Review of 2018

BBC Click live show with Spencer Kelly and Lara Lewington

This year has been overwhelming and exciting and it’s probably been the most varied one so far. The stand-out experience was at The Albert Hall for Space Shambles where I shared the stage with an actual Apollo astronaut who played a massive version of Lunar Lander, laser projected onto a 25m wide screen. 

But there have been many other highlights too – I performed a short run of my solo geek comedy show Hacked on Classicswent on tour with interactive dance show Choreocracy, and took Mindfulness Machine to TIFF in Toronto. 

But let’s start with what seems to be defining my career lately – lasers!

Lasers

My own open source laser control code base has been growing in capability and reliability. The underlying controller code has been optimised, and it can now easily handle multiple lasers (an upcoming project in January 2019 uses 8!).

Other capabilities added this year; complex warping functionality (for architectural mapping) and a graphic object that allows for vector occlusion.

I invested heavily in laser hardware this year, buying 3 x 11W RGB lasers. This should really make it easier to produce and develop my own shows, without the dependence on third party suppliers. (If you want to hire my lasers, let me know!)

In February, Lightning Strikes had its second outing at Spectra Aberdeen, and in November, that project won the ILDA award for Art and Innovation. (I also placed second for its sister project, Lightning Catchers)

A couple of interesting collaborations this year, in March, I teamed up with artist Joanie Lemercier to produce a laser projection project at The House of European History in Brussels.

Flux by Joanie Lemercier, lasers by me!

We had to figure out how to get Joanie’s vector graphics from VVVV (a visual programming environment) into my laser system. I built an app that could receive and parse SVGs over a socket in real time, and then send it to two lasers, that each had zones mapped onto various planes on the building. It was a really beautiful project, and lasers look especially good in the snow 🙂

And in August, I teamed up with comedian Bec Hill on her new show I’ll Be Bec at the Soho Theatre in London. It’s a fantastic time-travelling sci-fi comedy show that she’s hoping to take to Edinburgh in 2019. Unfortunately my contribution to the show is somewhat of a spoiler, but suffice it to say it was such a pleasure to work with Bec and the team, and it’s worth checking out her show if you can.

Space Shambles at the Royal Albert Hall

Lasering up the Royal Albert Hall with real life actual spacemen

Such an incredible experience deserves its own sub-heading!

In June, Robin Ince and Commander Chris Hadfield put on a spectacular space-themed cabaret show, Space Shambles, at the Albert Hall. The amazing line-up included my friends from Festival of the Spoken Nerd and musicians Grace Petrie and Laura from She Makes War, as well as the best and brightest science communicators in the industry.

In my section, I introduced the arcade game Lunar Lander, and replicated it with lasers. “Some people say the original game was so difficult that it was as hard as flying an actual Lunar Module… but there’s only one way to find out…”, at which point (and I still can’t quite believe this) I introduce Rusty Schweickart, the Apollo astronaut who was the first to test drive the real Lunar Module.

Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart effortlessly lands a laser lunar lander

He of course was cool as anything as he gently touched down the laser generated Lunar Lander, and of course, the crowd of 6000 erupted into applause! As a confirmed space enthusiast, it was probably the highlight of my career so far.

I’m really hoping that I can take Laser Lunar Lander out next year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing (and the 40th anniversary of the Lunar Lander arcade game!) If you can think of any opportunities or big buildings that could do with a massive laser version of a 70s arcade game, let me know.

Stage performances

The Albert Hall show was just one of many stage appearances for me, and it’s something I’m really enjoying these days.

Hacked on Classics at the Lowry, where I put a real laser into a Nintendo Zapper

A booking from The Lowry for their Week53 festival was the incentive I needed to update my solo geek comedy show Hacked on Classics. I worked with a producer and comedy director Chris Head to help give the show a semblance of narrative structure and bring out the humour.

But as well as that, I also made several appearances at An Evening of Unnecessary Detail, my favourite nerd comedy night in Bethnal Green. Early in the year I was a guest at several MathsFests, a show for young maths students. And the end of the year was finished of with Nine Lessons and Carols (where I played a Christmas song on a keytar made of floppy disk drives) and the wifi wars Christmas special at the Royal Institution.

Also in December I was part of the BBC Click live show, where I showed off one of my new lasers. It was great fun, a really nice team, and I hope to do more with them next year.

Choreocracy

The inimitable Choreocracy dancers’ laser portrait

It seems that much of my work this year has been in theatres and Choreocracy is no exception. Working with choreographer Tim Casson, we have put together an interactive dance show that you control with your mobile phone.

