Children’s author, Babette Cole asked me to create an iOS app for her classic sex-education bestselling children’s book ‘Mummy Laid An Egg’.
Given budget was limited, it was agreed to re-use an already existing animation from the book proofs that Babette had commissioned.
My role as producer on this project, was to chase down assets and work with the developers to launch onto iTunes, along with the appropriate setting up for Babette’s developer account, metadata and so on.
The final app includes the narrated animation from Babette herself, and simple media buttons to cycle back and forth through the book, as well as a cheeky ‘farting babies’ game.
The video conversion work, basic programming and game were created by the ever trusty TWP.
The app is available for download on iTunes.
I creatively directed and produced ‘Pat & Pals’, a children’s digital content publishing venture established with Colin & Jacqui Hawkins and Ross Sleight.
It took the ‘Rhyme & Read’ learning phonics series as a launch set and designed a set of digital downloads that very young children could play on a desktop PC. The original books had a simple consonant and vowel mechanic – whereby the the vowel would change as the page turned, leaving the ‘at’, ‘en’, ‘ig’, ‘og’ vowel in place.
Parents could access patandpals.com and browse the store, view demos of the download, and browse simple click-throughs of the hardback editions, which we also published and sold via the site.
The site also featured slices of the educational games that featured in the downloads – so children could experience the gentle fun of the characters and wordplay.
Early Learning Centre were a launch partner, and took an initial delivery of the books. Macmillan Books also approached us to create an eBook for Room on the Broom, which I oversaw.
I also oversaw creative direction and production across the site and the digital downloads – or ‘eBooks’. Each book followed the vowel sound character – ‘Pat the Cat’, ‘Jen the Hen’, ‘Mig the Pig’, ‘Tog the Dog’ and ‘Zug the Bug’.
Each eBook was designed along the same template, with multimedia features:
- Character animation
- Original music
- Child friendly media controls
- Settings to vowel on/off
- Educational Games
This was a pre-iOS time, with children moving onto tablets – which is why Pat the Cat is now an iPad/iPhone app, and recently we’ve started to publish the original titles onto iBookstore, Kindle and Google Books.
Thanks are due to Will Richards (Art Direction) and Tobias Sturt (Development) along with TWP for their fantastic animations; David Ayers at Creation Studios who did the audio recording and original music, and my sister Sally Hawkins and Bill Nash, the actorly talent who brought the characters’ voices to life.
If you would like to see a sample of the eBooks, please get in contact.
‘Sheila’ was a short film I wrote which was funded by the Scottish Film Council, Scottish Television, Scottish Film Production Fund. After it was shot, Steven Woolley’s Scala Productions added further funding which enabled a 33mm print. It was originally broadcast on Scottish television as part of the Centenary Reels short film initiative, and later on Channel 4 as part of its Shooting Gallery series.
It tells the story of Harry, a small time gangster, who’s stuck in a room, waiting and pacing. All he has is Sheila, a femme fatale, to keep him company…
The short was devised as a noir, and is shot in black & white.
It was directed by Hannah Robinson, and made in the beautiful city of Edinburgh. I can’t give too much of the plot away – you just need to watch it, which will only take you 10 minutes.
‘Sheila’ went onto win Hannah a Best Director award at Rome’s ‘Donne in Corto’ Film Festival.
Interestingly, searching on Wikipedia for the origins of the name, it comes from the Gaelic name Síle/Sìle, a twisting of Cecilia and means “blind”, from the Latin word caecus.
As part of an ongoing collaboration with my children’s author parents, Jacqui & Colin Hawkins, I have been producing the Rhyme & Read series as iBooks titles.
This work has involved firstly getting to grips with the iBooks Author software and then a lot of trial-and-error on image and audio manipulation.
That said, iBooks Author is a wonderfully rich application, which, while I’m only just scratching the surface on, essentially gives the Hawkins Books team a powerful self-publishing mechanism.
The first book of the five Phonics titles is almost ready to go, with a view to shipping to iTunes this May. I’ll update this post once we’re through submission and I can move onto the other titles.
A fantastic opportunity for any little boy obsessed with computers, games and toys, I was commissioned as a scriptwriter and audio director on a number of early LEGO multimedia products.
