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Artist Creates Children's Book With Help From Digital Innovation Hub

December 18, 2014 | Ab. Velasco | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Artist Jay Wieler
Artist Jay Wieler working at the Digital Innovation Hub at Toronto Reference Library.

Since the library's Digital Innovation Hub first opened at Toronto Reference Library earlier this February, staff have seen many interesting projects come to life, including a 3D printed robotic arm by a group of University of Toronto engineering students and more recently, 3D printed Christmas ornaments.

Local author and artist Jay Wieler has also been a regular at the Hub. Chances are, you will spot him using iMac #1 - with headphones on. Over several months, Wieler has used the Hub's hardware and software, including Adobe Illustrator, as part of his journey to create his first children's storybook, Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper.

In this Q+A, Jay shares details about his book, how he found out about the Digital Innovation Hub, and his artistic goals for 2015.


Cover for Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper
Cover for Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper

Please describe how you came up with the idea for Mally McKee.

Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper is a children's book about a famous detective, named Mally Mckee, who's trying to find a stolen pie.

In the summer of 2011, the story for Mally McKee struck me while riding the subway to an appointment. I was lucky I had my pocket sketchbook on me, because I was able to successfully record these ideas. When I finally arrived home, I decided to archive these ideas to Google Docs. This way I could access these notes later. However, I had no idea that "later" would mean the fall of 2013.

Skip ahead to the fall of 2013, and I rediscovered these notes while reorganizing my Google Docs. I instantly reconnected with the story, so I spent the next six to seven months researching and developing this story further. The accumulation of this work turned into Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper.

Despite all the setbacks, starts and stops, the story is 90% finished. As it currently stands, the story will be released in early 2015 as an e-Book.


How did you find out about the Digital Innovation Hub at TRL?

I discovered the Digital Innovation Hub while I was researching ideas at the Reference Library. This fortuitous discovery was a pleasant surprise, because it allowed me access to better hardware and software.


Sketches and illustration from Molly McKee: The Missing Pie Caper
The above image shows Jay Wieler's process of taking a sketch, refining a sketch and then bringing it to life as a digital illustration using Adobe Illustrator.

Can you please describe how the Hub helped and supported your projects?

Without a doubt, access to better hardware and software at the Hub was very advantageous for me. These things helped me to expand my creative ideas significantly. For example, by utilizing their 27" iMac, I could focus on miniature details, within my illustrations, more effectively. Additionally, if I wanted to create custom typography, I could also utilize their Walcom tablet.

In addition to this, I found the staff to be helpful and supportive. As a result of all of these things, I enjoy using the hub for my creative projects.


Why is it important for libraries to provide spaces such as the Hubs to the community?

Based on my personal experience and observation, the Hub is a positive and progressive space. The Hub does a wonderful job at fusing people, ideas, and creativity. And these things matter, especially when it comes to enriching a community and the people's lives within it. Moreover, it helps stimulate a greater sense of a person's well-being. I'm happy that spaces like this exist in Toronto, and I hope more people realize how wonderful these spaces are for one's personal growth, especially when it comes to positive benefits of creativity. 

What are your future goals?

For 2015, I plan to release my children's book, Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper, and I also plan on going back to school in the fall of 2015 for film studies. In between these activities, I'll be teaching Adobe Illustrator workshops and doing freelance illustration. I look forward to an exciting 2015!

Illustration from Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper.
Illustration from Mally McKee: The Missing Pie Caper.

3D Print Your Ornaments

December 16, 2014 | Dawn | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

A number of people have visited the Toronto Reference Library (TRL) Digital Innovation Hub this month to print seasonal items such as ornaments for the tree. Many have downloaded and printed items from websites such as Thingiverse and Instructables.


Ornament on Christmas Tree

Ornament on Christmas Tree


 And this Saturday a boy named Marco, and his mother, came in to print an ornament  which Marco himself had designed using Blender, a free and open source 3D animation suite.  


The final results are very personal creations harnassing some of the latest technologies available right here the the library.




Christmas Tree

Our 3D printers are available for anyone with a Toronto Public Library card to use, once they have completed a short 3D Certification Course, which outlines the basics of how the hardware and software works.

The courses are offered at TRL and at Fort York Branch. And we even offer a free course, Intro to 3D Design, which will introduce you to the basics of 123D Design, OpenSCAD, and Sculptris so you can start designing your own 3D items.

