Larry Crane


Larry Crane

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Larry Crane. I am the editor and founder (1996) of Tape Op Magazine; a mag about the art of recording music. I founded Jackpot! Recording Studio in 1997 and have produced, recorded, and mixed many artists, including Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney, The Go-Betweens, She & Him, and many more. I am also a musician, and have made records and toured as a band member. I also do instructional videos about music recording and mixing for lynda.com.

What hardware do you use?

Many analog recording devices. A 32 channel Rupert Neve Designs 5088 console allows analog mixing and monitoring, even of digitally recorded music. I have three Otari tape decks set up for 24- and 16-track on 2-inch tape and a 1/4-inch deck for mixing to. I have BURL and Avid converters for taking the sound from analog to digital and back. A vintage EMT 140 plate reverb provides great effects. I have over 100 microphones of all types.

And what software?

I use Pro Tools 12 HD as it’s the most commonly used in music recording. I am a huge fan of iZotope RX5 which allows detailed sound restoration and editing. The Universal Audio UAD platform hosts some of my favorite plug-ins for mixing use.

What would be your dream setup?

After 20 years of running a commercial studio I feel I have surrounded myself with amazing tools. I wouldn’t mind a Pro Tools HDX system in order to cut out latency issues, but the cost is ridiculous and it also limits your system from running other DAW software, like Logic. Annoying. Buying and maintaining computer systems for a pro studio is frustrating and not very satisfying compared to buying and using quality analog gear, but it is how the marketplace works now.


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Jem Selig Freeman


Jem Selig Freeman

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Jem Selig Freeman and I run a furniture design and manufacturing business called Like Butter. We make a whole range of our own furniture and other custom jobs that come our way. I trained as an Industrial Designer with very few skills, then formed the business with Laura Woodward (now married!) – she taught me to weld, and everything since has been self taught and developed on the job.

What hardware do you use?

An abbreviated list in order of current perceived importance: Multicam CNC Router, Lamello Zeta P2, SawStop Industrial Cabinet Saw, Festool ETS 150/5 sander, cheap eBay calipers, Tajima tape measure, Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones, iPad Pro, iPhone 6, unbranded workstation PC, twin 24" Dell IPS displays, Canon 7D. My all-time favorite PC keyboard is the Dell SK-8115.

And what software?

Chrome and Gmail because the emails are endless. Rhino 5 is our standard CAD package in the business – this started as a budgetary consideration but has since become our best friend for all drafting, designing and CNC preparation. For CNC programming we use EnRoute 5 and 6. SketchUp gets a look-in occasionally when I need to mock up an image for a client in a hurry.

On the iPad Pro I use Adobe Sketch for drawing and the iOS Notes app for organising my daily tasks and client meeting notes.

WorkFlowy and Slack form our task management and team communications package – they're both fantastic for managing a small team and 30-60 jobs per month. I use Adobe Lightroom to manage and edit product documentation.

What would be your dream setup?

It's almost there, really – I'm always pushing for less dust and more light, so I suppose the dream would be a clean-room with powerful centralised dust extraction and stacks of natural light through double glazed windows. A lush country paddock for morning tea and maybe a deaf workshop dog to play frisbee. More robots, always more robots, a wide belt thickness sander and some general assembly robotic arms.

All that said, the heart of Like Butter is the team – I'm really lucky to have found and been found by an awesome squad of talented individuals.


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Jamie Sanchez


Jamie Sanchez

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Jamie Sanchez, a full-time creative consultant. My bread and butter is custom WordPress development for clients but I frequently work on branding, event planning, and community building projects for Chicago-based nerds and organizations.

My biggest personal project is Bit Bash, an interactive art festival celebrating games with artistic intent, local cooperative games, and unique installations like VR or custom controllers you'd only find in a festival or museum setting.

My other main project is AnimeChicago, a non-profit anime club catering to young professionals in their 20s and 30s who deep-dive into the academic side of the medium.

Lastly, I'm also a WordPress Mentor for Skillcrush where I help new developers launch their freelance businesses or make drastic career changes to pursue a more fulfilling life.

What hardware do you use?

I'm using a maxed-out 2009 MacBook Pro that desperately needs replacement. I've loaded this machine with 8GB sticks of RAM, upgraded to a blazing fast SSD, and have even swapped the little $6 feet when they started chipping off. It's on its second battery and the “Service Battery" notice came back a few months ago. I'm a firm believer that technology shouldn't mirror fast fashion, and that minimalism includes caring for your tech items long term.

