Welcome Multimedia Design (MEDI 2302) Video Production

(The following blog was created by me as the teacher of a Multi-Media class at Durham College, as a way to get to know my students and share their work with the world.)

Please take a moment to introduce yourself and include two references:

1. Include a sample of your favourite work from first year. You can link to YouTube, a URL on your site, or if you’re thinking of illustrations or photos, consider using Flickr, yfrog, twitpic, etc., along with the link.

2. Include a link to someone else’s video (short film, animation, music video… etc) that’s captured your imagination, and give a brief (1-3 sentence) description of why you like it and how it may define your own style.

This exercise will help me understand your interests. This assignment is worth an easy 5 marks. For privacy, you can post as anonymous but follow up with an email so I’m clear who submitted what.

Harold Town Conservation Area on a Mountain Bike

Summer 2015: When I originally wrote this article in 2011 I had to break through a locked gate to bike these rough trails. Flash forward to 2015 and the work Zach Whynen and countless volunteers have done is astonishing. Harold Town is now a premiere mtb system with signage, proper drainage, and a very, very active support group.  But the group needs all the volunteers it can wrangle for the many trail builds and updates. Visit the Facebook page join the group to get notifications about upcoming builds, trail conditions, videos, pix and events. And now, below, my original post before it all happened.


When I announced I was moving from Oshawa to Peterborough, many of my friends figured I’d be enjoying some prime mountain biking close to home. I knew what I was getting into and told them as far as I knew, there were no mountain biking trails anywhere in the Peterborough area; in fact I guessed that I was going to be spending my time travelling to Long Sault or Ganaraska forest just like I used to.

During a trip to the most amazing outdoor store on the planet WildRock for a bike tuneup (OK, I’m still in the afterglow of winning a prize pack for being the 100th Twitter follower) I had a discussion about trail riding in the immediate area. ‘As the fable goes’ there is an abandoned conservation area east of town that is known for some knarly technical hill rides down a 100m incline.

I consider myself an above-average Googler but even I couldn’t find much to go on. It seems as if it was indeed a conservation area at one time called Harold Town (named after the Canadian abstract artist who lived in Peterborough until his death in 1990), but the origins or story of its demise have already been forgotten. There’s no mention of a trailhead, trail map or even where to park.

So on a glorious summer morning I packed up and went exploring.

There’s a parking area on the north end of the property on Old Norwood Road, just west of Drummond Line. There I met a young family with a friendly dog and one small child, who shared their knowledge of the space. I had indeed found the trailhead, and there are three trails that circumnavigate or cross the big hill.  Dad told me the trails were lots of fun and that I couldn’t get lost, then he set off with his family in a clockwise direction.

Not having any idea where I was going, I set off in a counterclockwise direction. More on that later, but it was probably not the best way to do the trail.

Only two minutes into the ride imagine my amazement to find what I would guess is the original Harold Town meeting hall, in total abandon and disarray. Dropping the bike, I grabbed my cameraphone and ventured inside without any barriers. It was a simple structure, with three large rooms, and high ceilings. The furnace room remained, and covering the floor were hundreds of blue and pink bows: the kinds you get at the dollar store to stick on a gift.

Further inside was a pretty sweet series of skateboard ramps including an impressive rail for tricks. There aren’t any videos online but if anyone in the Peterborough area is interested I’d love to shoot something. It was a really big space with lots of street art on the wall.

Back on the trail, the meadow descended into a really thick forest with some babyhead singletrack taking me down towards a creek. Before I hit the water, the trail turns south-west and deeper into a valley of tall trees.

I’m guessing I was near Burnham Line as I started to hear traffic again, then the trail turned east and the steady (brutal) climb up the hill began.

Through the trail I photographed a number of landmarks including a tumorous tree, a skull of something, and a remarkable pile of pink and blue foamy stuff. It almost looked like cotton candy, but I didn’t dare touch it.

Even if it was regular insulation, the question remains: what is it and more importantly how did it get there? It was double-backed single track at this point and very hard to get into.

