I remember the very first time I spoke with Dan Desmet. I’d never met him, but the voice was so familiar and I just couldn’t place it. And then I remembered, the scientist from “Lilo and Stitch.” Dan could have easily been the voice actor for that role. Especially since he was talking a lot of technical data on the phone, he could have been describing the new version of Experiment 626. I knew I liked him right away.
Dan Desmet shows off the FSI 9″ monitor at the Biscardi Creative Media Open House in March 2011.
Many of you know Dan and his son, Bram, as two of the four founding partners of the company Flanders Scientific which has made many of our professional lives much better with their array of incredible monitors. The company was started with a very simple idea, make a better product, make it affordable and then listen to the customer for new improvement. This simple idea has led to one of the most successful companies I’ve ever been associated with.
But here’s what I know about Dan. His incredible warmth. The man loved to laugh and his laughter would fill a room. A visit with Dan was never about business. Oh sure we’d chat about the latest thing they had going on, what features would we like in their products and whatnot. But more-so, we just talked, usually over a simple meal at a local Italian restaurant. Stories of growing up in his native Belgium. His surprise when a certain Simpsons character started showing up in his email box after they named the company. I learned more about Dan and his family than pretty much anyone outside my own family. More than anything else, we laughed. He really enjoyed life and it was pleasure to share a meal with him. And of course we talked a lot about family.
The real story of Flanders Scientific is not about technology at all, it’s about family. A small family company built on hard work and dedication to a passion. It’s about doing the right thing, doing it the right way and treating those around you with dignity and respect. Doing it the right way applied even to the business structure. While Dan was certainly the face of the company when it started, from day one it was never designed to be run solely by one person. It is a true collaboration with all members involved in the design, creation and support of the product line. Anyone who has spent time with Bram, Johan or Yoke know just how incredibly smart these folks are and what good hands the company is in. They have some incredible products coming down the pipeline to carry on Dan’s legacy. This is why all my monitors come from FSI and will continue to do so.
In many ways, the story of FSI is a continuation of the immigrant story begun by my own grandfather in the 1930′s. A simple tailor from southern Italy, went through Ellis Island and settled in Poughkeepsie, New York where he married my absolutely incredible grandmother. He started a tailor shop, personally built his own home and then added a much larger home to the front when his son married my mom. I was incredibly fortunate to grow up with my grandparents as a part of my life. They taught me that my word and my name were the only two things I had that were worth anything. If you break your word, your name isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. I’ve always strived to live up to my grandparent’s very simple, yet very important lessons.
Me with the gang at the Biscardi Creative Media Open House March 2011
Dan was cut from the same cloth as my grandparents. In fact the entire Desmet family is what I call “old school” and it’s why I respect them so much. They are the perfect example of all that is missing in today’s business world, particularly the American business world. They’re smart, they’re passionate about what they, they work hard, and their word is their word. They have pride in their work because built this business up on their own, as a family. And they’ve done it with a lot of laughter. Laughter and love. You can’t help but smile and laugh when you’re around this family because they simply enjoy life. Dan not only built a great company to carry on his legacy, he left us a wonderful family to share in his love.
And if I may, from a business side, Dan and the entire FSI family has always been there to lend a hand or help out in any way. When we first met, I was working out of my house, yet Dan and Bram treated our facility with the respect that a top shelf broadcast shop would usually garner. We had the first of our many Italian lunches and the first stories of growing up in Belgium and of course a lot of laughter. When we decided to open the new shop, Dan was the first to sign on and be a presenter in our vendor showcase. Heck Bram helped install the overhang outside the building for the open house.
Bram trying to put up the overhang during a rain storm at our Open House, March 2011
When the Atlanta Cutters was an idea, Dan said, “What do you need from us?” and FSI became one of our first sponsors. Whatever ideas we have going on, Dan and Bram are always the first to say, “we’re there, just tell us when to show up.” They’re good people and you just don’t find that many people, let alone companies, that do the right thing anymore. I even tried to convince Dan to move the company even closer to our new shop so we could head out to lunch more often, I guess I’ll have to work on Bram now.
We only get one chance at this thing we call life. Life is too short for needless drama. Enjoy it, surround yourself with people you truly like, and try to leave this world a little better for those who follow. My life is certainly better for having the chance to know Dan Desmet and to learn from him. Thank you Dan for allowing me to be a part of the Desmet family, it’s a true honor. I miss you buddy.
