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A picture of Katie Shelly

Katie Shelly

Media designer (Cooper-Hewitt Labs)

in animator, designer, illustrator, mac, video

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Katie Shelly and I'm a media designer. I work at Cooper-Hewitt Labs, which is a sort of tech-nerdy R&D space in the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. I produce videos about design, graphics for web and print, and multimedia prototypes for interface and service design concepts. I also do lots of hands-on audience research (using video especially) to support all the public-facing content and experiences that we help create.

In my spare time, I also do illustration and animation projects. One of my projects unexpectedly took off and turned into a book deal (thank you, enthusiastic peoples of the Internet). The book is called Picture Cook (Ulysses Press, 2013) and it's a book of recipes which are explained through drawings, not words.

What hardware do you use?

My key piece of hardware is a Wacom Intuos4 tablet. I have two -- one at work, and one at home. I actually use the stylus for video editing (not sure how common this is) but I find it to be way more precise and comfortable than editing with a mouse. For illustration, photo retouching, and graphic design I also use the stylus. All the illustrations and lettering in Picture Cook were drawn with the Intuos4, all in Photoshop. Alternating between the stylus and mouse also helps with preventing arm/wrist fatigue. I switch to the mouse when I'm emailing, moving files around in Finder, procrastinating, Facebooking... in other words, the mouse is for "normal" computer use, and the stylus is for actual work and heavy lifting.

At the office, I have a 2009 Mac Pro 4,1 with 20GB of RAM. I have two monitors hooked up to it -- a 27" Dell and a 17" Samsung. I have Sennheiser HD280 Pro headphones, which are "just OK" for monitoring audio on video shoots (outside noise does leak in), but they are excellent for editing video/audio in a quiet office, and great for listening to music. I have a great little card reader (ioGear GUH286) which combines SD, CF, and other card-readers all in one. It also doubles as a USB hub.

I have a mirror that lets me see who is sneaking up behind me (I face the wall) and this is a really great bit of analog hardware.

On video shoots, I use a Canon XF105 which is an awesome all-purpose camera for small budgets. It's simple enough so our "more techy" staff can borrow and use it with minimal assistance from me. We got a spare generic (Pearstone) battery for the XF105 which was a crucial addition to the kit -- it's heavier and bigger than the one that comes with the camera but has a much longer life. Sometimes I actually use the battery as a stabilizer when working with the camera from a low angle, using it to rest the camera on a table and tilt it up a bit.

The Sony ECM 44b lavalier mic is solid, we have two. We also use a Canon 50D for still shots, also solid. That camera is good enough in full auto mode that other staff throughout the museum are also comfortable borrowing it for events and things like that. For more formal video and still shots, we have Kino-Flo Diva Lites, which are very versatile and easy to use, and they run cool, which is great. We have many tripods in the closet, but the one I consistently reach for for video is the Manfrotto 3211 legs with 3130 head. I prefer it over all of our others because it is really sturdy, really heavy and almost all metal. I get super irked when using a flimsy, plastic-y feeling tripod.

At home, where I do mostly illustration, occasional video/photo editing, and a bit of animation, I have a MacBook Pro 6,2 with 8GB of RAM. I also have a nice external Samsung 2333SW propped up on a 6" wooden stand so it's at eye level. I have AudioEngine2 speakers on my desk and in my living room, using AirFoil with Airport Express to sync them up. I also am very particular about desk chairs, and I splurged on a Varier balans chair for my home setup. This chair is excellent. It really lets you maintain a straight back without straining, and you can cycle through a number of different seated postures as you work, and you can rock, which helps you get your wiggles out while you work.

And what software?

I just can't let go of FCP 7... FCP X has changed too drastically for me to make a smooth transition, and Premiere is OK but I'm just not as habitual/fast working in that app. I wish Apple had gradually worked changes into the FCP software over a series of updates, so that the user base could learn new habits incrementally, instead of completely overhauling it in a day, alienating us editors. I pop into After Effects for more precise motion/animation needs that come up. I am a big Photoshop user. I use InDesign for book layout. I could never get into Illustrator, it feels too limiting and rigid compared to Photoshop. Chrome is my browser of choice. Dropbox for Business is invaluable for sending big files round the world. I use Sleepytime to play music for an hour before sleeping my computer when it's time for zzz's. iPhone 5s is my smartphone of choice -- top apps are Mind, Spotify, Instagram, Foursquare, Snapchat, P.Tracker, Yelp.

What would be your dream setup?

I would love a more kick-ass video camera, the XF105 is OK but sometimes the footage looks grainy or dullish in less than perfect light conditions. I'm also eyeing the new Mac Pro and wondering just how much faster it will be for video rendering and exporting and tasks like that. Other than that... I'd say I'm already livin' the dream!