The Setup

Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

John W. McKelvey

John W. McKelvey

Music journalist, hip-hop historian, filmmaker.

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm John W. McKelvey, sometimes a.k.a. Werner von Wallenrod. I'm a music journalist/hip-hop historian and independent filmmaker.

What hardware do you use?

Well, I'm a huge multi-tasker, so computer-wise, I run two alongside each other. A Studio XPS 8100 Dell PC on the right and an early 2008 Mac Pro on the left.

I see plenty of people get hung up choosing one or the other in the Mac/PC debate online, but I find they both have their strengths and weaknesses, so no reason to swear allegiance to either side. I have a 1TB WD external drive hooked into the Mac, because you use up a ton of space editing high def video files, and a nice, cheap Epson V500 scanner hooked up to the PC, and an extra internal Blu-Ray drive installed. The monitors are just two Samsung flatscreen TVs.

For music, I've got two Vestax PDT-5000 turntables in the coffin you can see behind me in my photo, linked by a little Vestax PMC-01A mixer, and right now they're just outputting to the tiny speakers of a Teac GF-350 "multi-music player/CD recorder." And that's sitting on top of an old Sony dual cassette deck. I don't have a proper 8-track player, but in a pinch I use my old, single speaker 2-XL robot.

For filming, in the standard def days, I used to us a Panasonic DVX100b. I still keep it around for recording sound. But now I use a Panasonic GH1, hacked so it can record in 24fps HD (commonly referred to as a GH13) and a new GH3. I've got an a couple Canon lenses I hook up to either of them, too, with an adapter. I use Audio Technica 897 mics, and I have a Steadicam Merlin2 which I'll be using on whatever my next major film project turns out to be.

For recording phone interviews, I still use an old Radioshack cassette recorder than has phone line inputs. I have come up with a more modern way using my iPhone and connecting it to the Mac using my Canopus ADVC-100 - which I use for importing VHS or laserdisc footage - through the headphone jack. But it's still quicker and easier to just use the Radioshack recorder.

And what software?

Well, I've trained myself on various video editing programs, from Adobe Premiere to free stuff like iMovie and Windows Movie Maker, just to be versatile. But my standard is the Final Cut Pro 7 suite. My Mac still has OS X 10.8.5 (Mountain Lion) on it, because new OS X versions don't work well with the FCP package. Even Mountain Lion makes my Soundtrack Pro crash at random points, and I'm not sure now much more advanced my old MacBook Pro could go. Apple of course wants you to keep replacing your hardware and software; so you know, the new OS's need newer Macs to work, and the new OS's need the new software. But that's an expensive game, and I really don't need anything more advanced to edit with. It doesn't make sense to buy a new Mac to get a new OS to upgrade to FCPX to be no better off than I am now.

The PC is running Windows 7. Some programs I use on there are Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro 7 (I can't let go of it! haha), Audacity, DVDFab Passkey to play multi-region discs, MakeMKV, Final Draft 8... I'll still make web pages with Final Draft 2003. You'll notice a lot of old and/or free stuff, because I don't believe in throwing money at things unless I have to.

What would be your dream setup?

Well, as much as I talked about not excessively upgrading. But I have to admit I've gone to the Apple store and done that window-shopping thing where you build your own Mac. If money were no object, I'd get one of those 6-Core, Dual GPU Mac Pro trash cans, with everything maxed out: 2.7 12 core processor, the most memory, RAM, best video card... I'd need an external Blu-Ray drive, and what the heck? Throw in one of those $4000 4k display monitors (I like that it comes to $1k per k). I've found it would cost a little under $15k.

Camera-wise, I'm pretty happy with what I've got, except I'd really like an Olympus 75mm f1.8 lens. But since we're talking "dream" setup, sure, I'd love a new RED DRAGON! If any angel investors are reading this, I'd make good use of it.

Music-wise, I'm pretty set for life. =)

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