It’s a lot of fun, and we toured with it in November and December. We’re touring again next year more details at choreocracy.com.

Mindfulness Machine

A couple of years old now, but Mindfulness Machine made it to the DigiPlay exhibition at TIFF in Toronto, and then straight to the O’Reilly AI conference in New York.

Making

As well as the aforementioned floppy disk drive keytar, there were several other making projects this year. I made some radio controlled light-up shoes for Choreocracy (using bespoke PCBs, Adafruit feathers, 3D printed enclosures).

I also have continued work on a home light installation based on something from the movie Ex Machina – I started it a few years ago but got busy on other projects. I got myself a Glowforge laser cutter in the summer, and this was just the excuse I needed to finish laser cutting all the parts.

I also have the PCBs for this project and I’ve wired a third of it up… the rest is going to take a while, maybe before the end of 2019? 🙂

Other stuff

I spoke at a few conferences, including Smashing in Toronto and Freiburg, I ran a glow-stick band performance for my friends at Westvisions in Germany, I did a last minute TEDx talk in Surrey.

I spent the summer experimenting with 3D printing finishes (including coating resin) and I also took photos for Belongcon and FFConf.

What’s next?

This year, I feel like I reached the limit on the number of large installations I can organise, so next year I’m hiring Cat Hunter to help me promote and produce those events.

So if you have any good leads for events that need massive spectacular interactive light shows (PixelPyros, Laser Light Synths, Lightning Catchers, Laser games etc) please let me know! bookings@seblee.co

But it’s already off to a good start – I have a booking for Laser Light Synths in January at Middlesbrough Town Hall that will have the most lasers I’ve ever used!

And to help with the promotion of those events, I’m going to be breaking off my professional identity into a new brand and website (eventually at seblee.co) and keep this as my personal site, for random thoughts, project updates, and personal appearances / speaking engagements.

I realise that I have hardly blogged at all this year. I’ve got out of the habit, but it’s something I’d like to restart again. There are so many guides I want to write about using lasers, openFrameworks etc.

I’m struggling at the moment with social media and the state of the world. Brexit is a huge depressing thing that’s hanging over 2019, and will likely be very damaging for myself and this country.

But I feel truly blessed to have such a great and varied career. As long as people need joyful experiences, I’ll be here to provide them.

Timeline of 2018

Jan / Feb
UCL MechEng Engineering gig (laser show)
Maths fest Birmingham
Maths fest London
Spectra Aberdeen -Lightning Strikes
Toronto TIFF digiplay – Mindfulness Machine
Brussels, Flux – Collaboration with Joanie Lemercier

March
Trip to Toulouse (personal)
An Evening of Unnecessary Detail – Updated version of live Casio Vl1 demo
Belongcon photos

April
Implemented IDN protocol in ofxLaser
UK Laserist meet up
An Evening of Unnecessary Detail – Laser Duck Hunt
New York – Mindfulness Machine install at O’Reilly AI conference

May
Purchased 3 x 11W RGB lasers
Choreocracy previews, London and Ipswich
Westvisions, Germany glow stick band
UX London – Performance of Hacked on Classics
The Lowry Theatre, Hacked on Classics at Week 53 festival
Choreocracy Preview in Bournemouth

June
Space Shambles at the Royal Albert hall
Toronto – Smashing Conference

July
3D printing R&D
Prep for Bec’s show

August
Bec Hill – I’ll Be Bec run at the Soho Theatre, London
Laser cutter purchase

September
Smashing Conference Freiburg
Distributed Cyborg Ring kits
Ex Machina Light installation
TEDx frensham

October
Light installation wiring
Finished remote controlled LED shoes for Choreocracy
An Evening of Unnecessary Detail – Spoken Nerd DVD launch – Floppy drive keytar

November
FFconf photos
Choreocracy tour kicks off
BBC Click live recording

December
Choreocracy tour
Nine Lessons and Carols
WiFi wars Christmas Special

Review of 2017

I can hardly believe it but this is now the tenth anniversary of my annual review, and therefore I’ve been blogging for over ten years – how the internet has changed since 2007! Back then it was all about open APIs, personal websites and blogging. Facebook was a tidy and uncluttered alternative to MySpace, the first iPhone had just been released, Twitter was a year old, YouTube was only two, and I had a successful career as a Flash programmer, making Flash games and embarking on my speaking career.

