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Lights, Camera, Action! - Recording Studio Space at the Library

April 21, 2015 | Nalini | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Are you looking for a space that you can use to practice your photography, film making, or music skills? The Fort York Branch has a bookable room that can be used as an amatuer photography and recording studio. The Media Lab is an enclosed space that can be booked for up to two hours per day, free with a valid library card.

Bring in your own equipment, or use something from the Digital Innovation Hub. We have a green screen and lighting kit, cameras, microphones, mixing boards, a keyboard, an electric drum kit, DJ equipment, and an Abelton Push controller. Please note that this room is currently not sound treated.


Contact the Fort York Branch directly for more information, or to book a time to use the Media Lab at 416-393-6240. Media Lab bookings are only available up to one week in advance with a library card.

Make. Play. Learn. Share. Connect. 


Paul Hillier Shares Tips and Tricks of Cosplay Photography

April 15, 2015 | Ab. Velasco | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Transformers Cosplay
Transformers Cosplay (Photo: Paul Hillier)

On Saturday, April 25, the Digital Innovation Hub at Toronto Reference Library is partnering with Anime North to host the Anime Bash, a fun afternoon of cosplay, film screening, and anime-related games.

Cosplay refers to a form of costume party and performance art, where the costumes are inspired by manga, anime, comics, cartoons, video games and films. Cosplayers are individuals who partake in the dress up and ensuing performance.

At the Bash, Toronto-based photographer Paul Hillier will also deliver a talk about cosplay photography. Paul’s work has been featured in the media, including Popular Photography’s Photo Manual, Maclean’s, Cracked, Geek x Girls, and Comics Alliance.

In this Q+A, Paul shares how he got into cosplay photography, his advice for aspiring photographers, and whose cosplay and photography works inspire him.

How did you get into cosplay photography?

It was really organic. I've always been into photography and I've always been a nerd. I'd go to conventions for the artist and maybe take a couple of snapshots of some cosplayers.

I don't know how, but over time I went from “Can I take your picture?” to asking them to maybe step into the light, to “Hey, do you have 15 minutes to do a shoot?” to scheduling shoots months in advance. 

What have been your favourite cosplay photo shoots and why?

That's a hard one.  That's like asking a mother to choose their favorite kid. I'm also of the mindset that you can find something excellent in every situation. But in general, I love just bringing epically talented people together in beautiful locations: Dundas Square; the Scarborough Bluffs; hell, even in my kitchen.

Maleficent Cosplay
Maleficent Cosplay (Photo: Paul Hillier)

You've done a lot of photography work – including for media publications and special events like weddings. How does cosplay photography differ from other works you’ve done?

It's different in the way that I do it for the love of doing it. I don't make any kind of real money in cosplay. I do it because I'm a huge nerd and I love the idea of bridging the gap between anime and comic art with real life. In fact, I find that cosplay photography borrows from wedding, fashion and architectural photography very much.

For those who want to get into cosplay photography, what are your Top 3 tips and tricks?

#1 - Don't make your bad day someone else's bad day. It may not be specific to cosplay but it's probably some of the best advice I've heard and can be applied to everything including cosplay. By its nature, you have to work with other people. They are more important than even your final work. It’s important that everyone on your set feels safe, comfortable and respected.

#2 - Be aware of your environment. Know how to use it or how "not" to use it. Especially know where the light is coming from.

3. With "Photoshop," just because you can, doesn't mean that you should. Sometimes, less is more.  I have been known to be super guilty of this in the past.

Which cosplayers and cosplay photographers do you admire the most and why?

There are so many talented members of the local scene that it wouldn't be fair for me to start, I'd have no idea when to finish. Off the top of my head for people outside of the local scene:

  • Zhang Jingna - Not really a cosplay photograher though she has done some. I love how her work borrows a lot from painting. It feels very soft and feminine.
  • Jay Tablante - I just love this dude’s work. I don't know where he finds the time to do all the in-depth post work but he really does love combining photography and fantasy comic art feel.
  • Nikita Cosplay - Her Kei Yuki is incredibly on point! 
  • Angela Bermúdez - She has a very cinema style to her posing, as well as some of the best armour design I have ever seen.
Ryu Cosplay
Ryu Cosplay (Photo: Paul Hillier)

MaKey MaKey

April 14, 2015 | Greg Astill | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

MaKey MaKey kits are a great way to learn more about electronics through interacting with everyday objects. Take a couple of bananas and turn them into keys for a piano or keyboard. Draw your own game controller in pencil and play a game of Pac Man. 

Image courtesy of

The idea behind this great kit is to encourage experimentation and to help people invent. The kits are simple by design: they consist of a MaKey MaKey board, a series of alligator clips and a USB cable for power. The setup takes just a few seconds and with no programming knowledge needed. Users can start to experiment and build immediately.

