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Web stars speak

/ Interview with Andrew Beach

A life long love affair with computers combined with creativity has culminated in Andrew’s specialized talents. As far back as 1982, he was testing and programming computers.

Fast forward to college in the mid nineties where Andrew’s interest in art and computers somehow led to filmmaking and training to use computer’s to edit video. After college Andrew moved to New York City where he freelanced and taught students at the School of Visual Arts. His interests in the film world and the Internet eventually lead to a position in the United Kingdom. While working with the Streaming Media team at Deepend London, Andrew collaborated with industry leaders, such as Apple.

Later as head of their New York 'convergent media' team he helped develop content delivery systems for fertile new media such as broadband and interactive TV as well as relationships with partners like Apple Computers.

As a founding partner and Director of Convergent Media for Last Exit LLC, Andrew continues to apply experience to compelling moving image work and to innovative content delivery.

Andrew’s recent lectures include Quicktime Live 2001 in Beverly Hills and Production East 2002 in New York City.

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/ How were you first introduced to the internet?

My father was my biggest influence on teaching me how computers could relate to one another over a network, let alone the internet. He showed me Bulletin Boards in the 80's he was logging onto, explained tcp/ip to me, and gave me a used laptop in '93 while I was in college, in part so I could setup an email address for communicating with the family without running up a long distance bill.

/ Do you remember your first impression of the internet?

This is great! I don't know why, but this is great!

/ Describe how your love for the web started?

When I began realizing this 'thing' would allow me to communicate much quicker with people locally and globally, I got very excited. Some of my first real uses of the web were in extending my grasp beyond the local to the global.

/ You are a creative head. When did your love of visual art start?

There was never a time I didn't love the arts. If my dad is responsible for my love of technology, then my mom is responsible for my love of the arts. She was very creative and shared her excitement for the arts with my brother and me. I went to an art college to further immerse myself in this field and though my medium has changed often, the pleasure I get from the work has not.

/ You are also a *geek*, what exactly does it mean in your field?

It means I have more e-mail addresses than anyone I know and check them often.

/ You were a staff member of BFA computer arts department at the School of Visual Arts. Why?

I quickly discovered I understood the relationship of the computer and video better than most and leveraged this to get freelance jobs editing and compressing audio and video for the web and eventually, specializing in teaching Digital Video. While computer art in general flourishes at SVA, I felt the digital video track was under appreciated and thus given less attention and money than animation and 3D.

/ Explain why you wanted to be an editor initially.

I was convinced this would afford me the best computer available and the most time with it.

/ How did you end up working with Deepend both in London and NY?

They were opening up here (NYC) soon and were making the rounds recruiting. After sitting in on a pitch to the students, I was very interested in their work and the fact they had an entire area devote to moving image and how to converge this with the computer realm. We hit it off and over several months of discussion, it was decided I would go to work for their London office for a year, then return to the US to be a leader in the NYC office. London was interesting for me. I say interesting and not great because while there were component of it that were amazing, it was also a very tough year of my life, both professionally and personally.

When I met Deepend I was in engaged and in the midst of planning a wedding and in fact, we made the move to the UK 2 days after our wedding. Spending your first married year as far away from both your families seems appealing on the outside, but can also be stressful when one person has 60-80 hour weeks and the other is coming to grips with suddenly not working.

/ Then, that was your first job? If not, what was?

My first 'real' job even remotely connected with the industry was for my alma mater, Savannah College of Art and Design. I had graduated and was floating around in a job I didn't like trying to decide what to do. I found out the Film and Video Department needed a person to manage the facility, all of their equipment, and the student staff of 45 kids.

I consider it my first real job because I was exposed to a great deal of technology, new ideas, and people; thanks to that job I gained a life long interest in teaching. It was a great experience.

/ How did you end up founding Last Exit LLC?

The hardships faced by new media companies had left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt like I had seen too many people agree to do work they hated or had no passion for, and company and after company compromise their work until they were forced to close. Several friends and I decided to freelance as a team for a short time while we all decided what to do with our lives. We jokingly said that if we were going to work for a**holes, we might as well work for ourselves. We quickly found it preferable to stay together and build up our own company than to go back to working for others.

/ Is there a story behind the name?

Oh the name… My friend and partner in the company Nuri really picked it out. His idea was once we started our own company, we'd never want to work for somebody else again, so this was our last exit, professionally speaking. We were very close to being called Do You Know Kung-Fu? I can't tell you how glad it played out the way it did.

/ What is the most prominent part of your daily activities?

Managing existing projects and dreaming up new ideas that we might someday find money to develop.

/ Do you think we are using streaming media effectively on the Web?

Video is rapidly becoming ubiquitous on the internet, but are we using it effectively? Digitized versions of commercials, music videos, and movie trailers make up the majority of the video content available on the Web. In essence, the internet has become a big tease for 'something greater'. And while short films enjoyed a brief popularity on the Web, costs of hosting such ventures and a lack of, well, good content has caused even this to genre to wane in recent times. What content distributors need to do is find a better model for using the internet to not only entice viewership, but to actually deliver content.

/ What are *wired* Quicktime movies?

One of the most overlooked aspects of Quicktime's properties is the customization available. If you've watch any recent movie trailers on Apple's Web site, like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Star Trek Nemesis or the newest short films available at BMWFilms, then you've already experienced 'wired' quicktime videos. These interactive QuicktTime movies go way beyond delivering content; they have functionality more akin to a DVD available so that each user can customize the experience.

