Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of James Ernest

James Ernest

Creator of Cheapass Games, videographer

Posted in designer, game, mac, video, windows

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm James Ernest. I run a tabletop game company, Cheapass Games, which I founded in 1996. I do the design and production for nearly all of the Cheapass titles. We've released upwards of 150 games, including board games, card games, dice games, and more.

I also do photography and video production, just one of the many side-talents that I've developed while running my own company for 18 years. I shot photos for the first Cheapass Games catalog on actual film, and quickly moved into digital photography and video.

Because I'm doing a lot of my business through Kickstarter, I've become a freelance videographer and consultant for other Kickstarter projects. I've produced about a dozen videos for digital games, tabletop games, comic books, and other unusual Kickstarter projects.

What hardware do you use?

I used to be all-Mac, but in the last few years my production has switched over to PC. My work computer is a Gateway DX4831 (Win 7). I just got a NEC MultiSync P241W for prepress and video work, retiring a genuinely sick Samsung that was developing stalagmite-like burn-in along the bottom edge... This is the first monitor I've owned that can actually calibrate itself. I feel like I'm living in the future. My second monitor is the functional but cheap LG Flatron E2241. I still have my old Wall Street G3 PowerBook on deck, because I'm often transferring old files from the early days of Cheapass, back when that was my production machine.

For video, I have a set of Sony cameras and lenses, Sony's E-Mount NEX series, including the VG10 video camera, and various NEX mirrorless camera bodies (NEX-7, F3, 3N). Several matching cameras means I can easily set up a multi-camera shoot. The 18-200mm NEX E-Mount lens is a great lens, and it's my current go-to lens for a one camera location shoot. I'm using a Zoom H4 recorder for audio, with a pair of Rode NTG2 shotgun mics for studio shots. It's overkill but it sounds great... I also have a Shure VP83F Lenshopper mic for run-and-gun (though usually when I'm doing R+G I don't need audio).

I still have a Mac in the music room, composing on a MacBook Pro with a Roland XP-30 keyboard and a set of Roland V-Drums. I also do quite a lot of music composition on my iPad when I am on the road.

And what software?

Here's another area where I've recently made a jump from Mac to PC. I edited my first movie (The Man Between, in 2003) on a Mac in Final Cut Pro, and for about the first 10 years of Cheapass I did all my layout work in Quark. Now it's all Adobe, all the time. I have the CS5 Master Suite, so I'm cutting video in Premiere, editing audio in Soundbooth, and doing layout in InDesign. Photoshop and Illustrator are the only constant pieces.

For music I'm using GarageBand. I have more powerful stuff but I really don't need it, and GarageBand is reasonable for anything I want to do.

What would be your dream setup?

I feel like I already have it. I'm lucky enough to have a large budget for work-based hardware. So aside from "bigger hard drive, faster processor" which is inevitable, there isn't much on my wish list. There's always a better camera out there, and I certainly do a lot of window shopping, but for making how-to-play videos and Kickstarter videos, my setup is more than adequate.

Graphically, game production is pretty simple, and I could probably still be making board games on my old Wall Street PowerBook if I didn't mind waiting a little longer for things to load. (I cheated back then; most of my games were in black and white). So except for the aforementioned dying monitor, I've been pretty well fixed for hardware and software.