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Lunchtime talk write-up
Posted on Wed 24 Jun 2015

Seb Lee-Delisle lunchtime talk write up - five things I learned

On Friday 19 June the brilliant digital artist and creative coder Seb Lee-Delisle joined us to give the Friday lunchtime talk. We have been fans of his work for some time and it was a pleasure to have an excuse to invite him…

Seb Lee-Delilse

Seb Lee-Delilse

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Verity McIntosh profile image: head and shoulders in front of cloudy mural

Verity McIntosh

Verity is a Senior Lecturer in Virtual and Extended Realities at UWE Bristol.

On Friday 19 June the brilliant digital artist and creative coder Seb Lee-Delisle joined us to give the Friday lunchtime talk. We have been fans of his work for some time and it was a pleasure to have an excuse to invite him to the Studio. 

The talk covered all kinds of things, from live coding digital fireworks to playing space invaders with nerf guns, but to embrace the spirit of these weekly write ups; here are five things I learned:

1) It’s pronounced Seb Lee Delisle as in rhymes with smile! After my mangling of his name in my introduction into some sort of ‘Allo ‘Allo style pseudo-french that would rhyme with zeal, Seb kindly explained the difference. Schooled.

2) Live coding mid-presentation is simultaneously brave, brilliant and potentially hilarious if you know what you are doing. At various intervals during his talk Seb cut away to show us how to make brilliant visuals and effects quickly. This included making fountains of purple particles in TextMate, and popping into a Commodore64 emulator to show us how design was literally written into the manual in the early days of computer programming. 

Seb using 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 to generate a pattern I would now like to make into a set of curtains. 

3) Necessity is the mother of invention. Anyone who spends ten minutes with Seb will discover; he is great with lasers. He makes amazing things with lasers, they bend to his will in a way that any physicist will tell you, lasers should not bend. So when the lasers that Seb had ordered from the States to interpret the exact position nerf gun bullets as they hit a screen in an arcade game he was making got landlocked by a storm, he had to come up with a whole new way to detect impact. Unphased by lack of lasers, Seb used a series of microphones to map the ‘multilateration’ which I now know is a navigation technique based on the measurement of the difference in distance to stations at known locations that broadcast signals at known times – sort of triangulation through listening. You need three points to do this effectively in 2D and five in 3D. Seb has since told me that this is how ‘Shot Spotter’ works in the US, a sensor system deployed in some neighbourhoods to detect when gunshots go off and tell the cops what block they happened on. I recommend the This American Life: Cops See it Differently podcast if you’re interested in this type of thing.

Lazer Arcade by Seb Lee-Delisle from Seb Lee-Delisle on Vimeo.

4) When faced with a pipe organ and equipped with lasers, you are pretty much honour bound to make a graphic equaliser. At the Smashing Conference at Oxford Town Hall Seb was invited to come up with something special to open the conference. With his collaborator Val Head, he decided to make a traditional animated opening sequence on the main screen, that mid way through broke out into a laser light show projected on the ornate half dome interior, and transformed the old pipe organ into a neon equaliser. Needless to say, the crowd went wild!

Smashing Conference Laser Show from Seb Lee-Delisle on Vimeo.

5) Being a ‘noob’ sucks. Seb shared some invaluable advice that learning things from scratch can be a miserable experience at least at first and feeling like a noob (newbie) can be really demoralising. He counselled us to stick with it, try to get past the insecurity and self-loathing and plough on through until you get to the bit where you vaguely know what you are doing, people kind of like your stuff, and maybe you’re not such a noob anymore. Sound advice.