The Factory of the World – Hackaday Documentary on the Shenzhen Ecosystem

When it comes to manufacturing, no place in the world has the same kind of allure as the Pearl River Delta region of China. Within just an hour-long train ride, two vastly different cultures co-exist, each with its unique appeal that keeps attracting engineers, entrepreneurs, and hustlers alike. On the mainland side, cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou bring the promise of cheap components, low-cost contract work, and the street cred of “having done the Shenzhen thing.” And on the island, the capitalist utopia called Hong Kong glows with all of its high finance and stories of lavish expat lifestyles.

As the “new” China evolves, it seems like it’s exactly the convergence of these two cultures that will bring the biggest change—and not just to the area but to the whole world. Still, understanding what exactly is going on and what the place is really all about remains a mystery to many. So, this June, we jumped on the bandwagon and headed east, trying to get our own feel for the whole thing.

Here’s what we came back with…

We’d like to give a huge thanks to all the amazing people who donated their time and helped in filming this mini-documentary: Chris “Akiba” Wang, a Hackaday Prize judge and one of the most amazing people you’ll ever meet; Stefania Druga of Hackidemia and the organizer of Shenzhen MakerCamp; Massimo Banzi of Arduino.cc; Andy Kong and Michael Guillemette of Hong Kong’s Dim Sum Labs hackerspace; the Seed Studio crew; and a number of other people who have helped us with their insights and opinions on what it’s like to live at the doorsteps of the Factory of the World.

20 thoughts on “The Factory of the World – Hackaday Documentary on the Shenzhen Ecosystem

  1. This was cool. I enjoyed it! It’s interesting to get a sense of what’s going on in Shenzhen, and what the hardware community is like. It’s a side of things that hobbyists don’t really get a view of. I also liked the synthy undertones.

  2. I had a ton of fun making this with Alek. I’d like to do more of this type of content so please help get the word out about it by forwarding to your friends and using the share links just below the title.

    Thanks !

  3. Great video, also nice to put a face to some of the people you see lurking around.

    Turns out large scale manufacturing anywhere requires a lot of skill, knowledge and contacts. Being able to raise on kickstarter doesn’t immediately qualify you for that after you put together a run of 20, I like his grin as he’s saying this you know he’s is seeing it often, from both sides.

    For our Chinese manufacturing we’ve always had a go between local rep who knew the market, spoke the language and customs, that made it a lot easier to do, but still a challenge, like when you see someone at a trade show selling your entire catalogue for cheaper.

    I’ve definitely considered moving to China, so far lived in Japan, Europe and America. But I’ve always liked the accessibility of electronics in Asia in comparison to elsewhere, Akihabara was my first “wow”, it was jaw dropping.

  4. Good documentary but the score is a bit off the mark. The background music sounds like it would be better suited to a documentary full of doom and gloom like one about the global warming or war.

    But otherwise very informative.

    1. Same for the shutter settings when filming with artificial light. The clip around 20 minutes seems to have been shot at a frequency different from the mains frequency (30 or 60 fps with mains at 50 Hz). It’s hard to see this on the tiny screens many cameras ship with, which is why you should always use a preview monitor with 1:1 zoom functionality. Makes it a lot easier to spot this before a take.

    1. Pretty much. I always hear the Mines of Mordor theme when I think of China. What this video really is a is wankfest for super-saturating the world with junk that eats electrons and is made of plastic-two things that are still powered by petroleum mainly and have short end of life cycles and cheaper to throw away than return junk. Er. I mean the Internet of Things is great… China smog and floating cities of cargo is amazing. Stealing patented products and information is super cool! Jingoistic border tariffs and 500k of aide to the world is really impressive!

  5. The continuous background noise was so annoying. Maybe use it a little here and there in the cuts between interviews but for 40 minutes straight? Cmon. I got stressed out and took a huge unintetional sigh of relief when the video was over and the sound stopped.

  6. I always wondered how all the “sharing”/copying works there. Do they have like a giant website where you can shop for designs or is everything face-to-face?

    Very good vid BTW, really informative. Keep up the good work!

  7. Interesting but needed even 30 seconds of intro before you headed straight to interviews and what was up with that ominous music? It made me feel like I should expect to see see some government raid, or worker revolt in the middle of this interview.

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