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The Overlord of After Effects Tools: A chat with Adam Plouff

Ryan Plummer

Adam Plouff - master tinkerer and creator of the magical portal extension Overlord joins us on the School of Motion Podcast

Straight from our popular new course Expression Session, we landed an exclusive interview with the legendary Adam Plouff. If you’ve never heard of this mad-man, then congratulations! We’re sure the world looks different now that you’ve emerged from under that rock.

Adam has transformed the workflows of many artists with his legendary Overlord extension for Adobe After Effects and Illustrator. On top of that, Adam also made a free open-source tool called AEUX - previously known as Sketch2AE - a real lifesaver when you're working between Sketch / Figma and After Effects.

Adam is a tool developer working at a small company you’ve probably never heard of called Google. Call us crazy, but this company is on the rise, and we definitely believe you’re about to gain a butt-load of knowledge.  Once you get done with this podcast you’re gonna ask yourself, “What other golden nuggets am I missing by not taking Expression Session?”

Extend your brain antenna, it’s time to tune in and listen up: Adam’s gonna spill the beans.

Adam Plouff Podcast Interview

Adam Plouff Podcast Show Notes

Here’s all the important reference material, all linked up so you can enjoy the episode!



Adam Plouff Interview Transcript

Nol Honig: (01:53)Well, thanks so much for joining us today on this podcast. It's great to see you.
Adam Plouff: (01:58)Good to see you too, Nol and Zack.
Nol Honig: (02:03)Awkward. Okay. Let's start out by jumping right into it and let's talk about where are you living now and what are you doing? Tell us what your life is like right now.
Adam Plouff: (02:11)Right now, I'm living in Atlanta. I am a Georgia native. I really love biscuits and gravy and barbecue. We spent a year out in the Bay Area doing the technology thing, but we are back in Atlanta living a quieter, slower, more spacious life and we really like it here. It's home. We have all our families here. We needed to come back after a little bit of a weird personal experience out in California.
Zack Lovatt: (02:46)Yeah. Did you find that it kind of helped though career-wise and life-wise or would have been better if you just stayed back?
Adam Plouff: (02:53)Unbelievably. Yeah, being in technology completely changed my whole career path. I'd been in broadcast for about eight years up until that point. Then, moving into the technology it just completely changed everything. Broadcast is still going strong in Atlanta and all around the country but I was getting a little fried doing the same thing, rinse and repeat.
Adam Plouff: (03:24)There was a lot of good people to work with and I had a lot of fun and I made a lot of good friendships in it but the work was just getting a little stale for me because it was a lot of do a promo and then version it 58 times for different languages and all of the different networks that needed different splits for everything to good audio. It was time for me to change and going into technology was a big, big change for me and I didn't really know what I was doing, but it was a very fun learning curve but because of that, it's kind of changed the whole course of my own career path.
Zack Lovatt: (04:02)Now that you're back, I guess, you're still doing that more technical work as opposed to going back to the broadcast stuff you did before?
Adam Plouff: (04:09)Yeah, the majority of what I'm doing now is working in technology. I'm currently a full time vendor for Google. It allows me to work remotely for them but still give 40 hours to them to be building tools for them. Working with the same team that I was working with before is really nice because we built a really good workflow of how we come up with ideas and how we spot problems in the production pipeline and where things are taking way too long and where we can optimize things because technology companies have a lot of money and the normal way that they solve problems is just by hiring more people.
Adam Plouff: (04:53)But my team is one of the bigger teams at Google as far as motion design goes, where it's all just a bunch of motion designers working on how things move on all of the screens, mostly for search and the assistant and a little bit of maps. We don't really want to hire more people because the more people that get involve, the more complicated it can get. We're trying to really solve a lot of the problems of the workflow with tooling and processes a little bit more.
Adam Plouff: (05:25)Because I've got a bit of a history with them, we were able to kind of get back up to speed and start building more tools again. Somebody comes up with a thing that they want to see happen and we'll sit down and sort out why we need to change something or what's wrong with that and if there is something that we can optimize or if it's something that we should just be simplified and sometimes that's the easiest way.
Adam Plouff: (05:50)Sometimes we just reach for something off the shelf. There's a tool that we can just pull from or if it's something that we need to build custom or something that we kind of have to rope in another more smart, if we need to rope in somebody who's smarter when it comes to web technology to integrate with other teams and stuff that if it's outside of the Adobe and design app ecosystem, then we usually pull in other people so that we can build back ends or whatever we need to do to integrate with all that. It's been really nice to be able to work on something like that that helps a bunch of people.
Adam Plouff: (06:28)Then, best case scenario, if we build the tools out to be useful and solid enough and there's no proprietary data or anything like that, then we get to share them outside of the company. We can open source them and that's really fun too.
Zack Lovatt: (06:40)Yeah, we've been seeing a lot of that recently, just the whole Adam Plouff Google machine of open source code online.
Adam Plouff: (06:50)We've been working on this. AEUX is the thing that we've been working on for about the past year, which is a follow-up to a project I started when I was a full timer out there in California and it kind of helped a lot. It was the first... It really was kind of the first tool that would work in between different design apps. There had been tools, I mean, there's always been tools to export data and then import data but just out of the blue I kind of realized that everything is data and all of design on a computer is just data. It's all shapes and it's all vector points and it's all text and everything. Everything that you could be working with already exists in some kind of format. You just kind of need to reshape it to be whatever the other format is.
Adam Plouff: (07:41)At first, it was having design data inside of Sketch and then we needed some way to get it into After Effects and that would usually involve rebuilding an Illustrator and then importing it into After Effects and then splitting it, Explode Shape layering it. It was just, even that is as helpful as that became, it just was so much work to rebuild everything. We decided, I was able to clear some of my schedule a little bit and just work on that for most of my time there and we were able to open source that. Then, coming back on as a vendor, that was the first project that I really wanted to update because it kind of... Sketch changed too much of their code base and it broke everything. It just became an unusable mess.
Adam Plouff: (08:29)We quickly pushed it out as a kind of a quiet beta for everybody that was having problems with Sketch2AE and then just kept building on it and then now it's out and it's pretty solid and now it works for Figma, which is the hot new design app that a lot of people are starting to get using inside of AEUX stuff.
Nol Honig: (08:49)That's awesome. Sketch2AE definitely saved my butt on a couple of projects. Thank you. Thank you.
Adam Plouff: (08:55)Absolutely. Yeah, I think that was an interesting project because it caused me to rethink what a lot of what I do totally and it's kind of changed my whole philosophy about a lot of this stuff. Sounds a little too, well, maybe a little too hippy, but the space in between a lot of these disparate apps is kind of no man's land that everything is just lost and floating around but if we can think about the space in between these apps, then we can work together with other people a lot easier. It's all communication, all data's communication, all languages communication. Animation is communication. Illustration is communication, design, everything is communication and it's a matter of are we speaking the same language? Are we using the correct phrasing to have more context to what we're trying to communicate?
Adam Plouff: (09:59)I think I understood that from a visual or written standpoint, verbal standpoint where if you said he ran fast or he sprinted, those are two different ways to say basically the same thing, but there's different subtexts to those things and they mean something different. If you use a different color or if you use a different texture or whatever you're doing, it communicates things differently.
Adam Plouff: (10:30)From a code standpoint, that became a really interesting challenge for me to just start thinking about what does, how do these apps that don't talk to each other, how could they talk to each other and what would be an actually good way because it's not apps talking to each other, it's people who work in one or work in another that are communicating ideas, they're communicating designs, they're communicating speed and interpolation and curves and they're communicating these things that, I mean, yeah, you get the same, it's just data at the end of the day. What could we do to make those things communicate more effectively? Because of that, it kind of informed what I ended up putting together with Overlord.