My productivity increases with dual monitors, so I'm using a 27 inch LG at home and a hand-me-down Wacom Cintiq 20 with busted pen input at my co-working desk. Magic Mouse, Bluetooth keyboard, and headphones are a must for desk mode.

And what software?

Most of my design time is spent in Illustrator and Sketch since I work on both print and web projects frequently. Craft does a good job filling in the gaps between Sketch's native tools. Photoshop is still my BFF photo editing suite. I also do some digital illustration on the side but have been waffling between SketchBook, Clip Studio, and Krita. Utilities like Noun Project, RightFont, LittleIpsum, and Sip make the day a little easier.

WordPress websites are a strange blend between admin GUI and text editing. I spend hours each day in Sublime Text and have really customized the environment, but the allure of Visual Studio Code is growing strong. I've used dozens of file transfer tools but Transmit really takes the cake. Chrome has been my go-to testing tool but my BrowserStack subscription has been absolutely invaluable for debugging and launching websites as a solo developer. Command line is fine but visual tools like CodeKit and Patterns really help dispel some cognitive load.

As for productivity software.. I have opinions. OmniFocus is a great tool but leaves a lot to be desired for long-term planning, so some Google Sheet worksheets fill in those gaps. For collaboration needs, Slack, Dropbox, and Google Docs have worked perfectly. 1Password, Focus, Calendly, Harvest, YNAB, and Quickbooks Self-Employed have paid for themselves a thousand times over. I absolutely love Spotify and Numi, which are just nice perks.

What would be your dream setup?

Realistically: The latest 15" MBP all tricked out, three new 27" displays for all three desks, Cintiq 13HD tablet, and the best noise-cancelling headphones and dictation software suite on the market.

Fantasy land: A tablet like the iPad Pro, with high-end pen sensitivity like a Cintiq, maxed out like a pro-gamer tower, that could function as my primary machine and dock into any station imaginable. Just output to a desk setup with monitor/mouse/keyboard setup, plug right into a VR setup, stream to a media system, or transform right into a karaoke suite.

Someday, I'm sure!


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Dana Schwartz


Dana Schwartz

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi! I'm Dana Schwartz and I'm an entertainment writer at the Observer. I also wrote a Young Adult novel that's coming out in May called AND WE'RE OFF, and I'm writing a memoir that's going to come out.. sometime after I finish writing it.

What hardware do you use?

I'm constantly on my iPhone 6. I write on a 2016 MacBook Air that I had to buy because I dropped my previous laptop in my eagerness to get to the door for my Seamless delivery and cracked the screen. Internet distraction is a huge problem for me, and so I also invested in a Freewrite – a typewriter that saves your work and uploads it directly to the cloud. I find I use it a lot for diary writing and idea generating. I'm terrible at maintaining physical journals even though I love writing by hand. I tend to use whichever one of the millions I've bought is nearest to me at the moment, and I always lose them before they're filled up.

My physical planner is essential though – I'm not an iCal person. I need my to-do list and schedules on paper, written in front of me, or I'll never remember to do anything.

And what software?

The Twitter app: constantly, obsessively, to my detriment. I used to write in Microsoft Word, but when I got the new computer I didn't want to buy it again, and so I've been writing in Google Docs. At work, we're putting our articles up through WordPress. I've taken classes on Adobe Premiere for editing videos, but honestly when I'm doing something for work I usually fall back on my middle school instincts and use iMovie because it's so much quicker for me.

What would be your dream setup?

A giant, very neat, gorgeous desk with fresh flowers and a notebook and a black pen that you don't have to press too hard and doesn't bleed through the page. And a laptop that's not connected to the internet. And my phone very far away, in the other room, which will only ding if someone really cool texts me. And a nice view.


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Daniel Zarick


Daniel Zarick

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Daniel Zarick and I live in Chicago. Right now I'm wandering a fair bit, trying to write more, and exploring new projects. Mostly I design+build building software and websites. That said, I don't really think of myself as a designer or a programmer, and generally try to avoid defining myself with -er words. People pay me to do those things, but I like to think my skills are in figuring out interesting and creative solutions to problems. The output for those solutions just happens to be mostly code.

What hardware do you use?

