EK Interview: Filter Foundry

* UPDATE * (2012-07-25) // To all fellow artists and EK patrons, for a limited time offer by the end of July, the portfolio networking hub Filter Foundry is dishing out free lifetime basic memberships amped with a few select professional-grade perks. Check out the important access info after the jump!

Even with a simple membership (free) minus this special deal, these are all the fantastic features that come with the membership:

  • No ad-banners ever displayed around your work.
  • A Portfolio & Dashboard (PAD) with 6 galleries.
  • Drag-and-Drop portfolio management.
  • 1080P video uploads with auto encoding.
  • HTML 5 and CSS 3 enabled technology.
  • FREE iPad App.
  • Upload or watch video tutorials in our “Studio”.
  • The classic MAC and Windows Screensaver.
  • Exposure to Agencies and Employers.
  • Youtube and Vimeo embedding.
  • Social Sharing across all major social nets.

Sign up here, and punch “EKFF06” (minus the quotes of course) into the Invite Code section!

EK Interview (Originally posted on 2012-06-20)

Filter Foundry (FF), a 2010-born juggernaut-in-the-making social networking hub made, designed, constructed, and constantly transformed for / by artists worldwide. An overly-referenced quote from Field of Dreams comes to mind, but you get my point.

Don’t want to spoil too much, so I’ll keep my end of the wordage short and let 3D animator, CCO and co-founder of FF Andre J. Cook give you the full Q&A tour (its a hefty one)!

Underwater Portraits by Christian Vizi.

Hello Andre! Thanks for contributing your time and efforts for this interview. Let’s start with a bit about yourself and your relation to Filter Foundry (FF).

I’m a visual artist and web platform architect by trade. I was born in South Africa where I studied graphic design and film. This led to an interest in 3D animation and programming in ’92 long before the web or html existed in South Africa. Even though I completed a few minor courses in Basic, C++ and Pascal I never really got too serious about programming but have always been thankful for the code base background it provided for the years to come. My passion for design has always been the one thing that drove me. Nowadays I dabble in all things tech and am always experimenting with new approaches in design (when I have the time) such as generative art and fractal design combined with 3D modeling. In 2010 I co-founded Filter Foundry as CCO and Platform Architect with friend and colleague, Patrick Bradley (CEO). It’s been quite an exciting ride for us so far and together this makes it our 3rd successful startup involving web technologies.

Alright, done with the bunny-slope, let’s get to the meat of the matter. What is FF, and how was the company started / conceived? 

Filter Foundry is a fully enabled business social networking Web 2.0 platform built for a world-wide creative audience. We serve over 50 different creative fields and are always adding new ones as our user-base grows. This includes individual users, brands and agencies as well as companies looking to hire creative talent. Filter Foundry’s central hub (The PAD) is focused around offering creatives a friendly, clean UI combined a fast innovative way for artists to get their work online in a professional showcase. We spend most our time listening to user feedback and are always trying to improve the experience by implementing the latest tech such as HTML5.

We are also the only platform that offers what we call Studio Sessions to the community. Studio Sessions are considered advanced chapter based tutorials offered up by members who want to share industry tips and tricks with the world. In most cases these are free but some pro’s rightfully charge micro payments to share their hard earned knowledge and experience with the community. Next we have an amazing job section called the “WorkZone” so members can find work and apply with one-click portfolio submission, not just from “employer-to-artist” but also from “artists-to-artist,” so a musicians for example can reach out to someone to help with album cover design and animators can reach out to musicians to help with show-reel composition etc. Finally we offer a very fast growing Q&A technical knowledge base that encompasses everything related to problems and solutions around the industries we support. Imagine it like the Yahoo Answers for all things creative.