Adam Plouff: (11:21)Now, I guess, I've spent close to three years just thinking about the space in between different apps and it's been fun. It's been a lot of fun.
Zack Lovatt: (11:33)Yeah.
Nol Honig: (11:33)It's just like on an intellectual level, I think that's a really cool thing to think about and I think you must think about these things much. I noticed that like, for example, you said you listed ruins and incantations on your website, it's like being part of one of the things that you were interested in and to me that speaks to this sort of Deus ex Machina kind of like or like goes to the machine or spirit in the code or the space between things. I think that's a really interesting way to look at it and something that I've actually never really thought about in particular before.
Adam Plouff: (12:02)Yeah, I think that, I guess when, I mean, there were back in the early 2000s when Microsoft Word was becoming the popular thing. There were all these funny images of people who just blew out their toolbars and they had every possible tool on these things and it became this jumbled mess. You started seeing release cycles needing just feature creep and all these apps became super bloated.
Adam Plouff: (12:30)It wasn't until recent years that people started realizing that this isn't actually helpful anymore, that we have too much and sometimes saying less, but saying it in a more elegant way is actually more communicative. I think, I do have a weird non-spiritual fascination with the ideas of magic and what it does for people and where its role throughout history in human society and like what these rituals mean to people and how they make people feel and what they actually are doing on a subconscious level.
Adam Plouff: (13:12)I think, as designers, we have a lot of power when it comes to how people experience things and we have a lot of responsibility to make sure that people's experiences are wholesome and to make sure that they have what they need to do good work so that they, in turn, can make good design decisions later on.
Adam Plouff: (13:41)I think whether it's visual design for an interface, whether it's a tool design, it's finding ways to more effectively lead someone to a place where they can be their best self. I mean, that sounds way deeper than just a tool panel inside of After Effects but that's kind of where my mind goes, not all the time, but I kind of go back to that idea is this actually really bringing value to somebody? Is this as simple as it could be? Is it too simple? Is it so simple that people are having to do multiple steps? Could we add more complexity to this so that it actually becomes really valuable to somebody? That becomes a business decision but that also becomes kind of an existential decision about what are we even doing with this stuff. Are we just making stuff to make stuff or are we just inventing problems to solve so that we can put something into the world because then, I think, then that just becomes clutter.
Adam Plouff: (14:47)We need to find ways to be more effective with what we put out. If something needs to be an app, it should be an app. If it needs to be a plugin, a little add-on, then it should be an add-on. If it needs to be a headless script that runs from a K-bar button, then it should just be a button and you need to find how you, as a designer, and I think all of this stuff is all connected. Maybe that's what it is that I think, I guess, I'm fascinated by the connection between all of this stuff because it's all just art and it's all just how we're putting things into the world to help people feel something and whether it's directly to the consumer or to the person that is creating something for the consumer, it's all connected and I guess, thinking more open-endedly about how is all this stuff connecting is something that I guess I've found really a fascinating, more useful way to look at this stuff than just what am we going to put on the toolbar.
Zack Lovatt: (15:53)Yeah. Seeing as this developer and this technical aspect is still focused around communication because you're coming from a design background before, like a lot of design illustration, heavy artistic side, kind of communicating that way and now you're communicating through the code and the usability and artist enhancement. Is this something you identify with more? Do you have a preference between these two ways because these days, at least, I know you solely from the technical side of the work? I don't see much visual art output from you apart from the branding for these tools. Is that indicative of where your preferences lie these days?
Adam Plouff: (16:33)Yeah. I think that 12 years ago when I was starting to become not a teenager and more of an adult in my early 20s, I don't think I would've, if I could have said I will be a visual designer or a coder or a business person or whatever, I wouldn't have chosen this that I'm in right now where I am a primarily business-focused engineer person. That's not who I was 10 years ago and I think that as humans, we are always kind of evolving into whatever it is that life presents to us, whatever I guess, life reveals about us, who we really are. You don't know anything about life when you're 22 years old and you kind of have to just go with it.
Adam Plouff: (17:27)I was coming out of a band, a goofy metal band where I stumbled onto how I really like branding and differentiating our, because it was just a metal band in suburban Metro Atlanta that there were a lot of bands like that but I was constantly the one in the band asking like what can we do different but not just to be weird, but what is uniquely us and how can we accentuate those things and still fit into the scene of screaming and jumping off things but how can we push that?
Adam Plouff: (18:06)I remember making a really goofy flash website, but it was pretty and that wasn't a thing that you did in 2004 emocore, metal scene like everything was brash and hard and textured and knives and blood splatter. It didn't make sense for that but it was something that I just wanted to do and that informed the music and then that kind of became a look that we sort of accentuated and went with for a while.
Adam Plouff: (18:37)Then, once the band ran its course, I stumbled onto a video and realized that, "Oh, I already know some about Photoshop so I can go ahead and just do this pretty easy." Then, I stumbled into that. One thing led to another, but it was always just about finding whatever somebody would pay me to do that kind of made me happy. That was where I stumbled into broadcast.
Adam Plouff: (19:02)Most of the time in broadcast, I was an editor to begin with and nobody really asked anything of the editor design-wise because they had design companies to do that but because I had an interest in design, I sort of just threw out the idea like, "Oh, do you want me to just design some of these end cards for you?" They were like, "Oh, can you do that? Oh my gosh." It kind of accidentally brought value to them. I just was bored. I just wanted to try something new and we had a little bit extra time and they were going to go the next day to design but if I could save them a little bit of money, then it worked up. I stumbled onto that and then that led me into just enjoying visual design for what it was and then that I enjoyed animation for what it was.
Adam Plouff: (19:45)I spent, it took about eight years to, well, it probably took about five years to get where I was not completely awful. Then, I spent a few years doing primarily animation and design, and most of that work is not really something that I'm super proud of. I'm usually more proud of the personal work that I've done because I didn't have somebody telling me what to do and I think because of that, I think, looking back in retrospect about my kind of sort of longer design career, it's much longer than my code career, but looking back at that, I realized that I was just looking for a way to be able to make stuff that I wanted to do, going all the way back to the band days. No one was telling me what to do. We didn't have a client. We didn't have... No one else in the band was visually-minded. It was just, "Hey man, do whatever you want." So I did.
Adam Plouff: (20:47)Then, now, with the products that I sell and the marketing that I do for products at Google, I'm kind of free to do whatever I want with these things and it's exactly what I want to be doing. I find that I enjoy working for clients a lot less than I enjoy just doing my own thing and it's really hard because you're kind of your worst critic and it usually takes you a lot longer than if you had a budget and a timeline and someone to tell you that is good or I don't like that, or here are our branding constraints that you have to fit within and you have to meet because those constraints help a lot. They help inform the design and what you choose to do but when you kind of can just invent whatever you want, it's terrifying. You're staring into the abyss of anything but that's kind of where I find that I am my most happy, that existential dread of what am I doing now is where I feel at home.
Adam Plouff: (21:55)I guess to go back to your question everything informs everything else. Everything leads you to where you're at right now. As a designer, you get to choose what you do on a screen or on paper or wherever, but you also get to design what you do with your life. A lot of the stuff that's happened in my life has been completely random, some good, some bad, some chance things that just led me to this and now I'm getting to make stuff that I really like to for a really big company and for myself. It's kind of fun.
