Sometimes while surfing the web you come across a site that just makes you stop and explore it for a while. Tim Robertson came across such a site recently at http://www.isd.net/cmcalone and let me know about it. After visiting the site, I knew that I had to get in touch with the person who produced and set up the site. If you have an interest in how things are done in the world of the cinema, television or video, then check out Curt McAloney’s site. You’ll get the lowdown on how things are done in an easy to understand, enjoyable way. And you might also pick up some tidbits to use on your own video or website, plus download some outstanding startup screens.
So relax, sit back and enjoy My Mac’s Interview with cinematographer Curt McAloney.
My Mac: Can you provide our readers with some background on yourself, your work and how you first became involved with the Mac?
Curt: I’m a cinematographer with over 20 years experience, a graphic artist and webpage designer. Three years ago I needed something that would send and receive faxes, provide record keeping, and be able to print professional looking documents. I chose a Mac from the advice of my friends who were computer-savvy. My choice at the time was a Performa 630.
It had lots of software, a monitor, keyboard and mouse. I soon outgrew it when I discovered the fun of Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. In the course of three years I have gone from computer illiterate to designing webpages. My startup screens are on CD-ROM collections all over the world. If I had gone with a PC I think I would still be using a 486 (or whatever they call them) and using it for home office use only.
My Mac: What type of Mac do you use at work and at home?
Curt: I work from my home and use a PowerPC 7600 with 112 megs of RAM. The processer has been speed-tweaked to run at 145MHz.
My Mac: What are your favorite pieces of shareware/freeware that you would consider essential for Mac users?
Curt: Affordable Solution’s Ultra Label, of course! Now that I made a plug for my shareware, I would say that GraphicConverter rates way up there.
My Mac: What is Ultra Label?
Curt: Ultra Label is a shareware FileMaker template. It allows you to import graphics and text onto 3.5″ floppy disk labels.
My Mac: What are your favorite software programs?
Curt: Being involved with graphic design, I use Photoshop and Illustrator.
My Mac: What are your favorite pieces of shareware/freeware that you would consider essential for Mac users?
Curt: That’s a tough one to answer… since it’s now freeware, Netscape.
My Mac: What would you consider to be the “ideal” Mac for you?
Curt: A Mac with 200 megs of RAM with two 12 gigabyte hard drives running on a G4 at 1000MHz. Video in and out ports, 24x CD-ROM/DVD drive. A T1 connection to the Internet. A 20″ monitor with a video board so that I could put my Photoshop/Illustrator palates onto my smaller monitor. At least it’s a start. : )
My Mac: With your background in cinematography, why did you make the switch over to computer use and graphic design?
Curt: I still do cinematography, in fact I just finished shooting a commercial for Hudsons department stores for the Detroit market.
To be successful in this rapidly changing world I began looking at other media options to embellish my career. In other words, I put the multi into media. When I can find the time I plan to master Director and Flash.
My Mac: Can you provide us with some background on Affordable Solutions?
Curt: Affordable Solutions started out a few years ago when a friend of mine made a FileMaker template for me to do my invoices. I became intrigued with the idea of making templates that could be marketed. We wanted the templates to be affordable, and provide the solution for whoever used it. With that in mind, Affordable Solutions was born.
We have designed several custom templates for clients ranging from Karate tournament name badges to record keeping for a law firm. Affordable Solutions also offers graphic design and webpage design services.
My Mac: Who do you find uses your skill in designing database templates?
Curt: The user is anyone with a Mac that needs a displayed database via the computer interface or the print medium.
My Mac: How do you go about designing the templates for your customers?
Curt: Lots of email and phone conversations with questions concerning the look, needs, complexity, price, etc.
My Mac: Your “Behind the Scenes” page is terrific! The story behind the classic “1984 Apple Commercial” (by Owen Linzmayer) is a must for Mac enthusiasts. What made you put it online?
Curt: I’m a big fan of film history, I make commercials and I love my Mac. Just seemed like the right thing to do. The impetus for doing the “Behind the Scenes” started when I came across Owen Linzmayer’s site by accident. I first got permission from him to use his material, then I incorporated scenes from a video a friend of mine had shot on location in England.
My Mac: Your “Star Trekn” page is a great find for fans who what to get some behind the scenes info. Did you have any input on the show?
Curt: Jeez, how old do you think I am? I was in the 6th grade when the original Star Trek first aired and have been a fan since then. Coincidentally a crane that was part of the Star Trek/Mission Impossible sound stages was sold to a production house that I worked at.
My Mac: Sorry, at times I forget that not everyone saw Star Trek when it first came out… 🙂
My Mac: You’ve produced some outstanding startup screens. What’s your secret to giving them that certain “spark”?
Curt: Hanging upside down nude when I make them. Oops… not a secret anymore!
