SymfonyLive London 2015: Meet the speakers: Seb Lee-Delisle

There’s just two days to go before SymfonyLive London kicks off, but we managed to sneak a quick chat with opening keynote speaker and digital artist, Seb Lee-Delisle.

In his career, Seb has won BAFTAs, launched a record label, worked as an illustrator, and founded his own digital agency. We’re excited to have him onboard to take centre stage to deliver the keynote entitled: ‘Getting artistic with code’, which promises details of his recent laser-fuelled experiments and live demos.

We caught up with Seb to dig into his creative background and ask him about the biggest challenges he’s faced with his experiments yet...

Could you give us a quick summary of your background? When did you first begin programming?

It's really hard to give a quick summary! I started programming in 1983 aged 11 when my father (a physics lecturer) brought home a Sharp pocket computer for me to play with. As I worked with other early computers I started programming little animations and graphics. Ever since then I've just done the same thing - use computers to realise my creative ideas. It's just got a little more complex now.

I dropped out of a computer science degree at Kingston, then got a job with an Amiga development house as an illustrator, then programmer, and then left the industry to concentrate on my music career, starting a band and setting up a record label. When I finally gave up on that I returned to computers and made Flash games, and set up a digital agency, Plug-in Media, which have won several awards for their work, including three BAFTAs. Several years ago I realised that the agency slog was not for me and I left the company to my partners and embarked on my career as a digital artist.  

Tell us more about PixelPyros and lasers - is it really as exciting as it sounds?

PixelPyros is an interactive digital fireworks display. All the effects are computer-generated using massive projectors and high power lasers. The fireworks are triggered by members of the audience that light orbs of light projected along the bottom of the screen. I love working with lasers as they create really bright spots of light, much brighter than a projector.

It's exciting to me because it's so large. The screen is 18m x 12m and 25 people can all interact with the show at once. It's really nice to look at something so huge and know that it all came out of my little brain.  

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced with your experiments so far?

I work with C++ and openFrameworks which is incredibly difficult to get used to. There's also been a huge learning curve with controlling the lasers. I thought that most of the codebase already existed, but I had to work hard to get the lasers to move and look how I wanted them to.

Why do you think it’s important for developers to also bring out their artistic side?

I think most programmers have wanted to make a game at some point in their programming life. The urge to explore and create fun things is core to our being, and programmers are the most curious type of person. Often, in the drudgery of the professional environment, programmers can get stuck checking items off their list and forgetting why they love programming. Creative experiments can revitalise this. And, even more than that, there is a huge demand for programmers who can work in this way.

What would you say to those who consider themselves more logical than creative?

I think that most programmers have an innate creativity. They have to - they constantly solve problems in imaginative ways. I like to encourage people to explore that outside of their day to day job. Often I find that those extra-curricular experiments feed into their professional life, and can also even create new work opportunities for them. That's essentially what happened to me and now this is my career. 

How do you blur the boundaries between artist and coder?

All the graphics and animations that I make are generated with code. It's much easier to make this sort of work if the creative and technical skills reside inside the same person. The two sides of myself create a feedback loop -  one inspiring the other, and then vice versa. I know other artists that rely on programmers to realise their vision, and it's definitely not nearly as smooth or efficient a process. 


SymfonyLive London is back at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Symfony framework this year. We’ll be celebrating the Symfony birthday in style, with a fantastic speaker line-up, great agenda and exclusive workshops.

Last minute tickets are being snapped up so if you haven’t already booked yours, secure your place now.