Right now I use an 11" Macbook Air from a few years ago. I've been considering upgrading to a newer MacBook Pro to get some more power and a Retina screen (it's difficult to design websites and apps these days without Retina), but I'm finding the current iteration of Apple laptops to be uninspired. Otherwise, I always have a nice pair of earbuds in my pocket. This pair is nice, but I'm not religious about any specific brand.. I rotate every few years as I beat them up. I take photos with a Leica Q (new purchase, but a very good one. I love it.). I have an iPhone 6s, but am always trying to use my Punkt MP 01 more to get away from smartphones and apps.

And what software?

Mostly write code in Atom but might go back to Textmate (less stuff, simpler). I design sometimes in Sketch, and do command line things in iTerm. Chrome for my browser, Messages.app for texting my friends during the workday, Google Hangouts in the browser, and Letterspace for note-taking. Unfortunately I use Spotify for music (RIP Rdio. Typical, I know. A designer who misses Rdio). Outside of those, I try to stick to simple, great-at-what-they-do tools for little tasks (Miro Video Converter, GIF Brewery, Flinto for Mac, Dropbox, CloudApp, 1Password, f.lux, etc).

What would be your dream setup?

I like my tools simple and straight-forward. That said, my dream setup would be less tools. Less software. Less computers. Less phones. It'd be nice to feel less compelled to work on software and websites all the time. Maybe a cabin somewhere to escape to regularly. Happiness and creative fulfillment. Technology is difficult and frustrating.

But here I am, so I guess a new lightweight MacBook Pro with an amazing battery.


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Ashlyn Anstee


Ashlyn Anstee

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Ashlyn Anstee, and I'm a storyboard artist and director, who moonlights as an author, illustrator, and GIF maker! I currently work for Nickelodeon doing writing and boards for an unannounced project. I have two picture books out for little ones that I wrote and illustrated (No, No, Gnome! and Are We There, Yeti?), both with Simon & Schuster! I love writing and drawing and making things, in a lot of different forms.

What hardware do you use?

I swap it up a LOT. Just like with traditional media, my hardware changes depending on what I'm working on. I have a Cintiq Companion that I use for storyboarding at home, and occasionally work off of an old 2011 MacBook Pro if I want to type up something & don't want to lug around my Companion.

I keep my iPad Pro in my purse, with the Apple Pencil & keyboard ready to write and draw anywhere. It's become my mobile workstation of choice.

And what software?

Depends on what I'm doing!

  • iPad Sketching, I pretty much exclusively use Procreate.
  • Storyboarding, I mainly use Storyboard Pro, now!
  • Video/GIF editing, I use After Effects (I know – editing a whole video in AE seems like madness, and it is. Whoops!)
  • Illustration, I scan a lot of paintings, and prod at them in Photoshop!

What would be your dream setup?

If I could have all the power of the Cintiq Companion on something the size of the iPad Pro, it would be my dream. Having to only run iOS apps on such a great setup like the iPad is such a shame!


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Zoltan Istvan


Zoltan Istvan

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Zoltan Istvan, and I'm a futurist, journalist, and entreprenuer. Most people know me as one of the leaders of the transhumanist movement, a social movement of a few million people worldwide that want to use science and technology to radically modify the human being and human experience. I'm currently also running for California Governor under the Libertarian Party.

What hardware do you use?

Currently, I use a Toshiba Satellite laptop for most of my writing (I write journalism articles every week). But at home I also use an iPad Air for browsing and quick communication. And probably most of all, I use an iPhone 6S for calls, texts, and tweets.

I haven't been thrilled with the laptop, but it's such an ordeal to switch machines. But I was at Best Buy the other day looking at Microsoft Surfaces.

And what software?

Much of what I do revolves around Microsoft Word, since I write so frequently. So as a result, I'm still a PC guy when it comes to my laptops, and therefore a Windows person. I also use Yahoo SiteBuilder, for managing websites. It's simple stuff and quick and easy for me to update, or for designers to do so. But it's another PC application.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm not thrilled with Windows, but, again, it's hard to make the switch to anything else, so my dream setup would include a Microsoft Surface 4 with keyboard, with full Office suite built-in, and the latest version of Premiere. I do a lot of video and audio interiews.

Regarding my phone, I'm pretty thrilled with the capabilities of my iPhone and iPad. For me, the quest is really to upgrade to a better laptop, since that is such a vital component of my daily work life — and night life is watching videos too.


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Porpentine Heartscape


Porpentine Heartscape

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Porpentine Charity Heartscape and I make art to commemorate the armistice with hell.

What hardware do you use?

