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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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.
you remember your first impression of the internet?
This is great! I don't know why, but this is great!
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
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.
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
were a staff member of BFA computer arts department at the School of Visual
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
what are *digital tools*?
Any kind of software, scripting, or otherwise that helps you do something
faster, cheaper, better, or all of these.
you were to evaluate the developmental stage of the internet, what would
Metaphorically, I think it's a gangly teenager. Hopefully someday it will
be less awkward and know how to talk to girls.
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.
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.
the ideal scenario for a company to be successful?
It would get to work on things I found interesting without going broke.
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.
makes a good team?
People who think for themselves, yet know how to respect others opinions.
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
what is *inspiration*.
Being so excited by something that working at 3am sounds better than sleeping.
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?'
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
3 qualities necessary to succeed online.
A clear goal, a strong message, and coffee...no, determination.
is the single achievement that makes you most proud?
Just starting Last Exit made me proud; everything else has been icing on
there were no budget limitations - which single dream project would you
I'm very fond of literature and I have a pet project, I'd pour tons of
money into if possible.
a one line counsel to newbies.
If you are determined you'll find a way to succeed.
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.
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.
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).
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.