Why not make your New Years resolution today?
I want to learn how to 3D print!



 photos courtesy of Marco S


3D Printing Innovator in Communities Wrap-up

December 12, 2014 | Derek Quenneville | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Innovator in Communities program at The Hub

The Innovator in Communities 3D printing program finished up two week ago. I'm happy to report that many of our students got to take home some great 3D prints of their final projects.

There were some challenges, though.

One of the 3D modelling tools that we used, TinkerCAD, is web-based. It has the advantage of being an easy tool for beginners to learn, but internet or server problems can make it stop working. That was a source of frustration on a few occasions.

Another issue is that not everyone made it through to the final session. We learned different ways of creating 3D objects each week, so that students could decide what worked best for their final projects. But after running some successful compressed sessions at The Hub, I think that working on several smaller projects would be more engaging... Even if less total material is covered.

I think that the program went pretty well. And it was great to have people from so many age ranges and skill levels take part.

Students at The Hub, hard at work

I'm hoping that Toronto Public Library will continue to run the Innovator in Communities program. We were able to get lots of new people excited about 3D printing in a practical way.

If you haven't dropped by a Digital Innovation Hub yet, check out some of the 3D models available on Thingiverse. Maybe you'll be inspired to create something, too!

Here are a few of the 3D prints designed by our students:

Various student designs including an envelope holder, a clown head, and nameplates

3D printed bunny figure

(Post updated to add more photos.)

Audio Innovator In's a wrap!

December 7, 2014 | Robert | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Over the past six weeks, as part of the Innovator In Residence series with the Toronto Public Library, I had the opportunity to meet many people while sharing my knowledge of the audio and music world.

Innovator_BYronSMThe lectures included topics covering the audio, music and recording industries as well as various arts funding models. I was also fortunate to be able to include at one lecture, guest speaker Byron Wong, who's industry knowledge is vast and furious.


The 8 workshops were conceived as audio production primers from start to finish and covered various topics including studio acoustics, mixing, location recording, audio for film, music videos, ATSC/A85 Broadcast Standards and Mastering for iTunes.


While I found the lectures and workshops rewarding to put together, the individual sessions were equally inspiring. Among the participants I mentored singer/songwriters, actors, film makers, aspiring audio engineers, hip hop artists, film composers, gospel musicians and entrepreneurs. They all had a story and their love of all things music and sound made for an entertaining month and a half. Here is a film composition project by musician/composer Esther Jeon.



Here is a selection from talented workshop participant Grace Peci who was gracious enought to let me post her song here.

I also had the opportunity to conduct workshops at PARC community centre in Parkdale as part of the TPL outreach program.

Innovator_ParcSMA core group of dedicated members came together over three weeks to participate in audio workshops covering home studio building, mixing, mastering, and delivery formats. In conjunction with member input, I also began development of a comprehensive document covering the redevelopment of their in-house recording studio.


The Audio Innovator in Residence program is part of a larger series involving innovators from many different areas. It is my belief that this kind of programming, through the Toronto Public Library, is what makes cities vibrant, relevant and livable. It was for these reasons I was initially interested in the position and, after having interacted with the participants, I can confidently say they felt the same way.


Innovator_DianaSMI wish to thank the staff, in particular Ted Belke, at the Fort York Digital Innovation Hub for their support. And to Diana Lee for the opportunity and her enthusiastic and tireless commitment to Toronto's Public Library System.

Code and Programming

December 4, 2014 | Lindy | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

FLindy's Workshopor the last 6 weeks I have been teaching Arduino and Website programming as part of the Innovator in Communities program. I have had the opportunity to spend time teaching people who knew nothing about code and programming how to create amazing things!

For me, the best part of this is opening people's minds and curiosities to the possibilities of code. Computers and technology control our world, and once we learn to write code for ourselves we can begin to control objects around us. Participants in this course learned a variety of things ranging from making motors move with an Arduino microcontroller, to creating their own web pages using Wordpress.

The world of code is so vast, but it only takes one interesting project for you to get inspired. A good place to start getting ideas on what you can create is Instructables. This website is filled with interesting projects and step-by-step instructions on how to create them!

If these projects have made you curious about what is possible, or you are looking for a place to learn, Toronto Public Library offers a variety of classes on how to begin to create, from web programming, to knitting.