Filter Foundry is a result of frustrations experienced in the industry over the past few years as a creative with not being able to find the resources I need to efficiently market myself in a professional / time sensitive manner. While most creatives have their own sites they rarely spend the time to update those sites on a regular basis. It’s tedious and when you work on a job you don’t have the time to always add your latest creative with simple drag and drop tools. On Filter Foundry you can do that in a few seconds and good work is almost instantly appreciated by our “CRED” system which allows members to give other others rewards by appreciating the creative. CRED is an acronym we trademarked, which is short for Credibility. The more credibility, the more exposure. Based on those CRED results content uploaded is then showcased on [the] home page, Mobile iPad App (now available) and our screensaver. Filter Foundry does the work of dynamically creating new opportunities for you while you focus on just working and don’t have time to do all the self-promotion and agency or manager would normally do. Patrick (co-founder) experienced the same frustrations on a business level with brands and agencies not being able to find these creatives in an efficient way. So we naturally put our minds together and conceived Filter Foundry. With HTML5 exploding on the scene the timing could not be better and the features coming out in 2012 are going to change the way people connect with creatives in a very big way. Of course these features are confidential and those who sign up early will definitely reap the early adoption benefits as we grow. We just launched our HTML 5 Cloud iPad app. This enables our members to showcase their portfolios and be discovered by other artists, fans and employers across million of iPads.

Futuristic Bike Design by Harald Belker.

What do you believe is FF’s weighty importance in today’s creative world? What sets it apart from other professional social networking portfolios?

The creative portfolio is an obvious must have for any creative site and there are already several offering their version of it. Ours is [a] living digital organism that changes constantly as new feedback and technologies allow us to improve the experience for artists on the cloud. Apple always comes to mind as such a great example of a brand that set a world standard of how products should be experienced. There are hundreds of features on other competitive operating systems that can probably outperform certain Apple products but Apple always gets the consumer vote in the end. They created an experience that make people want to go to the nearest coffee shop and flip open their iPads and MacBooks. They are proud to be Mac owners. One of our goals is to become the homepage on all those devices when users flip them open because they enjoy the experience and are proud to be Filter Foundry members.

By bringing this solution to creative we are very focused on connecting employers and artists to creative solutions and opportunities in [a] crowd sourcing manner. Filter Foundry is starting to take the shape of a digital online agency, and this is not something we necessarily planned. It’s what the world wants and needs. We live in an on-demand-ADD world and thanks to text messaging, Twitter and Facebook everyone wants everything now. It’s a very big idea but we aim to become the go-to source for creative content delivery for design, animation, music and video production while always keeping a very close eye on the quality of work delivered.

One of FF’s most recent collaborations was with VFX studio Luma Pictures and the motion-tracking tech-wizards from OptiTrack. How was this coupling made possible? Can you tell us a little more about how these creatives crossed paths? Are there any other projects that FF has championed that you’d like to share (maybe some that personally intrigued you or others that made your heart skip a beat)?

That was all orchestrated by CEO, Patrick Bradley, who was hanging out with one of the principles of Luma Pictures who was describing how they were working on innovative new techniques in visual effects and how they just set up a mo-cap studio in-house. When he saw some of the ground-breaking things they were doing it was a natural decision for us to expose it to our thriving audience of creative pros. Luma already had OptiTrack’s latest camera system installed at their studio so they chimed in as well and we worked on the piece together.

As far as other projects, there are a few but one in particular comes to mind that Patrick again led the initiative on. It involved a very compelling feature documentary called Beauty is Embarrassing. A hilariously well told touching, and inspirational story of a seasoned American artist – Wayne White, creator of Pee-Wees Playhouse and several Peter Gabriel music videos. If you are not already familiar with Wayne’s work check it out to appreciate his genius art. Patrick heard about the project long before it was done because two of the main creative pros involved were actually already members on Filter Foundry: Neil Berkley, Director and Chris Bradley, Cinematographer / Editor. We decided to get more involved with the marketing of film as their official social partner – something we’re really proud of as this film has since been winning awards at top film festivals as well as getting rave reviews all across the US.

Grandfathers by Marcia K. Moore.

Business and politics can become very heavy factors in the untethered realm of the creative process. Do you feel that sort of climate is still an issue, or that things are changing for the better as we speak? What is FF’s and your personal viewpoint on this balancing act?

Good question(s) that could potentially turn into a short novel 😉 I will try to keep it short. Art has and will always be about personal expression. We are emotional beings and art is the most natural way of expressing joy or sadness no matter how rich or poor we are. It’s a universal language that allows people to connect, voice opinions and change world views regardless of their beliefs or background through music, acting, dancing, painting and sculpting. Filter Foundry is a hub for creatives to come and share their expressions with the world by uploading it to our creative cloud.

