When will someone invent a practical and usable outdoor computer (not just a laptop) that will mean I can finally go outside and work on my projects in the warm and fresh country air?
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
My name is Nick Shreck, I grew up deep in isolation in a remote Cornish country house. My dad was an early interactive innovator, developing educational interactive teaching units called System80.
I grew up submerged in his interactive endeavours and was privileged to be using computers before I can even remember. I spent some time in the US working on an interactive TV show and an interactive educational cdrom series.
Several years ago I returned to the UK and set up www.jellyweb.com - a creative partnership. We are a company in limbo, producing content for the current and available platforms but waiting for the oncoming media merge of videogames/tv/internet to be a part of a much more sophisticated level of true interactive entertainment. I am currently enjoying the Medal of Honor multiplayer videogame and am in a HAL from 2001 revival, sprinkled with a bit of KITT from knightrider to help keep things interesting :)
What do you do for inspiration?
I watch and analyse a lot of movies and TV shows like the simpsons, futurama, southpark and (uk) sitcoms like 'the office' and 'black books'.. Basically every time something makes me laugh, or feel excited or go "wow" I make a mental note of it for future use. I have a lot of respect for directors like Kubrick, Spielberg and (Ridley) Scott. Their visual direction and style is just mouth watering. This pushes me on and reminds me that down the path I have chosen is a bright future where true interactive entertainment will be on a par with these high quality media investments and that I should keep pushing on.
When I am really stuck and need an inspiration jolt for a site I usually surf through the flash collection sites, my first stop is, of course, favouritewebsiteawards.com and I also use flashkit.com
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
As I said, I regularly surf over to favouritewebsiteawards.com to keep up to date with the latest releases and hottest new sites on the net. I enjoy www.quicktime.com for a high quality look at the new and upcoming movies and www.overclockers.co.uk for all the latest in high-tech computer equipment. I should also say that I'm forever on a variety of chat programs as I completely live on the internet. My 'real life' social life is fairly non-existent bar that of my girlfriend and children. It's a fantastic new way to live and I have met many interesting and varied people around the world who share the same specific computer/flash/motorbike/videogame/movie/tv interests as I do.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
In general, it has to be surviving this long! The new media scene has been a tough and rocky roller coaster with many companies falling by the wayside. My current location is terrible for high-end new media work so we rely on the internet as our source of income. It's been a long and hard struggle but we are still here fighting!!
If we are talking projects, it has to be www.astral-projection.com. We worked hard to break new ground and, ironically, weeks after it's release the new flash mx tackles many of the technical issues we were encountering.
Most significantly flashmx's ability to use video. We had been using bitmap sequences but the flashplayer was struggling to keep up and we had many cache and virtual memory problems that meant a sophisticated loading/unloading system was required all of these problems disappeared with the new flash mx.
What astral-projection.com means to us might not be immediately visible in this project but the first foundations into a new kind of site and experience have been laid. We have attempted to develop a new way of tackling websites. In the footsteps of www.derbauer.de, to bring a more cinematic experience to the web. We have thrown the 'website checklist' out the window and tried to reinvent the wheel, concentrating on different aspects that the internet's strengths could be used for. We have had to become elitist by using this approach, but in general it's only a matter of time before this style becomes accessible by the masses.
Powerful cpu speeds and large amounts of memory combined with high-bandwidth connections AND most importantly the new and ever-evolving net culture looking to be entertained by the internet.
What software couldn't you live without?
I absolutely couldn't live without flash. That program is my life blood. I'd also hate to be without lightwave, as it helps to bring my creative visions to life.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
We have the usual turnover of clients sites ranging for simple to elaborate - but more importantly we have finally found the time to work on our own site and in-house projects recently.
We will be launching our new media catalogue and site collection which aims to bring affordable, template style new-media to the masses, but with a personal touch. Additionally, we are working on a collection of interactive experiments under a single theme which we will be launching within the next couple of months and continuing to develop the project that is closest to my heart and most secret of all, but I don't want to share details of these quite yet ;-)
Who is your target audience?
Ultimately, I want to appeal to the general, youth orientated entertainment market in the oncoming merge of tv/videogames/internet but until then we are slipping in and out of different groups. Recently we dived into the online trance scene via astral-projection.com whereas jellyweb.com appealed to the aspiring new media designer and through our catalogue and site collection we hope to reach a computer savvy, entrepreneurial business market.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
We have never fully embarked on a marketing spree to date and have been intrigued and flattered by the level of interest that we have received from a few posts on some flash boards and, of course, an award on favouritewebsiteawards.com.