Seriously, I started making startup screens for my own benefit by using them as a way to learn Photoshop and other graphic software. The 640 by 480 size screen is a canvas that I am quite familiar with as it is the same size ratio as a television screen. I know how light and shadow effects a scene, how to make use of composition and color. These basics plus a keeping an eye on what’s popular in the media gives me the ‘spark’ to go do that voodoo that I do. I also run my first efforts past my friends for input.
My Mac: Here’s an example of your startup screen work so the readers can get a good idea…
My Mac: How do you use the Mac in your cinematic endeavors?
Curt: Invoicing, correspondence, faxing, email, cinematography news groups, info from websites such as Panavision, American Cinematographer, etc. If I do a location scout and a client is unable to attend, I will put frame grabs from my camcorder onto a webpage for the client to look at.
My Mac: Your web page http://www.isd.net/cmcalone/ is an absolute fount of information for those interested in discovering how things are done in the movies, TV and videos. What gave you the idea to set your site up the way you did?
Curt: I had seen several sites on the web from other cinematographers and quite frankly, I was unimpressed. They were maybe a notch above the “here is my cat” look when webpages were first made. I believe that presentation is everything, so I took the time to learn as much as I could about webpage design (I should have bought stock in Barnes & Noble). The next step was planning a site strategy.
I decided I wanted to show different aspects of my skills. First, obviously, my skills as a cinematographer. Second, my ability in web authoring with the use of frames, Java script, animated GIFs and the like, and third to promote my startup screens, filemaker templates and the Macintosh in general.
My Mac: What software do you use to do your web page designing?
Curt: For simple html on the fly I use Visual Page; for more complex stuff like dynamic html, Dreamweaver. For graphics I use primarily Illustrator and Photoshop.
My Mac: What do you have planned for the future at your web site?
Curt: I hope to incorporate vector-based animations such as Flash. Layers, Dynamic HTML are all possibilities.
My Mac: You speak of presentation and strategy in bringing a web page to life. What suggestions can you make to readers who want to add that “spice” to their sites?
Curt: Although HTML was never intended to be the cyber version of a magazine, I do borrow design elements from the print media. I also use elements from interface design, and some times combine the two to give a unique look.
The webpage designer should ask themselves “What is it I want to say, and who do I want to say it to?” My site is chock full of graphics, not just for eye candy, but because I’m addressing an audience that would expect to see examples of my work. With that in mind I need to make the site what I call “technically aesthetic” in that the graphics load quickly with acceptable quality.
The first tip off to me of a lame webpage is when the background graphic competes with the text over it. Another example of poor webpage design is the tedium of downloading a page jammed with graphics and is a zillion miles long. Break up the page into smaller pages for quicker download times.
My Mac: What websites have caught your eye for presentation and flair?
Curt: Some of these sites have Shockwave, Java, etc. and push the envelope in web technology and design:
My Mac: What tips/suggestions can you provide would-be cinematographers who want to use their Macs to improve their efforts?
Curt: They could start by checking these sites on the ‘Net:
My Mac: For someone who is interested in beginning a career in cinematography, where would you recommend they start?
Curt: The library, the Internet, school courses. Be related to Spielberg or Lucas.
My Mac: What does the future hold for cinematography with the advances with computers and computer-generated images? (Will they unionize the computer-generated actors? 🙂 )
Curt: CGI’s (Computer Generated Images) will continue to embellish cinematography. Most often we think of CGI work done in the sci-fi/fantasy element, but it can be used in other movies such as “Forrest Gump”. The effects add to the scenes, not replacing them. I don’t foresee unionized CGI actors, but copyrighted ones.
My Mac: Are you interested in the aspect of computer-generated actors or the use of computers to totally do the work that used to be done in reality?
Curt: Yes, I’m interested. I think stunt doubles may be at the employment line in the near future. A CGI of an actor in harm’s way has just got to be safer. Today’s technology provides CGI actors that are highly technical puppets, with voices supplied by a real actor and movement provided by a technician-computer animation. In the future I can see preprogrammed CGI’s of actors, but the real actors would still have the edge on syntax deviation when doing dialog or body language. I think that we are a long way off from a completely autonomous CGI actor.That would imply sentience, which is a whole other can o’worms.
My Mac: A final question for you, Curt. What do you see as the future of the Mac in cinematography?
Curt: The PC folks have been making inroads in editing work stations, i.e.Windows NT. I think Apple’s OS X will offer an incentive to migrate back to the Mac. Most people in the biz that I know are Mac users.
My Mac: Thanks, Curt.
For anyone who wants to visit a really great site, surf on up to Curt’s webpage at http://www.isd.net/cmcalone/. You won’t be disappointed and you might just pick up some great information or a startup screen or two. And please check out the great startup screens that Curt has made especially for My Mac and are available for download from My Mac Online at https://www.mymac.com.