art film/video

Creating an interactive children’s book using Apple iBook Author

So I’ve just found out that my iPad interactive iBook, Play Piano For Kids, has been launched in 32 countries around the world at the Apple iTunes store.  Yeah!!!

This project has been on my mind for close to 5 years, and only in the last few months has it been a burning priority.  With Apple’s  January 19, 2012 announcement of their new free software iBook Author, I finally knew I could create this.

So what’s the deal with iBook Author?  There’s a lot of pros as well as cons to this software.  On the positive side, it is really quite easy to start laying out beautiful pages.  If you’ve used any of Apple’s other products like Keynote or Pages, then this should be very familiar.

Drawing objects and placing type is the same as Pages.  In fact it seems like they started with Pages and then added some additional functionality.  The use of Widgets for interactivity is pretty simple, but somewhat limited.

Because my book is aimed at young pre-literate children, I would have loved an easy way to have the kids touch the animated character (a penguin named Pontus) so he could do things like giggle or jump or whatever.

Creating a multimedia book using Apple iBook Author
Page thumbnails on the left and the page canvas on the right

Using the widget, I could only add pre-made videos either from iMovie or exported from Flash or even Keynote presentations.  By using a combination of these software packages, I could achieve a simplistic animation style that was both compelling (for young pre-reading kids) and not too detail oriented that I would get bogged down in production.

You can see the intro video I made which shows a few examples of the different animation techniques.

One thing that I toyed with in the pre-production phase of this project is the idea of including an onscreen keyboard so that anyone can start playing.  Right now, you need an external keyboard or piano to use – which is actually better to really learn piano.  But for those times when you’re in the car or on a family trip, being able to call up an onscreen virtual keyboard that you tap on the glass would be an acceptable substitute.  This turned out to be near impossible to do without utilizing some more technical things like a Javascript library for sounds.  Perhaps in a future version, I can address this, but I’m hoping that an update of iBook Author will allow for this in that easy Apple way.

Here’s an animation that was created in a combination of iMovie and Flash.

You can learn more about the book at Play Piano For Kids.

art film/video food joyful living

Empanadas – a film, a life, a recipe

My mother in law Beatriz passed away 3 days before Christmas 2010.  It was a long hard year when we heard the diagnosis of her late stage brain cancer.  She was such a well loved, vibrant, energetic and insatiably curious soul who could befriend someone in an instant.  So many of our friends who met Beatriz became instant friends.  One time at a beach in New Jersey, we met an acquantaince with a child adopted from Colombia.  She was excited to meet Beatriz who grew up in Medellin, in the state of Antioquia.  Within 20 minutes, it was like they had known each other for years.  When my wife and I lived in Hong Kong, Beatriz came for a weeklong visit.  Right away, a dear friend of ours made plans to visit her and to share recipes and shopping adventures.  The age difference of 30 years did not make any difference! They kept up writing letters to each other for years.

A few years ago, I had a sense that perhaps we should preserve and capture one of “Abuelita’s” signature recipes.  So armed with a basic point and shoot digital camera (a Fuji FinePix F20) I shot and edited this film Empanadas Antioquenas (in iMovie) and now it’s gone past tens of thousands of views on YouTube.  Beatriz has become everyone’s mother and Abuelita. I still need to add English subtitles, but you can pretty much follow along even without knowing Spanish.

In Loving Memory of Beatriz Valencia Agudelo

May 31, 1940 – December 22, 2010