Another Space’s technical designer Lee Sampson: “You have to get out there – it’s all about meeting people”
Technical designer Lee Sampson is a big believer in putting yourself in the right place at the right time. During his studies at the Yorkshire-based Backstage Academy – specialising in training programmes for the events industry – Lee approached UVA and Another Space founder Chris Bird while he was a guest lecturer, soon landing himself a full-time job. Since Another Space’s projects rely on innovative technologies, it’s Lee’s job to make sure everything is programmed and delivered to the highest quality, often taking him far beyond the London studio – including a recent stint in Seoul.
Technical Designer at Another Space (2016–present)
Nike, Massive Attack
Technical Designer at UVA and Another Space (2006–present)
Freelance Visual Designer (2010–2006)
BA Live Visual Design Production, Backstage Academy (2011–2014)
NVQ L3 in Electrotechnical Services (2008)
How would you describe your job?
I look after the design and delivery of technical software and hardware lighting, video and audio systems as well as creating a workflow between design and production. I also manage the equipment and IT in the studio.
What does a typical working day look like?
My job is very varied: there’s usually a bit of general studio work and then some time working on production planning and design for one or maybe two projects. I do quite a bit of d3 design [d3 is a integrated video production suite based around a real-time 3D stage simulator, built by the company of the same name] and sequencing and some time working with the creative team. I really enjoy being on-site and seeing all the hard work come to life so that’s my ideal day, but typically I’m in the office.
How did you land your current job?
Chris Bird (Another Space co-founder and director) was a guest lecturer at our college and after his talk I asked if there were any jobs. I’d done an internship at d3 the year before so had met him previously and learnt loads about the company. I did a month’s trial at Another Space, then got the job. I guess having a good knowledge of d3 gave me the edge but also knowing a little bit about everything we do and so being able to work with all the different people and skill sets.
“Chris Bird (Another Space co-founder and director) was a guest lecturer at our college and after his talk I asked if there were any jobs.”
Where does the majority of your work take place?
It varies. I’ve been out of the studio quite a lot lately – recently I was out in Seoul installing a work, then around London doing various projection and interaction jobs, although most of the time I will be in the studio. Normally I spend about 70% of my time in front of a computer. The studio environment is very friendly, there’s a family vibe. It’s nice!
How collaborative is your work?
Extremely collaborative. I work with pretty much everyone in the studio and on-site I work with loads of different people, teams and clients. I often work with Maximo Recio [Another Space’s art director], Alexandros Tsolakis [creative director] to create content and sequence shows and Alex Clunie in preproduction and planning.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
My favourite thing is being on-site and seeing something come to life. I’m not sure what’s the least, maybe tidying up. I think I have a good work-life balance as I still find time to do a lot of personal projects outside of work.
“The biggest challenge is adapting – sometimes you have to make important decisions based on very little information, and hope it’s not going to be detrimental to the project.”
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Massive Attack’s 2016 shows were exciting because I like the band and always enjoy working on live music shows. On this I worked with creative director Ben Kreukniet, Tiemen Rapati (senior designer) and Lewis Kyle White on content and design.
I also liked the Nike ‘Unlimited You’ and ‘Strike Night’ projects, as both were so technical with lots of different aspects. ‘Unlimited You’ was an experiential fitness event curated by the brand. I worked with Alexandros Tsolakis and on-site with Chris Simcock (from d3), Micheal Edwards and Lewis Kyle White again. I did the lighting and content workflow and designed the d3 projects for each of the three different rooms, which contained a mixture of lighting, projection, LED and laser effects. I also did quite a lot of design work with Alexandros, such as producing renders. Then on-site I was did some d3 operating, programmed the lighting and helped set everything up.
For ‘Strike Night’ we worked with agency AKQA and again I worked closely with Maximo, technical manager Scott Miller, Andrea Cuius (d3 programmer) and game mechanic programmer Jack Webber.
What skills are essential to your job?
Being able to learn new things quickly. I regularly have to figure out how to use new software and technology that I’ve come across before. Over the last year I have worked with d3, Notch and BlackTrax quite a lot, as well as many other custom systems for projects such as ‘Strike Night’.
Do you run any self-initiated projects alongside your job?
At the moment I’m helping organise Kallida, which is a music and art festival that’s happening at the end of July at Baskerville Hall in Wales. I’m mainly looking over the technical production. I used to do set design for music events and festivals but that’s died down a bit recently.
What tools do you use most for your work?
I use d3 for visualising projects, video and lighting playback; Cinema 4D and Autocad for 3D design and drawings; Adobe CC; My laptop; Projectors; LEDS; experiential technologies…It’s a long list!
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I liked drawing bridges and buildings and thought I wanted to be a designer, but I think I actually meant an architect. I was always encouraged to play instruments and used to be in bands. I got into playing gigs then DJ-ing and also created the visuals and projections to go with it, so music’s always influenced me.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
Very. We learned loads about d3. The entire reason I got this job is university – everything we learned is exactly what I do now.
Was there an early project you worked on that helped your development?
Nike ‘Strike Night’ was a big one as there was loads of different technical things going on that I’d never worked with before. We developed a complex football tracking system that could reward points to players dependent on the speed and accuracy of their shot and then trigger visual effects on a custom-led goal.
“You have to get out there, be in the right place at the right time so if a job does arise you’re there to take it.”
What skills have you learnt along the way?
It’s constantly shifting and things change from one project to the next. You’re continually having to find new tools to solve the specific problems presented by each project. You need good resources, both in terms of people and places to find information. I have found that you can learn how to do most things by simply searching for it online. If that fails, phone a friend!
What’s been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is adapting – sometimes you have to make important decisions based on very little information, and just hope it’s not going to be detrimental to the project. It can be hard figuring out the right solution, but the more people I work with the more people I can turn to for advice and it gets easier each time.
What would you like to do next?
Ultimately I would work for myself, have more creative input and do my own projects.
What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position?
People generally take on more involved roles, work on their own or set up their own studios.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a technical designer?
It’s all about meeting people and making your own projects – it’s a great way to introduce your skills to the industry. You have to get out there, be in the right place at the right time so that if a job does arise you’re there to take it.
Interview by Indi Davies
Photography by Sophie Stafford
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Mention Lee Sampson
Mention Massive Attack