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A picture of Claude Zeins

Claude Zeins

Video director

in mac, video

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Claude, a video director based out of Los Angeles. I spent my twenties making videos for Sandwich, a creative studio that specializes in the explainer video for tech companies of all sizes. I’m most proud of my work for Descript and Wistia. The Wistia videos were part of a larger projected helmed by Chris Lavigne called One, Ten, One Hundred, which ended up winning a Webby Award. I’ve also directed and edited John Gruber's The Talk Show Live from WWDC.

But enough about work already! Really, what I like to do is live at the intersection of storytelling and tech. I’m a silly lil nerd who loves the web. Design, typography, woodworking, playing cello instruments, songwriting, and—of course—consuming a ton of media round me out.

What hardware do you use?

Let’s start with the boring stuff first. I use a Silver M1 Max MacBook Pro with 64 GB of memory and 2 TB of disk space, which isn’t nearly enough for someone who works in video. People always get the Space Grey (and now, Space Black), but I’m here to tell you that I prefer the raw silver color way. I put my MacBook in clamshell mode in a TwelveSouth BookArc and connect it via Thunderbolt to my Apple Studio Display with the adjustable stand. I use a standard edition Apple Magic Keyboard and an incredibly mundane Logitech M705 Mouse.

For my storage needs, I typically use SanDisk Extreme SSDs. I appreciate the rubbery shell they come in; they strike a good balance between rugged and svelte. I wish they came in more interesting colors.

All of this sits on a Fully Desk retrofitted with a very long butcher block top from Home Depot. The more space, the better.

I also have an iPhone 14 Pro in boring old space grey, but that’s mostly because the dark grey hides the shiny stainless steel that I’m not partial to. I’m a case guy for my iPhone; I don’t trust myself to carry a naked phone. For that, I use a Caudabe Sheath. The name is hilariously abysmal, but the case is this textured plastic that feels absolutely amazing in the hand. I also like how minimal it looks. I do own a 2018 iPad Pro, the first of its kind to lose the home button. It’s been a great media consumption device, but despite my best efforts, I rarely use. I have a 40mm Apple Watch SE (first edition), which mostly sits in a drawer. I use AirPods 3, which I think I just lost and am very grumpy about. I vastly prefer vanilla AirPods to the Pros because I don’t like suction from the rubber tips in my ears. I miss the fit of the AirPods 2, alas.

I’m currently camera shopping, but I’ve been extremely impressed by the Panasonic Lumix S5IIX as a fantastic photo/video hybrid camera. People often think of Sony or Canon as being the best, but I really think Panasonic is a dark horse in the race. When I’m shooting commercials, I tend to prefer the ARRI ALEXA line of cameras. I literally wrote that sentence to impress you, imaginary reader in my head. But I do love the look of the image out of ARRI cameras. I recently purchased a DJI Pocket 3: Creator Edition. It’s essentially a 1” sensor camera on a gimbal. The image quality is shockingly good and it’s just fun to use. We need more fun tech in our lives.

I use an ancient 2017 LG C7C 55” OLED TV, which has just started getting burn-in. Connected are my Nintendo Switch, Playstation 5, and Apple TV. I use two space grey HomePods as speakers and let me tell you, reader: they sound incredible and work perfectly as TV speakers. (Playing music consistently through them is a different story.)

Okay. Lightning round of physical things that I love.

  • AirTags help me find my keys and wallet. If you have an iPhone and lose your stuff all the time like I do, these are no-brainers. I hope the next version is thinner.
  • I drink water out of a Hydroflask 20 oz All Around Tumbler. The tumbler is great, but the real reason to buy it is because of the straw lid. I can’t really explain why, but the straw is simply the best straw on the market.
  • I recently got the Mophie 3-in-1 travel charger with MagSafe and love it, despite by belief that Qi-like charging is mostly inferior to a good ol’ cable.
  • Mackweldon makes the best underwear, I think.
  • I have no reason to really use pencils, but I always have a set of Blackwing Pencils at my desk. Studio Neat makes the best notebook: the Totebook.

And what software?

First, the Mac. I genuinely believe that I am a happier tech user when I don’t complicate my setup, so I use a lot of stock apps including Apple Mail, Notes, and Safari. I use Fantastical for my calendar app because I find its menu bar app to be the best way to enter and review my calendar. I’m a little nervous it’s getting too corporate for me, though.

Speaking of my menu bar, let’s take a look: I use Hand Mirror because I’m vain, Magnet for window management, Hazeover to dim windows when I’m writing, and Amphetamine to ensure my computer stays awake when I need to import or export something. CleanShot X is probably my favorite Mac app. It’s an absolutely delightful screenshotting utility that should come standard on every Mac. (They should ditch the X, it reminds me of all those Apple accessory companies in the 2000's that used the “I" prefix before their product name.) I use Bartender to organize my menu bar.

I’m a reluctant Dropbox user. It’s a rock solid service, but I find its software to be somewhat disrespectful of modern computing etiquette, choosing to put its grubby little hands all over my computer. One of these days, I’m going to give Maestral another try. It’s a lightweight Dropbox client that doesn’t gunk up your computer.