Boy firing laser gun

From a personal point of view, it’s been a remarkable ten years. I’m in an incredible position now, making a living from creating massive interactive light and laser art installations, a variety of electronics projects, a fun side-line in geek comedy, and regular conference speaking appearances. I could not be any happier.

But this isn’t a review of the last ten years, it’s a review of this year – 2017! So let’s get started.

Light Installations

2017 has been my biggest year yet for light and laser installations, kicking off with Laser Light Synths at Spectra Aberdeen in February. It was the project’s second outing, which was developed considerably adding a host of extra synth sounds, including a very 80s-tastic slap bass.

Laser Light Synths projection

A brief installation at GEEK in Margate for Laser Arcade (including Laser Duck Hunt) and then immediately afterwards, PixelPyros was shipped off to Abu Dhabi with my crew for a two week run at Mother of the Nation Festival. In June, I was invited to project laser visuals on the side of a building for the Glasgow School of Art graduation show party.

Over the summer I worked on a new prototype project, Lightning Catchers, which debuted at Enlighten Festival Bury. I built 2m long “lightning rods” full of super-bright LEDs and projected laser-generated lightning on the church tower. If you catch the lightning with your rod, it lights up and buzzes. I applied for an Arts Council grant to scale this up to 12 lightning rods but sadly this was rejected – my first failed application!

As so often happens, this turned out to be a good thing. It meant that I didn’t have the budget to produce the full-scale interactive installation for my commission at Enchanted Parks in Gateshead and had to rethink the project. I ended up designing projections that recreated various electrical effects and projected them on to the iconic Saltwell Towers.

I completely re-wrote my laser control code and hired two of the biggest lasers I’ve ever used and created a 6 minute looping show that was all algorithmically generated in real time. I very rarely produce things that are non-interactive so it was an interesting challenge. Not to mention way easier to set up and run!

Mindfulness Machine

In February I packaged up a new project and sent it to Dublin for their Humans Need Not Apply exhibition. The Mindfulness Machine is a robot that likes to colour in. Based around an 80s plotter, it just quietly doodled away for the four month installation.

It’s going to be travelling in 2018, but I can’t tell you where to yet…

Dance

R&D with Tim Casson on the interactive dance project Choreocracy continued in December and we have got full funding to finish it up and take it on tour! It’ll be visiting several venues in Spring 2018.

Public Appearances

I didn’t have as much time for speaking this year but still presented at a few good events. I brought my laser to Render Conference Oxford in March, and Generate London in September. And spoke at a handful of other events throughout Europe.

Although I didn’t get the chance to perform Hacked On Classics this year, I did appear at a couple of Evenings of Unnecessary Detail and closed the year with Cosmic Shambles’ Nine Lessons and Carols event with Robin Ince. It seemed to go down really well and I expect it to lead to bigger and better things in 2018.

https://twitter.com/JamieBGall/status/943574346269851650

Misc

Fun side projects this year included making a hardware single key keyboard and fully restoring an 80s keytar. Sadly the podcast was somewhat neglected; we only managed two episodes! Not sure what’s going to happen to that in future to be honest. But it’d be nice to getting it going again if I can.

Summary

I’m not entirely sure how best to document and publicise my work these days. The last few years I’ve been relying on Twitter more than my blog, but I feel like that is less effective now (not to mention the nazi problem). I should probably redesign this site and update it – the projects page is woefully out of date. And I think I will re-instate my mailing list. It seems the way to go.

But it’s been a great year for me, a fantastic mix of projects, all very exciting. And it seems like the art installations are taking off to a point where I rarely have time for conferences.

And it doesn’t stop here ; the first half of 2018 is already very booked up. I’m back in Aberdeen for Spectra with more lasers, I’ve been commissioned for the brand new Science Gallery in London, and I’m performing Hacked on Classics at the Lowry in Salford in May. And there are a few other things that I can’t talk about yet…

As the year closes, I’m thankful for the success and the support I’ve had. Here’s to another ten years!