Zack Lovatt: (22:34)Yeah. You mentioned that a lot of this is in sort of the direction of the service of you just want to do what you want to do. You want to set your own rules and follow the path that you decide, which is cool. I guess, that makes sense with being primarily self-employed and just saying like, "Hey, I know you're one of the biggest companies in the world to Google, but I'm in Atlanta. Deal with it." Those are the terms.
Adam Plouff: (23:00)Yeah. I wanted, I mean, I enjoyed... My wife and I, we really enjoyed the nature out there and it was a lot of fun but while we were out there, she got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It's kind of hard to say. It was really, really tough on us and it was really tough because we'd only been out there about six months. We didn't have any real friends. We had no family around and we had a three-year-old at the time. He's six now, but he... It was really tough. We kind of needed to come back.
Adam Plouff: (23:29)Then, I guess, a couple a year ago, the laws in the US changed or at least in Georgia changed where we couldn't get health insurance. I had to call up Google and kind of beg, borrow, plead to try to find a way to get some insurance and they were able to make something happen.
Adam Plouff: (23:50)I'm so, so grateful and that's another one of those things that if freelance has been how I've conducted myself business-wise for my whole adult life but had I not taken a chance on a full time position, there would've been no way, I would've had no precedent to walk up to Google and say, "Hi. I think I'm pretty good at what I do. Can you give me a job and give me insurance and find a way to make that happen?" There would've been no way to make that work. It's kind of just following my own boredom of being tired of broadcast into a completely different field, put me in a place where I'm able to do that now for them and work remote. I'd have to sit in a lot of meetings, which is kind of nice too.
Zack Lovatt: (24:35)Yeah.
Nol Honig: (24:36)I definitely think some of that is like you paid attention to your inner voice and you've acted on it, which to me is a real sign of maturity and the sign of confidence and ambition in a person too that like they'll listen to that voice that tells them this is getting boring. I don't want to just keep doing the same thing over and over again. I want to challenge myself. I want to move to a new place. I want to take risks. I don't know, kind of the way that I interpret it a little bit of what you were saying from your progression from the band into your current career, is that like in a way like what seems most valid for you or maybe I'm just interpreting it because this is the way I feel, but that like expression of self is such an important thing.
Nol Honig: (25:12)When you're working for a client, it's very hard to navigate that line between you're expressing yourself and you're kind of expressing what they need you to express but at least as a designer for me or an animator, it's like they're paying me for that expertise but at the same time they want me to tell this other story and it just leads me into a conflict a lot. The way what you're saying is like the difference between art and commerce or the art and craft, it's like when you were doing that for your band, you weren't doing it to get likes or whatever. I mean, maybe you were thinking this will make us more popular, but in some way I think it was more of a just a radical self-expression thing that you were just like, "I've got this thing in me and I just need to let it out." I think that's sort of, for me, the definition of art.
Adam Plouff: (25:55)I completely agree. Yeah, I think that at the end of the day, people who are good at people who provide some kind of a service or a product or something, it has to start with art and it has to be pursued for the sake of just love of a thing and you're never going to get really awesome client work if you don't have something to say artistically.

Adam Plouff: (26:22)Then, you kind of have to balance that. You have to find a way to bring down your own artsy-fartsiness and allow yourself to be okay with it not being 100% your creative vision, but then you have to keep, it's a back and forth and you kind of have to keep pushing and it's the same way even if you have a company like I've had tons ideas where I think to myself, "This is going to be a great product. I love it and I get super excited about building it and a year goes by of nights that I'm just pouring hours into this thing.
Adam Plouff: (26:57)Then, I'll step back for a week and look at it and say, "Why did I build this? I was making myself happy and this is not valuable at all to anybody." Then, I'll kind of get really sad about it and then I have to step back and say, "You know what? I learned a whole lot about things, but this is not something that needs to leave the room. It stays here. I'll look back at it and I'll use it as a learning lesson for next time."
Adam Plouff: (27:30)I also know that that's kind of part of the deal. It usually takes me about a year to come up with something, but it's not sitting around and thinking, "Hmm, what would be a good idea?" It's working really hard on a lot of bad ideas and pouring all of my energy into something that has no merit at all but I have to do it. By doing it, I get all the bad ideas out. That's, I guess, kind of how it is for anything too, anything with this stuff is that you have to work really, really hard. You can't think this is a bad idea, but I'm going to do anyway. You have to honestly believe that something is really good and you have to put all your energy into it.
Adam Plouff: (28:15)Then, maybe you realize that it was a bad idea and you learned a lot about yourself and about your craft or whatever, but you kind of have to go through that process. I think that's what it kind of boils down to is that you have to be, you have to try to be an artist about this stuff. You have to really... Artists are all about expressing themselves and you kind of have to just go with it and push yourself to feel something about things and whether it's something visual or something technical or whatever it is or a combination of all those things, you kind of have to just pursue it as if you are an artist.
Adam Plouff: (28:57)I mean, I had a conversation with my tattooer and she asked me, "How's the design stuff going?" It's like, "I don't really do much of that anymore, but I'm a coder now, professionally, and that's what I do with all my time. I make designs to promote these things, but I don't do any of that stuff." She's like, "Oh man, are you sad about that?" It's like, "No, actually I am feeling more at home. I feel like I've finally found my artistic voice. It took me trying to do things that I wasn't cut out to do and getting really unhappy with it until I finally found this side of it. Now, I'm really, really happy. I'm more of an artist now, punching in numbers and letters into a text editor so it works out."
Zack Lovatt: (29:46)That's cool. I think there's a lot to that just like both in the tools you're making and sort of this path you've taken. I'm just like try a whole lot of stuff, fail at a whole lot of stuff, abandon million projects. I'm like, you get there and you grow yourself and you build that career and that experience with every step you take, even if it's a step backwards sometimes, like everything is building you up.
Zack Lovatt: (30:13)On sort of on that note, you mentioned like abandoning these ideas and this sort of refined, finessed, snootier art in favor of something more you. Could you talk about the Battle Axe brand a bit because that's like the coolest thing out there, especially when it comes to a lot of these code nerds not really knowing how to brand tools. You stand apart in this.
Adam Plouff: (30:39)Well, thank you. I think when I first started, I didn't, well, I mean, Zack you know like when I first started, I just was hitting you up every single day like what is code and you were good enough to explain a lot of things that were very, very, very simple and even still you explained things that are way more complicated than I really, really understand. It's been really, really amazing to have somebody like you that can distill a lot of this stuff for me because I honestly, to be completely honest, I'm literally only know as much code as I need to make the things that I want to make, which is completely backwards from how you're supposed to do things. You're supposed to learn lots of things and then be able to make stuff but that's just never how I've, that's never been the way I've pursued any of this stuff.
Adam Plouff: (31:41)Because I stay more on the idea side of things, the branding has kind of been a byproduct of that and wanting... If I could find a job where I just name stuff all the time, that would be my ultimate dream job. The problem is no one wants to pay you to just name things. You kind of have to build stuff so that you can name it.
Adam Plouff: (32:15)That's where I kind of like, I just like coming up with goofy band names and I just try to think about what would look really cool on a T-shirt because I just want it. I just want something like that to exist so that it can make me happy when I look at it. I'm not the best visual designer at all. I'm not the best animator and I'm certainly not the best programmer, but those are the kind of the three things that I've really enjoyed doing.
