Category Archives: public speaking

Playing With Light

In late October, I got the idea into my head I wanted to play with long exposure photography and light. This is hardly new as a concept but I’d never done it before and wanted to try.

However, I had no interest in light painting as its traditionally thought and instead chose to encapsulate the light and let it do what it wanted randomly.

To that end, I ordered my materials. Firstly, I ordered 100 bright blue LEDs from SparkFun. Next up were 150 3V watch batteries from Cheap Batteries. Last but not least, I sourced 100 1" vending machine balls from Wholesale Vending Products. Total cost with taxes and shipping was about $60.00 USD.

Turns out a 3V watch battery can reliably and safely power an LED. I figured out a good bend to the anode and cathode of the LED and used electrical tape to hold it in place. Then I just placed the battery and LED into a ball and closed it up.

Battery + LED + plastic ball = happy fun time.

A photo posted by Hugh Elliott (@hughqelliott) on

since that initial post I swapped the bends so the anode (positive lead) has the greater bend. A watch battery’s positive side curves around the negative, you see.

We own a Nikon D70s and it’s a quietly solid camera. It has manual focus and you can set the shutter speed so why not? Fortunately my son loves fooling around with anything mildly noisy or bright so he became a willing participant in my experiments. Namely, throwing the balls at me “gently”.

2/3 testing 2.5 second exposure with LED balls.

A photo posted by Hugh Elliott (@hughqelliott) on

Or letting them bounce down the stairs.

3/3 testing 2.5 second exposure LED balls.

A photo posted by Hugh Elliott (@hughqelliott) on

The next night, I played with longer exposure alone leading to some interesting “selfies”.

13 second long exposure selfie. 1/3

A photo posted by Hugh Elliott (@hughqelliott) on

13 second long exposure selfie. 3/3

A photo posted by Hugh Elliott (@hughqelliott) on

That’s when I started thinking this might be an interesting activity for kids. My son (8) definitely enjoyed it. When I got my daughter (3) involved, she had a blast. I took the LED balls and the camera with us to Great Wolf Lodge and we used the hotel room for an “epic” shoot.

3 kids and a hugh.

A photo posted by Hugh Elliott (@hughqelliott) on

So I pitched the concept of a workshop for kids to my son’s teacher. It’s a small class so it would be feasible for a test run. At any rate, she loved it. I brought the LEDs, batteries and balls with me. We set up around a table and I showed them a battery. Showed them an LED. Gave them each one and explained a basic circuit to them (Positive to positive, negative to negative, light turns on). Watching them play with the batteries and LEDs was so much fun. Hearing “Mr. Elliott, my light doesn’t work… oh, never mind…” as they switched from one side to the other. As you’ll see below, each kid had their own interpretation of what to do when the shutter opened, but they had a blast. Coaching each other when the kid was up.

And then I did a group shot.

So much fun. For me, too! As a bonus, each kid got to keep their light ball!

I’ve written a proposal for creating an interactive installation out of this concept. Will see who might bite on that idea. If you have an event you’d like to have me set up within, let me know. I think it’d be awesome! In my proposal is even a plan for a small photo screen. Anyway, that’s out there.

In the meantime, I am looking at assembling an air cannon to shoot the balls into the air. Possibly roll them down a hill. Throw them at stuff in general. You know, play with them. THEY’RE BALLS!

CreateinTO – HYPE Framework in Processing


When the organizers of CreateinTO announced they were going to do an evening on Processing and put the call out for speakers, I was approached to declare interest in presenting. I don’t present much anymore and the thought terrified me, but what the hell, right?

Processing + Hype

For those of you unfamiliar with it, Processing is a fantastic Java-based IDE for writing some beautiful work.

Hype is a design and animation framework initially written for Flash by Branden Hall and Joshua Davis.

It has since been ported by Joshua into Processing with the help of James Cruz of Code and Theory.


Enough preamble. I volunteered to do a talk about getting started with Hype in Processing. The funny thing is, on the way to the venue, I decided to not do that. I would provide an introduction to Hype but that Joshua himself does such an amazing job getting you started with his SkillShare that I saw no point in replicating his effort. It is, all things considered, better to learn from the creator than from someone who did what their recommending; namely take the SkillShare. The other point is that it’s $20. If you use this link, you can actually save $10! So you can get access to the tutorials, source files, additional resources for $10?! So now you can see why I just said, “Honestly, there’s no point in me doing this. Go here.”


So there you go, why not do an introduction to Hype? Because an introduction exists and it’s worth every minute.

FITC 2011 – The Aftermath

A week later and I am still unable to fully use my voice for anything other than the occasional croak. FITC, you are a beautiful beast. Due to scheduling conflicts, the HotDOCS documentary film festival was also running, I did not attend as dutifully as I normally would.