As for Business in Politics being factors in the creative process. That’s up to the individual. Those factors can either be good or bad as most things in life. Obama had one the most successful marketing campaigns in US history with his political Obey style campaign that sold all over the US (or world). Since the mid 90’s I feel like the world shifted from a technological age to a more creative age and perhaps a combined age would be even more accurate. They support each other.

In the ‘80s – ‘90s consumers did not care all that much what basic household products looked like. They just wanted it to work right. Nowadays the functionality and practicality of products are assumed, and the esthetics of it became much more important. Daniel Pink wrote an amazing book published in 2005 called A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future. He mentions an example of how Herman Miller could be commissioned to design the next toilet brush with his name on it and it would sell for a few hundred bucks. In my opinion, this [is] the biggest difference between why most users choose Mac over PC. Because of this trend in how people make purchasing decisions I have to assume that creative needs and execution are going to become a major factor for all types of businesses in years to come. Just look at how car design changed over the years and how the best designers are being poached by the competition to do something even cooler and better.

In short: I DON’T think that the business vs. creative climate is still an issue and we as [a] company look very much forward to how design will continue to drive and change the world for the better. At the end of it all Filter Foundry is a platform that allows all artists to display their work so they can collaborate with businesses who need their skills to produce a better experience, whatever that experience might be.

As the artistic tools of the trade become even more readily available to the masses, do you believe that the already existent rift between the institutionalized and the self-taught will only grow further apart? Closer together? Is this something we should be worried about or does this open a whole new spectrum of undiscovered and exciting possibilities? How are these issues relevant to the Filter Foundry community?

I believe this is something to be very excited about, and should not be seen as [a] concern at all. Blender is a great example of a very powerful free open source 3D app that allows artists to model and animate without needing to pay the hefty license fees most companies charge for their design applications. This doesn’t mean they won’t buy a copy of Maya, 3ds Max or Cinema 4D later on. If anything it probably convinces many of these artists that they truly enjoy the field and want to pursue a professional career in 3D. I personally happen to know of two people that started on free apps and ended up paying later on to upgrade to pro packages that are used in the industry.

Similarly online e-learning sites create new momentum for creatives to discover their true talent who then decide to go do a Master’s degree at schools like Full Sail University (FSU) where they can get placed at top VFX companies in Hollywood. FSU now also happens to have one the largest and fastest growing online training platforms of all design schools in the US. They clearly see this as a good thing and are embracing the opportunity.

Online training is not going to go away or be made illegal by the government. There is nothing anyone can do about it. The same way music went from CD to MP3. “Adapt or die” as the saying goes. To the artists I think the responsibility lies with developing really good communications skills. It’s great being a genius creative with awesome skills but if you can’t get along with people in the real world, no one wants to work with you. Creative agencies and studios depend heavily on creative collaboration. This is something that is very hard to learn by yourself when you are sitting alone behind a computer screen all day learning how to become the best designer in the world. I do think that going to a real school and being between others who see your work, builds confidence and enforces better communication skills.

Awesome Mech Designs by Scott Robertson.

Why is creative collaboration so important? In this day and age, what do you believe stands in the way of it?

Offline and online creative collaboration is crucial in larger companies, agencies and film / game studios. Being able to present your ideas in a room and not take criticism personally is a big part of being a good freelance artist people want to work with. The ability to brainstorm and bounce ideas around a room without needing the credit all the time, and to reach [a] common goal is an essential ingredient to success. This is also true for smaller projects but if you can collaborate with large groups, you can collaborate anywhere with anyone. Many artists have really amazing ideas, but those who can articulate and express them are the ones who gain the recognition.

I’m not really sure [if] anything stands in the way of collaboration except ourselves. Technology is getting better day by day for more productive online collaboration. Filter Foundry is just one .com that aims to release collaboration tools for people to connect to work opportunities and work together seamlessly in the near future. These tools will become an intricate part of the average freelancer’s design career as we move forward, but I think the biggest challenge in our Facebook-infused lives will be to remain understanding and respectful of one another as real human beings and not treat people as JPG avatars.

Let’s shift gears, can’t be too serious all the time. Have any favorite TV shows, movies, music bands, recreational activities, hobbies, things that put a smile on your face, etc?