I came across a very cool looking ramp over a boulder, but didn’t dare attempt it as this was only my 3rd trip out this season, and I’m starting to feel the limitations of a 43 year old frame. But if I was with someone else or a little less exhausted from the hike up, I wouldn’t discount the possibility.

It was at this point when I realized a clockwise trip might have been best, as I was off the bike more than I was on, and the summer sun was steaming up the forest to 27°C. In fact at this point I caught up with the family, who seemed to be really enjoying the long trek downhill, much to my envy.

But still, the creaking tall trees broke at the summit and the blue skies and fresh breeze blew away the last of the bugs, and evaporated the sweat on my brow. At a Y in the path, I turned left (north) and enjoyed a brisk ride across some tricky drainage pebbles, then a dash across a hilltop meadow, all the while being chased by butterflies and flying things.

I heated up my disc brakes on the glorious descent, and rolled pretty much right into the improvised parking area, climbing back over the locked gates.

I’d love to get some history on the Conservation Area, why it closed, and who is responsible for the trailmarking, bridges, tricks and maintenance. Lots of fun. I’ll try the clockwise route next, starting with the walk up to the summit first.

Rogers MMS Nightmare

Let me start by saying this is not another Rogers Sucks blog post. Those fish in a barrel posts are dime a dozen, and I have a few nice things to say about Rogers and the service they provide.

In fact, after moving to Peterborough Ontario where Rogers doesn’t offer home phone or cable TV, I broke up the cabal and split the landline and satellite to Bell, internet to the amazing and uncapped (at least for now) Nexicom, but I kept the Rogers cel phones. In my travels across North America including the Caribbean, BC, Michigan, Florida, and all points between, I’ve found my Rogers cel phone coverage to be exemplary. Notice I’m not talking about the brutal data plans as I still have my LG feature phone. I’m one of those old skool users that prefer to use my phone to speak into a microphone with a high level of confidence that the recipient of my transmitted voice will be able to hear me clearly and without disruption.

That’s right, I tend to use my phone as a phone, and not a HAL-9000.

I’ve heard the horror stories with people’s cel phone reception, and know a good thing when I have it.

So, I kept Rogers for my cel phones.

OK so where does the nightmare part start?

MMS Hell

Until recently, when I took a picture with the excellent LG camera, I would send it to Facebook or Flickr using the ’email to us’ option. Facebook and Flickr generates a strange email address which is linked to my account. You can see a folder of mobile uploads here. If you’ve been following me on Facebook for a while you may recall my trip to Vancouver two years ago which was thoroughly documented this way with photos and video. Very easy and a good use of the MMS texting system

Rogers must have realized they had a good service going that served their paying customers well and added value to the Rogers name.

So they f’d it up.

The Problem

Someone at Rogers thought it would be a stellar idea to mangle the messages sent from their paying customers in two ways, completely crippling the system that worked for years. The marketing department thought they’d get their hands in the mix not realizing their pencilhead ‘great idea’ was going to destroy the system. They made two fatal mistakes:

Embedding 10 Images in a MMS: Mission Possible

I thought it wasn’t possible to include more than one image in an MMS. But Rogers found a way. What Rogers has done is taken my cameraphone image and wrapped it in some dreadfully formatted HTML. They embedded my picture in there somewhere, but also added 9 ‘frames’ to wrap around my pictures. What happens when Facebook and Flickr get this improved email? The reject it of course. It’s only designed to receive one image at a time, or multiple images without any HTML.  So the process fails. I found that out when I tried to email an image to myself. That’s the sourcecode, above.

And below is what my friends see on Facebook.

No, I actually only uploaded 1 image, plus 9 Rogers bullshit images.

Below is what the MMS looks like when I sent it to my Gmail account which did a reasonable job of rendering the frame. Sort of.


Obviously someone in branding has their panties in a knot and wanted to look good at last month’s status update.

“Look at that Web 2.0 frame with those soft shadows and the coarsy degraded image in the centre”. I will say this, when you right click save as at least the original 3MP image is downloaded and not the image that was resized by the browser with some hard coded px dimensions.

