Coding: The Future is Creative


Coding: The Future is Creative

Chloe Watts meets five of the UK's most creative coders, working in music, art, gaming and fashion. This aims to inspire students to code and engage with GCSE computer science.


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Transcript


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"Computer science is the future." That's what they keep telling us,

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but what does the future look like?

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Learning to code gives us the power to get creative with

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programming and digital technology

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and the possibilities are endless.

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You can make your own apps,

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programmes, systems, networks, everything.

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Rather than just using computers and software,

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we can programme them to work for us

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and mould them to do exactly what we want.

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It's really a means of creative expression in itself

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cos you get to, sort of, say, "This is how I think the world works."

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I'm Chloe Watts. I'm a coder

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and a fashion technologist.

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We are living in an exciting time. Digital industries are booming

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and the next generation of coders are needed.

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Technology, now more than ever, equals power!

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And I'm off to go see some pretty powerful coders.

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CHEERING

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DANCE MUSIC

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My first stop is to meet a musician who's merging

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the worlds of music and technology, with some interesting results.

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I'm at The Arches in Glasgow. It's a music gig with a difference.

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Apparently, we'll be dancing to code!

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HE BEATBOXES

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Beardyman is as big as it gets in the world of beatboxing.

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From Proms performances...

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..to appearances on tracks

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with the legendary Fatboy Slim.

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MUSIC: "Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat" by Fatboy Slim & Riva Starr

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And with over 40,000 Twitter followers and 12 million hits

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on his viral videos, he's a big hit on social media too.

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So I started as a beatboxer and I won a couple of UK championships.

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I wasn't satisfied with that cos I thought,

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"That's beatboxing, that's good, but it's been done,

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"and it's been done really well. I want to do something different."

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So I wanted to manipulate my voice and turn it into anything

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I could imagine and build up hugely layered

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and complex pieces that sound exactly like dance music.

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And that's where the code comes in. Beardyman has masterminded

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and developed a music system which manipulates his voice

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however he wants and in real time.

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I have invented a thing.

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It's a system that allows you to make music

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as fast as you can think of it. Or almost as fast.

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It's the fastest music creation system that there is.

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It's called the Beardytron 5000 Mark II S.

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It enables me to make live dance music, just using my voice.

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To try and meet the challenge of being able to make music live

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on the spot just from my mouth,

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and to have all these complicated things happen to it

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that turn it into live dance music,

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that's not easy.

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So how does the Beardytron work?

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The sounds from his voice are input through a microphone,

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captured as audio samples

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and stored as binary numbers, thousands of numbers per second.

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He then uses tablets, MIDI keyboards and bespoke software to process

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these samples, turning them into any sound he wants.

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This one is a kind of...

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Ooh!

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AUTOMATED BEEPING

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It's pretty crazy, isn't it?

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-SHE LAUGHS

-It's one of them.

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'Beardyman can then use the Beardytron to build up

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'layers of samples to create complex dance music at incredible speed.'

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-So, can I have a go?

-Yes, you may.

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-Amazing.

-So, if you shout something like,

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"My name is Chloe and I am alive," really loud. Really loud.

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-SHE SHOUTS:

-My name is Chloe and I am alive!

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I like that, it was positive.

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-Thank you.

-HE PLAYS RECORDING

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I can't imagine my voice sounding like that.

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HE MANIPULATES THE RECORDING

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HE ADDS A BEAT

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Wow! I can't believe it's transformed like that.

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It's all code.

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FAST DANCE REMIX

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It's just pure maths.

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It's so complicated.

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'Rather than wait for others to come up with the software

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'to make the music he wants,

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'Beardyman's computing knowledge has allowed him to create

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'a bespoke system that works for him.'

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I did Computing A-level, so I've got just enough coding knowledge

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to be able to understand the structure of the programme.

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I've worked with about five or six

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of the most incredibly intelligent coding geniuses that there are,

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and they've built this thing for me.