Well seeing that I was born in ‘69 with the ‘80s as my high school years, I’m still a huge fan of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, Yes and U2 will always be my favorite. When it comes to creative inspirational music, I’m a Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre, Sigur-Ros, Röyksopp, Hybrid, Juno Reactor and Underworld listener. I can’t work with lyrics in the background. I start to hear the words and my mind loses focus on what I’m doing. Only techno, classical or new age music will do.

Not a big TV watcher and since the birth of Filter Foundry I have not watched many of the new shows at all, so perhaps [I’m] the wrong person to ask. I like the classic ‘90s sitcom comedies and Larry David’s writing is still some of the best on TV. I will go with “Curb your Enthusiasm” and good ole “Seinfeld” as my favorites. The realness of the situations his characters deal with, is what makes it work.

As far as movies go, they cover a wide spectrum: Let’s go with Bladerunner, Avatar, the original Star Wars Episodes 4,5,6, Forrest Gump, Inception, The Deer Hunter, Pulp Fiction, Scarface, The Big Blue, Gladiator, Alien, The Abyss, The Godfather series, Brazil, The Big Lebowski and Taxi Driver.

VFX Snapshot from A Serious Man. Created by Luma Pictures.

What / who are your biggest influences artistically / personally?

I recall when I studied art at high school I was blown away by the concept art of Tim White, Roger Dean, Boris Vallejo and Rodney Matthews. Those were the classic greats I tried to mimic and never could. Their art inspired limitless imagination. Roger Dean still is one the most talented typographers in existence. His hand-drawn type design for the Yes album covers in the ‘80s were off the charts. No pun intended.

More recently I’m fascinated by the detailed typography design of UK Artist Si-Scott, The vehicle design of Harald Belker and Scott Robertson. Architecture / landscape / creature design of Ryan Church, Neville Page, Sven Sauer and Feng Zhu.

I have had the privilege of meeting Harald and saw him work at his home studio in LA. He coincidentally also has a PAD on Filter Foundry and just this week released never before seen designs of an awesome futuristic bike on his PAD.

The list can get long and we see crazy good creatives being uploaded to our platform daily so I discover new amazing artists every day that inspire and push the boundaries of design. I feel a little guilty only listing the names above.

Recollect any dreams, nightmares, moments of déjà vu, or visions of the future you’d like to get off your chest?

I feel like I’m having déjà vu right now and your next question is going to be about project promotions and informative morsels. This might sound unusual but I just don’t have nightmares and if I did I can’t remember them. Dreams of course, are impossible to remember but I could very well say that this is a conscious dream right now coming true with Filter Foundry. When I was in high school flipping through George Lucas’ book ILM, The art of Special effects, I remember thinking how cool it would be to move to the states and get involved with the film industry. To a large extent that book is what inspired me to study film and got me interested in 3D animation. The visual design and effects industry was pretty much nonexistent in 1990. Now 22 years later many of those artists I read about in my college days are members of Filter Foundry, using our platform to showcase their work. Some I even get to meet and hang out with. It’s a real honor to have them and I feel extremely fortunate about how this dream has turned out so far. I have to thank Patrick for his support and belief in this concept and doing a kick ass job as Filter Foundry CEO.

As for the future: Keep an eye on Filter Foundry and watch how creative cloud collaboration unfolds as we grow our platform. We are building and shaping this based on industry creative needs. Technology now allows us to keep pace with the ideas we receive from those who use it.

So we’ve come to the end. Once again I’d like to thank you for spending your time doing this Q&A. We here at EK couldn’t be happier. On a closing note, do you have any project promotions or informative morsels of anything you or Filter Foundry are about to embark on that you’d like to share?

We’re really excited about our Cloud based iPad, recently launched and available for free download at filterfoundry.com/ipad. As a special thank you to EK we want to extend an invite only opportunity to your readers. Anyone who signs up during June / July 2012 with invite code “EKFF06” will get lifelong (premium) basic accounts with select features we normally only allow for pro accounts.

Thanks a lot for the opportunity to be featured on your blog. I enjoyed answering these questions and we hope to see many of your readers join the creative cloud revolution called Filter Foundry.

Femme by Paul Roget.

Luma Pictures and OptiTrack join forces in this behind-the-scenes for the feature film Underworld: Awakening.

Also check out the link here for a premium video tutorial by OptiTrack, featured on Filter Foundry.

More in-depth detail about the animation / motion-capture process here.

Filter Foundry