All the products (CD-ROM plus a case of intelligent bricks) worked with an adaptation of the LEGO MindStorms collaboration with MIT – a series of kits featuring software and hardware to create small, customizable and programmable robots.
MindStorms was the natural extension of LEGO’s ‘just imagine’ principle, connecting the simple premise of building something with bricks with basic programming ideas.
I worked with a talented development team over in Billund, then given the top-secret moniker of SPU-Darwin. Over the years, the producer of the projects, Bo Nielsen, became a good and valued friend. Recently I even, turned up a picture of myself, Bo and Lars having a whale of a time with some of the prototype toys.
Many of the original development team went on to form Ghost DK, a well-established FX house (recent work on ‘Pacific Rim’ I see!), while one of the concept artists, the hugely talented, Kun Chang works as a Realization/Cinematics Director in Montreal.
Set in Technic City, this first product introduced kids to early programming ideas using the core ‘PBrick’ and adding touch sensors to build your robots.
I devised the product guide characters, Taxi Jim, who flew you around the city and the main guide, Joe, a friendly scientific mini fig type who led you through the learning programmes, aided by his accident prone robots ‘Beep’ and ‘Bop’.
The core of the product was to construct two battling ‘bots ‘Crusher’ and ‘Stinger’ for arena-style tournaments. Once properly constructed, kids could try to score points by hitting the sensor areas on the ‘bots.
*I tried unsuccessfully to get Bo to lobby to have the name altered from something sounding less like a virtual sex toy.
A follow-up to Cybermaster, this add-on pack enticed kids with the prospect of building a cool-looking aircraft and flying missions via briefings I scripted to be played from the PC.
A neat take on the ‘programming and missions’ set up established in the earlier titles, in this product we created the scenario of you as a special agent primed with the task for building ‘SpyBots’ to take on secret adventures.
The pack consisted to a Mission Impossible-style CD-ROM briefing, with various maps and gadgets, along with the bricks to construct your SpyBots – Shadowstrike, Gilgamesh and Snaptrax.
Droid Developer’s Kit’ & ‘Darkside Developer’s Kit
And just to round out the boyhood dream, in this final sequence of MindStorms experiences, I scripted a title in which children are trained by the ‘JediMaster 2000’ to build and programme their own ‘Droids’. Lego and now LucasArts – bliss.
The JediMaster computer resided on Tattoine in a workshop featured in this sequence – we knew about the forthcoming Phantom Menace at that time, so the idea was to evoke the young Darth’s tinkershop.
The core droid in the pack, and obviously its key USP, was to build your very own R2-D2 unit. I seem to remember we had one running around our Shoreditch offices back in the day…
The follow-up pack was a nice offshoot idea – children could cross to the Darkside and build an AT-AT.
Come to think of it, I’m not sure I scripted it that you could ever return though – once gripped by the Darkside, I think that’s pretty much it – you kids just don’t know the POWER!!
This was a project I took creative director and producer role for Macmillan Childrens books, who approached Pat & Pals – the children’s publishing company I had helped found with Ross Sleight and Jacqui & Colin Hawkins.
Macmillan were keen to explore a multimedia version of the original best-selling title written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.
This was pre-iOS and Mac Appstore days, so the idea was to create a desktop download, which would be available for purchase via Patandpals.com – which in turn was powered by Macrovision’s DRM system (now part of Rovi group I believe.)
Armed only with the original source material, an audio recording voiced by the comedienne, Josie Lawrence and some of Julia’s own musical compositions, we set to work.
Creatively I wanted to make sure we didn’t mess with the book too much. It was important that we struck a balance between the multimedia ‘effects’ and the simple purity of the illustration.
In addition, due to the gentle lilt of the storytelling, it was important to reflect this rhythm in any animations we created.
The delightful animation and clever flash programming was created by the team at TWP – who I would heartily recommend on any childrens-related interactive work.
I’m very proud of the finished work – which is sadly no longer available for purchase and download. Largely due, I suspect, to the appearance of the TV version over Xmas 2012*.