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And it's been really fun,

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because there's been a lot of challenges,

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but we've surmounted them all.

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There's no bugs in it at the moment, it's just rock solid,

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and it does what I want it to do.

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HE MANIPULATES HIS OWN VOICE

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Well, the Beardytron seems to be behaving here in Glasgow.

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The crowd are going wild for Beardyman's vocal beats.

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CROWD CHEER

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I think what coders do is incredible

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because it's so vital to the way we live nowadays.

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Everything is code now. There's no products any more.

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There's just smartphones, and tablets, and computers.

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And all of the products we use

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are just functions of these existing devices.

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Everyone has to learn how to code,

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and you can make your own apps, programmes, systems,

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networks, everything. We can create the world now.

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The gaming industry is big business and, if games development

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is your passion, then the UK is the place to be.

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We have the biggest developer base in Europe,

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with 48 of the world's top 100 development studios.

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One in three of us describe ourselves as gamers.

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That's a lot of people to design games for

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and a huge amount of code to write!

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I'm on my way to BAFTA, where they promote

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and develop moving art forms.

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I'm about to meet a games developer who they've got their eye on.

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Mitu Khandaker has created her first computer game.

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Named as one of BAFTA's Breakthrough Brits for 2013,

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Mitu is certainly one to watch.

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I first got into coding, actually,

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when I was about 10 or 11 years old.

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I decided I wanted to make my own websites for my favourite TV shows

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so I basically just went about

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teaching myself HTML coding,

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completely from scratch. So I opened up a text editor,

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typed some code and, obviously, saw it turn into this website.

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And I just got hooked on the magic of that, of typing code

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into a computer and have it turn into this thing

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that people can interact with.

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It was around that same time that I realised there were people

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who made video games as a living.

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Like, I'd been a fan of video games since I was really tiny.

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Together with realising that coding was a thing that I could do,

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it all sort of came together for me,

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and I knew that what I really wanted to do was be a game developer.

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'Welcome to the future.'

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Mitu's first game was launched in November 2013.

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Redshirt is not just any old game.

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It's a comedy sci-fi social media simulation game, I think!

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So, these guys are playing your game. Talk us through it.

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So, it's set on this future sci-fi space station and you create

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a character, so there's someone creating a character just here.

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You get to customise them however you like.

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There's lots of different personality attributes

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that characters can have.

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They can be sociable, they can be charismatic.

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There's 12 different attributes in total.

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So, as you can imagine, a combination of those different ones

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can result in these very different seeming characters.

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And then you start your job as a total nobody on this space station,

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where everybody uses this thing called Spacebook.

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It's really a game based around the social interactions

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that you, the player, have with these computer-driven characters.

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So, for example, if you send a friend request to somebody,

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that character, effectively, will think for themselves.

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So, they'll have their own decision-making process.

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An algorithm, as it were, as to whether or not

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they want to accept your friend request.

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Mitu's programme is made up of lots of algorithms.

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An algorithm is a precise set of instructions

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that tells the computer exactly how to carry out a task.

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Code is the language we use to create an algorithm.

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The recipe to follow to get the job done.

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The really cool thing about algorisms is that

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because you're breaking an abstract concept down into different steps,

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there's a lot of potential for really expressing

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how you think a particular thing works.

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So, for example, in this game, I've given a particular version

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of how somebody accepting a friend request might work,

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but that may not be one that you agree with. So, basically,

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the way you express yourself through an algorithm

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can say a lot about how you think.

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Or even, it might be an idea that you don't necessarily agree with.

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It's really a means of creative expression in itself

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cos you get to sort of say, "This is how I think the world works."

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It's great to meet someone who sees coding as an art form

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and a means of expression. She's inspired me to keep creating.

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I think it's really valuable for people to really understand

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how code works and what value it can have in their lives.

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In the same way that people should have access to

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learning how to write poems or books,

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and take photographs and draw pictures,

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you should be able to learn to code as well,

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so you can express yourself in that way.