Adam Plouff: (32:44)There's a podcast by this guy named Naval who's like all into tech and investing and it sounds that he has one that's called how to get rich and it sounds kind of slimy, but it's some of the best information ever but the underlying idea of it is that the absolute best business advice is to just be yourself because that is the most unimitatable thing in any marketplace. I mean, you definitely have to find what parts of yourself are like actually compelling. You might just be kind of a weirdo and you might need to leave some of that on the table, but finding the things that you are unique in, it's not looking and saying, "What would be unique?" It's just, "What am I really interested in? What are the three things that I'm really, really stoked on and how can I best present these things from what I think, what I enjoy."
Adam Plouff: (33:47)Then, that's kind of where the branding is sort of come from is just what if there was an after effects tool that tried to be mysterious or poetic or whatever. What if that were the case and just because I like that, I think that that sort of cryptic ideas kind of fun. What if I just embraced all of the things that I thought were really interesting when I was a teenager, because I think when you're a teenager, those are the things that inform a lot of who you are as a person.
Adam Plouff: (34:22)The music you listen to, the activities you did. You weren't doing it because it would benefit you financially. You weren't doing it because it would make you cool or I mean, maybe it does now because we have social media, but back in the early 2000s, there wasn't any of that stuff. There was no, no one saw you do any of these things. No one cared what books you read, but a lot of that stuff and what music you listened to, really informed, I feel like it informed a lot of who I am as a person. I was just kind of pulled from a lot of the things that I was really interested in as a teenager and I tried to just do that.
Adam Plouff: (35:00)That kind of the Battle Axe brand is sort of what has sprung out of that. I don't really, it sounds cliche to say like, "Oh, I don't even really know if I have a style," but I don't think of it as, I don't sit down and go, "Does this fit with the brand? It's just a... Does this feel good to me because it's just me?
Adam Plouff: (35:19)I mean, my wife helped me answer emails sometimes, but it's just me and at the end of the day, I'm the only one that can answer for any of this stuff. I can't blame anybody for a bad idea. It's just me. I might as well just do what makes me happy with these visuals and the way I word things. That's kind of what I've tried to do.
Zack Lovatt: (35:41)That's cool. It's like everything fits into the brand because the brand is you.
Adam Plouff: (35:45)Yeah, everything falls out of my brain. Everything kind of has to just unless I'm schizophrenic, like everything is going to have some kind of through current because it's just coming out of me and my life experience.
Nol Honig: (35:58)Well, unless you try to hide those things is how I think about that, right?
Adam Plouff: (36:01)Yup.
Nol Honig: (36:01)Some people make it self-conscious effort, they freeze up and they sort of don't express their true self in a lot of those moments but you do like that's part of you.
Adam Plouff: (36:10)Yeah, I think that and maybe that goes back to the art thing, I have a lot of things from my past that I'm super embarrassed about, but not embarrassed in like I don't want to talk about it. It's more of like an, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe I did that," or "I can't believe I said that," or "I can't believe I believed that," but as I move forward as a human, whenever I see those things I'm like, "Yeah, that's not something... That doesn't represent me anymore."
Adam Plouff: (36:34)I want to make sure that whatever I feel, whatever I do, whatever I say, I want that to be a really good picture of who I am as a person and I don't want to try to have to hide anything. I want to be able to be an open door about who I am, what I think and that's okay if you don't agree with that or if that doesn't mesh with your worldview, that's okay too. There's a lot of people in the world and we don't have to be best friends. It's fine. I'd like to. You'd be a really nice friend to me if we could find some common ground, that'd be really cool, but that's okay if we don't because there's a lot of people in the world.
Nol Honig: (37:12)I mean, just on that subject, I was really struck by the frankness of the article that you wrote from Oceanographer about your wife's health and how that kind of impacted your life. I mean, that was a big moment, I thought, for people just being honest in our community. Kudos to you for that. Again, I think...
Adam Plouff: (37:27)Thank you.
Nol Honig: (37:28)... you're comfortable with that kind of self-expression because of your artistic background or maybe that's just who you are, but that's not something that everybody would have chosen to do because it makes people feel very vulnerable, putting themselves out there like that and like [inaudible 00:37:41] people, I know that they don't want to do that, but I think that's really cool, through line, through everything. I also like your great sense of humor too, which I saw in the article but also, I mean, you have a product called ButtCapper?
Adam Plouff: (37:52)Yeah.
Nol Honig: (37:52)I can't believe that.
Adam Plouff: (37:53)I think it's something weird in me. If it makes you laugh, then it's probably a good idea. That's kind of my test for naming things unless Google shoots it down, which has happened before because things were a little too funny. They weren't serious enough for them. Then, I saved that name. I've got a running list of names of things that I think are funny or nerdy or have some sort of hint at something, but don't actually say what it does. I think that's kind of another thing for naming. I don't want to say what it does unless how you're saying it is actually really funny. That's kind of what ButtCapper was about. You could just say like stroke line fixer, but I was thinking, ButtCapper. That's kind of funny. Every time somebody says it, it makes them laugh. So yes.
Nol Honig: (38:40)It makes me laugh.
Adam Plouff: (38:41)Yeah, I think, I appreciate you saying that. I think that, I mean I kind of question about whether or not I'm being a loud mouth about some stuff, but I think that if I'm just going to be honest with my life and things that are in it, like there's good stuff and there's bad stuff and most people, there's not enough talking about the good stuff and the bad stuff, but life is not black and white. There's no heroes and there's no villains. We're all this weird mixture of good and bad behavior and our lives are made up of good and bad things, positive and negative things and that's okay. We don't have to dwell on the bad stuff, but it's okay to just acknowledge that it exists and like things get hard sometimes and you don't have to try to pretend to be this unattainable icon of knowledge. Nobody is like that and it's okay. That's fine. We're all humans and we're all just trying to make money-making stuff. That's fun.
Zack Lovatt: (39:43)Kind of pivoting a little bit to this idea of just getting how much you don't know or accepting that. Did you come into this coding world through like you mentioned doing Flash before. Was sort of Flash and web stuff your entry into coding way back before it became your full time thing or how did you get started going from this, like going to this more techie coding, algorithmic logical side from the artistic side?
Adam Plouff: (40:15)Yeah, I have a very, very slow process of getting into code. I've always thought it was cool but I just didn't understand it at all. Back in the Flash days, I was just copying ActionScript snippets from something and then eventually something kind of worked and I didn't really understand what was happening at all but something eventually kind of worked and I considered that a success.
Adam Plouff: (40:42)I think that kind of, I mean, most people who get into expressions for After Effects, they're just kind of copying snippets they see that Dan Ebberts wrote and that's fine. That usually gets the job done.
Adam Plouff: (40:57)I remember when I was in college and I was learning After Effects and I was seeing like all of what it could do, I was just kind of blown away. I was like, you can make anything in this and you can code in this. I had kind of, for a long time since probably the early 2000s, I had really wanted to learn processing because I really liked the idea of... I've always liked concert visuals and big screens and like abstract, the sort of stuff that was generative and reacted to things.
Adam Plouff: (41:34)In the early mid-2000s, there are all these libraries that are coming out and I didn't understand a single bit of it, but I liked it and I kept trying. About every, like once a year I'd be like, all right, this is my year. I'm going to learn to code. I would sit down and I would go through tutorials and I would learn all of the basic stuff about four loops and variables and basic things and I couldn't make sense of what a function was, but I was like, "Okay, it's like a thing that you throw stuff in and it spits something else out, I guess. Okay." Maybe, I don't know but I know how I can use this thing if I copy this thing and I modify this thing. Then, none of it would stick and I would get bored and I would move on from that. This would just be like a thing I did at night.