Timeline of 2017

February
Mindfulness Machine install at Science Gallery Dublin
Laser Light Synths at Spectra Aberdeen
Laser Arcade at GEEK

March
Appearance at Raspberry Pi birthday celebrations
Keynote at Render Conference, Oxford
PixelPyros in Abu Dhabi

April
Visited Dublin to document Mindfulness Machine
Appearance at An Evening of Unnecessary Detail – Nintendo Laser Gun

May
Appearance at Hafentalks in Düsseldorf

June
Laser show at Glasgow School of Art
Appearance at An Evening of Unnecessary Detail – Lunar Lander

July
Sent out first Mystery Makers’ Box
Restored vintage Keytar
Made Keyboard simulator

August
Bought a new 3D printer

September
Appearances at Berlin and Zaandaam
Appearance at Hackaday, London
Keynote at Generate Conference, London

October
Lightning Catchers debut at Enlighten Bury
Laser show at WestVisions, Duisburg, Germany

November
Official photographer at FFConf

December
Lightning Strikes at Enchanted Parks, Gateshead
Week of R&D for Choreocracy, with Tim Casson
Appearance at Nine Lessons and Carols with Robin Ince.

Review of 2016

It’s been quite a year, that’s for sure. Politics in both the UK and the US have been increasingly chaotic, and I can’t help leaving this year in a high state of anxiety. It’s certainly had an effect on my productivity and in many ways has left me questioning myself; am I really doing the best thing for society with my work?

But perhaps a bit of fun and entertainment is a necessary and desirable distraction from the turmoil in the news pages? And thankfully I have had another successful year; my work has been steadily progressing and I’ve been enjoying it. There has been a good variety of different projects and events.
Continue reading “Review of 2016”

Review of 2015 – the year of electronics

2015 has gone by in a blur – at first I couldn’t remember the details of what I did. There have been so many different threads and distractions that it occasionally felt like I didn’t accomplish much. But now I’ve looked back at my calendar I’ve realised that there was actually a lot going on. In fact it’s taken until mid-way through January to compile it all together!

Electronics

Synth Prototype1

If 2014 was the year of the laser, I’d say that 2015 was the year of electronics. Following on from my LED emblazoned Light Synths I continued to develop my skills, working on a wide variety of different electronics projects and workshops.

ST4i

IMG_5341_sml

The year was off to a flying start with my Internet of Things workshops, or ST4i, as I cheekily prefer to call it. Three sell out workshops in Brighton, followed by more in Amsterdam, London and Dusseldorf. It’s been really great to share the electronics stuff I’ve learned and connect little prototypes to the internet. I loved it, and thankfully the participants seemed to really enjoy it too.

In February, I wrote an in-depth article for net magazine all about ST4i, giving an overview of all the various platforms and devices. This stuff moves so fast that it may be a little out of date, but you can see it here – How to Build Cool Stuff for the Internet of Things.

And then in June, I was invited to speak about IoT on Radio4. It was a fun segment on “You and Yours” (from 18:50 onwards) and we all had a knowing laugh about the internet fridge again. Fun times!

I’ll be updating the ST4i workshops with a brand new version with a really exciting twist. Join the mailing list if you want to be the first to hear about the new workshops.

Collaborations

In February I spent a week with choreographer Tim Casson on a series of experiments involving live audience interaction with dancers. I have a very sedentary lifestyle, so it’s really wonderful to work with a group of talented dancers so good at expressing themselves with their physicality. Tim’s a really nice guy, and I’m sure we’ll be continuing this R&D into 2016. You can watch this little chat we had on youtube about our work together for South East Dance in August.

spoontesting2The “Get Enough” Robot Spoon by Dominic Wilcox

In June I worked with my artist-inventor friend Dominic Wilcox on a series of crazy breakfast related inventions for Kelloggs. I completed the electronic elements for 2 or 3 of his crazy ideas, including the Soggyometer and the “Get Enough” Robot Spoon (I’m particularly proud of the expressive eye animation).

Working with Dominic was a real pleasure and delight – I hope I get the chance to work with him again in the future.

More electronics, servo motors and 3D printers

In other electronics side projects I worked on a vending machine with multi-coloured LEDs for the hackspace, my office lighting, with adjustable daylight LEDs and a weather station reader.

One of the larger things I worked on was a highly controllable servo motor for a 3D printer extruder. Servo motors are complicated, and I really need to write a few posts to document that project. Suffice it to say that it took several weeks to fully understand and program brushless DC servos but in the end, I managed to get a prototype extruder working perfectly.

IMG_0023The servo powered extruder on the Delta One 3D printer prototype

The main benefit of using brushless DC servos on an extruder rather than the traditional stepper motor is weight. You can make a very lightweight direct drive extruder on the print head that is more powerful than a large stepper motor.

This has been for an ongoing project of Paul Strotten, the engineer I’ve worked with over the last 3 years. He’s been designing and building his 3D printer for a year or two now. The idea is to bring it to market but progress comes in fits and starts. But I think the servo drive hardware could be useful for people outside of that, so I really need to work that up into an open source hardware project this year.