I was honoured to speak at FITC once again. Slightly different experience as I was an Influxis Voodoo lounge speaker and not a regular stage speaker. With a mere half hour to fill, the pressure was off and I took full advantage. In my session, Film Fan to Filmmaker, I covered self-direction and self-improvement, how to not accept dead-time in your work schedule by creating your own work and how that self-direction can create opportunities you’d never have expected. hey Hugh, run-on sentence much?

There are too many people to mention and I was busy attempting to record submission for Influential – The Age of Digital to attend many sessions, but my highlight was seeing Planetary Robert Hodgin’s new endeavour with Bloom.

I think what was lacking were the old guard speakers, unfortunately. There were some noticeable absences that would have made a 10 year celebration even better. Not to take away from the speakers that were there. Once again, the organizers picked the best and brightest and most inspirational people around. *ahem*

Having sponsors’ row right behind some curtains beside the main stage made for distracting sessions at times as there was no control over people who figured the enormous curtains were also soundproof. However, once again Shawn Pucknell and his crew pulled off a great event in a challenging venue.

Thank you, FITC, for allowing me to be a part of such a groundbreaking event for so long. I look forward to the next 10 years!

Festival/Conference Titles

Most recently I spoke at FITC Toronto 2011. Very fortunate to be included in MK12’s titles.

FITC Toronto 2011 Titles from MK12 on Vimeo.

I have been super lucky to be included in FlashontheBeach’s conference titles (being a speaker and all) in 2009 and 2010. After watching Buck’s F5 titles, I realized I never give more than a passing “good titles” comment. However a ton of work goes into them and I need to give them their due.

First off is Artillery’s titles for FOTB ’09

Flash On The Beach 2009 Titles from Artillerystudio on Vimeo.

Wonderfully done. Quiet, delightful and fun. I loved seeing my name in these.

Next up are Nando Costa’s magnetized FOTB ’10 titles.

Flash On The Beach 2010 Titles from Süperfad on Vimeo.

Just amazing. Thank you to John Davey for having me at his events. It’s been a real honour.

FiTC 10 Year

FiTC 10-yr Banner

“No, I won’t be doing IronFlash this year.”

Over the past 10 years of FiTC, I have been proud to be included as a speaker 4 times. I also ran a live coding competition called IronFlash for four years straight. Once it was even televised on TechTV! Ah, the good ol’ days.

This will be my fifth go-around as a speaker and this time, I’ll be presenting in the Influxis Voodoo Lounge.

This has some exciting aspects to it;
1. Free beer.
2. 30-minute session.
3. Did I mention free beer?

In my session Film Fan to Filmmaker at 4:05 pm on Monday May 2nd, I will be showing a 30 minute review of 2010 that culminated in my launching of Influential – The Age of Digital, a documentary with a decidedly “digital twist”. Harkening back to my first foray into documentary filmmaking, wheniwas19, I will asking anyone and everyone to submit to Influential during FiTC using my laptop! So get ready to submit! I bought a swanky HD webcam just for this.

On top of everything else, Hot Docs is happening April 28 – May 8! For a newly-created documentary filmmaker, there’s nothing more exciting than over a week of documentaries being screened in one city. I’m also listed as a director for the event and will be attempting to hobnob as much as I can while it’s on.
So come to FiTC 10 in Toronto!

My 2010 In Review

2010 was a strange year for me.

Unintentionally I did less client work than I should have. When I started working on a portfolio, I had to wonder how I managed to pay my mortgage with how little work I did. Heck, I even griped about not working in April. You know that feeling that maybe it’s you? Yeah…

Moviesinhaiku – Watches, Prints, You know…
On the other side of things my self-directed personal project, Moviesinhaiku, started taking off. I was given some interesting opportunities involving my love of movies and haiku.

Firstly, Scott Wilk invited me to design a watch! That’s pretty much the coolest thing ever. I cannot wait for it to be finished. And I think we’ll continue the collaboration as I enjoy designing watches. I can’t vouch for Scott, but I am totally into it. And if anyone else wants me to design a timepiece, hellz ya is all I can say to that.

The casing from render to silver casting

The face from render to silver casting

I’ve been working on the second watch for a little while now. Very excited about that.

Secondly, Dana Brunetti from Trigger Street asked me to design a larger version of one of my prints and I opted for doing a brand-new triptych of their latest production, The Social Network. My first commission, as it were. Very exciting! Anyone wants a custom Moviesinhaiku original, let me know, I am down.

The Social Network tripych

Public Speaking
I was also truly lucky to speak 3 times this year at events. The Flashbelt conference, Flashonthebeach and FiTC Edmonton. I wrote about them individually before, so let’s just say I really love public speaking and my intended session for 2011 ought to be awesome. So far my only confirmed speaking engagement is for FiTC Toronto. This should be an amazing conference and I am truly excited about it. Any other conference organizers want me to speak at their events, let me know, I simultaneously love and hate public speaking, but I am getting a knack for it.