Let’s listen in on the meeting some more.

“Wow, the Rogers logo looks sharp”.

Wait, WTF? A Rogers logo?

This is where I blew my top and spent the last 30 minutes of my 3 hour epic call trying to get to the top of the people in either marketing or branding or social.

“This message is brought to you by Rogers”

From the perspective of me, the customer, the 12 year Rogers veteran customer, who pays for an MMS upgraded service that allows me to send a few hundred picture messages to grandma and my wife, this is a totally inappropriate use of the technology Rogers has chosen to interface between my cel phone service and my social network.

If Rogers was offering me free MMS service, then they can say the text message was “…brought to you by Rogers”. I get that.  But in this case I’m paying for it.

If Rogers had a service that worked they way it used to work like during my trip to Vancouver, then maybe I can give it a pass and let some branding slip through. But its broken the system! The tech support lady confirmed they switched to a new MMS service, and they also slipped they cap the use of MMS to north america only.

Hello? Can you say net-neutrality fail here? Since when does it matter where the email is going? Apparently it matters to Rogers, who has capped your ability to send an MMS outside of North America, plus they slap their branding over my message the I paid for, for the trouble. I’d keep an eye on this, and it’s generally agreed that the internet as we know and love is safe for a while, wireless internet is definitely not. There are ridiculous restrictions on internet use over the phone, but that’s been discussed before. I’d recommend reading Andrew Currie’s blog  and of course Michael Geist’s blog for news on that important topic.

So I’m angry that Rogers changed their service that I use a lot that’s now broken.

I’m very angry that Rogers claimed implied ownership of my content by adding the phrase ‘Brought to you by…’.

I’m angry and tired after spending 3 hours trying to get this message through only to hear that if MMS phone to phone works (which it does), then it’s not their problem, despite the fact that it’s their software that mangled the HTML and introduced 9 images to my message.

They further added insult to injury to suggest I contact Facebook and Flickr to ‘resolve the issue’.

Let’s Resolve This For Rogers Customers

I’m looking for a web developer to create a solution. Rather than send my MMS message to Flickr to be mangled by Rogers and rejected, send the MMS to a website which forwards the cleaned image to Flickr, Facebook, Google+, or whatever. Rogers will still mangle the email, but the software would parse the HTML nonsense and strip it all away, and just send the image as intended.

The MMS message would include the image, the letter ‘fb’ for facebook, ‘f’ for Flickr, ‘g’ for Google+, etc., and be sent to my unique email address on a new domain. The new domain would strip away the placeholder images and HTML, and send along just the image to the requested social service.

And because email is just email (unless it’s being mangled by Rogers) you can send your MMS message to a recipient outside North America.


Sadly, not much. The days of regular old featurephones like my beloved LG Shine are limited. But there must be a lot of grandmas and cheapos like me who are also wondering why sending a photo to Flickr is now broke. Any takers? Does this service already exist? I’ve got dozens of images in my phone scratching at the glass to get out. Help!

The Creative Process with Adam Carolla and Kevin Smith

Are you an artist?


A writer?

Do you think about the creative process and where creativity comes from?

Do you wake up at night afraid of losing that creative spark?

Do you think about how to monetize your creativity in a media environment where people consume their media for free?

Do you wonder why you do what you do, and if you should sometimes just quit?

Do you enjoy comedy? Do you have two hours to kill? Kevin Smith joins the Adam Carolla podcast and they nail it again and again. Very inspiring and therapeutic to hear ‘successful’ people discussing their failures and anxiety that comes with working in media.

Alternative to Basecamp

Go ahead. Try it. Do a Google search for ‘Alternative to Basecamp‘ and report back. For about ten years, Basecamp has been a well-loved poster boy app for the Web 2.0 world of project collaboration and project management. What’s maybe not known is the vicious hate for the app from all corners of the blogosphere.  And further research reveals there are some very fine alternatives, including one in particular that has been built to address the shortfalls. I’ll discuss that a bit later.