Lasers

Of course my obsession with lasers is continuing, with three more laser shows for Smashing Conference in Oxford, LA and New York, each progressively becoming more interactive. And again working with Val Head on the animations and laser help from Paul Hayes. The NY edition was on Broadway, and projected onto the Avenue Q set, and the LA show had anaglyphic red/blue 3D.

IMG_0279
ofxLaser in action

In the summer I started work on releasing my laser control code into a reusable library for openFrameworks – ofxLaser. It takes care of drawing laser shapes, optimising the path of the beam, calibrating the colour balance, amongst other things.

My friends Tangible Interaction in Vancouver used it for a wonderful participatory laser animation installation ANIMA.  I’ll be continuing to refine the addon throughout 2016.

Oh and I finally got qualified – my laser safety training certificate was issued in September.

Money

I know it’s very un-British to talk about money, but financial extremes played such a big part of 2015 I can’t really ignore it.

The year started with an unexpected tax bill of £25k! The result of some very poor financial planning; I had made made some money which I then used up developing Laser Light Synths which fell in the next tax year – I was paying tax on profit that I no longer had.

I fired my accountant, managed to get the bill down to £15k and took out a loan to pay it off, but the monthly repayments were a huge burden. I’m very thankful that the ST4i workshops were such a great success, they pretty much single handedly helped me to keep my head above water in that time.

And then the second half of the year was pretty much the opposite. A couple of years ago when Jenny and I moved to a new flat, we managed to keep hold of the old one, which I rented to my brother. Since then, property prices went up considerably so it made sense to sell the flat.

It was a huge relief to be able to pay off all our debts and keep some money in the bank. And knowing I have a safety net in case of bad cashflow is a massive luxury. Of course I should really put that money in our current mortgage…

Although I greatly benefitted from the situation, it highlighted to me how unfair the financial system is in this country. If you have money you can make more money, pretty much out of thin air. I’m greatly concerned about the inequality of the distribution of wealth, although I’m not entirely sure what to do about it. But that’s a story for another time.

PixelPyros & Laser Light Synths

IMG_0143PixelPyros crew rigging the massive screen
After a break in 2014, PixelPyros had two outings in 2015, at Media City in Salford, and at the Arts By the Sea festival in Bournemouth. It was good to revisit the project, and we had a few more pixels to play with thanks to a pair of upgraded projectors.
IMG_9663Laser Lights Synths at dConstruct
Laser Light Synths had a couple of successful mini-outings at dConstruct and the Brighton Mini Maker Fair.

If you’re interested in booking either of these projects for your event in 2016, please get in touch. seb@leedelisle.com

Conferences

CSO19XcXAAAEJeGMotivational speaking at its finest

Not quite as many conferences as previous years, but still plenty to be getting on with. I travelled to York, Shropshire, Amsterdam, Trondheim in Norway, and there were a few in London, mostly opening or closing keynotes.

Diversity scholarship

I ended the year with a CreativeJS workshop in Brighton, and inspired by Remy and Julie, I set up a diversity scholarship to encourage under-represented groups in our industry to attend. I was astonished to get applications from all around the world, and I wish I could have given every applicant a place. It was possibly the most diverse workshop that I’ve ever run and that made it a better experience for me, and hopefully everyone else.

What’s in store for 2016?

Good question! I’m currently taking some time to prioritise all the various strands to my career. My priority is the new ST4i workshop and that’ll be up and running very shortly.

Other than that I have a lot of options. Laser Light Synths needs more work, so I could apply for a grant to take that on tour (like I did with PixelPyros in 2013). Both that and PixelPyros could do with a more co-ordinated marketing push.

And I’m embarrassed about how little I’ve blogged, and I really need to document my projects better. I’m working on a new website, and maybe that’ll give me the impetus I require. I really need to give back more, both in documentation and in my open source projects, and I hope to do better this year.

I feel like maybe my career is in a bit of a transition but between which states? Well either way, it’s a fun ride. I consider myself exceptionally lucky and privileged to have this lifestyle and the chance to pursue almost any interest I want. Here’s to 2016!

2014 – the year of the laser

IMG_5097

It’s New Year’s Eve as I write this, the perfect time for little reflection on the departing year. And although my blog has been a little neglected, the annual reviews are still coming – this is the 8th I’ve done so far.

