(Chatsworth, CA, January 31, 2018 – by Cirina Catania, Sr. Editor) The people hidden behind the bits and bytes that keep technology flowing and provide the platforms upon which our careers are built rarely come out to talk about what they do and how they do it. During the last decade (or two) I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting and working with many of them.
The team of Philip Hodgetts and Dr. Gregory Clarke own two companies (Intelligent Assistance Software and Lumberjack System) and have released numerous solutions that have contributed to the success of everything from major Hollywood blockbusters to small independent documentaries. Pioneers in the tech world, their names are well-known in the close-knit community that runs parallel to the outside world, providing a firm foundation upon which our creative work flourishes. I recently interviewed them about where they come from, what makes them tick, and where they think the business is going in the future. Hailing originally from Australia, the friends, business partners and now married couple have lived in the United States since 2001. Philip has become a naturalized American Citizen and Greg is working towards his citizenship.
THE EARLY YEARS
Philip Hodgetts says he had a very comfortable life as a young person, “My parents moved from Tasmania to Newcastle where they became the top Tupperware distributors in Australia. It involved a lot of traveling, it was hard work, and they were very successful, eventually retiring quite comfortably. “Through all this,” he continues, “I worked as a Tupperware dealer, but I had other ideas.
After my parents retired, he continues, ” My mother began a pudding business that took off, landing her the nickname of ‘Pudding Lady,’ and forever embossing her into the local Australian culture.”
Philip started traveling internationally when he was quite young, taking his first major trip at the age of fifteen to Fiji and then, at 17, to Japan as a Rotary exchange student for which he says he is, “eternally thankful, because it pulled out of my comfortable, suburban, church-focused Christian upbringing and exposed me to something more in the world that we didn’t have. I realized then, that a lot of what we continue to see as truth in society are just constructed mindsets that we all agree on. I realized that there’s a lot more complexity to life than what I had previously thought. Much of what I’d grown up knowing as a given turned out to be not so given after all.”
Referring to his parents, Philip says, “They had a positive influence on me and taught me entrepreneurial skills. I was creative and technical at the same time and became a theater lighting designer. I had some gear and began designing for our church singing group, the New Life Singers. Then the Civic theater was being returned to a live theater venue and opportunities to provide lighting opened up and I became the head technician there.”
Gregory grew up comfortably as well and his parents indulged his desire for intellectual and technical challenges. He says, “I got a home computer, an Atari, while I was still in junior high school at a time when it was still quite unusual. So, I guess I’ve been using a computer longer than most people.”
Philip smiles, “I had the competing brand. I had an Amiga at the same time and Atari and Amiga were the Apple and the Microsoft of the day.”
Clarke says, “I was and still am a geek because I was really into science and I guess the computer went with that. So, when I finished high school, I went to university and got a degree majoring in biology which was the science that I was most interested in. Then after working for a bit, I when back to university and got a doc-one level postgraduate and then a doctorate. I spent a lot of time at University,” he jokes.
ENTERTAINMENT TECHNOLOGY CALLS
Asked how he got involved in the entertainment technology field, Clarke replied, “After I submitted my thesis, the final review phase takes about six months. You’re in limbo while you’re waiting for that to happen. I had already met Philip, and we began working together building database workflows, managing some of the websites and doing desktop publishing. He also had developed training courses for Media 100, After Effects and Cleaner, and we both worked on those. We lived only a was ten-minute walk away from the hospital where I was also working as a Research Assistant at the University of Newcastle.”
During that time, they released, in conjunction with Intelligent Media, the “DV Companion for Final Cut Pro,” which was an interactive training tool and that pioneering online real-time coaching business turned out to be the catalyst that brought them to the United States.
Philip says, “At the time, of course, we had to be very clever about using features in QuickTime that almost nobody used called Wired Sprites because video codecs were nowhere near as efficient as they are now and screen recording for three and a half hours of video would have been way more than these typical 200 megabytes of internal hard drive that a computer of that era had. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving in the U.S. in 2001, we discovered that our distributor, our primary source of income, was slowly going broke. And our first check bounced. It was a definite wakeup call.”
“What about the fact that you are a couple,” I asked them. “Was there ever a time when you felt discriminated against?” To which they replied that they have had very supportive friends and families. Philip says, “We were treated as a couple by our family and friends as if we were married. It wasn’t until much later when the opportunity presented itself in California that we got married…after a seventeen-and-a-half-year engagement!”
Although they both work and live together, the team attributes their success to the fact that not only do they get along very well, they do two completely different things. Greg does all the coding and Philip contributes his knowledge of video, advertising, promotions and business-networking aspects of their companies. Although, Philip says, “Greg writes most of the help manuals because he writes the software and I’m now doing most of the website work, design and maintain our relationships with companies. finding ways to help them enhance the use of their NLE’s (non-linear editing systems).”
Philip says, jokingly, “The unfortunate consequence of that is that everyone thinks all of the apps are mine so I get credit for Greg’s work,” to which Greg typically responds, “That’s absolutely fine with me.”
PART TWO OF THIS ARTICLES CONTINUES…”THE BIRTH OF INTELLIGENT ASSISTANCE AND LUMBERJACK SYSTEM”