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Ze Frank is one of the most creative and enigmatic people working in digital media. He's also just plain funny. His work could arguably be among the most viewed and participated-in content ever created. He is known as a performance artist, humorist, composer and speaker, including multiple appearances at the prestigious TED conferences. For millions of followers and fans who know him through his experiments in online interactivity, social media, and audience participation, this installment of Creative Inspirations reveals the man himself as he explains his unique point of view, his thought processes, and what spurs him on.
(Music playing.) I got my first computer well after college and just tried to teach myself how to illustrate and then got a gig as an illustrator for this... It was a web focused advertising company, and they asked me if I knew Flash. But I think at that point it was Flash 3 had just come out.
And I was like, "absolutely, I know Flash," and I like stole a copy from work and like tried to teach myself over the next few days. So then it was during the huge boom and people were getting hired like crazy and there was a lot of money flying around and everybody wanted some kind of a web site at that point. I got hired as a designer and as the company grew, I think within just a few months I became art director there, which was just absolutely ludicrous given my skill set.
But I just kind of-- I was constantly trying to learn, as quickly as I could, to catch up with design generally, but illustration and then animation. At that point, it was a pretty strong division, because designers just had no knowledge of code whatsoever or the processes by which you would construct something programmatically. The coder certainly had no desire to sort of fiddle with design.
And so some of the training that I had gotten in computer science, which was fairly limited, definitely allowed me in some way to act a little bit as a bridge between the two departments. Which was really fun, because there was all of a sudden this idea that programs like Flash could do some of the jobs that the programmers were doing, at least in a sort of limited way, and that they could be infused with-- These websites could be infused with a lot of like exciting little doodads.
We made lots of the kinds of sites that we probably would make fun of today, that took 30 seconds to get past the intro, and with no skip button. It was like, wow, check this out! And every little piece moved. But it was pretty fun and we had a lot of leeway to do that. That's where I really got into programming for the web and creating these kind of like stripped-down, optimized little toys and widgets.
I would try to create projects for something that I was trying to learn. So in this case, I had been trying to compress video, because there were bandwidth limitations at the time. It was a really basic thing. I just filmed a sequence, converted it to still images, lowered the frame rate, and then compressed the hell out of the JPEGs. Seems very obvious but nobody was really doing it. And the way that I kind of had motivated myself for that particular experiment was as an invitation to a birthday party that I was throwing, and that was this thing called "How To Dance Properly," which became a viral kind of hit and that really just honed me towards spending all of my time on the web.
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