IMG_5097

My overriding memory of 2014 is that of variety. Whereas 2013 was mainly taken up with the juggernaut of the PixelPyros tour, 2014 was made up of a series of smaller projects.
Continue reading “2014 – the year of the laser”

Review of 2013

Review of 2013

As the new year starts I like to reflect on the past year, and it’s become quite the annual tradition. Clearly this is quite a self indulgent activity, and I do it more as a reminder to myself than anything else. That said, I’ve really enjoyed reading my friends’ yearly reviews, Remy, Simon, Laura, and Val. So maybe you’ll enjoy this too? Who knows? I can’t promise anything though 🙂

PixelPyros

PixelPyros
PixelPyros

The project that dominated 2013 was undoubtably PixelPyros. After the successful launch of the project in 2012 at the Brighton Digital Festival, the Arts Council suggested that I take the show on tour. In January I started making plans.

It’s hard to describe how large an undertaking this was, so I’ll probably go into it in some separate blog posts. But suffice it to say it monopolised my time for most of the year. The sheer effort of will required to make a project like this materialise out of nothing cannot be underestimated. Finding venues, negotiating with suppliers, applying for funding, health and safety reports, event insurance, and that’s before we even start looking at the technical implications, R & D and coding!

PixelPyros crew Huddersfield
The PixelPyros crew in Huddersfield

Thankfully I had some pretty special people helping, including production manager Becky Stevens, programmer Paul Hayes and designer Val Head, not to mention my friends at laser specialists LM – I couldn’t have done it without them.

It was a massive project, and a big challenge, and at the end of it I’m left with a feeling of elation. The 5 dates nationwide attracted crowds of tens of thousands of people. Artistically and technically I couldn’t be happier, and I loved working with the crew (and the lasers, but more of that below).

Lasers

Lasers
The laser and projector set up for PixelPyros

Yes, lasers require their own heading. I spent a lot of time in 2013 playing with lasers. I bought a small one for practicing with in the studio, and on tour we used really powerful ones. It was quite the challenge to get the lasers working in sync with the projectors.

I used the open Etherdream hardware and programmed it with Memo Akten’s openFrameworks addons. (More info on my laser blog posts) I added a lot of new code that I’ll be continuing to work on this year with an aim to release for public consumption.

But on the whole it was just a delight to work with lasers. It’s such a different paradigm from pixels, and the intensity and colours are spectacular. Expect to see more lasers from me in the future.

Speaking

8436763912_71085c3030_oPhoto by Geri Coady

I spoke at fewer conferences this year than previous ones, mostly because I’ve been concentrating on my projects, and speaking can be quite a distraction, much as I love it.

I gave keynote speeches at FOWD London, Web Expo in Surrey, and From the Front in Bologna.

The speaking highlight for me was probably at New Adventures back in January. It was the last one of three and I’d attended all of the others. Simon and his team put so much love into this conference and this is reflected by the warmth of the audience. It was probably the best feedback I’ve ever had from a conference. And I don’t think it was just because I gave away a Commodore 64.

Comedy

Spoken Nerd
Glow stick motion detection fun at the Festival of the Spoken Nerd

In April I was offered the guest spot at the Festival of the Spoken Nerd‘s London gigs. It’s a great show and Helen, Steve and Matt were so welcoming – I really enjoyed it. I pretty much just did what I do at conferences (and I always overran – sorry guys!) but it was a real learning experience to present creative programming to a new audience in a different environment. I really hope I get the chance to work with them again, and it’s also given me some ideas for more performance based projects in the future.

Creative Coding Podcast

There was a burst of activity between February and April where my co-host Iain Lobb and I produced a 30 minute podcast live every week. We got some great guests and I liked the new shorter format, but it was still a bit stressful grappling with the various bits of slightly flaky technology to pull it together.

We’ve made the decision to put it on hiaitus for a while, but I’m sure we could be persuaded to bring it back. Do you miss it? Let us know!

Art projects

Lunar Trails print
One off Lunar Trails prints, hopefully going on sale in 2014

Apart from PixelPyros, Lunar Trails also had an outing in Brussels in November at the gorgeous arts venue BOZAR. It’ll be travelling more in 2014, more information on that coming soon.

I also spent a large part of 2013 working on one-off prints, made using a plotter from the 80s. Putting them up for sale has long been on my list of things to sort out – hopefully this year!

My other big project PixelPhones was on the back burner a little, although I expect to revive that in the coming months too.

Awards

Critters
Photo stolen from Microsoft

In June I was amazed and honoured to win 3 Microsoft Critter awards! Developer of the year, Voice of the year and Web Personality of the year. Truly astonishing.