The final product featured all sorts of lovely things – the animated storybook, some fun flash-based games – ‘Broomstick Dash’ and ‘Dodge the Dragon’ (thanks to Atari’s ‘Defender’ and ‘Pac Man’ respectively), a drag-and-drop ‘Story Maker’ for kids to create their own Room on the Broom adventures; and some thoughtful printouts – a theatre, a board and card games. Thanks to Tobias for working hard on those!
I’m not able to put up the application it self – but I’ve included some relevant grabs in this post, which you can view larger like if you click the thumbnails.
Macmillan also featured the final product as a CD-ROM on a reprint of the title.
*An odd bit of family serendipity. My sister, Sally, voiced the green bird in the TV version!
‘…the witch tapped her broomstick, and WHOOSH! They were gone.’
Working with the lovely and talented bunch over at Moon, in Cardiff Bay, I produced the web presence for the recently launched New College of Humanities (NCH) – the AC Grayling led University venture.
Something of a large-scale beast, the build required a content management system overhaul delivered on Drupal’s open source CMS framework, deploying a responsive design that allows prospective students, parents and media to browse and find relevant information.
I worked with Moon on the workshopping through to sketching and then into the wire framing and function and technical documentation.
Once completed, my main role was to ensure a smooth and purring delivery of production, liaising between creative and engineering teams alike, and ensuring a close contact with the client.
Built with Drupal 7’s CMS framework, the admin tools allow the NCH marketing team to maintain all site elements, while the responsive designs provide for desktop, tablet and mobile browsing.
My involvement and responsibilities covered the following areas:
- Information Architecture
- Functional Specification
- Annotated wireframes
- Drupal administration
- Image and copy editing
- Project Management
Conceived as a classic genre follow-up to the originating two-minutes interactive drama ‘Mazehouse.tv’ was an original production commissioned by Universal’s Sci-Fi Channel in partnership with the ad agency, HHCL.
It was written and designed as a paranormal investigation on the Sci-Fi Channel, set over five days during the Halloween period (of course!).
Sci-Fi (now SyFy) provided broadcast slots that were traditionally used as interstitial slots, with the idea that viewers would get their daily broadcast updates about the investigation at the supposedly haunted house in Sussex.
Since it was commissioned as an interactive drama, as well as watching the TV episodes, viewers could interact with the team and the production in general – read and comment on daily blogs, access live chats during seances, send SMS messages to questionnaires, access ‘live’ EMF monitors in the house, even download their own ‘spook detector’ to search for spectral emanations at home.
It was a blast from beginning to end.
There were many moments in this innovative drama that I’m proud of, but one sticks in the mind that illustrates the fun and the innovation of Mazehouse.
Along with Alice Taylor and Adam Schaub’s then company ‘Stor Entertainment’, we set up a ‘live’ chat after Episode 4, when viewers were encouraged to get online to join in a seance with Louise McMurray – the team’s psychic. Of course it was really us pretending to be the characters, typing out the seance lines.
Our ‘Scooby-Doo’ investigator characters – complete with Mazehouse.tv branded sweatshirts were:
- Steven Millington – Parapsychologist & Team leader
- Jon Ward – Sci-Fi Producer
- Louise McMurray – Psychic
- Jo Cargill – Technical Director
- Gary Mitchell – Systems Engineer
And here, across the series episodes you can see them in action.
We wrote it that tensions would build up amongst the team culminating in the final episode on Halloween itself – when ‘something’ would go terribly wrong, as you can see in this last episode.
Episode 6 – Mazehouse Live
We ‘cut’ the final broadcast (the ghost was well and truly in the machine by then), so viewers had to get online to see what happened to the team. Did they get out alive? This final clip was the ‘lost’ episode – available only to viewers who watched online.
As with two-minutes.com, Tobias Sturt, who wrote the script with me, has archived the original site for Mazehouse on Drupal, so you can step through the web creation at least, view the team blogs, read through on the mysterious history of Mazehouse and watch the six episodes via YouTube.
The whole production would not have happened without the support and brains of Ross Sleight, who was running the show at the digital arm of HHCL, who managed Sci-Fi account.
Thanks are due to Alex and Becky Wright who bravely donated their home for the duration of the production, to the director, Tim Usborne, to Tobias Sturt the writer, and to all the ghosts of the Mazehouse.