However we do intend to begin properly marketing ourselves via search engines, newsletters, forums and any other means at our disposal. The amount of traffic we have received has always significantly increased on receipt of a favouritewebsiteaward.com award, for which we can only say a big heartfelt thanks :-)
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
1) I've always loved www.derbauer.de for pushing forward the cinematic style site. 2) This guy isn't exactly a 'design company' but he is one of my all-time favourites: www.conclaveobscurum.ru - a truly inspirational and awesome site and..
3) Much as I hate to admit it (only because everyone is singing their praises right now) and after having thought long and hard.. Fantasy Interactive. They strike me as being into the same kind of thing as me, less design orientated and more 'multimedia entertainment' based. Their sites have a lack of pretentiousness and have great appeal ability that stands out a mile.
Also Andy Foulds does great stuff and quickly try and sneak in matinee, monoedge, wmteam, kinetic, lunarmedia, widegroup - the list is endless really.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Personally, I think the 'masses' aren't using the internet as a source of entertainment yet. There is an increasingly popular online net culture that is developing this trait but until hardware, net speed and general accessibility improves I don't think we'll be seeing the true kind of interactive entertainment that I am waiting for.
So I think the area of web design that lacks the most is the true interactive entertainment aspect.
Sure sites look nice, swish and beep nice, present information cleanly and functionally but they just don't have that 'mass' appeal like the simpsons, or a blockbuster movie.
That's what I’m waiting for, when a site can provide the transfixed addiction, entertainment and enjoyment that a new episode of the simpsons provides :)
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
It was black and had lots of glowing and blurring, with several of anfy java's special java effects.
Is it still online? Let me check, (checking)... good god it is! Talk about getting the best out of a free web host. It was the very first jellyweb site but was only partly advertising web site design. It was also offering a car stereo decoding service for when you lost your car stereo pin number, totally legit and that's how jellyweb started years ago! But i'm not going to tell you the link.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
No I haven't, and these aren't really the circles that I move in so it seems unlikely for any future release. Not that I wouldn't listen to a decent offer of course ;-)
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it?
The toughest thing I ever did was probably the bouncing ball game at the beginning of the jellyweb.com site. I'm not really a hardcore coder but I do have a head for algebra and mathematics (although nowhere near the level of most AS experts).
The z depth perspective proved to be the difficulty because you also had to take into account that the floor, ceiling and walls were closer together as the ball bounced into the distance.
The shadow was the most difficult part of it for some reason. Equally difficult was another experiment: the matrix style particle fountain that could be froze and rotated at will. This was all done with Flash 4 and required knowledge of basic trigonometry. Suffice to say i had many headaches whilst trying to get it to work!
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
I remember using a program called Scala for the Amiga many years ago. In essence it offered the same linear editing that flash now provides. It was exactly what I needed to create the kind of interactive TV show I was working on.
Now, via the global entertainment platform of the internet we have a program that not only does this kind of linear editing but it also introduces a high level of interactivity. So in my eyes flash represents this same vein of program that is needed now more than ever and has still yet to come into it's own, whether Macromedia and Flash will do all the right things in business to stay ahead of the competition and develop their program even further is another question. Personally I hope so. I think what flash represents is definitely here to stay, but I don't know for how long it will remain in its current incarnation.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
Lots of experimentation, lots of time spent pushing forward with concepts that aren't working on the computer but are working in your head, and then the endless art of 'bodging': redesigning on the fly when you accidentally achieve a cool effect and incorporate it into the site.
Hammering away at those commands that you have no idea what they do and ultimately and most importantly be original and innovative.
There's nothing worse than another 2advanced clone and nothing better than a breath of fresh air and new ideas.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
No, I don't wear expensive designer clothes. I have to sacrifice such things so my computer can sport its designer geforce 3 and ultra-cool fluroescent strip light in it's attractive transparent casing.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Yes, and this one has been bothering me for a looong time. When will someone invent a practical and usable outdoor computer (not just a laptop) that will mean I can finally go outside and work on my projects in the warm and fresh country air, rather than sitting inside and through the window of a darkened, musty room watch another glorious summer pass me by.
Please, for the good of pale skinned flash devotees everywhere can someone get on and do this, please?
Maybe a house with a retractable roof?
It's been a privilege, Nick, thanks very much.
What? Someone actually read this far !? It's been an honor.. thanks for the opportunity.