Coverage

In March, there was a profile of me in the Make blog, and in December Leila Johnson interviewed me for Hack Circus.

I was also on Canadian national radio – CBC’s Spark program talking about creative coding with Nora Young.

I was a guest on Stacey’s Bitchcast and Happy Monday with Sarah and Josh, as well as loads of radio interviews during the PixelPyros tour.

US visa

It’s been a great year, but it’s not all good news. You may remember that in 2012 I had a bit of trouble with US immigration, and now I can no longer enter the country on an ESTA visa waiver. And when I applied for a visa to visit for the Eyeo festival it was refused! I’m not sure how to fix this one, but I’ll be finding a good lawyer to try to figure it out, maybe next year. Full story on the podcast.

Workshops

I set up a brand new workshop this year all about making games in JavaScript and I love teaching it! I haven’t had as much time for running workshops as I usually would, but I’ve taken my CreativeJS training to the BBC, Lego and PA Consulting.

My friend and regular collaborator Val Head has taken on teaching my CreativeJS for designers workshop in the USA (and possibly even in the UK this year!).

And expect more UK courses from me this Spring. Sign up to the mailing list if you want to be the first to hear about new workshops.

CreativeJS.com

The CreativeJS.com site has had another brilliant year with nearly half a million visitors, and there’s a fantastic team of writers covering all the latest and funnest JavaScript projects and tutorials.

What’s next?

2014 is already shaping up well, net magazine are running a big feature about me and my work in the March edition, I’ve got the GEEK festival‘s residency for game-making artists running until the end of February, more CreativeJS workshops, another laser based project in the middle of March, and I’ve been invited to install Lunar Trails in a gallery in France throughout April and May.

Speaking of Lunar Trails, the engineer that built the hanging plotter with me, Paul Strotten, is currently designing and building a delta 3D printer with a view to selling it. It looks absolutely amazing – his stuff is always just really solidly made. So I expect to be playing with 3D printers this year.

2013

So to summarise, I’ve worked very hard in 2013 and it’s been rewarding. The only things I’d like to change are to be able to put more time into my code to make it more reusable and contribute better to open source projects. But on the whole, it’s been great – let’s hope things continue this well in the future.

Review of 2012

Seb Lee-Delisle

Seb Lee-Delisle me at dConstruct, photo by hellogeri

Historically, I’ve not been that timely in writing my annual review, and this year is no exception. But I have been consistent – I’ve managed to pull one together every year since 2007! And it’s been a great way to chart my progress through my what-I-call career 🙂

So let’s take a long hard look at 2012, and see what it’s got to say for itself.

Digital Artist

Lunar Trails

Well it was certainly busy, I’ll give it that. And there were some big milestones. It’s the year I came around to the idea of calling myself a digital artist. I always shied away from such a seemingly pretentious title, but I realised that I can be my own type of artist, one that makes accessible projects that are just there for the fun of it, without necessarily any deeper underlying meanings. And that’s the kind of artist I’m happy to be.

PixelPyros official video from Seb Lee-Delisle on Vimeo.

There were three big art projects for 2012, in chronological order PixelPhones (still in progress), PixelPyros, and Lunar Trails. All three represented a huge learning experience for me, the PixelProjects are both made with C++ and openFrameworks (with a sprinkling of JavaScript) and Lunar Trails was the biggest electronics/hardware project I’ve ever undertaken (a combination of JavaScript, Processing and Arduino).

Speaking

My speaking career has also coming along nicely. There’s been the occasional after-lunch slot (organisers think I wake the audience up in the traditionally snoozy grave-yard slot) I’ve also given the opening keynote several times (something I love and hope to do more in 2013).

@seb_ly lighting up everyone's phones at Mobilism
Lighting up everyone’s phones at Mobilism by Brad Frost

Speaking highlights for me include Mobilism where 300 phones were synced together in a PixelPhones demonstration in a beautiful Amsterdam theatre, and dConstruct, where hundreds of high-brow attendees went mental with glow-sticks here in Brighton.

Workshops

The CreativeJS workshops are still proving popular, and the new course for non-coders seems to have gone down well – the promo video has had over 20,000 views and I even took it to the BBC news team in March.

Disappointment

But it wasn’t all plain sailing – in June, due to some poor legal advice, I was refused entry to the USA, and was incredibly lucky not to be flown straight home.

But they let me stay long enough to visit the excellent Eyeo Festival and I got to hang out with friends in NYC. So no complaints!

