Joe Sparks’ Creative Tools 2018

I’ve spent my entire professional life working inside of creative software going all the way back to my earliest experiences as a kid with a Commodore 64 with Koala Pad, to the Deluxe series from Electronic Arts on the Amiga (Deluxe Paint, Deluxe Music Construction Set, Deluxe Video), to VideoWorks from Macromind and Swivel 3D from Paracomp in the later 80’s. I made this graphic below in 2018 to celebrate my initiation into computer graphics, animation, and music creation that began in the mid 1980’s:

Joe 2018 with hard/software from 1980s
Hey it’s me in June 2018 with my main tools from the mid-1980’s. I learned the basics of all I would be doing in my career from the Deluxe creativity series from Electronic Arts on Commodore C-64 and Amiga computers. For real’s.

Fast forward 30+ years later to my main tools of today. I will keep this 2018 Tools Page updated all year. Next year, I’ll start a new page for 2019. If I keep with, I will have this historical archive! (That excites me).

Below are the tools I use, most important and most-often used first. Some of these I have used for so many years. They are a part of my daily life.

My 2018 List of Primary Creative Tools

Adobe CC 2018  My top tools used in Adobe Creative Cloud are After Effects, Premiere Pro, Photoshop, Audition, Animate, Illustrator. Each one of these are life-long disciplines. You could build an entire career upon any one of these. I have used these tools on and off for decades (I was a beta tester for Photoshop 1.0 in 1990). After Effects is a must-have animation tool for movie-makers (I love it so much I wrote this love song to it). Most pro artist-animators and video makers could not imagine living without at least Photoshop. Premiere is my fav video editor. Illustrator is the king of vector editing. Flash/Animate is a brilliant animation tool, which I used to make my hit show “Radiskull & Devil Doll”. Audition is great for noise reduction and so much video-related audio editing.

Joe Sparks Puppet with After Effects
My alter ego having fun with After Effects, making the titles for “After Effects, I Love you” –

Presonus Studio One Professional – This is my main music and audio creation tool. It comes with many AMAZING instruments. All music I have made since 2017 was created in this incredible DAW. I started with v3.0 in 2017, and I have upgraded to v4.0 in June 2018.

Studio One v3.5
Working inside of Presonus Studio One v3.5.5 on the “After Effects..” music

Blender 3D – Legendary open-source 3D modeling and animation software. Free to get started. Filled with wonderful tools. Particles, fur, wow. Also includes a video editor, motion tracking, and an amazing user base (which produces models, materials, tutorials, extensions, etc.).

Blender 3D
Making myself pop out of a 3D Egg (texture mapped with my American Flag Scarf) in the mighty and powerful Blender 3D.
Keyframes from my Easter Egg promo for AFX I <3 U I put together the Egg animation part in a couple of hours on Easter Sunday 2018 (see below). I thought it was a pretty funny promo!

Element 3D (Video Copilot) – I often export models from Blender, and then animate inside of After Effects using Video Copilot Element 3D.  It is fast, fun, and deeply integrated into After Effects. I used it extensively in Babette Bleu, and it shows up in “Too Much” and “After Effects, I Love You.” Great for making 3D titles with After Effects text layers. Plus, Andrew Kramer is awesome and makes wonderful tutorials.

Presonus AudioBox iTwo – High Resolution Digital Audio Interface. I plug my Mic into this. Higher resolution and quality than any other audio interface I have ever owned (and I have owned MANY since the 80’s).

Panasonic Lumix GH5 – My main camera. Most of what I have shot since 2017, I shot with this. Amazing free-hand walkaround stabilization, high color-depth  digital video: 4-2-2 up to 4-4-4. You could shoot a major motion picture with this camera, and most people would never know it was shot on a reasonably priced camera.

GH5 and Joe
Joe Sparks working in his studio with the Panasonic GH5.

PANASONIC LUMIX G X VARIO II PROFESSIONAL LENS, 12-35MM, DUAL I.S. 2.0 WITH POWER OPTICAL I.S., MIRRORLESS MICRO FOUR THIRDS, H-HSA12035 (2017 Model – USA BLACK) – This is my work-a-day lens for all my shoots since 2017. I welcome suggestions for additional lenses I should get (for my kind of work)!

Audio-Technica AT2035  Studio Condenser Microphone – My main microphone for singing and voiceover. Inexpensive mic, yet my voice has never sounded better. The pre-amp is supplied by the Presonus AudioBox iTwo, through the XLR cable.

Joe Sparks AT2035
Joe Sparks is recording with the Audio-Technica AT2035 (Shot with GH5)

Zoom H4n Pro 4-Channel Handy Recorder Bundle – When I need to capture the highest quality audio on remote video shoots, I use this to record audio in addition to the audio that the camera records. The quality and resolution is astonishing, and everyone who makes videos should own one of these portable audio recorders.

Interviewing myself with the Zoom H4N portable digital audio recorder.

My Custom Windows 10 Computer

My Computer Parts
Unopened boxes of parts for my 2017 Win10 computer

Every 6-8 years I leave the Macintosh and get a Windows machine. This time I did it because I could not buy a Mac that allowed me to choose the GPU, and I really wanted the Nvidia GEFORCE GTX 1080. In 2017, I put together a list of parts (with the help of my nephew Thomas), and here’s the core components:

Intel Boxed Core i7-6900K Processor

Fractal Design Define R5 Case

ASUS Prime X299-DELUXE LGA2066 DDR4 M.2 U.2 Thunderbolt 3 USB 3.1 X299 ATX Motherboard


EVGA Supernova 1000 T2

CORSAIR Hydro Series H100i v2 AIO Liquid CPU Cooler

Samsung 960 EVO Series – 1TB PCIe NVMe – M.2 Internal SSD

4 of these: G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 16GB 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 3200

Toshiba X300 6TB Performance Desktop and Gaming Hard Drive


I have placed Amazon Affiliate links on most item title names above.

Here’s a bonus affiliate Link for Coinbase (easy way to get started with Cryptocurrency).

~ Joe Sparks, San Francisco 2018

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