Cool tools for cool times.

Monday, May 12th, 2003

This is one of those sections that if I don’t keep it current, it ends up sounding pathetically, hopelessly outdated—darn quickly, too.

Not long after I started this site, back in May of 1995 (!) I was able to proudly write:

Well, I have high hopes for this section too, But for the moment, suffice to say that I use a Macintosh, in fact a DayStar Genesis MP 800, which is four 200mHz PowerPC604e chips running more-or-less together, and I’ve got something like 200 MB of RAM.

This is way too much power, of course.

Way too much power!? What the hell was I thinking!? Well, okay, it was impressive at the time. Impressively loud, too. And it did a great job of keeping the office warm on winter days. And at the time, it was a pioneering machine in terms of its multiprocessor abilities. And the folks at the dear departed DayStar in Flowery Branch, Georgia built the thing like a Soviet tank…so much so that when someone broke into our house, he just stepped from the window right onto the Genesis—using it like a stepstool…way too heavy to steal.

What’s funny is that the core collection of my cool Mac tools remains the same since those early times. Only the version numbers have changed to protect the innocent.

First and foremost, Adobe After Effects, of which I’ve been an ardent supporter since it was a modest application from a company called CoSA. It is now, in brief, the ultimate desktop compositing program, and responsible for more of the television placed in front of your nose than you could possibly imagine. Back in 1998 or 1997 or so I wrote this about After Effects 3.1. It’s almost up to version 6.0 as we approach the summer of 2003..

Then, of course, there is the legendary Adobe Photoshop, the amazing paint program (okay, an image manipulation program) that put Quantel’s paintbox (priced at $170,000 US in 1984) to shame. In January of 1990 I wrote this about the future of video—and although I didn’t foresee After Effects, I did think Photoshop was just around the corner. And I’m proud to say that I used Photoshop-created images in my graphics and animation just about as early as anyone. Yes, I think there has bees some dilution of the pure Photoshop paradigm (particularly when you consider this as a video tool), but I’m hopeful that the pendulum will swing towards mo’better with Photoshop 8.

To complete the Adobe trifecta, I use Illustrator, not because it’s necessarily better than Macromedia’s Freehand, but it is better integrated and plays better with its Adobe brethern.

For 3d animation, I use Electric Image, even though it’s been bought and sold and bought again and sold again and, well, horribly mismanaged. it remains about the fastest Phong renderer on the planet. That works out fine for me. I bought a copy of Lightwave to work collaboratively with my brother, a true Lightwave master, but

And I use all of these, still on a Mac—but now it’s a dual 800 mHz Quicksilver model with 1.5 GB of RAM and almost 200 GB of storage, when all of the firewire drives are plugged in. Sammy has my hand-me-down 500 mHz G4 (jeez, with only one processor), with 892 MB of RAM and something like 100 gigabytes of online disk storage. And my sister Leslie has taken Sammy’s hand-me-down Blue and White 500mHz G3.

For portability, we’ve got a 500 mHz Titanium powerbook—hardly state of the art, but still fine as a travel partner and a walk-around-the-house reference tool. Data flies into, out of, through and around the place via an Earthlink DSL connection and Apple’s Airport.

Amazingly, this is by no means a state-of-the-art setup—Sammy and I both have, for example, a strange dual hybrid of digital LCD displays (beautiful, crisp, clean) and clunky fading RGB monitors—17 inchers, all. One of each per person.

And thus we await the new Apple processors—the 970s—with bated breath. DDR RAM without any bus speed bottlenecks? Wow.

Six years or so on from being the first to use DV video for actual broadcast television (in 1997), we still use Sony and Panasonic’s DV, DVCAM, and DVCPRO stuff slammed in and out of our machines via Firewire like crazy.

Still kinda feels like way too much power. What the hell am I thinking?