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'You, too, will experience high levels of satisfaction.'

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Computer science is everywhere.

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From the hardware in our pockets to our desktop computers.

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In the games we play, the art we see,

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the music we hear,

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and even the clothes we wear.

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Imagine you have an app where you just literally press two buttons,

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and the GPS finds your location.

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I'm at Startup Hackathon, where fashion technologists like me

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are coming up with amazing ideas to shape our industry.

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I'm really excited to be here.

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From coders to designers,

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professionals from all areas of the fashion industry are here.

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Tonight's theme is Wearable Tech.

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APPLAUSE

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The industry creatives are discussing ideas from fashion apps

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and software to GPS clothing to help locate your friends.

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It's a chance to let their imaginations run wild

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and inspire each other to create the wearable tech of the future.

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The way we make, market,

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and consume clothing is changing. The lines have blurred between

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traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers

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and shopping on the web.

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Over the summer of 2013,

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more than £347 million was invested in fashion tech start-ups!

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Wearable tech is big business, with consumers buying items

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from intelligent watches

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to 3D printed garments,

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and even tweeting dresses!

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I'm off to see one of the industry's rising stars

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at his digital fashion studio.

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Or fashion laboratory,

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as they call it here at Studio XO in North London.

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Behind these walls are top-secret designs

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for some of the most ground-breaking clothing creations.

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I wonder if anything will fit me?

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Benjamin Males fuses

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computer programming

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with fashion design.

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He develops technology to create wearable applications

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or digital clothes.

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So what do we have here?

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These are trainers that we built

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-for a boyband, JLS. You might have heard of them.

-Wow, amazing!

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-Yep, I've heard of them.

-There's a lot of green and white LEDs -

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light-emitting diodes.

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We built these as part of a tour that the boys did

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- "the boys," as we call them -

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did last year. We also built some light-up suits of armour as well.

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They really wanted us to make them kind of glow

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and to animate with the music, to really become part of the stage.

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So they're dancing, but their clothes are dancing and animating as well.

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So how was it actually made?

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The circuit boards in the trainers are actually flexible,

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so if you're going to wear it, you can't have anything too rigid.

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The electronics themselves are...

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they're not intelligent.

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You see here, this is an integrated circuit chip,

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and this is the micro controller, so this is like the brain.

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And that brain is told how to do certain things,

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so it gives it a personality. You tell the LEDs to flash or to go dark,

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and they wanted the trainers to light up

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-and synchronise with the music.

-It synchronises with the music?

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-It synchronises with the music.

-Wow, amazing.

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So clearly, this isn't just any old fashion house.

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Technology and computing are at the heart of everything they create.

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We have all kinds of people working with us.

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We have fashion designers and fabricators and tailors,

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working alongside coders and engineers.

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We have electronic engineers and mechanical engineers,

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and also scientists as well.

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One of the things that fashion technology and wearable technology

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can do is create surprise.

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With the JLS trainers, when they come on, it's a moment of wow factor.

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I think with everything we build, we use technology to create that.

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In 2013, Studio XO were commissioned to create a dress

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for none other than Lady Gaga.

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Thank you so much for coming here tonight.

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I wanted to, for the first time ever, introduce you to...

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Volantis.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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We worked with the world's best technicians, or engineers,

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in that field, and working with our hybrid team of designers

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and engineers here in Studio XO, we were able to turn

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some of their technology into something that was wearable.

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Do you have any questions, or do you want to see her fly?

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AUDIENCE: Fly!

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Known for her quirky style,

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Lady Gaga has certainly embraced fashion technology.

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And this project enabled Studio XO to take their vision

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of wearable electronics to the next level.

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Benjamin and his technical team worked closely with drone experts.

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They used state-of-the-art technology to create Volantis,

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a garment which sits somewhere between a dress

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and a flying machine.

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So what's the future for wearable tech?

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I think the future for wearable tech is quite an exciting future.

