Staring Down a Rhino

Rhino in the road

Black Rhino, India, May 2001.

Stared us down for 20 minutes, until our guide decided to move it along. He and one of the more adventurous of our group bushwhacked up the right side to within 20 feet before yelling and throwing branches to startle it away.

HD in 1993

via fstoppers.com: “If you’re old enough to remember VHS tapes, you remember video quality that was abysmal by today’s standards. However, even in the late 80s and early 90s, manufacturers were working to bring HD tech to consumers, and this demo reel is a surreal example of such tech.”

Final Cut Express

I shot my first proper video project in the summer of 2003. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing, and the results were less than stellar. But it was enough to send me in a new trajectory.

The project was a fundraising video for a school. I spend ten days in India shooting with just a rough idea of what we were trying to accomplish. I shot some interviews and b-roll. But I had no idea how it was all going to fit together. I was learning as I went.

Once we got back to the States, I immediately purchased Final Cut Express. Final Cut Pro had just been used by Walter Murch to edit Cold Mountain, and Express was the stripped down version. At just $300 it had 80% of the features of Final Cut Pro. More than enough for what I was doing.

For six consecutive Mondays, I would drive from Denver down to Colorado Springs and spend the day editing on the non-profit’s Mac. I only understood two tools: the pointer and the blade. It was painful, but it worked. We wrapped up the project in time for the board of directors meeting, and they loved the video.

There’s no way I could have completed that project without Final Cut Express. It was affordable, accessible, powerful, and polished. Final Cut Pro X is not the same. I’m not sure there’s anything quite like Final Cut Express today (maybe Hit Film?). So, hats off to the original Final Cut development team. You created a gem.

The Amiga 2000

My introduction to computers was in the summer of 1991. I was about to start eighth grade and we had just moved to Switzerland. I was mostly alone that summer – school hadn’t started yet and, while there was a friendly family in the apartment below ours, I didn’t yet speak French.

But across the hall were two 20-something guys who had started a computer sales and training company out of their apartment, and they spoke English. I spent just about all my time over there.

My first proper job was with those two guys, copying shareware software onto floppy disks. Cedric showed off his modem to me but I didn’t quite understand the significance. The Internet was still in its infancy and the World Wide Web had just been invented a mere 40 minutes away. Email was still a mind-blowing novelty. But he knew it was the future.

My dad decided that we needed a computer before the school year started. Naturally, he turned to the guys next door. They convinced him to buy an Commodore Amiga 2000. It was a beast of a computer – it boasted a Motorola 68000 CPU running at an amazing 7.16Mhz, up to 128MB of RAM (This was in 1991!!!!!), 52MB SCSI hard drive, 12-bit color, 2 stereo audio channels, 7 expansion slots, and a genlock slot.

That genlock slot is important. Remember the show Babylon 5? It was the first television show to use CGI, and those graphics were created with NewTek’s Video Toaster card running on an Amiga 2000, the only desktop computer that could do it because of that ingenious inclusion of genlock and the Zorro II expansion slots and 12 bit color.

This was the beast that humbly sat in our spare bedroom, where I drowned a summer of upheaval playing Sim City and Civilization, learned Desktop Publishing, and did my apprenticeship as a Jedi knight for the operating system wars of the 1990s.

Were it not for the guys next door – Cédric and François – I may well not be doing what I do today. So, wherever you are, thank you.

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