Speaking of gunking up computers, I use Adobe’s Creative Cloud for much of my creative work, particularly Photoshop, After Effects, Illustrator, and Premiere. I don’t have much to say about these apps except that I would be lost without them but have absolutely no love for them. I think there are brilliant minds at Adobe—clearly!—but I wish Adobe refined their apps by focusing on speed, clarity, and removing legacy bugs. (Don’t even get me started on their UI design.) I could write about Adobe for hours. Moving on! I occasionally dabble in Figma for work and pleasure. I read a slew of RSS feeds in the tastefully made and simple NetNewsWire. MacWhisper uses OpenAI’s whisper to make near-perfect transcriptions, which I’ve used to add captions to YouTube. I’m a big Rogue Amoeba fan. Everyone loves Audio Hijack (including me), but my heart lies with Piezo, a very simple audio capture utility.

Speaking of audio, I’m an Apple Music listener and I really like Mario Guzman’s Music Widget for controlling it and adding a touch of classic aqua to my Mac. I occasionally use Pages and Keynote to write and design pitches for projects, but I do most of my screenwriting in iA Writer and Highland using the Fountain screenwriting language (akin to Markdown). I use 1Password to manage my passwords, but I’ll probably switch to Apple’s password utility at some point. And when I decide to delete an app, I use the long-in-the-tooth AppZapper to do it. I will rue the day it no longer works, which was probably last week.

Onto iOS. Again, I really try to use Apple’s stock apps when I can. So Mail, camera, Notes, and Safari are all stock. I really love Apple’s new Journal app. I hope they continue to iterate on it and developers consider building for it because it’s such a great way to capture life. You’d be surprised, but the iPhone mic is so good that I often record voiceover using the Voice Memos app and it makes it into the final cut.

Here are a few other gems you might not have heard of:

  • Blackmagic Cam: Blackmagic just launched a free manual video camera app just as Filmic bit the dust. I find Blackmagic’s app easy to use and very powerful.
  • Breathable: Air quality in LA is abysmal, so I use this tastefully designed widget on my phone.
  • Callsheet: IMDB sucks. Callsheet doesn’t. Worth every penny and a generous trial period.
  • Darkroom: I don’t often edit my photos but when I do, I use Darkroom. I also use legacy filters I purchased in VSCO a decade ago, too. (C7. IYKYK)
  • Endel: I don’t pay for this app, but I sometimes use this soundscape app when flying because it chills me out. (I’m a very nervous flyer)
  • Flighty: Arguably the best designed third party app in the App Store. If you ever fly on a commercial jet, pay for a week of flighty. It’s the fastest way to find out if your flight’s delayed, a fantastic resource for tracking your flights.
  • Halide: the best manual camera app on iOS. Sometimes I open the app just to admire its craftsmanship. (Told you I was a nerd)
  • Hinge: I can’t believe I’m putting this here, but I find Hinge to be the best gay dating app. Dating can feel soulless in 2024, especially since man of them are based around triaging humans you find hot vs not hot. Hinge at least tries to focus on people's personalities.
  • Libby: You can plug your library card into it and check out digital ebooks and audiobooks. It’s not the easiest app to navigate, but it’s a wonderful resource.
  • Mapper: A simple tool that redirects any Google Maps link to Apple Maps, which I vastly prefer.
  • Mela: You know when you find a recipe online, but you have to scroll through miles of ads and a meaningless essay? Mela sits in my menu bar and, with a click, sucks up that recipe and gorgeously presents it in a Mac and iOS app. It’s a no-brainer app if you use your phone, iPad, or Mac to read recipes.
  • Noir: I use this on Mac and iOS. It’s a Safari extension that changes the CSS of websites to accommodate dark mode. Very handy, if not a little annoying to toggle.
  • OffScreen: I find Apple’s screen time utilities do not go far enough to prevent me from using, say, social media. But OffScreen makes it much harder to access certain apps. I am a little sketched out by the data it uses, though, and might switch to something more expensive like Opal.
  • Overcast: My podcast app of choice. It’s a little long in the tooth, design-wise, but it’s been rock solid for ten years and its smart speed feature has saved me — I kid you not — 267 hours.
  • Pass2U Wallet: This app will win zero design awards, but it will take any barcode you throw at it and add it to your Apple Wallet. Great for grocery store rewards cards and gym memberships.
  • Strong: There are so many mediocre gym logging apps on the App Store that are either filled with ads or try to upsell you on workout plans. Strong is a fantastic way to log workouts and track your routines.

What would be your dream setup?

I’m pretty happy with my computer setup right now. I have no interest in upgrading my laptop nor do I feel like my year-old phone is a dinosaur. I suppose it would be fun to use an XDR Display, but I really love the size of my Studio Display. Is this answer a cop out? Probably. Honestly, the first thing that came to mind was a desk with a Power Mac G4 Cube. Sure, it’s a twenty-year-old computer, but I remember being a kid and absolutely lusting after it. I think it would be fun to have on a shelf somewhere.

But I suppose if I’m dreaming, I’d love to have a video studio/office combo, a place to shoot and edit and play. I do want to invest in camera lights this year, and Aputure feels like the Apple of lighting equipment. Maybe pair that with a Canon C70 or Sony FX6? Or if we’re really dreaming an ALEXA 35??? Again, I wrote the past two sentences to impress you.

I’m also very excited about the Apple Vision Pro. While I’ll not be an early adopter—it’s expensive!—I am an early believer in spacial computing. I can’t wait to edit things on movie theatre screens, or watch playback on set in a distraction-free environment.