Adam Plouff: (42:21)It was the same thing with cel animation. This is the year that I'm going to learn cel animation. I would do a walk cycle and it would take me three days and it would be garbage and I would [inaudible 00:42:32] not this year and then I would come back. With code, I just kept coming back to it.
Adam Plouff: (42:38)Then, it wasn't until probably three or four years into working in after effects that I started to realize like, "Oh, I can wiggle a thing. Oh, I can pick with this thing over here and then I can kind of modify that." I started kind of just approaching it from the idea that there's this number and if I take, because all of it, it's really all just boils down to numbers. It's either like a single number or it's a group of numbers that's like everything that exists inside of After Effects. You say, "Okay, I'm going to get that number over there and then I'm going to modify it by what do I need to do? Oh, I'm going to multiply it by negative one. It's going to be like the opposite. Instead of going right, it's going to go left. Oh, well, that kind of works."
Adam Plouff: (43:27)Then, just kind of figuring out that all you're really doing is like getting numbers and changing those numbers. That's how you can get like 80% of things done inside of After Effects is just get the numbers and change the numbers to something else. I did terrible in math. I didn't have any interest in math in school, but once I started seeing what math did to visual things, starting in processing, seeing like, "Oh, well, if I move this mouse thing, like the speed at which I'm doing this, oh I'm getting that number," I would go back and forth. I started actually being able to do some stuff inside of After Effects and I was like, "Oh, well, maybe I can try this thing in processing. I think that makes it a little bit more sense now." I would go back to that and then it wouldn't make any sense but then I'd be like, "All right, I'm going to stick with After Effects. This isn't really helping me at all.
Adam Plouff: (44:18)I would start to see that like, "Oh, there's this math stuff here." Then, I kept doing that where I just get the numbers and change the numbers and that sort of led me into trigonometry, which I didn't even learn in school because I was homeschooled and I didn't actually do any learning in school. I taught... I went to Khan Academy and learned how to do trigonometry. Just basic stuff like SOCAHTOA, which is that's really all you need to know. If you don't know what that is, Google it. It's like all of the formulas that you'd ever need to make triangles and triangles are all you ever need to draw anything on a computer pretty much. I'm oversimplifying it, of course, but that's really what it came down to.
Adam Plouff: (45:08)As I started doing these things, I started drawing lines and then I was taking, instead of getting just one number, I was getting multiple numbers. Then, I was using those two numbers to create another number, and then I was using that number to do something with a layer and move something around. Then, I just kept kind of building on top of that and my curiosity just led me to figuring out how to combine more numbers and no joke, it's still to the point where I get the numbers and I throw them in there in some formula that I think I understand and it will be wrong. I'm like, "Oh wait, I probably need to flip a sign somewhere."
Adam Plouff: (45:46)I literally go through each number and just add a negative before it to see if that does anything and then one will get close, I'm like, "Oh, well, maybe I need to do 100 minus this number so that I'm getting a, it's coming down from that." I still do that to this day because I really honestly don't know what I'm doing. I know that there's a process to get to what I want to happen, but I don't know actually the steps to get there. I just keep trying and I keep doing weird stuff until finally something works. That was honestly where RubberHose came from. It was just not knowing, just wanting to see something.
Adam Plouff: (46:29)I made a line and then I made a curvy thing and then I realized that that curvy thing could be reactive to the position of two things. Then, I thought, "Oh, well, that actually almost kind of looks like an IK rig but it's like squishier and I kind of like it a little bit more. Let me try that.
Adam Plouff: (46:49)I just kept tweaking on that to see if it would work and I didn't know anything about it but still to this day, I don't know anything more than what I'm trying to do. There's projects at Google that I'm working on right now that I have absolutely no idea how to make any of this happen. I spend a lot of time just Googling how to do this. I mean, it might even be like something kind of tough like how to import a Vanilla JavaScript file into TypeScript to do something because I don't know, I'm doing some weird stuff with that, but I still have no idea what I'm doing at the end of the day. I just keep learning. That's kind of the fun part about code inside of After Effects and inside of design tools and anywhere that you just... No one really knows what they're doing.
Adam Plouff: (47:40)Maybe that's one of those things that nobody really talks about is that even the most pro-code people, they don't know how to do anything except they're professionals at looking things up on the internet. That's okay because that's what we're doing. If technology were stable and we knew how it worked all the time, then it wouldn't be technology. That's the definition of technology is that it is unknown right now. Then, once we do it for a while, it's not technology anymore. It's a commodity. Embrace not knowing anything and try to just figure out as you go and ask questions and Google things. Just get better at Googling how to solve your own problems. That's the best advice that I learned how to do.
Nol Honig: (48:28)That's amazing advice for our students I think too. It's great to hear, even just personally for me that, I mean, on multiple levels, but that like your process to get to where you're at is not actually that different from my process that I'm kind of on now a little bit. It's just that, I felt like I was terrible at math and I've been this pushing this tiny little snowball up this giant hill trying to learn these things and always forgetting all these details and I have to go back and how this clamp work? Darn it. [inaudible 00:48:56] 10 times yet. That's actually really inspirational for me and I hope for our students as well. That's amazing that you said that.
Adam Plouff: (49:03)No joke, this sounds really silly, but I think my favorite expression that I've ever written was this maintain stroke with thing and it's iterated over the years. It started off as this really long thing because I had no idea what I was doing and it had bugs and if you hit zero then it would air out. Then, I think Koenig's and maybe you, Zack, I'm not even sure. It's been so long, but everybody was just kind of like, somebody asked how do you maintain stroke width? Then, somebody would point to the thing and then somebody was like, "Oh, you could actually do it better like this." Then, somebody would say, "You can do it better like this." Then, the most current version that I kind of took everybody's ideas and distilled them down as a single line thing that handles errors and it does a, but it's got a bunch of numbers like 0.710 and that is the, if you take a one pixel and rotate it by 45 degrees, that's this. It's this number that I came up with. I came up with it and I don't know how I came up with it.
Adam Plouff: (50:13)David Stanfield asked me over chat, he's like, "Hey, do you know a way that we could like take your expression and just apply it to everything?" I honestly had to Google my own expression because I couldn't remember it. I came up with it and I made it and with the help of a lot of people, but I couldn't remember it. I had to Google my own thing that I did so that I could copy it and put it into the code to make a little mini script for this thing. But seriously, no one remembers how to do math. You have to look it all. You always have to look it up. If you honestly remember all of that stuff, then you'll probably do better at like teaching than you would making things because if you're making things, you're thinking about ideas rather than remembering formulas.
Zack Lovatt: (51:02)Yeah. When you're saying like a lot of the time you'll just, the expression, the code isn't working. It's just like Adam negative sign or a hundred minus. I think this one came up with Nol and I yesterday where I'm just like, "I know that I need a relationship between these two things, but I have no idea what it is. I'm going to start flipping the minusing and the adding and the [crosstalk 00:51:24].
Adam Plouff: (51:24)This number need to be subtracted by the other number. Do I need to flip the numbers around or do I need to, should I be dividing or should I be multiplying by, wait, if I divide then there's a chance that that could air out because it could hit zero. Maybe I should, yeah, yeah, that's fine. Yeah. No one knows what they're doing and that's okay.
Zack Lovatt: (51:42)It's great. It is beautiful fun.
