.
In the past, the timeline of setting up a recording and communications rig was, for me, marked by a lengthy period of forethought and design, a sort of intermediary period of designing all the interconnects, then a lot of soldering, and finally, a (hopefully short) testing of each interconnect and sub system. In the design of a system that operates mainly in the world of DSP, I'm finding that the process is largely inverted. The initial cabling and setup is the easy part. The challenge lies in faxing out the system from a software and settings standpoint. One only needs to lurk on this board in all things tagged 'Zaxcom' to see that people are spending a great deal of time and effort here sharing what they know about what is essentially a closed and self contained ecosystem, one that is constantly changing with each subsequent software iteration.
It appears that there are a lot of people that share my anxieties about this change. Some seem to worry that commitment to an entire gear ecosystem from one manufacturer places them at the mercy of planned obsolescence. Others chafe at this sort of inversion - they would rather be able to directly control and service their interconnects from one device to another, rather than fuss about with menus and software updates. Others worry about the safety of 'putting their eggs in one basket'. All those concerns have their direct replies, which I have also seen over and over on this board.
Something that I would like to see addressed in a thoughtful way is this idea of software as a constantly evolving process. Those of us who grew up with tape machines, patch bays and interconnects, inserts and busses, and outboard gear have also grown up with a sense of entitlement to equipment that serves one function well and reliably. When seeking digital all-in-one solutions to our evolving needs, what are we as end users entitled to?
Ultimately, we all have to make decisions about the relative benefits and drawbacks of our gear, and work with the tools that are best suited to us. For me, I've decided to embrace the change, and to start learning as much as I can about this ecosystem, and how it works. My hope is to acquire a knowledge base about the products and systems involved in a completely digital recording system, before acquiring any further gear, if only to keep from being left behind as things continue to change. I'm also banking on the power of end-user crowdsharing. Software dependent products seem to improve more rapidly when end users like me get involved, provide feedback, and propel innovations in development.