Any material that can conduct a small amount of electricity can be used. Below are some examples of what you might want to use: ketchup, pencil graphite, apples, lemons, oranges, bananas, coins, aluminum foil, silverware, people and Play-Doh to name a few.

Connecting MaKey MaKey

A great deal of exercises and training templates can be found on the Makey Makey website and additional resources can be easily tracked down all over the web, including great video tutorials on Youtube and Vimeo.

The Makey Makey webpage also offers a gallery of users’ projects made with the kits.

One of my favourite projects is the Cat Bowl Photo Booth. The project works using a conductive pad, in this case silver foil. Set it up with a bowl of water and every time the cat goes for a drink, your laptop camera snaps a photo.

No special software is needed for installation and it works with Mac, Windows and Linux. The kits are great for everyone, young and old, as well as anyone who considers themselves an artist, engineer, designer, inventor or maker.

Connecting to banana, orange and a coin


Come down and check it out and be sure to bring a few bananas with you.
Have fun!!

Please note:

Fort York library will be hosting a great program called:  Play With... Music!

The session is on Sat Jul 25, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Class Description:
Make music with our Makey Makey kits. Possible projects include musical stairs, a water piano, and maybe even a banana piano!

For kids 8-12 years of age. Registration information to be announced.

Click here for more details.

Video Game Programming with Scratch

April 1, 2015 | Nalini | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Last week the Fort York Branch's Builders' Club, an after school club for builders, designers, creators and innovators who want to learn new skills and explore new technologies began their adventures into the land of video game design with Scratch.

Scratch is a free, web-based, visual programming platform created by MIT, and is perfect for introducing the concept of computer programming to children. Scratch allows children (and adults!) to create video games of various levels of difficulty. The 2D drag and drop environment is easy for kids to manipulate, but it can also include computer programming concepts like loops, events, and objects as well as mathematical concepts like values, decimals, and variables. As a result, games can be as simple as a maze, and as complex as a game of basketball between a monkey and a turtle!

Head over to the Scratch Website to play some of the games created by users all over the world. Or check out this sample game, Monkey Tag, by Wendy, our Lead Instructor for this program. Instructions for this two player game are available here.

Scratch is really easy to learn at home too, so try one of these print books to get you started:


Getting to konw Scratch 

 Scratch Programming in easy steps

Learn to program with Scratch

Getting to know Scratch

Scratch programming in easy steps

or one of these electronic resources available from the library:

 Building Games with Scratch 2.0

Sams teach yourself Scrtch 2.0 in 24 hours 

Super scratch programming adventure 

Building Games with Scratch 2.0

Sams teach yourself Scratch 2.0 in 24 hours

Super Scratch programming adventure!

Fort York Library's Video Game Programming with Scratch program is full, and we're no longer taking any new participants, but we'll be offering this program again in the fall. In the meantime, check out some of the other Maker programs at the library.

VHS Conversion

March 13, 2015 | Greg Astill | Comments (8) Facebook Twitter More...

Have you ever wanted to take a look at those old VHS tapes collecting dust? Maybe take some old home movies and preserve them for future generations to see? Maybe take a collection of them with the idea of editing and restoring them for a celebration? The Digital Innovation Hub at the Toronto Reference Library is happy to report that anyone can now do this thanks to some great resources in the space. Bring in any old VHS tape and use one of two digitizing tools that are available to capture your old videos.

The first device is the Diamond One Touch Video Capture. This device allows you to capture videos with the touch of a button. The One Touch Video Capture records video and audio from almost any device. Capture content from VCRs, camcorders, DVD players, or any device supporting video output through a S-Video or composite RCA connection.

Diamond OneTouch Video Capture
Image Courtesy of Diamond One Touch Video Capture

The other device is a much higher end video capturing tool named Black Magic Intensity Shuttle. The Shuttle is an HD/SD video capture/playback device that supports USB 3.0, and allows you to capture 10-bit HDMI or analog video directly from a camera or tape player. Use it for editing or for playback to watch old footage you haven’t seen in a very long time. 

Black Magic Intensity Shuttle
Image Courtesy of Blackmagic Shuttle

It’s compatible with many of the video editing applications such as iMovie, Final Cut Pro, After Effects and Premiere. 

At the moment the Hub only has a VHS player and can only facilitate the conversion from that format.  But in instances where your footage is filmed on a different format, be sure to bring the camcorder in that it was shot on for the sole purpose of playback. 

VHS to DVD at Digital Innovation Hub
VCR Setup at the Digital Innovation Hub at Toronto Reference Library

Both systems are flexible and give the user options for resolution and a wide range of file formats. More importantly once your footage is digitized, you can easily convert it, edit and export it to any format you like. Maybe use one of the film editing software applications such as iMovie to cut it down and add music and photos to tell a story.