As for me, I love the simplicity of the app, the fact that it’s entirely web based and useable on any browser and most mobile browsers. There’s plenty of support for it with third party aps on the iPhone (not native). And most positive as a Project Manager is the buy-in I get from my non-PM colleagues. They just like to know that there’s a central repository of information and that someone (me) is administering it.

I also generally like the culture of the company. I subscribe to the 37signals podcast, and their refreshing business book ‘Rework’ has been gifted and recommended countless times in 2010.

The Challenge

In December, I responded to the 37signals tweet, asking for a Toronto Basecamp consultant to step in and help out a local marketing firm align their efforts with Basecamp. They had been using it for about three weeks and wanted to make sure they were building the correct foundation before going any further.

What I saw shocked me.

In just a few weeks, they had entered dozens of Messages, filled their Milestones page with multiple milestones per day, uploaded their entire collaborative document library including RFPs and charters, and maintained their robust Google Calendar and of course Gmail to tie it all together. It should have been the ultimate Basecamp build. But they were unhappy.

There are a few limitations within Basecamp, and it seemed that they had discovered all of them in very short order.

Perhaps my ‘little nagging problems’ with Basecamp weren’t as obscure as I thought.


The first problem is the calendar, or lack thereof. Ask anyone who’s been using Basecamp what the biggest problem is, and they will tell you that it’s the lackluster support for scheduling. You can’t plan your day around it. You can only assign milestones (which align with the PMI definition of a milestone accurately in that it doesn’t occupy any time, it’s just a delineation of time). But the problem with this methodology is that as a PM I know that’s not how people like to plan their days. They like to know that on Monday from 9-11AM they have to prepare for their meeting at 11AM. Basecamp will only say you’ve got a meeting on Monday. No times. No access to anyone else schedule. No access to resources.

To Do

The problem with Basecamp’s to-do list is that you can’t assign a to-do to multiple people. This way, projects slip when the individual assigned to the to-do falls off the radar. You also can’t change the assignment of a to-do. It’s a very limited way of assigning responsibility to work packages.


I don’t think I’m alone in that I use Messages as a corporate blog. It’s the best thing about Basecamp in that a properly administered message board can completely eliminate the bane of my job role as PM: email. Here’s how I use it, and where Basecamp sometimes fails me. Rather than have emails flying around like, “charter 1, charter 2, charter final, charter final 2, charter final 2 revised”, I just create a message heading called “charter documents” and all the version go in there in sequential order. It’s amazing. The first time I show that to colleagues, they’re sold on Basecamp.

However, the problem is when overzealous team members try to submit work of their own, and sure enough they create a message heading called “scope 1”. Followed by someone else’s contribution in a message heading called “scope 2”. I’ll step in and create a message tab called “scope documents” and download the files to my local machine, then re-upload them to my new message. The problem is the ownership of scope 1 and scope 2 is lost, and assigned to me, leaving the contributors out of the loop and without proper credit.

Time Tracking

Not included in any plan under $49 per month.


Taking my cue from the previous category is the cost. 37signals has admitted they are ‘experimenting’ with their pricing structure, but the overall feeling is that the pricing has doubled, and that the ‘best value’ on their site is the 37signals Suite at $99 per month. I’ll let that sink in… one hundred dollars per month. Note that you can still get just Basecamp for $49/month, and if you dig deeper you can still get the personal plan for $12/month if you ask for it. But is that really the way to get new users onboard with an app that most people agree is easy to learn due to it’s simplicity?


If you’ve got your browser tabs still open, you can go back and see a few alternatives to Basecamp, including the free Zoho to of course Sharepoint. The sweet spot is an app from Irish developers TeamworkPM. They have an excellent calendar, an iPhone/iPad app that’s out now, timetracking is included in all plans,  messages can be assigned to different team members, you can assign more than one person to a to-do, and the price is almost exactly half of Basecamp. They go as far as to maintain a blog post documenting all the things they do better than Basecamp. They’re pretty upfront about it, but they’ve created a product that’s more agile and seems to have responded to many of the typical grumblings of Basecamp.