Nol Honig: (51:45)But you also, I just think it is interesting to say that you were homeschooled as well because to me, I think a lot of times the schooling doesn't necessarily or like the institutional schooling that many of us go through, it doesn't necessarily teach us how to learn things. It teaches us how like it kind of teaches us the answers and then like how to achieve those as opposed to like how to really think through something. It sounds like for you that you kind of learned how to learn as part of your homeschool even though you said you didn't like learning much or whatever you said, but like it seemed like you understand the process of how to learn something, which is cool.
Adam Plouff: (52:17)I basically grew up almost Amish, I didn't have a lot of exposure to cool things so I spent a lot of time building stuff and soldering things and trying to figure out how to do stuff on the early days of the internet and maybe neglect. I don't know, maybe that just trying to avoid boredom as much as possible just led me to a point where if I didn't know how to do something like, "Oh, it's a fine. I'll just figure it out," because I didn't have any other options. I think in one way, the modern internet of today makes it so easy to find stuff but on the other side, most people don't know how to just Google things. It's so easy to find anything that you could want, but instead people will post a comment like, "Hey, how do you do this?"
Adam Plouff: (53:12)You know that you could have just typed that into Google instead of typing it into a comment box and you would have gotten an answer immediately. That's how the internet works but I think that knowing that no matter what went to school for or no matter what your background was, you can teach yourself anything at this point. I learned, I Googled my way to Google and that kind of, I didn't know anything about UX design or motion design. Other than working occasionally doing work for agencies to mock up spec interfaces for something that they were going to pitch but none of it was real. It was all just After Effects stuff but that was my only experience in working in UX and then just do it enough and eventually you might actually get a chance to do it for real.
Zack Lovatt: (54:03)Just kind of going with this idea of like finding yourself at this sort of hub of big data. Now, do you do any data-driven animation design work? Is this a field you've explored or is it mostly facilitating traditional-like design and motion projects and platforms?
Adam Plouff: (54:26)Well, up until this point, I've kind of stuck with the animator is the one who is doing the animation and the data is servant to the person with an eye but I guess earlier this year I got a chance to work on a project that was a TensorFlow animation system that it was some early tests to see if we could do some character detection and then kind of doing something with that data.
Adam Plouff: (54:59)It didn't really go very far, but it was so fascinating to see how much information is required to make the computer see something that is incredibly difficult and it's super processor intensive and you're trying to, especially when it's instead of, if someone who's done stuff in After Effects, you know about motion tracking, but motion tracking and computer vision are two completely different things because motion tracking, you're saying follow pixels that look like this within these bounds. It's not looking throughout the whole image. It's looking for whatever the bounds that you did for pixels that kind of look like that within a certain degree of variance.
Adam Plouff: (55:44)When it comes to computer vision, when you're dealing with artificial intelligence, you're saying you're having to feed in a series of data points that indicate what an elbow looks like or what a neck is. You have people with different skin colors and people that are different shapes and people who were wearing different clothes and it can't be about pixel values anymore. It has to be about the understanding of the thing. That is a whole other... I would go to bed and my head hurt from what I was trying to cram into it all day long. It blew my mind how smart so many of these people that had come up with this stuff really were.
Adam Plouff: (56:36)I think that there's going to be some really new things coming out in the future and I'm really curious to see how that comes about but it's going to take that sort of handshake between tech and artistry that where you have people who know what to do with it because right now, a lot of it it's ugly and that's okay because that's the nature of technology and art is that it starts off ugly and then artists come along and say, "Oh, that's a really cool idea. You know we should do with that? We should make it not ugly." Then, that informs some new technological thing and then it keeps going and we eventually have things that work like the way you think they would work.
Adam Plouff: (57:13)Yeah, I have been thinking a lot about more data-driven things like taking thing and the ideas that I have are very small compared to a lot of what is being done already but trying to find ways to take data that exists and use it to make things that are useful that I'm thinking about it. I'm not there yet, but I'm thinking about it.
Nol Honig: (57:41)What's your take on fancy user interfaces that you see a lot in TV and movies? Does that seem like, [inaudible 00:57:48] it's going that way or is it like what are they trying to... I always had this feeling why are people in the future trying to process so much data visually all the time. How is that useful? Do you really thought about that?
Adam Plouff: (58:00)I think when I first started at Google, I was like, "Oh man, I need to learn about some of this fancy stuff." Then, I realized that real UI design and UX design is really a matter of adjusting pixel values on a curve radius of the corners of buttons to find the most happy... It's really not as complicated as movies want to make it out to be.
Adam Plouff: (58:32)I don't think, I mean, my personal feeling is that it's not going to go that way but it looks cool and that's all that matters. That's really all that matters. There are movies to make things look interesting and I think everything, I mean, in my own opinion is that things are becoming simpler and they're becoming less complicated and it's figuring out ways to distill, feed bits of information to a user at a manageable rate but like screens full of so much stuff is that is you're going to explode people's minds in a bad way if you actually try to design like that. If you ever do want to get a job at a tech company, you can show that stuff, but know that that's not what you're going to be doing all day because none of that will ever see the light of day and they might kind of laugh at you a little bit because they know that you've just watched too many Avengers movies.
Nol Honig: (59:30)That's what I thought, but just wanted to check with somebody who's more in this field than myself.
Adam Plouff: (59:35)Oh, it's very pretty. I do enjoy a good FUI but yeah, it's not, no, no it's not real.
Zack Lovatt: (59:42)Kind of taking a step further, I mean, your creative career since have started with metal music and you've done this music stuff to the visual design, visual art and now this kind of coding for visual arts. How does music factor back into all this? Does it still?
Adam Plouff: (01:00:05)Yeah. I think in the past year or so, music has kind of come back into my life. There was a point where, well, in the bands that I was in, I did the screaming stuff and I did synthesizers and synthesizers were another one of those things that they were weird and it was past its prime of the '80s but I really liked them because they were this weird mixture of electronics but not digital electronics, like of circuitry and art. I guess, that's always been my interest of where does something technological meet art. How can it be useful and different and interesting?
Adam Plouff: (01:00:51)I had amassed a bunch of really crappy synthesizers at one point and then once I started trying to get serious about design, I was like, you know what, I feel bad that I'm not giving any time to music anymore. I probably need to just let that part of my life go. I sold all of it on Craigslist for like super cheap and I regret a few of those things but I think I spent about 10 years where I didn't have any kind of music in my life, just listening, a lot of listening, a whole lot of listening.
Adam Plouff: (01:01:20)Then, in the past year, I don't have any extra time. It's probably not a smart thing to do with my time. I should be sleeping more but because it just, I needed something since I build tools for a day job all day and then I try to build my own tools at night, I kind of was starting to feel like I didn't have anything that was just fun because when you're working a day job where you, if you're doing, I don't know, something manual labor and then you do something with your brain at night, you're kind of balancing yourself out or even if you're doing animation during the day and you're doing code at night, you kind of have that contrast between things and that's what I was doing for a while.
Adam Plouff: (01:02:08)I was doing broadcast animation and then the code was at night. I had that contrast and the code was something that I looked forward to. I was like, "Yes, I have a thing for myself." I mean, it could be you do one type of work and then you draw at night or you have some sort of fun outlet but now that everything I do is code-based and tool-based, I was finding myself a little bit unbalanced. I enjoy it all. I really, I enjoy it. It's that dilemma of what do you do when you finally get your dream job doing the thing that you're really capable of doing? You have to get a hobby.
Adam Plouff: (01:02:47)That became my... Now, that I have a little bit more money than I have time, I started getting back into synthesizers and I started accumulating modular synthesizers and it kind of became this weird thing that even though it's completely different, it all kind of connects because with that thing and it's all that stuff, you see it on YouTube and there's usually people with crystals or plants or something around, it's pretty music. It's good background music and stuff. I just like it. It's fun because you have these weird blocks of, it's kind of, I don't know, I guess, they're kind of like functions.