Another disappointment was a charity gig in New York for which I created a special low-bandwidth PixelPhones to work with 60,000 phones. It fell through at the last minute. Perhaps I’ll share the full story at some point.

In the overall scheme of things, these minor disappointments were more than overshadowed by the amazing successes.

Web

MMOAsteroids A playful highlight this year was my April fool’s joke; a fake multi-player asteroids where many were convinced they were in a retro MMO shoot’em-up.

And of course the CreativeJS website is still going strong with a full team of writers.

Podcast

The Creative Coding Podcast has become a little more sporadic this year but there were a couple of real highlights. My favourite episodes featured interviews with Kyle McDonald and Zach Liebermann. The most popular episodes have been getting over 30,000 downloads so I guess Iain and I had better pull our finger out for 2013!

In summary

2012 was pretty epic. Lots of new experiences, new friends. I learned so much, was busier than ever and still don’t quite seem to know where all this is going. I’m going to just continue following my nose, and find more intriguing projects to make.

Coming next

2013 has already been pretty amazing (with the New Adventures conference and workshops in Oxford) and it’s not letting up any time soon. I’m talking to various parties about scaling up PixelPhones for stadium size gigs, there’s the possibility of Lunar Trails travelling around the world, and I’m applying for a grant to take PixelPyros on tour in September.

And big changes at home too with a new Brighton flat I’m moving into this week!

If you’re still reading, thanks for indulging me, and I promise to blog more in 2013.


Summary by month

January
Attended New Adventures Conference
CreativeJS workshops in Manchester and Leeds
Posted ‘Angry Birds’ live coding video from Update conf

February
FITC Amsterdam

March
Non coders’ courses at BBC and in Brighton

April
MMOsteroids
CreativeJS workshops in Amsterdam
DiBi conference keynote
BTPlay
State of the Browser “Battle of the Browsers”

May
SourceDevCon london
Mobilism Amsterdam
CreativeJS workshops brighton
Reasons to be Appy London Multimedia Teachers conference Denmark

June
Eyeo Festival
Reasons to be Creative
NY Cancelled workshops

July
Private training at the Unit
First trip to Japan – conference and training

August
PixelPyros preparation

September
Pulled off PixelPyros
dConstruct glow sticks
CreativeJS workshops in Brighton x 2
onGameStart in Poland
LXJS in Lisbon, Portugal PixelPhones NYC that didn’t happen

October
WebExpo
Lunar Trails preparation

November
Dublin Lunar Trails installation
LWS London presentation with Remy
Sold remaining PiM shares to current directors
Found a new flat

December
Lots of training!
CreativeJS workshops x3
Taught degree course module at Sussex Downs College

EventBrite, please help us leave PayPal


flickr/alebonvini

Dear EventBrite,

Unless I set up bank accounts in every country I do business in I have no choice but to use PayPal with your service. I don’t want to stop seeing you but then I don’t want PayPal either. It’s me or the dog.

You and I have had a mostly happy relationship over the years. Sure, your content editor looks like it’s from the 90s, but that doesn’t matter to me. I’ve grown to love your cheery orange masthead, and large friendly typeface.

But now, it might finally be over. It’s just not working.

It’s not me, it’s you.

You might have noticed that people are having trouble with PayPal lately, especially event organisers. I’ve had my own fair share of trouble with them – on my recent US tour, they started refusing good credit cards for no reason.

So, understandably, I stopped using PayPal and wanted to use your credit card processing instead. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t get the money til after the event, but you thoughtfully set up advanced payments for me.

But disaster struck!

For my new Creative JavaScript workshop in Amsterdam, you wouldn’t accept my bank details, because it’s a UK bank, and the event isn’t in UK currency.

So I have no choice – either I set up bank accounts in every country I do business in, or I have to use PayPal. And frankly I’d rather stab myself in the face with a fork.

So this really could be it. Farewell my breezy orange friend. It’s been fun.

love

Seb

Christmas round up!

It’s been a busy December so here’s a quick round-up of Christmas related things I’m involved with this year.

12 days of CreativeJS – for each of the 12 days of Christmas, we’ll be posting a bite-size CreativeJS tip.

Festive Creative Coding Podcast with Dan Shiffman, author of “Learning Processing” and creator of the Processing Kinect plug-in.

And on a more personal note, here’s our annual Christmas video song. A bit of a simpler one than in previous years but I hope you enjoy it!
Continue reading “Christmas round up!”