E-Element Z-88 81-key mechanical keyboard because it was the cheapest tenkeyless. My typing got more precise after I switched to MECHA KEYBOARD and it has fun LED settings to keep me stimulated.

I'm most comfortable on my desktop but I have a ThinkPad 13 laptop now that I travel more. Desktops feel like a blanket.

I use a Snowball mic, a OnePlus 3T phone, and a Wacom Intuos Medium tablet. Amazon Mouse because it's soft and cheap.

Cheap colored lights off Amazon strung along my walls.

And what software?

Games/interactive stories: Twine 1.4.2 and Game Maker. But I've made stuff in Unity, ShindanMaker, Google Forms, desktop folders.. I'm most interested in something if it's not intended as creative software.

Linear writing: Notepad++ and Google Docs for drafting, Scrivener and OpenOffice for organizing / publishing.

Media editing: Paint.NET, Audacity, all the cutey open source things.

I love chatting and collaborating through Discord.

What would be your dream setup?

Whatever is nice. The good stuff. A big room, I guess? Running water and grass? A climate-controlled cube surrounded by 12 hours of rain and 12 hours of grass.


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Mat Marquis


Mat Marquis

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Mat Marquis, inscrutably nicknamed "Wilto" since high school. I design and build fast, accessible, responsive websites at Bocoup. I do a decent amount of speaking, and I published JavaScript for Web Designers with A Book Apart a couple months back.

Outside of work, I collect hobbies. I'm a born-and-raised New England woodworker. I box better than someone who does not box, but not by very much. I cook, mostly French. I am endlessly repairing my '78 Triumph Bonneville.

What hardware do you use?

I own a lot of tools.

The family policy is "buy the cheapest version of a tool, and if you end up using it until it breaks, buy a good one." I've burned through a lot of loose-handled knives that refused to take a decent edge and bottom-shelf-at-Home-Depot wood planes. Here's some of the stuff I ended up with.

I'm prepared to say that I own more screwdrivers than anybody in the greater Boston area, and I'm easily in the top five for pairs of kinda-rusty pliers. I have a Disston D-8 handsaw that works better than it has any right to for being, y'know, roughly one hundred and fifty years old. I inherited a whole range of old Stanley planes and an indestructible old Occidental Leather framer's belt that doesn't see much use anymore. My tablesaw is a decent little Bosch jobsite saw; I ain't got much room to work with. My bandsaw is an Amazon-dot-com-discount-bin benchtop job that has yet to break down on me, but that clock is tickin' – I had a beastly JET a few years ago, but y'know, I'm an apartment woodworker now, in a tiny garage. I miss my old DeWalt mitre saw, which straight-up broke on me. I got a Rigid now; it kicks a little and the laser sight thing is goofy, but it cuts just fine. Diablo blades in er'rything. My favorite hammer has a skull on it.

I box with Cleto Reyes gloves (red, of course) – which make every other pair of gloves feel like big dumb foam Hulk hands – and a custom Impact mouthguard that has almost definitely saved my oft-punch'd jaw. I'm still in the "use cheap ones until they break" phase with my boxing shoes; Adidas something-or-others? They work fine.

In the kitchen, I have a rattly old KitchenAid stand mixer (red, of course) that I completely took for granted up until I started baking bread in earnest, and now plan to have buried with me someday. I don't exactly have a "knife kit" where I'm never taking my particularly low-production-quality show on the road, but: a Shun Classic 8" chef knife is my go-to, and I have a carbon steel knife I handled myself (padauk, of course) for heavier duty jobs. The blade for the latter was from Hock Tools, who also make damn fine woodworking plane blades. I have a mistreated Shun 5 1/2" Santoku that I picked up for like thirty bucks as a "utility" knife, and a Shun Sora paring knife that I hardly ever use.

I've managed to piece together a pretty respectable collection of pots and pans – mostly All-Clad – and more Lodge cast-irons of various sizes and shapes than anyone could ever realistically need (which, for the record, is "five"). I just got ahold of one of those "lightweight cast-iron" Field skillets and so help me, it might just be my go-to from now on. It doesn't retain heat quite as well as my beastly ol' Lodge, but man, it is so much easier to maneuver.

I.. I recently bought a sous vide gadget. I did. I am deeply, deeply skeptical of it, mostly because I don't like the threat of getting technology all up in my food. I'm really more of a "iron, fire, and action" kinda guy than "aluminum, water, and patience." Still, an hour in a bath and a quick sear over an irresponsibly high flame is having some mean results.