Filmmaker Sarah Goodman Reflects on Her Residency

December 2, 2014 | Ab. Velasco | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Sarah Goodman Video Editing 101 workshop
Sarah Goodman hosted numerous workshops, including this Video Editing 101 class.

This fall, award-winning filmmaker Sarah Goodman took part in a six-week residency as Toronto Reference Library's Innovator in Residence. From late October to the end of November, Sarah presented lectures, workshops, and one-on-one appointments for aspiring and practicing filmmakers.

The Innovator in Residence program offers a fun and hands-on way to learn about the technology offered at the library's Digital Innovation Hubs.

Sarah shared her thoughts prior to the start of her residency and I recently chatted with Sarah again to get her thoughts on her six weeks with us at the library.

Look for Sarah's first feature drama, Porch Stories, out this Spring. You can also check out her award-winning documentary Army of One and When We Were Boys at the library.


What were your favourite moments from your residency at the library?

This is tough to answer, because honestly, I loved it all.

Seeing the enthusiasm and the empowerment of a group at the end of a workshop after they had just viewed their work they had shot was definitely a highlight, and seeing them motivate each other.

My favourite aspect of my residency was the diversity and talent of the people who attended. It felt representative of this city in a way few programs do.


Were there any surprising and/or unexpected moments during your residency?

Leading a workshop during Maker Faire was quite an eye opener! What an amazing movement of makers doing everything under the sun.


Innovator in Residences Sarah Goodman and Derek Quenneville
Sarah Goodman met her predecessor Innovator in Residence Derek Quenneville during the Toronto Mini Maker Faire in late November.

Having completed your residency, do you still believe that anyone can be a filmmaker?

Many people have talent, but lack confidence. I hope that I have in my residency been able to give encouragement to some of these folks.

Filmmaking is a tough profession, and our society is set up to make careers in the arts difficult, even unattainable for some. However, as some technology becomes cheaper, filmmaking becomes within the grasp of more people. You can make that first short for little or no money. Make that film great, and you will have an easier time with the second.

Most importantly, keep going, despite the times when everything seems too hard. Even the most seasoned filmmakers get discouraged. The true test is whether you keep going. Sure, talent is important, but probably equally important is grit. Find projects you are passionate about and find that grit within you.


What has been similar or different about doing a filmmaking program at the library as compared to other venues that you’ve hosted programs?

The clientele that attended my programs at the TPL were more diverse – culturally, economically, and age-wise, than anywhere else I have taught. It is a space where people feel safe to learn even with no experience, and even if they have not done well in conventional educational environments. And that is rare.

The film industry can sometimes feel elitist, but the library has created a space where it really seems that everyone feels welcome.


What is your advice for future Innovator in Residences?

Tailor your workshops to be introductory, but also be ready to be surprised and meet varying skill levels, and roll with the punches.

Being an Innovator in Residence (IIR) is a lot about being passionate about community, so that should be important you. As a filmmaker it’s often hard to tell what kind of tangible impact my films have on the community. Being an IIR gave me a very concrete sense of impact.


Sarah Goodman at Hot Docs Cinema
As part of her residency, Hot Docs screened Sarah's award-winning Army of One at the Hot Docs Bloor Cinema.

Filmmaking 101: Part 3

November 30, 2014 | Chanda Chevannes | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

The Toronto Public Library’s Innovator in Communities program is just wrapping up. Three different innovators have been working with participants in various communities across Toronto in a series of workshops aimed at using new technologies to create. Lindy Wilkins has been teaching programming and coding. Derek Quenneville has been teaching 3D printing. And I have been teaching filmmaking. It’s been a tremendously rewarding experience to see the participants in my workshop create short films in only six weeks.

participant shares her film
Workshop participant shares her rough cut. Photo credit: Diana Lee

In my previous blogs, I outlined the first three workshop sessions I led. My first blog post focused on Getting Started on Your Film and Planning Your Film. My second blog post focused on Shooting Your Film. This blog will focus on the last two sessions: Editing Your Film and Refining Your Film.

In the last two sessions of the workshop series, we discussed both the aesthetic and the technical aspects of video editing. We brainstormed the elements of good editing. In one session, a participant hit upon the perfect word: good editing feels seamless. And that’s exactly right. Good editing has lots and lots of seams. Colloquially, editing is referred to as cutting. Because the pieces of scenes and shots are all cut up and reassembled in a way that—when done well—makes it feel seamless.