The next Monday, I presented a report to my clients that they had already outgrown what Basecamp can offer, and that they should go to TeamworkPM. In fact, I have begun the large project of migrating my Basecamp projects and clients to TeamworkPM (oh, wait, they have a button for that?!?).

Basecamp remains a good tool for getting small teams to work together. Excellent examples are school groups, small virtual teams, or teams that aren’t tech savvy but require a place to store pictures or media.

Another 37signals product Highrise remains in my toolset as an excellent CRM app. In fact, they just rolled out a new version that can only be described as revolutionary.

Basecamp is a victim of what makes it great: it’s very easy to use and easy to master, but it’s not designed to be anything greater. It’s also becoming a pricey proposition for that very same target market to consider.

Legal Advice I Can Eat

I’ve been fortunate to have had the pleasure of working on video projects with two of Canada’s largest law firms, McCarthy Tétrault this year and Lenczner Slaght last year.

I’ve also signed some of the most stringent Non Disclosure Agreements, so that’s about all you’re going to hear about these projects for the next 99 years.

But once the clever Christmas cards start flying I guess it’s fair game. Enjoy!

All year long, we strive to knock the stuffing out of our opponents.

Holidays make such a nice change.


Here’s what’s been going on with me over the past year or so. In September, 2009, I signed up for a few courses that have been on my wish-list for years.

First, the wait-list at the extremely competitive Web Application Development course at Durham College opened up, and I was accepted the week after it started. I spent the rest of the term catching up: some of the work was pretty intense, but I loved it. Advanced Flash, Action Script, JavaScript, some Math and Writing courses … a well designed curriculum that I highly recommend.

Second, I took the advice of just about every Career Coach and HR person I’d been speaking with and signed up for the University of Toronto School of Business Project Management course. I’ve worked with some excellent project managers from agencies like Organic, Inc., and I knew that this was a skill set that needed development. This is a three-term course that ends July 2010. At that point, I hope to write my PMP exam.

I’m really enjoying my PM classes and learning about the tools available to properly track all aspects of any project – I wish I had this knowledge while running the Toronto Digital Image Festival for eight years! Costing and trend analysis is pure enlightenment for someone who did it ‘the hard way’.

I’m also consulting in the Visual Effects and Special Event industries during my down time, also known as ‘Saturdays’.

But right now, I’m looking for something between a summer Internship, a Project Co-ordinator, or a PM position at an Interactive or Mobile Agency, or with a web or software development company. Email me for a resume! – R


How I Learned To Love Google Wave

OK, maybe love is a strong word. But I’ve spent some time ‘blipping’ my close tech buddies on Wave and have to admit I think I might have found a problem to connect with this facinating solution.

First, some back story.

In September of 2009 I decided to take a sabbatical from the world of broadcast media and refocus a bit. Actually, ‘decided’ is too kind a word. After watching my #2 client Canwest implode, and CTV cancel their #1 show Canadian Idol and ‘hiatus’ eTalk for a few weeks, I found myself with lots of free time. I also just returned from a very successful gig in Vancouver designing pre-vis and layout a number of animated spots you can see here. But that was temporary and I found myself back in Toronto with a pretty empty calendar.

I got to think about the whole “building a runway” strategy that successful companies adopt during a down economy. Essentially, when times are good you can only wish to have a few moments to rebrand your company, retrain, or take that time off to do something you really want to do. With that spirit in mind, I wrote down a few things that have been lurking in my mind for the past very successful and extremely busy years. My first plan was to rebrand my wedding film company, and after hiring a very talented graphic designer and assembling an ad-hoc focus group, I’m thrilled with the results. Blush Wedding Films has recharged my energy, and after only a few months bookings are way up for 2010. Next was my career outside of the wedding business, which is seasonal in Canada. I’ve always been a geek at heart, and fondly recalled my time in high school on the computer team (we went on to the International finals in Detroit, MI), and I cannot count the number of times I’ve been approached to create a rich web site or do some back-end low level ActionScript coding. I’ve faked it in the past, but I looked into bring that dream back to reality. Finally, I’ve also been very interested in learning how to manage small projects more efficiently, and clients have started to ask me about PMP certification (Project Management Professional).