Adam Plouff: (01:03:26)Each module is a function and it does something and you're feeding signals between them and they could be audio signals or they could be control signals, which kind of is an analog for just the data that flows around either an expression or a real coding thing. It's just data that's flying around and then eventually you're outputting something pretty but with modular synthesizers, you're patching things up in the same way that I'm pick whipping random values and I'm seeing what I can do to change that value to be something else. It can be really dangerous because especially if you have a little bit of money, because you can end up buying tons and tons and tons of modules and you don't know what to do with them.
Adam Plouff: (01:04:09)Same thing, you could be buying all kinds of design apps and you don't actually know how to work with them because you're just keep going and going and going but it's been this thing that it's brought some balance back to my life because it is in no way can make money. I cannot build a business out of making ambient synthesizer music that's not even really that good but it's something fun that I enjoy and I was completely lacking something fun. I have fun with my family, but I needed something that I could do with my brain that was fun to balance that part of things up.
Adam Plouff: (01:04:48)Music is kind of become the salvation of my sanity when it comes to my own mind. At the same time, it kind of feeds back into things like the way I like, "Oh, I build a patch between this module and this module." I would have never thought to do that. Oh wow but you know, the way that this is interacting with this, that kind of gives me an idea. It kind of all feeds back in and it's, I mean, everybody says it like if you want to be a good artist, go have an interesting life or whatever but that's kind of been my, that's been my thing. I want to be an interesting coder. I am, I mean, you can't do it with the intention of just wanting to be a better coder but it's something that I found something that I enjoy that kind of informs my own interest and sensibilities when it comes to code. Music has become a thing that has helped me with that a lot.
Zack Lovatt: (01:05:42)Well, like having this now more recently on the side, is it a potential sign for future Battle Axe projects? Is it giving you more ideas for more of this coding but is it rather, is it working? Is having this personal life, these other hobbies outside of it, are you seeing it contribute to the things you're doing next?
Adam Plouff: (01:06:06)Absolutely. Yeah. That's a great question. I think that, I mean, it'd be easy to just say, "Yeah, totally. You have an interesting life and it makes things better." But no, in real tangible ways, I'll be doing something and while I'm doing something, I kind of get, it's that whole thing like where you're taking a shower and you're not thinking about your problem and then your problem solves itself? Finding more ways, even sometimes like we just got a trampoline for my six-year-old and I'll be outside bouncing on the trampoline with him and then I'll just get an idea will pop into my head and then I'll be completely unpresent for the rest of the 10 minutes that we're jumping because I'm thinking about this thing and I need to get to it paper somewhere because I don't want to lose it but having things that you introduce into your life that are just for fun are really, really beneficial. It's hard because especially if you like what you do to let go of doing that, not just work all night.
Adam Plouff: (01:07:10)Sometimes you have to... I have to tell myself like, "Yeah, I do need to solve that problem. I want to solve that problem, but I need to log off tonight. I need to hang out and watch Adventure Time with my wife and not be thinking about other things. Sometimes you have to will yourself to do something healthy and it stinks if it doesn't come completely naturally, but that's one of those purses that comes with doing something that you enjoy doing. Sometimes you just have... Sometimes I just like, "Hey, I need to log off and I need to just play the guitar for a little bit. It's going to sound awful. You might be upset because it's nothing will come out of it but that is a positive thing that you need to do for yourself. Go do that now and close the computer. That's been a... It's a challenge, but it's something that I've been forcing myself to do and I've seen the benefits of that greatly because of it.
Nol Honig: (01:08:10)I think that's something that's really good for ambitious people to do as well. A few years ago, I decided that I would develop a hobby and not only a hobby, but something that I knew I wouldn't ever be good at, that I knew I would always suck at and to try to work at something but no, it's okay for me to always suck at this thing. I tried to learn how to play the drums and that's super hard to do is like so many different body parts have to work independently and it's such a steep learning curve, but eventually I kind of abandoned it because there's not enough space in my New York City apartment to have a drum kit but yeah, it was a really liberating on some sense and freeing and help me be creative just to like give myself permission to just suck at something and not worry about it.
Adam Plouff: (01:08:49)That's the dang truth, man. If you, especially because this industry, there's so many different side things, if you do motion design and you're like, "Oh, I really want to learn cel animation or illustration," those are kind of tangential things, but they all kind of relate to this. I mean, early on, it's fine to have those things, like, "Oh, during my night, I'm going to be working on this because I really want to learn that." You build your skills and stuff and it sounds, it maybe it's counterproductive to say like, "Hey, you should not do that," but eventually there will come a point where you don't feel like a human anymore unless you find something to add to your life that will not benefit your day job, that will not ever possibly be something that you can make money off of, there'll never be a side gig that you will never actually be good at, but that you can just enjoy.
Adam Plouff: (01:09:56)I mean, if that's tennis, then go be tennis because I mean, if you're 34 and you pick up tennis, you're not going to become a tennis professional. Just accept that but if you enjoy playing tennis, then it's awesome because it feeds your soul and it makes you a better person and it makes you a happier person. To do any of this stuff, you have to find a way to be happy.
Adam Plouff: (01:10:22)There are no good, angry artists who worked for people. You can be an angry, depressed, sad artist, but you only have so much output before you burn yourself out. I mean, all of the great art from people who were super angry, they're probably not alive right now.
Adam Plouff: (01:10:49)You have to be a person who sustains a career in art. You kind of have to find a way to be happy. I mean, I've struggled with that for years too, is like finding ways, I mean, maybe something that makes you angry, pushes you to do something art. That's another thing too but that is an inspiration. You have to find something that you enjoy and find a way to enjoy it in an ongoing way. Even if you're angry about the political state of something, you're enjoying the process of expressing your opinion and you're finding joy in that. I think that that is the key to having a long career and not burning yourself out and to be doing this long enough to find your next career path because, I mean, if you burn yourself out in agency life, then you're going to give it all up and you're going to go work at a restaurant and then you'll never find your next stage of whatever this is for you. I think that's important is just finding a way to keep moving onto the next thing, to find your best version of work life.
Zack Lovatt: (01:11:59)Yeah, I think we all know, folks, especially even in our industry who are just like angry at the world and angry at themselves and yeah, the art's good, but now no one hires them because it's known how angry and negative they are. It's like that's frustrating but you really do have to find that positivity or else like what are you going to do when you can't work because you've built that expectation and reputation.
Adam Plouff: (01:12:27)I agree with that. Yeah. Find a way to be... Finding the positivity in the thing and usually that comes from some other facet of life, whether it's family or a hobby or an athletic activity, you just have to find that that feeds back into you and refills you so that you can... Sometimes you do have to deal with the garbage in your day job and that's okay. Just find the positive in it.
Nol Honig: (01:12:51)Any future projects coming up that you'd be allowed to tell us about? Anything you're working on that you're not behind 17 laws of NDAs or I don't know. There was, I noticed on Twitter, there seemed to be a little bit of a rumor coming out of you that maybe there was a After Effects, Photoshop, Overlord in development, which really excited me. Could you talk about that at all?
Adam Plouff: (01:13:13)Yeah, there is... That one is one that has been... I've been working on this since the end of 2017 and it's taken a lot of different forms and it's become one that I worked on really hard and I was really excited about. Then, through some technological limitations with Adobe and how some of that stuff, what you're able to do as a third party developer, I wasn't able to get the responsiveness I wanted off of it. I had to completely abandon this whole aspect of it, but took a little bit of time away from it and kind of refocused on what would actually be useful.