The Future
What’s on the horizon for 2011? Man, I know one thing, I am going to be working on a documentary film I am calling Influential – The Age of Digital. I blogged recently on how to create a wordmark and that was meant as a teaser to this project. Stay tuned, I am crazy excited about this project.

My upcoming documentary film project

If you know something about the film industry, man I can use some help. So far, I am stoked to know that the fine folk at Influxis will be involved and potentially FiTC. I don’t want to speak out of turn, so I’ll leave it there. Anyone want to throw money into a totally interesting project for a production credit, you need to let me know. Or however that works. I am hoping to find out soon.

Finally, I quit smoking. Feel really good about that.

FiTC Edmonton Done

The 2nd year of FiTC Edmonton is over and I have to say, I really enjoyed myself. Grant and Bobi Skinner are excellent hosts. Although it was a quiet event, it was a single-track event, giving the attendees the opportunity to see every speaker, an impossible task in a multi-track event.

Once again, I co-opted my session time with some moviesinhaiku. My main session was Things I learned in Preschool and concentrated on self-management and being an effective team player. It could possibly come across as “touchy-feely” but I like to think that these topics are atypical at conferences like FiTC. The moviesinhaiku part was extremely well-received. I can’t get over how gratifying it is to have people applaud my little project. Thank you all. I am humbled by your complements.

I was asked if I’d be putting my slides online and at first I just sort of stood there thinking about it. My slides are pretty bereft of copy. I try to distill any message a slide has to a maximum of three points and I think my slides don’t make much sense without me speaking to them. So put me in the “undecided” camp as to whether or not I’ll put my slides up.

Another person asked if I brought prints with me to sell because they would definitely buy one if I did. This is where I need to admit I’m a terrible salesman. It did occur to me to bring some prints to sell but I feel mildly ill at the idea of saying “and I brought prints to sell if you want one.”

So my response is this: if you don’t like the idea of using your credit card or Paypal, but want to buy a print, email me and we’ll work out an email transfer or something. I give prints away at conferences to attendees because I think you guys deserve a gift for sitting all day in uncomfortable seats watching people like me. There’s also a part of me that knows conference organizers might not like me “hawking my wares” at their venue and I don’t blame them.

Many thanks for Shawn Pucknell of FiTC for asking me to come to Edmonton and making it possible, once again, for me to get totally nervous in front of an audience. Thanks also to Grant Skinner, who’s generosity in allowing me and a few others to shack up at his home while he and his amazing wife, Bobi, played host to us. There continues a huge support network in this community I call home and I am privileged and honoured by being a part of it. I don’t have any upcoming speaking commitments for 2011 so this may have been it for me in the public lens. Who knows?

If it is, 2010 was an awesome ride.

Flash on the Beach 2010

This was my second year speaking at Flash on the Beach. For six years, John Davey has consistently put on a great conference. His three days of speakers, pitches, networking and inspiration are a huge draw and I spend them in a heady mix of nerves and excitement.

The speakers
I’ve been told point blank that I’m fortunate to be a speaker. So true. I am truly lucky that organizers trust my mouth to fill seats. I get a ringside seat to the genius that is the other speakers. In no way can I be compared to the likes of Grant Skinner, Robert Hodgin or Stefan Sagmeister. I look up to these guys. The fact that I get a microphone and pace on stage too means nothing compared to having a quiet chat with some of my oldest (read: longest) heros. Some of whom I also count as close friends.

Something that is missing from the normal conference experience that I think John Davey has well grasped is the speakers are people; they typically don’t like talking about themselves and have the same insecurities as everyone else. Don’t get me wrong, speakers love talking about their work. Because they love their work. A speaker is a speaker because they are inspired by what they do. Their inspiration is our inspiration when they speak. Seeing Mario Klingemann get excited about a discovery is like watching a kid open a present on Christmas morning. It’s that kind of excitement that drives audience members to go out and “TRY”. But I digress. Get a speaker one on one with an attendee and that’s why you go to Flash on the Beach. At least in my experience. Nothing is better to me than speaking directly with attendees.

Flash on the beach is the one conference where you will see speakers lining the first few rows in session. We are as turned on by what other speakers say as the average conference-goer. It’s a testament to the quality of speakers at Flash on the Beach, myself notwithstanding. I see more sessions at Flash on the Beach than at any other conference and apologize to the speakers who’s session I might miss; I’m looking at you, Seb Lee-Delisle, Hoss Gifford, Brendan Dawes and Ralph Hauwert

My name-dropping is officially exhausted.

