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Is it like making a movie?

I've thought for a long time that User Interface Design is a lot like making a movie. And, to some extent, app development is a little like making a movie.

(Note: my knowledge of making movies is largely limited to "Project Greenlight"

This analogy is not perfect. Just a thought I had.

1. Mix of art and technology
Lots of tech in movies (even without the CGI special effects). But they are just tools to deliver the art.

2. It's the human stuff, stupid
Shooting on location seems to be about the details and the human stuff. Egos can be huge problems. Convincing someone to set aside thier ego (not getting the best lines or the best trailer, etc.). Logisitcs can absolutely kill you.

3. The technology can easily get in the way of the art.
Flash intro pages are a generally a huge waste of money. Often, blowing the budget on fancy special effects for-thier-own-sake distracts from the rest of the movie. It's harder to act in a CGI screen with an imaginary robot nemisis, etc.

Anyone know of anything written about this?

(I googled but found little).

I know SOMONE once said the USA is good at software and movies, and probably for similar reasons.
Mr. Analogy {Shrinkwrap µISV} Send private email
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Yeah. And in software development, like in movies, so people are just actors, playing some role. :-)
Sunday, February 26, 2006
"And the Oscar for 'Best Use of the Facade Pattern' goes to..."
Sunday, February 26, 2006
I've heard this analogy before, I think in reference to some agile development process. I don't believe that it's particularly helpful, unless you are one of the aforementioned large-ego-ed programmers.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Mr. Analogy, I thought this too when watching "Project Greenlight". My wife couldn't understand why I was riveted by this show, and when I explained that it's a lot like how software is developed, she looked at me like I had lobsters growing out of my ears :)
Former COBOL Programmer Send private email
Sunday, February 26, 2006
I think there might be a difference. It seems to me that shooting a film is *very* visible to the client, and much of what goes on can be explained to non-technical people (even if it's the result of decades of accumulated experience by the film industry).

With software, much of the activity is invisible to the client, and it's hard to explain why some of it is necessary to non-technical people.

The lesson I draw from this argument (which I pulled out of my... the air) is that clients understands why films cost money, but not why software does.
EKB Send private email
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Actually, comparing movie making to software is one of my favorite comparisons. It is not a perfect fit. However, I think the comparison of movie making to software is better then the often used building construction metaphor. (you don’t need much design to build a bird house…but for a taller building…you need detailed designs – just like software).

Movies are a good comparison to the software industry because both are products of the mind, and both have a much larger creative process then construction projects. Sure, construction of buildings has design, but writing stories, scripts, and software are a closer process IMHO – less rules then construction.

Further, the building part of construction is the expensive part. In software, it is the design part. And, for movies, they are somewhere in-between the two sides.

As a rule, one does NOT have unlimited budgets when writing software, the same goes for moving making (and, the same can be argued for a construction project). However, the ability to know when to compromise, or not compromise has a much greater impact in the creative process. (once that building designed…it quite much the same for each floor you construct).

So, movies and software is more of a fluid process. You also really don’t know how well the outcome is going to be until you are done. With a building, once you have the design, it is quite clear what the results will be when you break ground at the job site. You can build a artist’s rendition, or even generate a 3d walk through to show what the building will look like BEFORE it is done.

I suppose one could argue that we SHOULD have the full design of the software BEFORE coding starts…but for the most part, the two are intermixed. Moving making also has this quality, and modifying the script after shooting starts is common. You again don’t know the end results until you are far into the project. 

The lesson we need to learn from movie making is that they have figured out how to deal with the creative process. What they do is create an outline, and then they build a functional spec. They also try and “look at” what the final product will be like BEFORE they start shooting the movie. Those director notes are really like a software spec.

That functional spec simply outlines in plain English what the movie will be like (and, for software, that functional spec also outlines what the software will be like when done).

This concept of up-front design is something that the software world could learn from the movie world. You have an expensive product with a TON of creative content in it, and the amount of content needs to be controlled.

In construction, the expensive part is the construction part. In software, the expensive part is the design (and, movies are some between these two extremes – filming is expensive too – but the results are NOT 100% known until the process starts). So, this uncertainly exists both in movies and software. Movies OFTEN have an out of control runaway budget...and often they don’t even get finished (and, I suppose a LOT of construction projects don’t make it either!!). However, you can better define the cost of building a building then you can of that of making a movie. 

Want a great example of up front design, or what we would call a functional spec? Grab a copy of the original matrix move DVD. Look at the extra features…and note the director’s notes. It is an EXACT outline of the movie in plain English BEFORE the movie was made.  If you want to learn how to make functional specs….read those notes….

I like the movie metaphor. I suspect that move making can teach our software industry a LOT about building products like software….

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
Albert D. Kallal Send private email
Sunday, February 26, 2006
I agree, especially that we can learn a lot from movie makers.
Mr. Analogy {Shrinkwrap µISV} Send private email
Monday, February 27, 2006
Making computer games is like making blockbuster movies. Making boring business software is like making documentaries. Sometimes the art matters, sometimes not as much.
Tet Corporation
Monday, February 27, 2006
Tet, you aren't implying that art has anything to do with blockbuster movies, are you?
Tuesday, February 28, 2006

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