I think if anything, digital solutions have become a way to tell a really big story using a really small team, so you don’t necessarily need a 30 person crew to accomplish something.

question Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

Creative Director, The Barbarian Group

What do you do for inspiration?

Walk around New York City

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

vvork.com, http://www.todayandtomorrow.net/, reddit.com

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

Being able to create things for a living.

How do you relax or unwind?

I like to play games: Chess and Court Tennis. I watch skateboard videos, I like to read about giant public works projects. I’ve also just finished a short video piece: New York Night and Day, where night and day get mixed together into one shot. Check it out, it’s to the right of these words.

If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?

I took a MAPP test once that put me roughly in the area I am in now. But it also had this sort of anomaly position: Crane Operator. So maybe that?!

What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?

My favorite part is convincing a client to sign off on an idea, and watching it transform from a blurb in Text Edit into a full-on production. I think the most challenging part is keeping momentum behind a project when you‘re months in, the feedback is dense and you’ve gone through multiple iterations, because at the end of the day, fighting for what originally made you excited is what matters the most.

What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?

I think about 2 days. 

If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?

Two things I have learned from making stuff on the Internet:

The Internet tends to reward content that’s honest in its intent, and that takes huge amounts of work and passion to produce. Conversely, It also ruthlessly makes fun of things that try to fake that. And this may sound obvious, but it’s true: if you don’t care about what you’re making, no one else will.

What software could you not live without?

Text Edit for writing ideas out, and After Effects for testing them.

In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?

Mocha Pro’s 2d/3d planar tracking software is really awesome and it has an amazing bezier system for drawing really accurate mattes.

Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?

My favorites are:


Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?

http://thewhalehunt.org/ - a photographic heartbeat of 3214 images
http://bear71.nfb.ca/#/bear71 - interactive documentary about Canadian bears
http://wechoosethemoon.org/ - interactive recreation of the Apollo 11 missionthewildernessdowntown.com/ - interactive music video
http://theberrics.com/ - awesome web-content series
http://www.vice.com/video - just a crazy amount of good video content

question What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?

http://illopcom.ipower.com/index_old.html This was a flash site for all the work I did in college. Technically, The FIRST site I did was an angelfire page about quake 2, but unfortunately it’s no longer live.

Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?

I think it’s really important to absorb what’s happening when you turn your head to the left of your screen. As in, get off the computer sometimes. The Internet is a great way to look at things people have discovered, filmed, written about, or drawn conclusions on. But if you're only ever observing the discoveries and work of other people, it’s easy to lose sight of the process and work it takes to discover them for yourself. 

Another important consideration when you’re in the business of making interactive things is remembering that your audience probably doesn’t have time to deal with some complicated radial menu, or care that what you‘re making uses a certain technology. Watch someone use a computer who doesn’t work in Photoshop everyday.

The web is getting out of the web. Do you find that thinking in digital solutions alone hinders you? Do you feel the urge to solve the problem using all mediums necessary?

I think if anything, digital solutions have become a way to tell a really big story using a really small team, so you don’t necessarily need a 30 person crew to accomplish something. It’s pretty mind blowing to think about what you can accomplish with just a DSLR, an editor, a designer and a developer.

What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?

Hoverboards. I also always wanted to try ice-skating down hill.

What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?

I feel like there’s so much possibility in the US for large scale innovation. The Mars Rover was awesome, and I think a massive public works project would really inspire people. A high-speed railroad across the US, a highway over the Aleutian islands to Russia, something to make people believe that we can make great big things again. Smart phones aren’t really enough anymore.

There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?

My top three dream projects: 

-  Filming an Oil Rig underwater at night
-  Finding a really good reason to use a 5,200mm lens
-  Recording my GPS position for a few months and play it back in some sort of visualization.

What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?

The work we‘re doing with GE is really exciting. We’re starting to look at how “Big Iron” and “Big Data” are coming together to shape what we know as the “Industrial Internet”. As an example, we just put high definition cameras on a freight train that carries 550,000 gallons of Orange Juice from Florida to New Jersey, hauled by a GE locomotive. We can then reference the video timecode with onboard locomotive performance data: Throttle Position, Temperature, Speed, Location, etc to learn about how and when orange juice gets from A to B. 

Generally, peeling away as many layers of advertising as possible, and coming up with artful and innovative ways to talk about what a company really does has always been interesting to me. I think working in digital marketing, advertising, content, whatever you want to call it, is really interesting right now. You‘re essentially competing with the world for attention, whether it’s some dude filming their cat in Poughkeepsie, or a $500,000 production, it comes down to creating something people connect with and feel something about.

What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?

I bought a new iMac a couple of weeks ago. Quick tip: the machine actually fits 32 gigs of ram in it, even though Apple claims it’s capacity is 16GB.

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Some observations: Next time someone says “What?” a lot, don’t repeat what you said, just sort of wait a few seconds and most of the time they will respond themselves. 

This one is from our CEO, Benjamin Palmer: A few years back I was working on an interactive DVD for Volkswagen, which had this insanely complicated spider web of menus for creating car 360s, and it was driving me absolutely crazy. I called him with some question, I was definitely wigged out... And he said, “Try changing your socks”. And it actually worked. So, next time you’re really stressed, change your socks.


Philip's time lapse video: night and day

The Juice Train

Helicopter Cam In Action

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