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Just in the last two years, we've gone from building

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light-up sneakers to building flying dresses.

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What we're doing at Studio XO is, we're paving the way

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for a future where, who knows, maybe we wake up in the morning

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we put our intelligent T-shirt on, and we're coding our T-shirt

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to choose which design we want.

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And that's the future that we imagine.

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The games industry has evolved in recent years.

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There's more of an emphasis on creating and sharing games content

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than ever before.

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Coders, designers, and gamers of all levels can now work together online.

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The line between a player and a game designer has blurred.

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There's now even more opportunities to work in games design,

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and I'm about to meet someone who's doing just that.

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John Beech hasn't always

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worked in the industry.

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In fact, five years ago, he was a builder. Gaming was just a hobby.

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Hammering nails through the day and keyboards by night,

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John spent long hours building virtual worlds,

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and his hard work eventually paid off.

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Never in my wildest dreams, ever, honestly,

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did I ever imagine I'd end up here, and every day, I pinch myself.

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John landed his dream job in international gaming company

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Media Molecule.

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Their game, Little Big Planet, allows users to create content

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and share it online.

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Can you explain to me how the game actually works?

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Yeah, sure. Basically, it's a game where, not only can you play it,

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you can make other games in it.

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It's a creation suite, as well as being a game.

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That's awesome, that means it's endless.

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It's endless, yeah. At last count,

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-there was eight million levels that people had published online.

-Whoa.

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Online games are radically changing the gaming industry,

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with social networking

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and user-generated content leading the way.

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This is good news for those interested in games design,

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as it's easier than ever to create

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and share your content with an online community.

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And it was publishing this level that got John noticed.

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So this is the level you designed to get your job here.

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Yeah, the guys here, the other designers, the other coders,

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everyone had seen it and thought, "Wow, I don't know how he did

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"some of the things he did in our own game,"

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cos I was kind of bending the rules.

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-Sweet! I really want to play it. Can I?

-Of course you can.

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-We'll load it up.

-OK.

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-Here's your character.

-Awesome.

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We've got to go this way

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and we've got to try and infiltrate the enemy base.

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OK.

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'More and more games incorporate mechanics

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'for creating content these days.'

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And...jump! Oh, no!

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-No, I died!

-That's OK, you come back in a second.

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'This is done using programming scripts and game logic.'

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It's kind of like a simplified version of code,

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where you can get certain things to happen.

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So, say you press a switch,

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a door opens. So, in this case here, we've got a barricade

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and I've set up a simple bit of logic onto it - a script,

0:18:080:18:12

if you will - and when I shoot it, it's designed to explode all of this.

0:18:120:18:16

-Kablammo!

-Can you show me some of the scripting?

0:18:160:18:20

We'll just load it up. Here we go.

0:18:200:18:22

So I've made a small,

0:18:220:18:23

mini bit of a level. You can imagine, in a game,

0:18:230:18:25

this would be a door we had to get through.

0:18:250:18:27

'These mechanics allow you to edit the game using visual graphics,

0:18:270:18:30

'rather than writing lines of code.'

0:18:300:18:32

Each line of code, or multiple lines of code,

0:18:320:18:35

are represented by these individual little icons here.

0:18:350:18:38

So we've got this button

0:18:380:18:39

and, as you can see,

0:18:390:18:40

when I jump on the button,

0:18:400:18:41

the door opens,

0:18:410:18:42

and if I jump on the button again,

0:18:420:18:44

the door shuts.

0:18:440:18:45

That's quite a lot going on for just one door opening.

0:18:450:18:48

Ah, yes, it is, but if you think that

0:18:480:18:50

each one of these components

0:18:500:18:52

would actually be a couple of hundred lines of code,

0:18:520:18:55

but the coders have simplified it down, so I can combine them.

0:18:550:18:59

Scripting is all about making fun games,

0:18:590:19:01

as opposed to staring at a TV screen for ages.

0:19:010:19:03

And once you've got your head around this, this teaches you

0:19:030:19:07

how basic logic works, how "if" and "and" statements work.