- 5 day interactive drama in realtime
- Web, LiveChat, downloads, TV, SMS
- Raised SyFy’s % share for peak viewing times
- Generated PR and awareness for Sci-Fi
Two-Minutes.com was an interactive drama I produced in 1999 (yes, that far back), while running the digital studio, BOMB Productions.
1999 was also the year of a lunar eclipse, and the best vantage point for viewing the spectacle was going to be the furthest point of the country in deepest Cornwall.
It was only a natural step then to conceive of a fictional documentary crew, who set off to cover the ‘two minutes’ duration of the eclipse, whilst also exploring the legends and locale of the area.
It was also only natural to weave into this premise a dark mystery in which members of the team were being inexplicably murdered…
Fuelling the idea under the business’s own steam, finances and collective talent, the Two-Minutes.com website was set up quickly with a number of important purposes – it was ‘the team’s own homepage as the hub of their coverage; it was the main entry point for visitors to arrive and engage in our murder mystery; and it was, importantly, going to appear on search engine results for people searching for information on the eclipse.
Channel 4 sponsored us along with Lastminute.com – who offered up a prize for the person who worked out who the killer was.
I then shipped the company down to Cornwall for a week so that we could effectively act out the tasks of the documentary team, by daily shoots, interviews and photos, along with releasing the next pieces in the unfurling mystery.
The trick of getting onto search results worked well – I think for a while we were even ahead of the BBC’s own coverage. Lord knows what people thought when they arrived at this strange melting pot of fact, fiction and murder mystery, but I like to think we entertained and intrigued.
The interactive element played out on a number of levels. The website grew daily with pleasing information on eclipses, blog postings, maps and diagrams; but also for the keen eyed, there was an admin link, and those people who had been subscribing the the newsletter would perhaps discover a password buried in an accidental mail outage to the subscriber list.
Finally, after the first murder, we then acted as the police investigation and interacted directly via emails and blog posts with the subscribed community, since they formed the witness base to the killing.
I guess what we were doing would now be termed an Augmented Reality Game (ARG), but we were very much ahead of our time, so no one had given much thought to abbreviating the genre – we were just having too much fun.
Once it emerged from the eclipse, the sun shone, so we even got some time on those beautiful Cornish beaches to round the week off.
Tobias Sturt, who worked for BOMB, and was the writer on the project, has created a Drupal archive of the original Two-Minutes.com where you can take a tour through the files and enjoy some of the flavour of what we got up to.
Huge thanks are due to Will Richards, BOMB’s Art Director at the time, and the kindness of his parents, Mike & Sheila, who donated their home for the duration of our production over that sunny memorable week, and Mike’s primary school (empty due to holidays) where we based ourselves as production HQ.
- Sponsored by Channel 4 and Last minute.com
- 500,000 unique visits in one week
- 5,000 registered users over course of drama
- Concept led to Mazehouse commission from Sci-Fi Channel
Now, had lots of visceral fun on this one – caught up in an endless car-crash, during a three month stint with the gaming company, Neonplay.
‘Traffic Panic 3D’, an action puzzler smash-em up, was released as a follow-up to the popular maiden title – a more two-dimensional affair, but a palpable hit in its own right. The game was designed for iPhone, iPad and Android release.
The game involved gaining points for spectacular crashes, or else trying to wheel-spin out of trouble altogether. A simple green/red traffic light tap mechanism aided the instantly addictive nature of the game.
Being a ‘freemium’ game, there’s the added option to purchase further vehicles or juicily combustible buildings and items like a Fireworks showroom and wrecking ball.
I’d challenge anyone not to get drawn into the simple thrill of this Appstore hit – effectively the mobile equivalent of smashing cars together on the kitchen floor. Unsurprisingly my 4 year old son is very taken with playing both versions.
This fun trailer gets the message across well – it was created to promote the release of the game with in-game footage set to ‘The Blue Danube’…
I worked as producer on the delivery of the game to ensure the chaos could ensue in an orderly fashion through to final launch.
Since release ‘Traffic Panic 3D’ has clocked up some 9 million downloads and has become one of Neonplay’s biggest franchise hits, spawning ‘Traffic Panic London’ and the related smash-up ‘Carpark Carnage’.