Flash forward to the middle of September and I’m enrolled at the University of Toronto taking Project Management, and Durham College taking Web Application Development. Already I’m getting a feeling that this is the killer combo if I can pull it off.

But back to Google Wave… how does this all connect?

Google Wave in what email would look like if email was invented today. Think about it – email was invented 40 years ago, and uses a post-office analogy that seemed dated even when you first peeked at a header source many years ago. Rather than having one document copied, appended, and sent around, there is only one living document dished out by an open protocol, that you can invite anyone to participate with. So at it’s root, you can certainly use Wave as an email substitute. Granted, it’s pretty crude with formatting, and the participant has to be on Wave as well, but it this regard Wave is pretty easy to understand. But introduce a new participant and things change dramatically.

Once you invite a circle of colleagues to participate in your thread, the concept of a living document takes shape. In fact, there is nothing quite like it. It’s actually a bit disarming watching your own document being edited in real time by your collaborators while you edit your section. Uploading links and media is somewhat supported, but it’s the living document idea that really takes shape with a small workgroup.

Clients and colleagues that know me know that I’m a huge fan of virtual teams, and in fact just successfully completed my first term at U of T as Project Manager. Everyone including the instructor was very excited about being shown the potential of online collaboration using a well managed cloud app like Basecamp properly. But even a tool as awesome and easy to use as Basecamp has its limitations. Threads can get large and difficult to manage, and the support for rich media is basic at best. The first time I logged into Wave I thought, “this is a Project Management tool!” In my mind’s eye I could see my team-members updating a thread on Project A, while someone was commenting on the latest Risk Evaluation Matrix, while someone else was drafting the latest Executive Sumary of Project B.

It was beautiful!

Unfortunately, it was just me an a few geek pals typing into their console, “hello world”. Followed by, “what now?”

I’m going to be researching this tool as closely as I can. I bought Gina Trapani’s new ebook, itself a living wiki, to try to make sense of the potential of this application. It may end up being the coolest PM tool out there, or a really confusing chat client, but I intend to spend some time getting wet with Wave.

Podcast Amnesty Week

Every year I check into my Podcast subscriptions. Some are dropped and some stay. Here is my short-list of Podcasts that are in constant rotation on the dolish.com ipod. The ‘$’ dollar sign indicates they have been renewed for another year of donations.
1. No Agenda $
By far the most listened to and most valuable Podcast on my RSS feed. The Podfather himself Adam Curry and Tech veteran John C. Dvorak (otherwise knows as Crackpot and Buzzkill) dish out the news mainstream media doesn’t have the time (intelligence) to report. These guys watch C-Span for you, and look deep into the About pages of American Healthcare, H1N2 Flu, the Recession, Genetically Modified Foods and even the odd UFO story. Unlike late-nite fave Coast To Coast, this is an intelligent review of the real news countered with the “Real News” mainstream media wants you to know. They take the time to explain the backstory, and take a lot of time to make the connections for you. I particularly enjoy their reluctance to use the term “Conspiracty Theory” rather, simply, “Marketing.” No one seems to be talking about how Big Pharma lost a lot of money on the last “Bird Flu” and they won’t let that happen again this time. But Adam and John do. The manufacturers of the swine flu vaccine are going to make a fortune after a less-than-stellar couple of years. A must donate.2. This Week in Tech $
Down from number one last year, Leo Laporte and the gang offer relevant and intelligent tech news. It’s become a bit more chatty/gossipy with a bit less meat. But Leo keeps the show together and I am sure to listen to each episode religiously.

3. Jordan Jesse Go! $
Absolutely irreverant and hilarious comedy podcast produced by the talented Jesse Thorne and Jordan Morris. Apparently every episode involved masturbation and video games, so if you go in expecting a level of humour at that level you will be surprised with the added layer of intelligent and appreciateive guests.

