It’s that time of year again! The holidays are here and you might be thinking of getting some odds and ends for friends and colleagues working in interactive tech or immersive media. If you are, then this guide to some of our favourite tools and products might help you fill the gaps in your shopping list or give you an idea for something to pick up for yourself!
TouchOSC has been a staple in our industry for quick and easy interface building on iOS devices. They recently released a totally overhauled and brand new version of TouchOSC that has a lot of exciting features such as the ability to fully create/edit layouts right on the iOS device without a computer. At around $14 on the App Store, it’s something I recommend being in everyone’s toolkit:
You can never really have enough cables unfortunately. On the lower-cost end of cable gifts are things like long CAT5e or CAT6 cables, device charging cables like Lightning cables or USB-C cables. You can get 100ft of standard CAT5e for $10-$15 and for $20 you start to get into the nice flat cables. You could help someone rig up their whole house or studio on wires for less than $100! Obviously not the most exciting gifts, but I’m sure we all have people in our lives that value functionality over excitement!
Velcro cable tie rolls are some of the most useful things in my office. Whether I’m preparing for travelling to a project or just managing cables in my workspace, these are invaluable resources for me and I never have enough. Luckily they’re really affordable and easy to buy in bulk. There are many different kinds you can grab. There are ones specifically made for cable tying and ones like the one below that are rolls that you cut yourself. I prefer the ones below as they’re more flexible.
There are tons of tools that pros use daily that run on subscription plans. You could get someone a subscription to a tool they’ve been wanting to use but couldn’t get around to buying yet. For example, Anydesk is a great remote access app and the standard plan is about $240 per year. Dropbox is in a similar category of tools we use, so you could get your friend or colleague a one year subscription to Dropbox Plus for about $120. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Most folks in our industry are also paying for Adobe Creative Cloud, Figma, Miro, Spotify, Vimeo, Amazon Prime or Netflix, some form of web hosting, and more. So there’s no shortage of app subscription you can offer to pay as a gift.
A TouchDesigner dongle is one of the most helpful pieces of kit I use. Being able to move my license between any computer I’m working at without a second thought is a dream. If you’re getting a TouchDesigner developer a gift, you could buy them a dongle and they’d be able to transfer their license over to it. The dongle is $180 and I always recommend the Micro dongle, so this can be a great stocking stuffer for the TouchDesigner artist in your life. You can grab this from Derivative’s website:
More cables / extenders
Lower-cost cables where things like USB-C cables or ethernet cables. On the more professional side of things, there are a lot of really useful cables pros keep in their toolboxes. These could be things like the newer HDMI-over-fibre cables. They are essentially fibre cables with HDMI on each end, so you have the ease of HDMI but the ability to get cables that are 200-300ft. For example the cable below is only $100 and will give you a 200ft HDMI run, which is pretty incredible:
There are also a lot of great cost-effective video extenders you can get from brands like Monoprice that let you extend HDMI over CAT5e or CAT6 ethernet cables. The example below is a 4k extender kit for $250, which is not bad if you’ve ever looked at an Extron extender’s price tag:
It’s always great to be able to capture live video inputs in a system. A great medium-cost gift is a Magewell USB Capture HDMI Plus. It’s easy to use over USB 3, works with most computers I’ve used them on, and does the job of capturing HDMI without too much fuss. I can’t really say much else other than they do what they advertise at a good price:
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These templates shed light into the most useful and sometimes obtuse features of TouchDesigner.
They’re designed to be immediately applicable for the complete TouchDesigner beginner, while also providing inspiration for the advanced user.
Whether you’re buying a gift for a TouchDesigner developer or similar, there are likely some more expensive software licenses they’re needing to pick up or maintain. If you’re buying a gift for a TouchDesigner developer, you can buy them a 1-year upgrade on their existing license, so they get access to the latest and greatest features. If they’re a Unity developer, you can grab them a single seat license of Unity Plus for $399. If they’re in the Autodesk family of softwares, they’ll probably have similar subscriptions that are usually pricier than the medium-cost general subscriptions.
So much of our days are spent either blocking out the world around us or being on video calls. A great pair of headphones really goes a long way in improving your quality of life as a developer. You could certainly find medium-cost headphones, but it can definitely be worth spending a bit more and getting a really long lasting pair of noise-cancelling headphones. I’ve had a pair of Bose QC35’s for almost 4 years now and they’ve only needed to have their ear pads changed ($20) even after heavy daily use and LOTS of travel miles on them. I find most people recommend either the Bose QC35’s, Sony’s noise cancelling headphones, or Beats. Either way you’ll get a great listening experience, lots of comfort for long work days, and something that will likely last a good number of years.
Whether you’re looking for small stocking stuffers or larger gifts, there’s certainly something an interactive & immersive artist would appreciate within your reach. You’d be surprised how much folks in our industry value functional goods even if they don’t seem like the fanciest gifts, so don’t be afraid to broaden the gift buying search with some of the recommendations in this post. Happy holidays!