Adam Plouff: (01:14:03)The cool thing that, well, what it was, was it was going to be a alternate timeline mostly for doing cel animation inside of Photoshop and because I didn't really like the timeline inside of Photoshop. I spent a long time learning how to do front-end development and all of this crazy stuff to build an interface for all of these things and it had like draggable handles and all of this stuff. Then, I built all of the functions that would actually handle all of the interaction that you did with all this stuff.
Adam Plouff: (01:14:39)I forgot to check on whether or not I could scrub the timeline. It was a simple thing that I should have probably found in the first week of prototyping, but I couldn't after Adobe apps don't update until you let go of the mouse, I built all of the scrubbing interaction and it actually worked like every time you would scrub to a new frame, it would move the playhead in the normal Photoshop timeline, but it didn't update your view at all. That kind of being one of the more useful main things that you would do in a timeline for cel animation, it made me realize that this isn't going to work at all. A year's worth of work is not actually going to be useful for anything.
Adam Plouff: (01:15:30)The good news from that was that all of the kind of side development that I did to build all of the things that needed to do to handle all of that, all of that stuff works and it's actually more useful than having this new user interface thing that was going to be buggy and it was going to make people's lives more complicated. All of the extra development that kind of the byproducts of this thing are going to turn into an actually usable tool and it's going to be called TimeLord. It's in the works and it's taking a little bit longer than I would have liked to but because of learning to accept my own process of I have to do something full energy thinking that it's going to be really good and only to find out that it's a terrible idea, but to have those byproduct developments from it, that's where all of this stuff has come from and learning to be okay with that. That's where I'm at.
Adam Plouff: (01:16:34)A good chunk of it works, but I need to get with some people and find what is really working and what doesn't work. Hopefully, by the end of the year, I've got a little ways. I'm padding. I'm adjusting my expectations because having a day job and trying to do this stuff at night is kind of tough.
Nol Honig: (01:16:51)Wow. Thanks for being honest about your process to that. TimeLord? Oh man, I'm totally forward to this. I had one question that's sort of unrelated that I just want to shoehorn in here, which is just about, you mentioned pretty specifically on your website and your bio, a love of coffee and also you do talk about relationship between sleep and exercise within the same paragraph. I'm kind of curious just like how much coffee do you drink and does that influence your sleep at all and exercise potentially?
Adam Plouff: (01:17:19)I've had a very unhealthy relationship with sleep over the majority of my adult life and I am trying through seeing and reading enough research about a lot of this stuff and how it's finally clicked with me that sleep is actually important to you. I did a weird experiment to see because I was, I mean, I typically run on about, my average is about five hours of sleep just because I'll stay up late and my kid gets up early. He's just a kid that really likes to get up early.
Adam Plouff: (01:17:54)I would be going and there were times where if I sat down during the day on the couch or something, I would fall asleep almost immediately. I was finding that I was becoming a little bit testier throughout the day. I'm sure that it probably comes down to the fact that I'm hitting my mid-30s and I'm not as, I don't have the capabilities to do that anymore.
Adam Plouff: (01:18:21)I did a little experiment to see what would happen if I were to go to bed at a certain time so that I could get seven hours of sleep. What would that feel like and could that be, would that reduce the amount of caffeine that I drink throughout the day and it cut it about in half. I usually drink a big carafe of iced coffee that I make the night before, usually throughout the whole day. By getting more sleep, I was happier and I actually was more productive throughout the day. I wasn't getting to that point where I was just beating my head against the computer saying, "Why isn't this working? Why?"
Adam Plouff: (01:19:04)Learning that if I treat my body correctly, I should barring any tragic accidents, should live a long enough life to make the things that I want to. I need to be okay with logging off and going to sleep. You know what? If I go to sleep now, then, I might wake up and I might feel better because of how much sleep I got and I might be able to solve more problems better. I'm getting more sleep now. Now, I get between seven and eight hours of sleep a night and I am a significantly happier person because of it and I'm actually getting more stuff done.
Nol Honig: (01:19:45)You're probably healthier too overall, not just mentally healthy, but just overall your whole body. Yeah.
Adam Plouff: (01:19:50)Overall, I feel so much better. It's, yeah, for anyone who's like don't sleep, otherwise you won't get stuff done, they are liars and you shouldn't listen to anything they say. If I've ever said that in the past, don't listen to it because it's bad advice.
Zack Lovatt: (01:20:07)It's like these conceptually very straightforward things like sleep, drink water, don't be an idiot with your body that, everyone knows but nobody really pays attention to until it slaps you in the face. You're like, "Okay, yeah, maybe I will try to treat myself like a human being with a human body."
Adam Plouff: (01:20:29)Even if you don't necessarily agree with it, try it as an experiment. Just try it to see what happens to you and your own wellbeing and your own mental state. Try it. If it doesn't work, then don't do it but like if it does, then you know a new way to live.
Adam Plouff: (01:20:45)Now, if I have something, if I'm trying to push and I'm feeling really good about something, I can push one night and be like, I'm going to get a little bit less sleep because I know tomorrow I'm going to get my seven or eight hours and it's going to be fine but more than two is you're getting diminishing returns and you're not actually getting more done. You're just staying up late and making yourself more miserable and it's taking you a lot longer to get stuff done anyway. Sleep. It's good for you.
Nol Honig: (01:21:13)Words of wisdom here, folks. You heard it here first. Cool. Well, that kind of takes me through all the questions that I have for you. Zack, how are you feeling about that?
Zack Lovatt: (01:21:24)I feel great. I love this.
Adam Plouff: (01:21:26)It was fun.
Zack Lovatt: (01:21:27)Certainly nothing else on my plate.
Nol Honig: (01:21:30)This was amazing. I just want to say thank you again for taking the time to join us today and for expressing yourself as you [inaudible 01:21:37] to do.
Adam Plouff: (01:21:39)Thanks so much for having me.
Nol Honig: (01:21:40)Awesome. I look forward to seeing the things that you're doing in the future.
Zack Lovatt: (01:21:43)Yeah.
Adam Plouff: (01:21:44)Thank you guys. I can't wait to check out the course. It's very necessary and you guys are doing good things.
Zack Lovatt: (01:21:52)Thank you very much.
Nol Honig: (01:21:53)Thanks man. That was really fun. Adam's a cool guy and he's always so interesting to talk to.
Zack Lovatt: (01:22:00)Yeah, he had a bunch of smart things to say and some good advice for our students. Plus, he loves barbecue.
Nol Honig: (01:22:06)He's really honest and direct. I thought it was interesting to hear his point of view on art versus commerce and the discomfort that many of us feel straddling those two things in our work.
Zack Lovatt: (01:22:18)Yeah, I love the way he brands his tools too and I think that same creative spirit comes through in person and just the way he presents himself.
Nol Honig: (01:22:25)Yeah. He's one of a kind.
Zack Lovatt: (01:22:27)Well, I'm going to go and bake some bread.
Nol Honig: (01:22:30)Ah, really? Bread?
Zack Lovatt: (01:22:33)Hey man, sourdough is in.
Nol Honig: (01:22:35)Huh? I had no idea.
Zack Lovatt: (01:22:37)That's kind of a crummy outlook to have by Nol.
Nol Honig: (01:22:40)Oh yeah. I'm just going to loaf around here. Ciao.

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