0:19:070:19:10

Once you've learnt this, the step up to coding is far easier than

0:19:100:19:13

if you've had no experience at all.

0:19:130:19:15

So it's a really big team effort, then?

0:19:150:19:17

Yeah, it's a huge team effort.

0:19:170:19:18

Without the coders, the designers couldn't make a game,

0:19:180:19:21

and without the designers, the coders wouldn't be able

0:19:210:19:24

to make the game themselves, either.

0:19:240:19:26

So you combine forces and you make a really good game,

0:19:260:19:29

at the end of the day.

0:19:290:19:30

-Oh!

-Oh, no! We've died!

0:19:300:19:33

'John's design success has inspired him to learn to code.'

0:19:330:19:37

I've actually decided to start teaching myself real code,

0:19:370:19:40

base-level code, because that will take me to the next level

0:19:400:19:44

of game design, cos I will no longer be dependent on other people.

0:19:440:19:47

I can make my own games from start to finish

0:19:470:19:50

and do it exactly how I want,

0:19:500:19:51

-which is super-important to me.

-Have you been enjoying it?

0:19:510:19:54

I've been really enjoying it, yeah. It's a lot more fun than you think

0:19:540:19:57

cos, initially, you think, "Oh, no, it's kind of typing, and maths,"

0:19:570:20:00

but once you get into it and you start realising the possibilities,

0:20:000:20:04

it's more like having tonnes of Lego in front of you and thinking,

0:20:040:20:07

"What can I build out of this?" And you put all the components together

0:20:070:20:10

and you've got some kind of amazing rocket ship

0:20:100:20:13

or giant dragon with wings. Whatever you want to make, you can do.

0:20:130:20:16

Coders like me can spend long hours

0:20:210:20:23

in front of the computer screen.

0:20:230:20:25

But coding's not all about being stuck indoors.

0:20:250:20:28

I just wanted to bring it bigger, you know.

0:20:280:20:31

Bigger and outside.

0:20:310:20:32

Seb Lee-Delisle is a coder and visual artist.

0:20:320:20:36

He merges both of these worlds by bringing coding outdoors

0:20:360:20:39

and creating huge art installations

0:20:390:20:42

for the public to interact with.

0:20:420:20:44

I'm in Huddersfield, at the Festival of Light,

0:20:440:20:47

to check out Seb's digital interactive firework display.

0:20:470:20:50

So what's going on here today?

0:20:500:20:52

Well, this is PixelPyros.

0:20:520:20:54

We're using massive projectors

0:20:540:20:56

and a really big laser

0:20:560:20:57

connected to computers

0:20:570:20:58

to create this fireworks display.

0:20:580:21:01

And every firework is triggered using a motion-detection system

0:21:010:21:05

by members of the audience, that's what triggers the fireworks.

0:21:050:21:08

The motion-detection system

0:21:080:21:10

is made up of 30 infrared lights and a camera.

0:21:100:21:13

When one of the lights is blocked, motion is detected.

0:21:130:21:17

The information it gathers is input into the PixelPyros programme

0:21:170:21:22

on Seb's laptop, manipulated using code,

0:21:220:21:24

and projected onto a huge 80-metre screen, with spectacular results.

0:21:240:21:30

It's really exciting to be able to teach the computer

0:21:300:21:33

how to make these patterns and fireworks.

0:21:330:21:36

Hundreds of people all here,

0:21:360:21:37

interacting with computer code, with this technical system.

0:21:370:21:43

So how does it work?

0:21:440:21:46

There's a lot stuff here that we're doing. We're manipulating

0:21:460:21:49

camera images, we're trying to read bits of the camera image

0:21:490:21:52

to see where there's motion.

0:21:520:21:54

That's all quite complicated stuff. It's all written in C++,

0:21:540:21:59

which is... Well, I work in lots of different languages

0:21:590:22:02

and C++ is probably the hardest.

