Interview with Jesse Feiler


iLounge recently had the opportunity to interview Jesse Feiler, the author of

Making Movies, Photos, Music and DVDs On Your Mac: Using Apple’s Digital Hub

How long have you been a Mac User?

Since 1985.

What was your first Mac and what is your current Mac?

First was the original Macintosh. If I recall correctly one of the first applications I bought for that (in addition to the bundled MacWord and MacPaint) was a speech synthesis application. Speech is one of those technologies that is always “just about to happen”—on every platform. I think that whoever puts the pieces together properly will open the floodgates of speech-enabled computing. What needs to be put together is the technology—most people have that; and the speech interface issue needs to be solved. Apple’s integration of speech with AppleScript is fantastic, but there’s still one last piece of the puzzle. Speech is still being used as a keyboard replacement—we’re dictating text. In real life, speech is more nuanced and complicated. We’re close to something very exciting here.

The reason I bring this up is that not only am I interested in it, but the integration of various digital devices through Apple’s digital hub is probably going to be a big part of how speech evolves.

Current Mac is dual processor 1 GHz desktop and Titanium PowerBook. The original Mac needs a new power supply, and one of these days, I think I’ll get one just to be able to turn it on.

Do you have any story of an experience where your Mac and iPod saved the day?

While I was writing

Making Movies, Photos, Music and DVDs On Your Mac
, I was traveling a lot. I was away for 6 weeks last Spring, first at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, and then speaking on the MacMania Geek Cruise. I took lots of movies and photos on my travels (some are in the book). At one point, I dumped a whole bunch of video files (6 GB, I believe) off of the PowerBook and onto the iPod in disk mode. That gave me the disk space to keep editing other movies. Small point, but the iPod as portable FireWire disk is a big asset to me.

What is your most exciting moment as a Mac user?

The first time I saw QuickTime. I describe it in the book. Up until that time, we were trying to make computer output look as good as paper—remember WYSIWYG? With QuickTime, I saw computer output that not only was better than paper but that couldn’t be done on paper. (Paper doesn’t move.)

This was at a World Wide Developers Conference; at the following MacWorld (then in Boston) we were all looking at computer displays with video in them. It’s hard to realize today just how revolutionary this was. Over those few months, it became clear that the boundaries between different types of digital devices and media were breaking down.

And it’s in that arena of digital devices and media communicating with one another that we find the concept of the digital hub.

When you first took your new iPod out of the box and held it in your hand, what was your reaction?

1. The design. 2. The power (that is the amount of disk space).

Have you ever talked to Steve Jobs? If so, please explain the circumstances. If not, what would you like to talk to him about?

No, but Warren Beatty and David Hyde Pierce.

Have you named your iPod yet? If not, name it now, and let us know what the name is and why.

I suppose it’s name is “Don’t.” When it’s sitting on my desk and the cat starts to play with it (it’s just the right size and shape to be pushed around), I shout “Don’t.” So I guess that’s its name.

You’re stuck on a deserted island. All you have is your iPod and one album of MP3’s. What album is it and why?

I can tell you what’s on it now—Showboat, a Sondheim festival,Handel’s Royal Fireworks, and a Benny Goodman album. Also, of course, my contacts and calendar. And there’s about a GB of miscellaneous files that I’m transferring from one place to another.

What book(s) are you currently reading?

The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life

by Richard Florida.

Just finished a great novel by Louis Bayard,

Fool’s Errand

What is the most obscure application you have used your iPod for?

Probably temporary video storage.

Are you a station wagon, minivan, or SUV kind of guy? What make and model?

Silver VW Beetle

What do you want your iPod to do in the next major software upgrade?

I’m waiting eagerly for iSync.

What do you least like about the iPod?

Lots of fingerprints.

What is your favorite thing about the iPod?

Its design.

Do you have a case for your iPod? If so, which one?


How do you feel about Apple releasing iPod for Windows? Is this a good thing or bad thing?

I think it’s great for Apple to sell products to anyone. Apple’s differentiation is design and ease of use. It’s really important for people to realize that these matter. The “commodity market” for PCs relies on the assumption that it doesn’t matter what things look like or whether you have to spend extra time getting them to work.

Now that we are on the subject of Windows, what are your opinions about Microsoft and its business practices?