I share the Desmet family suggestion to remember Dan with a small donation to the Be The Match Foundation, part of the National Marrow Donor Program that helps patients receive life-saving transplants: http://marrow.org
R.John, Dan, Walter, Yoke, Bram and Johan in Las Vegas, April 2011 enjoying a wonderful dessert of espresso and gelato at the Venetian hotel.
The official notice from Flanders Scientific is linked here.
As has been reported recently, CNN laid off 50 staffers, primarily videographers and editors. Why? Essentially after a three year internal review, CNN has determined that professional editors are not necessary to craft news stories any longer. Instead they are expanding their iReport section allowing for more user generated content to be provided to the network, at absolutely zero cost to the network. Yep, zero cost to the network since these folks won’t be paid. I could go on about that part of the story, but Stephen Colbert explains it so well in this clip from “This Colbert R...
So we’re at the point in the evolution of Editing (and videography for that matter) from craft to commodity. As CNN says in their release, high quality video cameras and editing software are available to the masses, so they don’t need the professionals any longer. In the corporate production world, this move from professional to consumer / family friends has been happening for quite some time. “My son / cousin / nephew / daughter / friend has a video camera / computer and he/she can do the work for us now. Sorry, but smaller budgets you know.”
Now we’ve seen the same thing happening in broadcast and higher end production as the editing tools became cheaper over the past 10 years. Only for a while there it was actual professionals who left their corporate / broadcast jobs to take advantage of the lower cost tools to strike out on their own. So top notch editors were able to deliver high quality, broadcast and film projects right out of their own homes using desktop tools. I’m proof positive of that starting out in a spare bedroom and then expanding my house where we ran my company for 7 years with three HD edit suites.
I have to have to say, this is the first time I’ve seen a broadcaster literally coming out and saying we’re going to replace professionals with consumers and hobbyists. They save the salaries of 50 professionals and get all sorts of free content, no matter how it’s shot or edited with no regard for sound or video quality. Kind of ironic to see this push to the lowest common denominator at the same time that so many editors are discovering the joys of high end color correction tools. But I digress.
Basically editing is just a commodity right now in the minds of many. The craft is associated with cheap tools rather than the artist using the tool. There are millions upon millions of folks who use word processing software but that doesn’t make all of those millions writers. Writing is a craft that some folks can do and others….. well they can write letters, recipes, but you wouldn’t ask them to write your next script or promo.
It’s the same with video editing. Millions upon millions of people now have access to really good video editing tools, but that doesn’t make them an editor. Earning a paycheck doesn’t make you an editor either. I’ve met “professionals” who have full time jobs that can’t cut their way out of a paper bag. And then I meet kids in school or college that just blow me away with their sense of timing.
True editors are storytellers. Doesn’t matter if you’re cutting a commercial, a training video, a movie or an episodic television series, you’re telling a story. Really good editors seem to be natural storytellers with an incredible sense of timing. When I start a project, I can usually “see” the edit from start to finish within a matter of hours. It’s just second nature for me and it’s something I have a hard time explaining to other people when folks ask me for tips and how I go about editing. A buddy of mine described it that “the editing part is secondary for Walter, he just knows where the story is, but it’s everything else around editing like the technology that has always drawn him in.”
The technology, and the proper way to use today’s technology, seems to be the biggest differentiation between what we’ll call a hobbyist / prosumer vs. a professional editor. Even on national broadcasts I’m stunned at how many interlacing issues I see that aren’t rocket science to do correctly. In the case of our shop, there is not a format we have not had to work with so we’re getting pretty good at solving any problems that can arise from the mixing and matching of the various formats.
So in this short term environment where video editing is equated with the cheaper tool than the artist and anyone can edit at home for super cheap, why in the world would we open a huge new facility? Simple. We’re storytellers and I surround myself with other good storytellers. We are transitioning ourselves from just being a service provider to other clients, to creating our own original content. As we develop these into fully funded projects, we’re going to need room for more storytellers. And as some storytellers strike out on their own, they might need a place to call home for a while. So we want to provide that creative space for other artists because as cool as it is to work at home, I can attest that it’s more fun and creative to be around like minded folks than all alone in your home office.
Long term, the craft of editing is probably stronger than ever. Now that the tools are in the hands of the many, we’ll discover some new folks who just blow us away with their storytelling skills. But short term, many long time professionals could get hurt when editing decisions are based on price alone and not the skill of the artist. Like anything else, with storytelling you generally get what you pay for.
In time, folks will realize that again.