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Catching Up with 2014 ADAA Winner Peter Clark

By Scotty Bara

Artist Peter Clark, a former recipient of an Adobe Design Achievement Award (ADAA), works with old-style projections, film, graphics, and the latest technology to create audio-visual experiences that he describes as “digital encounters.” 

Peter currently lives in San Francisco and does freelance work for a visual studio called Ntropic. In 2014, the ADAA (a competition for young artists working in digital media) recognized him with an award in the Motion Graphics category, for his work as part of a three-person team that created a video called Memory Stream.

After his 2014 award, Adobe assigned Peter a mentor named Lilit Hayrapetyan, who guided Peter in the creation of one of his latest motion graphics collaborations, Decrypt, which focuses on a dark character called Hades. 

VILLAINOUS INFLUENCES

Peter cites some of his youthful influences as skateboarding culture and heavy metal music—and although you might not guess that right away upon meeting this calm and easy-going young man, Decrypt might clue you in. 

Hades’ features are similar to those of a grim reaper—a grim reaper in a leather jacket. The character has projections and close-up shots on its body, creating a creepy visual aesthetic. Peter says that much of his character-creation inspiration comes from growing up watching movies like Star Wars and learning about the visual cues that define characters, especially villains. “A lot of the visuals [in Decrypt] were inspired by characters in the movies that I saw as a kid…specifically, characters like Darth Vader. I’ve always loved the forms of that helmet and how it really defined his character,” Peter says. “I was thinking a lot about villains in movies, and essentially it was almost like I was designing a villain in a way.” 

A photograph of Peter Clark, working at Ntropic.
Still images of Hades' mask, from Peter Clark's video Decrypt.

Decrypt also explores Peter’s ideas of how we create “technical reincarnations” of ourselves when we enter the realm of technology. “Concept-wise, I’ve always really been into the idea of the afterlife in relation to digital technology,” Peter explains. “I started thinking about how we change in both a physical and mental way when we enter the digital world and how we create these copies of ourselves.” 

The background music in Decrypt seems to control what’s going on in the video. Static techno music echoes as oscillating images of motherboards and bright projections distort what’s going on visually. A deep tone that mimics the sound of a heartbeat builds tension in the video. “As I find a cool sound in the music, the visuals react to that, and then when I find something cool in the visuals, the sound reacts to that,” Peter says. “Usually, one begins, I start the other shortly after, and then they both grow together and react together.” Peter engineered all the music and sounds in the video. 

Decrypt was created with Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop. Peter used Illustrator for the UI; Photoshop for all the style frames and concept sketches; InDesign to make the pitch decks organized and neat; After Effects for all of the projection patterns, time remapping, and color grading; and Premiere Pro for the initial rough cuts of the film. (Click on the image to watch.)

THE ADAA EFFECT

The ADAA, now in their 15th year, helped Peter begin his career as a young professional by earning him recognition from the industry’s best. Tacy Trowbridge, manager of Adobe educational programs, explains, “The ADAA has been a fantastic way for us to help launch student careers, to celebrate their work, and to shine a spotlight on directions and trends that we’re seeing from students around the world. The timing is really interesting for students; they enter the competition, and then most of them graduate by the time the awards are announced. When they start their mentorship, they are just starting their careers, so having a connection with someone who can serve as a mentor for them comes at a really great time.”

Peter’s mentor, Lilit Hayrapetyan, assisted him throughout the creation of Decrypt, helping him gauge what kind of creative approach he should take by referencing other projects she thought were interesting. Peter says Lilit always had interesting feedback that grounded him. “It was nice to have her there and tell me if I was going off the deep end.” Peter said.

A photograph of Peter Clark

ON THE HORIZON

­­Peter plans to continue freelancing for Ntropic and other clients in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. He says he wants to work on different styles of art, branching out from his current style: “I’m trying to get more into optimistic pieces at some point,” he says. “Ideally, I can get into a space where I can use the dark, kind of techy, mysterious [imagery] and contrast it with very hopeful, beautiful imagery that will create a very dynamic experience for people—as opposed to being all dark and all glitchy.”

You can check out more of Peter’s work on his online portfolio, and listen to his musical creations on his SoundCloud page