But this technology has been greatly underutilized to date. Yes, the ability to completely brand or 'skin' video and to offer options like secondary audio tracks or multiple camera angles is important. However, options such as update-able content,flash text, and xml parsing could be what makes this technology as attractive to the industry as it does to the end user.

/ Do you consider yourself a visionary? If so or not, why?

Visionary is a big word to go throwing around – I'm more imaginative than anything else, nothing pleases me more than thinking of a new solution to a problem.

/ How does technical knowledge relate to being a designer?

You can't design a look for something unless you have a good understanding of how it works.

/ What is your motivation behind teaching and giving lectures?

It is invigorating to watch students get excited about the same topics you find stimulating. I find teaching challenging and that is why I have stuck with it. I'm between teaching jobs at the moment, business demands it, but as soon as I can, I plan to start teaching again.

/ Define what is the *web culture*.

This has gotten to be a big group these days. To me, the web culture is anyone who has more than a passive interest in the online world. Just having an e-mail address or looking up phone numbers online ain't it – it's more about having an active voice in online concerns.

/ In your view, are there pressing matters that need to be addressed?

With the Internet? Loads. We need to reform Telco's so that bandwidth becomes increasingly available in places it's not. We need to rethink how we pay for access to the Internet. We need more dialogue on how we, as citizens, relate to our governments through the Internet.

I guess where I'm really going is it's very important - maybe most important - that there is greater discussion as to what is possible with the Internet and that as many individuals as possible have a say in this. Nothing is more infuriating than watching big business and government make sweeping decisions in areas they are not fully informed about. I'm not saying I have any or all of the answers... but I know to seek advice when I need it.

/ Explain what are *digital tools*?

Any kind of software, scripting, or otherwise that helps you do something faster, cheaper, better, or all of these.

/ If you were to evaluate the developmental stage of the internet, what would it be?

Metaphorically, I think it's a gangly teenager. Hopefully someday it will be less awkward and know how to talk to girls.

/ Explain what is *cross media*.

This word gets used to mean a lot of things really. Generally, I feel it is any provider of content (news, music, weblog, whatever) who begins publishing in multiple mediums, be it print, web, tv…the clever ones are finding ways to post the info once and have it available on mediums, rather than having redundant material all over the place.

/ Describe what *multidisciplinary* means and its impact on projects?

It means: bring a new approach to a project. Since I started in film production, I think about projects in a very different manner than someone who works in print or has, say, a business degree.

/ Describe the ideal scenario for a company to be successful?

It would get to work on things I found interesting without going broke.

/ What do you look for when hiring?

I'm not so tied to their existing skills. I want 'renaissance' types. If somebody with talent shows up lacking certain skill sets, I'm at least willing to give them a chance to learn them.

/ What makes a good team?

People who think for themselves, yet know how to respect others opinions.

/ You are a man of vision. Describe this and how it affects your day-to-day activities?

I often find myself frustrated because I can see the inherent potential of the technology we're using, yet not seeing the development coming fast enough

/ Describe what is *inspiration*.

Being so excited by something that working at 3am sounds better than sleeping.

/ Describe what is a top-notch client.

They don't walk in saying 'We know we need a website and its going to do this…' Instead, they walk in saying 'This is our content, this is who we want to reach with it, what's possible?'

/ How do you educate your clients?

We try to offer our best insight on whether the project they're bringing to us to work on, is their best solution.

/ Have you been invited to industry related events. Can you tell us why?

I spoke at two and have been trying to go to more and more. It's good to network with peers to see what things are being tried out. It's also like 3 day group therapy sessions.

/ Is branding an important issue online?

Absolutely. I've only fully grasped this in the last year or so and feel utterly under qualified to expound on it.

/ Describe what you do presently.

I make the coffee, keep the peace, answer questions and figure out why half the room is seeing the color print and half aren't.

/ What is film/video production?

This was where I started. It has nothing to do with computers (well mostly) and everything to do with telling a story visually.

/ Describe what the internet means to you?

It means being able to reach out and answer a question very quickly. It means being able to communicate very far very fast as well.

/ Describe 3 qualities necessary to succeed online.

A clear goal, a strong message, and coffee...no, determination.

/ What is the single achievement that makes you most proud?

Just starting Last Exit made me proud; everything else has been icing on the cake.

/ If there were no budget limitations - which single dream project would you launch?

I'm very fond of literature and I have a pet project, I'd pour tons of money into if possible.

/ Give a one line counsel to newbies.

If you are determined you'll find a way to succeed.

/ What is your opinion of the present situation in the dotcom industry?

It's like the industry suffered a big earthquake. Now we get back up and put everything back together, except, hopefully, we've learn from past mistakes.

/ In your view, explain what is convergence?

Convergence is the great meeting point of technologies. It is that point where we try new methods out for old tasks.

/ Is the www an international network?

It is, though the US lost sight of that for awhile (right around when politicians invented the Internet I suspect).

/ Tell us what the future (net) looks like.

It will be more useful and less visible. It has to finally break free of the desktop and laptop to hit its next evolution. We're close, but then we'll always be close. As soon as one hurtle is crossed, the next one comes into sight. I can't wait to complain because my cell phone (pda, whatever) is only getting 10 Mbps.

^