An Interview with Federico Foderaro


    In this interview, we touch base with Federico Foderaro, the man behind the Amazing Max Stuff YouTube tutorials, and someone that is now working with the Cycling '74 team on the future of Jitter. Let's get into it!
    Darwin: Hi Federico! You are pretty well known in the Max community - particularly your "Amazing Max Stuff" tutorials. For people that are new to your work, can you talk a little bit about all of the things that you do?
    Federico: Hi Darwin! Thank you for the question.
    The YouTube tutorials are definitely a big part of my Max life. I’ve been doing them for about seven years, and the audience has been growing steadily. The tutorials are also the fuel for my Patreon page, a place where I share patches, videos, and created a little community of focused Jitter users.
    Beside this, I teach Max on a regular basis, mostly through online remote lessons. For example at the moment I am teaching Jitter at the Haute Ecole de Music (HEM), in Geneve, Switzerland. Sometimes I also work for companies that need to develop interactive installations - mostly for events or commercial purposes. For this, Max is one of the fastest and most flexible tools on the market.
    And, last but definitely not least, I started working for Cycling '74 in 2021. This is basically my dream job, since allows me to get better and better at Max while expanding the program itself.
    How did you first encounter Max, and what drew you into working so deeply with Jitter?
    I first encountered Max when I started studying Electronic Music Composition, in the Music Conservatory of Frosinone (Italy, Province of Rome). There, Maestro Maurizio Giri introduced us to the intricacy, the fun and the satisfaction so peculiar to Max programming; for me it was love at first sight.
    After I got the basics of Max and started exploring, it didn't take long to discover the Jitter side of things. I think I Googled some Youtube videos, and was blown away by the works from Naoto Fushimi. Although his videos are 9 or 10 years old, I'm still so impressed by their quality, and they are still a source of inspiration. But I don't know exactly why I abandoned the MSP side of Max and went completely into the Jitter one. Probably it was the immediacy, “coolness”, and instantaneous gratification of video programming that were the decisive factors.
    In general, what I love about Max is the problem-solving and puzzle-like quality of it – and this can be found in both Jitter and MSP.
    You've become a fixture for teaching people relatively advanced topics in Jitter - especially around the use of textures. What is the most rewarding part of teaching for you?
    The most rewarding part is, without any doubt, when students start exploring on their own and begin creating their own works. I can see, then, that as a teacher I've done my job, and I’ve managed to transmit something about the beauty of programming and creating something from scratch.
    It is also a big reward for me when I have students approaching me with questions that show they have put work in their study - and have now a superior level of understanding. In general, when I see thirst for knowledge and improvement, it makes me happy as a teacher.
    Do you do in-person teaching? Or have you solely focused on remote/online learning?
    I used to do in-person teaching, but of course with the pandemic it doesn't really work. But I find that Max is a very good software package for teaching remotely. You just need a computer, a camera and a microphone, and you can teach and learn Max from anywhere. Of course nothing beats the good old eye contact and taking a coffee (with a piece of cake) after (or during) a session, but that's still a positive.
    Jitter image by Federico Foderaro
    Jitter image by Federico Foderaro
    How does teaching inform your art-making process? And how does your artwork push your teaching?
    Admittedly, I haven’t released any major artwork in a while. I've focused so much on teaching and creating content for Max that I've completely neglected my artistic efforts. A case could be made that the patches I create and share and showcase contain some artistic quality, but really I would not call them art pieces by any means.
    What I can say is that when I push my skills to create something nice-looking and innovative, I invariably gain more knowledge, and that goes directly into my teaching. I also invariably gain more knowledge by teaching. Sometimes the students know something I don't, or they have a completely new way of approaching a problem than I do. Teaching is always inspiring, and I always get out of a session as an enriched person. If I wouldn't have been teaching these last few years, I would not know what I know today.
    Somebody said that the best way to really grasp a subject is to teach it, and I subscribe to this one hundred percent!
    As I stated earlier, you generally focus on more advanced topics in many of your tutorials. I'm curious: what parts of Max and Jitter do you feel like you have yet to explore? And how do you think you could combine your current knowledge with this exploration?
    That's a very good question!
    The first part of the answer is easy: if we take the whole of Max into consideration, the main area I really haven't explored yet is the immense world of MSP. It’s almost funny that, being that Max is software built primarily for working with audio, there are some longtime users (like me) who have barely scratched the surface of its sound capabilities. When I finally seriously wrap my head around it, I think that the general logic, math and algorithmic thinking I have acquired by studying video during the years will greatly come in handy for working with MSP.
    Here’s an example of knowledge transposition:
    Yesterday, I was explaining the concept of aliasing in procedural graphics to a student of mine. It is exactly the same concept as we have it in the audio domain: we try to recreate the world in 0s and 1s, and since computers have a limited resolution, we are always forced to downsample.
    In the audio domain it translates into too few digital samples representing too many vibrations in the transmission medium, and therefore in the creation of frequencies which were not intended to be there. In the video domain it translates into too few pixels representing too many small details, which then creates an image that was not intended to be there.
    Different domains, but the same concept.
    The basic knowledge required to work with sound and video is the same, but of course there's a great deal of specific knowledge that must be acquired to really go deep into either of these two realms.
    For the second part of my answer, I'd like to talk about what I yet have to explore in Jitter alone: which is “most of it”. Jitter is an immense world of its own; it's as big as the study of computer graphics itself. For example, someone could spend their entire Max life working only with jit.gl.pix and footage. Or they could use jit.gl.pix to work with raymarching, then spend years creating awesome procedural animations through shaders. Another person could focus on working with jit.gl.mesh and jit.gen to create ingenious procedural shapes, or focus only on creating post processing shaders for jit.gl.pass. Then there's the Jitter integration with JavaScript, which opens a whole new world in terms of accessibility to the creation of complex programs.
    You get the idea.
    I have touched many of these topics, although each of them would require a lifetime to really master. But if there's something I have really completely ignored until now, is the set of physics objects in Jitter. They allow you to work with physics, collisions and animation of 3D and 2D graphics, and the whole set is very complete and functional. When I open a help file from one of these objects, I always discover something amazing, and that makes me think about Jitter in a new way.
    I'm sure this will be the next branch of Jitter I'll really spend some time on, and I know it will greatly improve my experience and fun in Maxing.
    Very interesting, and we can’t wait to see how you do this exploring. Thanks so much for revealing a little of yourself to us!
    And thank you very much for the interview, Darwin!