My Session
My official session was titled The Art of [Mis]Communication. However, after presenting at Flashbelt in June, I fine-tuned it and renamed it to Things I Learned in Preschool. I have been freelancing for a year and have unofficially become the child-shuttle due to proximity to preschool and kindergarten. In the last year, I have observed behaviour lessons and punishment that we as adults could truly learn from. So I made an effort to dial back the corp speak and dial up the kid speak. Hopefully those that attended my session understood what I hoping to get at.

Secondly, I added in a half-session on my side project; Movies in Haiku. I have been engrossed in this little project for over six months and just had to co-opt my session with it. I apologize if anyone thought I should not have. In my defence, I gave away an entire set of prints, cleverly hidden under the seats by my wife, Elizabeth. Seeing a roomful of people bend over to look under their seat then some come up triumphantly with a print just made me smile. I felt like Willy Wonka. A little. Without the big hat. The prints are for sale on my Etsy shop.

Thank you so much to John, his family, his volunteers and staff for making my stay in Brighton and my Flash on the Beach experience one to remember!

Moviesinhaiku at FlashinTO

For those of you that read this blog, you might be disappointed to see it’s been nearly a month since I last posted. However, if you’re also a follower of mine on Twitter, you’re likely not that surprised.

Over the past few months I’ve been busying myself with freelance work, thank God, and my side/personal project, Moviesinhaiku.

It’s been a busy project, as all the best personal projects are. I tweet, blog about printing, sell the prints and started a Facebook page to support the effort. I also maintain a “play” site for the haikus where I add functionality every so often as a way of experimenting. The latest feature was to add SWFaddress. You can’t bookmark a fave haiku, yet, but it’s coming, I swear.

I am presenting about the experience of Moviesinhaiku and giving away a few prints tonight at the TO flash user group (FlashinTO) monthly meeting at Function 13. I hope you’re able to come!

Flashbelt, You’re Like a Fine Wine

You just keep getting better. In its seventh year, Flashbelt put on a great show. Dave Schroeder knows his conference and gathers together some of the best and most inspirational speakers in our community. And me. I was lucky enough to be invited to speak this year. I’d never been and now wish I’d taken some opportunity to check it out before.

I’m afraid I’ll miss something so I really want to keep this brief. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the three “headliners”; Jared Tarbell, Jared Ficklin and Jer Thorp. These three fellas are doing what can only be described as “jaw-dropping” work. If you haven’t heard of them… well… are you my mom? I mean, really, I can forgive my mom. Otherwise, and I’m having a hard time figuring it out, did you come here by accident? Like, you thought this was “when i thought she was 18 and barely legal”?

But I digress…

I am always so honoured to be included in such an august lineup. I mean, you have such visionaries as Mario Klingemann, Keith Peters, Ralph Hauwert, Andre Michelle and Joa Ebert who make such beauty out of code. Plus, amazing creators and educators like Filip Visnjic and Rob Bateman who I got a chance to speak with this conference.

It’s such a pleasure to be allowed to sit and chat with these folks. Personally I’d like to lock them in a relatively comfortable room and have them teach me stuff, but sitting with them and sharing stories is a close second. And then there are people like Stacey Mulcahy and Julian Dolce that welcome me with open arms whenever I return to Ottawa. Essentially, every time I see these people, it’s like a little reunion. Of course there are others and I hope no-one takes offence if I don’t mention them specifically. The work shown and the advice given can only be described as inspirational. Filip’s “If you already know the end, don’t do it. Be surprised” (I’m paraphrasing) kind of blew me away. Oh, and Jennifer Shiman announced the end of the 30 Second Bunny Theater. Waaaaaaaah!!!!

The attendees were amazing. Anyone who attended my talk seemed genuinely happy with my session and no-one at all punched me in the face. Success all ’round. Talking with the attendees afterward was a true pleasure as well. Lots of great questions and fantastic feedback.

The sponsors were incredible. The folks at Adobe continue to be major supporters of conferences like Flashbelt. They’re also some swell people to boot. I don’t envy the traveling they do. It was a real pleasure to meet Bruno and Stephen from SF and PowerFlasher.

I spent a fair amount with the guys from Influxis. It was a rare treat as I was able to find out more about them and how Influxis started. Quite a tale to hear and what a great bunch they are. In addition to being very supportive of the community, that is. You can hand out money and still be dicks, FYI. These guys are the exact opposite.

Lastly, I got hold of the Particle book put together by Kristin Henry of Galaxy Goo fame. Kristin was kind enough to invite me to participate so I have a page in this book! Self-interest aside, Galaxy Goo is a great organization and any chance to help it out I’ll take.

As best I could, I used Twitter accounts because these people have more to say than what is contained in an hour on stage.