I’ve said on many occasions that Microsoft’s business practices (which many find inappropriate) really wouldn’t matter if the software were better.

What are your opinions on the state of digital music and downloading MP3s?

If you’re referring to the issues of copyright, I think this is the most critical issue we’re confronting today. I honestly don’t know where we should be going. I do think the extensions of copyrights for copyrights issued long ago seem wrong. An awful lot of intellectual property is now off-limits to reuse. Lawrence Lessig’s book,

The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons In a Connected World

addresses many of these issues. I’m not sure I agree with all of his suggestions, but he’s certainly defined the problems.

How and/or where did you research for your new book, Making Movies, Photos, Music and DVDs On Your Mac: Using Apple’s Digital Hub

The answer to this is why the book was so much fun to write. I took thousands (literally) of photos, and hour after hour of video. Because of my schedule, a lot of this was done along the California and Oregon coasts, in Yosemite, and in Alaska. It would be hard not to have a great time.

But then came the interesting part—the part I talk about repeatedly in the book. You have to learn to critique your work, to be able to identify the 90%—or 95%—of your work that will be thrown out. And then how to work with the remaining material to present it in the best way.

I talked to artists, photographers, teachers, and actors about how they use digital tools—as well as how they work on projects using video and photography, whether it’s digital or not.

Half the book is about the technology, and the other half is about what to do with it.

I remember a comment made a number of years ago by an engineer at Apple. He was reviewing the achievements that stemmed from the laser printer and the desktop publishing revolution that Apple started. He said that with all of these tools, and with the widespread availability of them, he was disappointed that people didn’t have better looking documents.

I tried to address this issue: not just how to get the things working together, but how to make the best movies, photos, music, and DVDs that you can.

If you could only give one tip about the iPod or Apple’s iApps, what would it be?

Digital media is cheap (you can argue that if you reuse it it’s almost free). Take lots of photos and video. When Apple shoots one of those great 30 second commercials, they do not take 30 seconds worth of footage. They’ve got hours and hours and hours of footage, and the 30 seconds you see are the best. You can’t do transitions in iMovie if there’s not at least a few seconds at the beginning and end of each clip; you can’t crop photos in iPhoto if they’re focused so tight on the camera that there’s nothing you can lose.

Shoot as much as you can, and learn to critique your own work. That’s the mantra of the book.

I have a true story from Karen Ludwig, a friend, actress, and teacher. She was filming a commercial for spaghetti sauce, and she spent the entire day reshooting her one line: she stirred the pot at the stove, dipped a spoon in it, turned to the camera, and said “Taste!” After something like the 2000th

take, the director said to her that her energy level was a little low. For the next take, she looked down into the pot of red spaghetti sauce and imagined that it was the director’s blood. She dipped in the spoon, scooped out some sauce, turned to the camera, and said, “Taste!” That was the shot they used, and she had a year of residual checks. (Technically, actors would call this an “inner object.”)

Take a paragraph to say whatever you like to get everyone to purchase your book.

To me, Apple’s digital hub is a social hub. It’s all about communication. With the rise of digital technology, we have affordable sophisticated tools that Apple has made easy to use. I’ve tried to describe the tools and suggest some of the things you can do with them—and how you can hone your skills at working in what is, for many people, a new medium.

There’s one other point that I think is important: DVDs are not just CDs you don’t have to rewind. I think that in 5-10 years, DVDs with integrated movies, text, and even applications will be far more important than desktop publishing ever was. With the ability in iDVD to add files of any type to your DVD, the sky is literally the limit.

It’s exciting, easy, and it is definitely changing the world.

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Dennis Lloyd

I'm a passionate, long-time lover of Apple products, and was a civil draftsman and graphic designer before creating the iLounge web site. My prior projects include work for The Los Angeles Times', and the company Creative Domain, where I developed websites for clients including Columbia Pictures, Disney, Fox Studios, Universal Pictures and Warner Brothers. As the Publisher of iLounge, I direct the site's community forums, photo galleries, iPod User Group, and general business affairs, which have grown under my watch to over sixteen million page views every month. I'm happily married with one daughter, one dog (Rocket the Wonderdog), one cat (Ferris), many iPods, iPhones, iPads, and two turntables.