In order to help them understand some of the technical aspects, I walked participants through some of the history of film and video editing. (If you want to learn more about the history of editing, The Cutting Edge is a great documentary, packed full of useful information and fascinating stories.)

I also demonstrated the basics of Final Cut Pro, which is a piece of professional editing software often used in the film and television industry. The participants then worked together to edit their own five-minute films, on various editing softwares available to them, including iMovie, MovieMaker, and Premiere. 

demonstrating Final Cut Pro
Chanda demonstrates Final Cut Pro. Photo Credit: Diana Lee

By the last class, we had a very diverse collection of films to screen, which included a music video, a sketch comedy, a documentary portrait of a musician, an historical film about a Black settler in Montreal, and an educational video about canning beets. We’re in the midst of planning a screening for all the participants to share their films with friends, families, and the wider community. I can’t wait to show and celebrate the work that have been accomplished in just six weeks of learning and practice. I'm so proud of what the participants have been able to create. 

Chanda Chevannes is currently an Innovator in Communities with the Toronto Public Library. She is an award-winning Canadian documentary filmmaker with The People’s Picture Company and a board member with the Documentary Organization of Canada. Her most recent film is Living Downstream, a feature documentary about the environmental links to cancer.


Filmmaking 101: Part 2

November 26, 2014 | Chanda Chevannes | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

The Toronto Public Library (TPL) has recently launched a program to bring new technologies and technological skills into a range of different Toronto communities. I’ve been delighted to be involved in this program, as one of the TPL’s Innovators in Communities. It means that I have spent the past two months travelling around Toronto, leading a series of hands-on filmmaking workshops. 

In my blog post from last week, I outlined some of the information covered in my first two workshop sessions. Today’s blog post will focus on some of the information I covered in the third workshop session, which was called Shooting Your Film.

camera workshop
Chanda demonstrates some principles of shooting at The Spot

In this session, we talked about what makes a good shot, how to shoot a simple scene, and how to conduct an interview.

In my mind, there are three elements to a good shot: lighting, focus, and framing.

Lighting might be the most problematic element for a first-time filmmaker working with consumer equipment. There are several lighting related issues to consider:

1) The Amount of Light: Often, our shots are too dark or lit so brightly as to look flat. A range of highlights and shadows is the ideal, with the main subject of an image being lit in a way that makes it easy to see. We can change the lighting in a shot in two ways: by adjusting the lights themselves (moving them around, turning them on, or turning them off) or by adjusting settings on the camera (including the aperture, the ISO, and—on a still camera—the shutter speed).

2) The Direction of the Light: If the main source of lighting is behind you, you might cast a shadow on your subject. If the main source of lighting is in front of you, your subject may be in silhouette or you may get lens flares on your image. If the main source of lighting is to the side, these problems will be reduced. This doesn’t mean that you should never shoot into the light or have the light at your back. It just means that you should be aware of the direction of the light as you are shooting, and reposition yourself and the camera if it’s problematic.

3) The Colour of Light: Different types of light have different colours. Daylight is blue. Indoor conventional bulbs tend to be orange. Flourescent lights tend to be green. When you move from one location to another, you need to tell your camera that you’re in a different place and the colour of the light may have changed. You do this by setting the white balance, which adjusts how your camera sees the colours in a given lighting situation. The colours of light might also mix in a room—if you are shooting towards a window, the light streaming in might appear blue, but if there’s also a light on in the room, that might appear orange. Be aware of different light colours in a scene and if it’s problematic for you, try eliminating one light source. 

Focus is a fairly simple element in making a good shot. The basic rule to remember is that you should keep your subject in focus, unless there’s a specific reason not to. The best way to focus is to pick your camera’s placement, relative to your subject. Once you have your shot framed up, zoom in as far as your camera will allow and turn the focus ring back and forth until your subject looks as sharp as possible. Train your lens on the part of the subject an audience member would be most likely to look at. For faces, we often focus on the subject’s eyelashes. For inanimate objects with text, we would make the text look sharp. Once you have your focus, zoom out until you are back where you started.

Finally, framing is a key element to making a good shot. There are some basic guidelines about conventional shot sizes, how to frame a shot by following the rule of thirds, and paying attention to the background in a shot. Here’s a good resource highlighting some principles of great framing.

