An Interview with Federico Foderaro


    How did you get into computers?
    I think I got my first computer when I was already well into my teenage years. I don’t remember much of that time, but I know that I was using it mostly to listen to music and play games. It gave me so much satisfaction to fight and win against some weird Windows behavior, which sometimes required a bit of console scripting – those were probably my first programming interactions with a computer.
    When did you first start getting creative with computers?
    I think when I was around 17, the time in which I started composing electronic music with Reason 4.
    I still listen to some of those pieces – they are pretty good!
    When did you first hear about Max and start diving into it?
    I’ve heard about Max a little before starting my studies in the Conservatory “Licinio Refice” of Frosinone. (a Conservatory is a university for music).
    Max was this kind of legendary program that was apparently crazy difficult to learn and use, which only some selected geniuses were using to make music (I didn’t even know it could be used for graphics, at the time). When I started the Conservatorio, I was introduced to Max by our Maestro, Maurizio Giri. He did a splendid job of showing us the rudiments of the program, and debunked the myth of Max’s crazy difficulty.
    In a few weeks, I was hooked by the way the program worked, and how it allowed for super funny problem solving reasoning. I think this is what I like about Max – the possibility to exercise my mind in problem solving, like a logic puzzle. Today, Max is my job. I rarely find myself in a situation where an application could not be developed with Max, so I’ll keep using it until I can and having fun with it.
    What type of work are you doing these days with Max/Jitter? - can you give us a few examples of recent commercial work?
    About three years ago, I started freelancing with Max/MSP. This means that I mostly work for companies, agencies, or artists to build interactive installations or art pieces. I’ve also done a lot of workshops on how to create and use visuals with Max.
    Last year was the most intense. I travelled quite a lot around Europe for different gigs, always using Max.
    For example, I programmed a “Magic Snack Machine” for Fox Entertainment that was installed at the central train stations in Berlin and Frankfurt. Using hand gestures - and without touching the machine - people could trigger video sequences and in the end make a real snack fall. I used a Kinect 2.0 to track the person’s movements.

    Magic Snack Machine - Fox "The Gifted" Promotion

    Another work I made recently was to collaborate to an installation for a Berlin artist. Here’s how it works: there are three screens, in the ones at the sides there is the head of the artist blowing, in the one in the middle there is a soap bubble that gets blown. The soap bubble is generated using a shader. Even though this sounds quite simple, it, took a lot of time to get right.

    Nature Changes Along with Us

    I made some more major works, but unfortunately I cannot talk about them because of copyright. You can take a look at some of this stuff on my website.
    I’ve noticed in recent years you've really expanded into using Javascript with Jitter, and that you’re also writing your own shaders by way of following your excellent YouTube series and Patreon postings. For users who are interested, can you recommend a particular path for learning and getting into this?
    So, basically, I guess we’re talking about how to get into programming.
    Javascript is kind of an easy programming language to learn as first, and also extremely useful.
    You can do web development and also use it in Max, and, more recently, you can also use it to build server-side applications using node.js which is also now part of Max. It’s not really difficult to learn - just grab a book or a course or some YouTube tutorials and you’ll be ready to go in no time.
    Then there is the part about the algorithms, which is the actual tough bit. Learning the syntax of a programming language is no big deal; learning to use the language and learning how to optimize your algorithms is the real thing. It surely takes time, especially when you’re talking about shaders. They may involve a lot of math and physics - depending on what you are doing, of course. The really cool stuff can only be achieved with some math and logical thinking.
    That takes time, and needs to be done gradually.
    For me personally, I started learning my school math again, and then went on to my University level math to understand how some algorithms work. It’s just about wanting to do it, and having fun in doing it. Once you have the knowledge, it is there to stay.
    To be precise, I’m no expert with those things, and always a student.
    Tell us a bit about being a Max freelancer - a lot of people ask us how to use Max for employment. Do you seek out work regularly, or are people discovering and seeking you out these days, having come across you online?
    how much of your freelance work involves Jitter? or is it more Max as a whole in order to get the job done.
    Mostly people find me online, especially on YouTube and Facebook. I would say YouTube has been an invaluable tool for me, since I can show my skills and potential commissioners have a direct idea of what they can expect from me.

    Amazing Max Stuff - Federico Foderaro - Showreel 01

    Once in a while, I also send emails around to companies and agencies that could profit from someone like me. It is especially the case that there are companies working in the advertisement business and big Art Studios, who often need to create interactive installations and need a person who can help in several different parts of a project.
    I would say the best strategy for finding a job with Max involves showing your capabilities online as much as possible so that companies or employers can find you. On the other side, it’s also good to just randomly target agencies with emails, describing what you do and how your skills can be useful in a large range of projects.
    This work was awarded with the 2017 Jury prize for the Mutek contest "Anthropocene"

    Anthropocene

    how much of your freelance work involves Jitter? or is it more Max as a whole in order to get the job done.
    There is a lot of Jitter, but of course when working with interaction (the majority of the projects) you will need to use some general Max knowledge, often along with some Arduino coding and sometimes some MIDI stuff.
    I would say Jitter is usually 50% of the jobs, the other 50% is about optimizing, logic, creating the interface, and working with interaction.
    This has been great, Federico, I should – last but not least – point out your excellent Patreon where you continue to give back to the Max community. Thank you!
    Thank You, Tom!

    • Jun 26 2019 | 4:55 pm
      Federico Foderaro's Patreon page is really good. It contains a lot of information, patches and videos to build your visual coding skills.
    • Jun 27 2019 | 12:38 pm
      Federico Foderaro is the best, learned so much from him. love his Patreon as well!