Work-wise, I have a 15-inch MacBook Pro that's getting a little long in the tooth. It does okay; I ain't find much enticing about the new ones anyway. My dark secret is that I use the built-in keyboard and trackpad exclusively; no external mouse or keyboard, even when I'm doing design work. I have no idea why or how this ended up being the case, but here we are.

I recently made a "standing desk" out of some old pallets we had kicking around the office. Not, like, in a Pinterest way. We ain't talking "teal chalk paint and white script-y 'live laugh love' lettering" here – more "actual, literal trash." I'll use it until it breaks, as tradition dictates. My secondary monitor is also hot garbage, speaking of, but it really only ever has full-screen iTerm goin' on it. It's actually kinda nice for quickly checking potential color contrast issues.

And what software?

For code, I use Sublime Text in unspeakably inefficient ways, akin to spinning a pneumatic nailgun around backwards and using it to hammer nails by hand. Canvas is a damn fine writing tool – using it as we speak, in fact – but I still miss Editorially nigh daily.

Design-wise: I'm a little behind the curve, but I officially became Sketch people a few months ago. I'd be ready to ditch the Adobe suite altogether, except for the sake of janky ol' Photoshop's "Save for Web."

I've probably logged more hours in 12 Rounds than any other app on my phone. One of these days, though, I'm gonna use a little of my open source time to cook up a boxing timer of my own; why the hell not, y'know?

What would be your dream setup?

Countertops. Countertops, countertops. When I close my eyes and dare to dream of my perfect home, I see only countertops. End-grain butcher block, soapstone, marble – y'know, I'm not picky. Countertops in every room. LMM and I got like three feet of counter space and a wobbly IKEA table in our apartment kitchen, and it is killing us. I wouldn't balk at a more professional-grade range, either. Maybe a nice freezer chest. Or a walk-in; that'd cover me for both cooking and Rocky-style boxing.

I'm relegated to an unheated two-car garage for all my woodworking and endless motorcycle-tinkering, and that isn't the ideal situation up here in the frozen northeast. Just.. just heat, y'know? I'd like heat. We're not even talking seventy two degrees year-round, here – just, like, warm enough that my wood glue doesn't turn to chalk during everything but our week and a half of Summer. I mean, sure, I wouldn't be mad about having enough space to ditch some of these tiny benchtop tools. But man. Heat.

At work, y'know, I'm doing just fine. "Have laptop, will travel." I am – at least, at work – pretty low-maintenance.


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EMiSpicer


EMiSpicer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm EMiSpicer. I'm best known for my work as a documentarian photographer. The main focus of my photos is music and video game culture events, mostly in indie and DIY-inspired spaces. I also work with instant film photography, the bulk of that work being portraiture or environmental photos. I've recently begun shooting using crappy film cameras instead of my cellphone for slice of life style photography.

In addition to that I work as an events organizer. I book music shows, most notably Pulsewave – a monthly showcase of chiptune music in NYC. I also work with two American demoparties, Synchrony and @party. I help organize games events too, such as the games conference Different Games. I work with the event MAGFest as well.

Finally, I'm employed as a social media manager for the gaming company MidBoss, which creates queer-focused media. We recently released a game called 2064: Read Only Memories which is available now on PS4 and PC!

What hardware do you use?

My digital camera is a Nikon D750, with which I use with a 50mm lens, an 18-200mm lens, and occasionally an external flash. Due to financial constraints my rig is very minimal, and I tend to push it to its limits. I think I probably own 15 or 20 Polaroid cameras, but these days I primarily shoot on an SX-70 Sonar. Then there's all the disposable cameras I use, which I buy in bulk from Amazon. I edit on a 2014 15" Retina MacBook Pro.

And what software?

Adobe Bridge for image selection, and Adobe Photoshop for gentle retouching. I keep things simple!

What would be your dream setup?

Ah oh gosh. I'm not much of a gear head if I'm being honest, so my lens wishlist is very small at the moment. I had been borrowing a 24mm f/4 from a friend for several months and really miss it though. I'm hoping when I have some extra cash I'll be able to get it back.

This is silly, but I'd also really love an iPad for mobile working. A lot of my work days involves a lot more administrative work than editing, and carrying around the heavy laptop takes a toll. Though, conversely, I'd love to have a second screen that I can devote to being a dedicated MidBoss screen. I'm a good task manager so I can switch back and forth between my personal accounts and theirs pretty well, but the convenience of a second screen seems like it would make things way easier.


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