The workshop participants seemed to really enjoy this session. As did I. We found ourselves playing with cameras, getting down on the floor to see how changing an angle of a shot could change the whole feeling of a shot, and blocking out scenes to see how they would be shot from several different
perspectives for editing purposes. And my next blog post, on November 29th, will talk about just that: Editing Your Film.

Chanda Chevannes is currently an Innovator in Communities with the Toronto Public Library. She is an award-winning Canadian documentary filmmaker with The People’s Picture Company and a member of the Documentary Organization of Canada. Her most recent film is Living Downstream, a feature documentary about the environmental links to cancer.


Local Makerspaces prepare for Toronto Mini Maker Faire

November 20, 2014 | Lindy | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

With Mini Maker Faire fast approaching this weekend, Makerspaces all over Toronto are preparing to show off their coolest gadgets. For the last year, I’ve served as a director at a local Makerspace called Site 3 coLaboratory. This past week we have been selecting some of the coolest projects we’ve created this year to showcase this weekend. Since Maker Faire is at the Toronto Reference Library, Makerspace have a unique opportunity to reach people who othewise might not have heard about us.

Makerspaces are community-run organizations that allow people to have access to tools and equipment they could not afford to maintain or purchase individually. They are also a great resource for learning great DIY skills! Other interesting Makerspace around Toronto are the Toronto Tool Library, and HacklabTO

Amoung the mass of 3D printers, blinking lights and robots, you can find these crazy cardboard creations. This year, we have all new cardboard robots in store for the public to try on at Mini Maker Faire. We salvage all kind of boxes and packaging supplies to make our wildest costume dreams come true!

Look out for our latest creations this weekend!

Cardbaord Robots

Filmmaking 101: Part 1

November 17, 2014 | Chanda Chevannes | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

For the past month, I’ve had the privilege of leading a series of filmmaking workshops in three distinct and vibrant Toronto neighbourhoods. Every Tuesday, I begin my day at The Spot at Jane and Finch. I then drive more than 25 kilometres across the top of the city to The Point, a satellite location of the East Scarborough Storefront in the neighbourhood of Kingston-Galloway. On Fridays, my days are spent at the Victoria Park Hub, where Scarborough and East York meet.

Workshop Session #1
Talking about film genres at The Point, courtesy of Diana Lee.

Over the course of six weeks, the participants in my Filmmaking 101 sessions have been working to make their own short films. Each session focuses on a specific phase of the filmmaking process. This blog post will highlight some of the content covered in the first two sessions, Getting Started on Your Film and Planning Your Film.

In Getting Started on Your Film, I encouraged participants to begin thinking up ideas for their short films that would be simple to execute. Together, we identified different film genres and which types of films might be easier for first-time filmmakers. Generally, documentaries are simpler than scripted projects. Films requiring fewer actors, locations, and costumes are simpler than those requiring a huge cast, many locations, and historically accurate costumes. Comedic films and dramas are easier than sci-fi and gangster flicks.

For those who didn’t come to the first session with an idea for a film, we brainstormed where ideas come from. I encouraged participants to remember the famous saying for authors to “write what you know.” The same is true for filmmakers. Your film will be more authentic if you understand your subject matter. It will be simpler for you to execute. But it will also be more valuable to your audience, because your film will serve to share your perspective with them.

In Planning Your Film, I shared some film writing samples so participants could spend some time fleshing out their ideas on paper. The samples were from a public service announcement I created for the Ontario Literacy Coalition in 2006. The three different format options for writing their films were a treatment, a script, or a series of storyboards. 

Sample storyboard page from the Take A Step PSA, courtesy of The PPC Inc.

Participants also shared their film concepts with the group. Each participant was asked to answer the following questions:

  • What is your film about? (What’s the idea?)
  • What kind of film is it? (What’s the genre?)
  • What other film have you seen that your film resembles?

Each concept was workshopped to help participants identify the strengths and challenges of their proposed projects. We asked questions to clarify things that were unclear and we talked about the portions of each participant’s film that excited us.

At the end of the first two sessions, I was jazzed to see how the workshop participants’ films would develop and progress. I was also excited to share some shooting and editing techniques with them in the coming weeks—which I’ll share with you in my next two blog posts on November 26 and 29.


Chanda Chevannes is currently an Innovator in Communities with the Toronto Public Library. She is an award-winning Canadian documentary filmmaker with The People’s Picture Company and an enthusiastic arts educator. Her most recent film is Living Downstream, a feature documentary about the links between synthetic chemicals and cancer.


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