0:22:020:22:04

Seb has decided to share his code on an open-source platform.

0:22:040:22:08

Open-source communities are formed

0:22:080:22:12

when coders come together to share their work online.

0:22:120:22:15

It's something that's really important to me.

0:22:160:22:18

All of my projects are open source.

0:22:180:22:20

If you wanted to, you could download this PixelPyros app for yourself.

0:22:200:22:23

-Amazing.

-In reality, I'm not sure if anyone could

0:22:230:22:27

take it and make their own PixelPyros,

0:22:270:22:29

but they could at least learn from it and see how I've done some of it.

0:22:290:22:32

Yeah, it's a really important part of what I do

0:22:320:22:35

because when you're a coder, or an artist, or both, like me,

0:22:350:22:39

the tendency is, when you make something, when you work on it

0:22:390:22:42

and invest time in it, is to sort of keep it closed to yourself.

0:22:420:22:45

To me, in a way, it's better to just give it away

0:22:450:22:47

and say, "Here it is."

0:22:470:22:48

Making your code open source means that anyone can access it

0:22:500:22:53

and pick up where you left off.

0:22:530:22:56

This collaborative approach means programmers can adapt

0:22:560:22:58

and improve existing code, and share their changes within the community.

0:22:580:23:03

Seb's works proves that there's more to what coders do

0:23:050:23:08

than just writing computer commands. Both his creativity

0:23:080:23:12

and his coding skills are going down a storm here tonight.

0:23:120:23:16

Certainly for me, as a creative person, it's really important

0:23:170:23:20

that more creative people learn to programme,

0:23:200:23:22

rather than just the engineers and the mathematicians because

0:23:220:23:25

there's so much creative potential with this technology,

0:23:250:23:29

and the new technology that's coming out all the time

0:23:290:23:31

that it's just going to be really exciting.

0:23:310:23:34

The kids that are learning now

0:23:340:23:35

are going to be the ones that do stuff 20 times better than this

0:23:350:23:38

in 20 years' time, you know?

0:23:380:23:40

Seb's brought code to the people.

0:23:560:23:58

It just shows what we can achieve. This is spectacular!

0:23:580:24:02

Learning to code is just the beginning.

0:24:030:24:06

Gaining an understanding of how computers work

0:24:060:24:08

means we'll be able to invent our own programmes

0:24:080:24:11

and programming languages in the future

0:24:110:24:13

to create things we can't even imagine yet.

0:24:130:24:16

Whether your passion is gaming or music, art, fashion or design,

0:24:160:24:21

you can take your expertise in any direction you want.

0:24:210:24:24

The possibilities are endless.

0:24:240:24:26

This film aims to inspire the next generation to get into coding and to engage with computer science at Key Stage 4, GCSE.

Presenter, fashion technologist and passionate coder Chloe Watts visits some of the UK's most creative coders to demonstrate how exciting coding is, the job opportunities coding skills can lead to, and how necessary coding is for our future.

Chloe's first stop is Glasgow, where she attends a music gig with a difference. Hundreds turn up to see Beardyman perform a dance music set based on code.

Next, Chloe heads to Bafta to meet one of the breakthrough Brits for 2013. Mitu Khandaker has taken her computer science degree to the next level by creating, designing and coding her own computer game. Mitu believes coding is a way of creatively expressing ourselves through computer algorithms.

Chloe stays in London to meet Benjamin Males, a leading fashion technologist in the wearable tech industry. His company has worked with Black Eyed Peas, JLS and Lady Gaga to develop innovative clothing creations.

Games designer John Beech tells his own amazing story of how he rose from novice designer to employee of an international gaming company overnight.

Chloe finishes her journey at the Festival of Light in Huddersfield. She meets digital artist and coder Seb Lee-Delisle, who is spectacularly merging the world of art and technology by coding an amazing digital interactive firework using his self-coded Pixel Pyros program. He explains why he shared each stage with the online coding community on an open source platform.


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