4. The Sound of Young America $
Also produced by Jesse Thorne in his apartment, this podcast is a more subdued interview show with guests that are of interest to Jesse and him alone. It’s a hit or miss affair, but provides deep insight into the creative process.

5. CBC Radio 3
Host Grant Lawrence must be a nice guy, but his voice delivery on the Podcast is really starting to annoy me. It would be off the list, except for the fact that the playlist absolutely offers the zeitgeist of modern Canadian indie music.

6. NPR All Songs Considered
Along the same theme as Radio 3, All Songs offers a more global look at interesting music. More often than not, the playlist has a healthy dose of Canadian indie music. Check out the ancillary All Songs concert feed if you want more.

7. Luxology Modcast
On the cusp of popular interest is the modo Podcast hosted by Luxology CEO Brad Peebler. His extremely casual tone introduces me to the cool new features of my favourite modelling app modo. Very geeky and lots of fun.

8. Adam Carolla Show
This nearly daily hour plus show is better than what Howard Stern could have done five years ago when he became disenfranchised with terrestrial media. Carrola is burning through severance with his previous employer and doing what everyone in Hollywood apparently wants to do: sit in a garage and talk about shit for free. His guest have run the gamut of Bob Odenkirk, Mike Tyson, Adam Sandler, and other comedy and Hollywood greats. The week of this post he interviewd one of my heroes Dave Thomas. I hope it’s a good interview.

9. Digital Detroit Radio
Finally, poor Matt may have burned out, but the archive of DDR episodes are still relevant and offer some excellent examples of indie new wave tracks. Matt if you’re listening: your friends are begging for more!!! Add a donate box – you might be surprised with the results from your fans. Even though your releases have slowed to a trickle, your show is worthy of staying on my list.

“Disney Presents: The Animation Studio for Amiga”, or, “Tech Support Before the Internet”

I was reading a Facebook status update from Charles Blaqière about the demise of his Imagine3D for Amiga discs and books.

I dealt with a crate of AmigaOS floppies last year and resigned to sending them to landfill. I spared the Amiga200 and A3000 a similar fate, and I have an impressive shelf dedicated to my Amiga books on animation, programming and design.

One of the cases I’m most impressed with was the software box for the one and only Disney authorized animation creation software, aptly titled “Animation Studio”. It’s the kind of jewel that the true animation and Amiga fans at Disney obviously snuck through the system in the late 80’s. The software was a celebration of animation in the purest form. It supported onion skinning, flipping back and forth, standard colour palettes for ease of skin tone updates, a rudimentary ink-and-paint department, etc. Even the layout of the software was designed to support the idea of the studio: storyboards, then keyframes, the in-between, then ink and paint, and finally a dope sheet that allowed for frame holds and loops of finished artwork. And of course, the Amiga supported video out which allowed you to output frames in real time to tape which was an incredible innovation in the day.

The manual was most incredible: it is a condensed version of the seminal “The Illusion of Life”, offering thoughts on the entire animation process with an ominous tiny final chapter, “Computer Animation” which consisted of a few words along with a black and white photo of an animation printer hooked up to a Cray supercomputer.

But it wasn’t all great; it seems in the winter of 1990 I had a problem with the Exposure Sheet. Remarkably, I grabbed a pencil and paper and wrote down my problem, then went to the post office and mailed the question in to Disney Software in Burbank California. Several weeks later, I received a response:

Kids: this is how we did tech support before the Internet!!!!!

Oh wait, in the last paragraph he did give me the Disney 300-9600bps BBS (note the handshake protocol 8, N, 1). I recall the line was always busy! 🙂

I’m amazed this is how things were done just a few years ago, and more impressed that I had the sense to keep this piece of history. It’s safely tucked away in my manual of Disney Presents, and has become all the more valuable in the process.

And if you’re reading this Mike Weiner, drop me a line. In the month between my letter and yours I figured out the problem! 🙂 It would be great to catch up.

Now all I need to find is my copy of Jim Butterfield’s, “Machine Language for the Commodore 64 and other Commodore Computers”.