Have fun!!

Showcasing Video Games Made at the Library

February 2, 2015 | Ab. Velasco | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

 The Floor is Lava by Archie Wisco

Video Game Screen Capture

Last fall, the Digital Innovation Hub at Toronto Reference Library was thrilled to host the 12-week Game Curious program presented with The Hand Eye Society.

During the latter half of the program, 10 participants took part in a 6-week workshop where they were mentored by industry experts on how to create video games. By the end of the workshops, a few participants even had a video game created.

In late January, a few participants returned to the Reference Library to showcase their video game creations.

Avid video game hobbyist Archie Wisco was one of the workshop participants. In his game The Floor is Lava, you have to guide the character to the room's exit by jumping over all the furniture - before the rising lava catches up to you.

"I was inspired by child-like play," says Wisco. "The public library environment led me to think in terms of family-oriented accessibility...I enjoyed the (workshop) experience immensely. I was originally on the waiting list if any chosen participants dropped out, so I highly valued the time I spent in the program."

Abhilasha Dewan and Kai Reimer-Watts partnered to create Skyshapers, a game where you played as Sky, an injured albatross on an important mission to help reduce the rising smog that is changing the climate & threatening life on Earth.

The original concept for the game was developed by Reimer-Watts last summer at Startup Weekend Waterloo, supported by Google for Entrepreneurs as part of the thesis for his Masters in Climate Change. With a background in the arts, he came up with the concept of SkyShapers as a tool for starting a conversation about climate issues amongst a broader audience.

The Game Curious program was a positive experience for the pair. "It was really great!" says Dewan. "The energy in the group was always inspiring. The workshop itself was well structured to help see the projects to completion. Big thank you to all the volunteers for consistent de-bugging help and great feedback."

The Hub hopes to offer more gaming-related programs in the near future. In the meantime, you can check out library of books on video game programming and video game design. Happy Gaming!

SkyShapers by Abhilasha Dewan & Kai Reimer-Watts
Video Game Screen Capture

3D Printed Subway Car

January 29, 2015 | Greg Astill | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Just a short note to let everyone know about the great article in the Toronto Star this morning about the Digital Innovation Hub's customer Richard Audette.

Toronto Star News ArticleImage Courtesy of

Richard spent over 20 hours designing a TTC subway car that will works with any standard wooden train set. Using 3D design software, Richard decided to create this amazing toy that represented our city of Toronto.  

In the article Richard goes on to say: “It’s the train we ride, so I thought I’d design one.”

Once designed, Richard used one of the 3D printers at the Toronto Public Library's Digital Innovation Hub to print his files. After it was done, he painted the piece and added decals and logos to make it look authentic.

In addition, Richard also made his files available to others by uploading them to Thingiverse, a website dedicated to the sharing of user-created digital design files. 

TTC H6 Subway Car for Wood TracksImage Courtesy of Richard Audette

Just another great example of what is happening in the Hubs.  

Have fun!!

New iMovie Classes

January 27, 2015 | Greg Astill | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

If you have ever wanted to try video editing, now is the time. This year Toronto Public Library’s Digital Innovation Hub in the Toronto Reference Library and Fort York are proud to offer free iMovie editing classes to the public. iMovie is a great video editing tool that makes the process and technology very easy to learn. If you’ve never tried slicing a video, adding audio or using a range of transitions and video effects, then this is the place to start.

iMovie Logo

At the moment, both Hubs offer a wide range of video editing software from iMovie, Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere to name a few. iMovie is great because this software is part of the Apple OS suite. It certainly is a lot easier to get familiar with some of the tools, if you are a regular Apple user. Once you’ve conquered the video editing process in this introductory workshop, you can take more advanced software programs that are more in line with what professionals are using today.

Each attendee of the class is given a laptop, access to the software and a handful of files to play with. In two hours you’ll get a chance to explore many of the different tools available in this great software, such as using transitions and titles, adding audio and a soundtrack, cutting and splicing, and mastering the timeline.


iMovie can work with common file formats from most digital video cameras as well as files that need to be converted before use in the program. From there, users can edit the photos and video clips and add titles, music, filters and effects, including basic colour correction and video enhancement and transitions such as fades and slides. Apple worked with Abbey Road Studios in England to add original music and film scores to the sound library. And if you’re not into making movies, create a short movie trailer with one of the available templates available in the software.   

Below are some great tutorials you can find online in both book and video format. One book we have available through Safari Tech Books Online is iMovie the missing manual.

iMovie: the missing manual

And there are a tonne of videos to help guide you also. Check out Safari or even YouTube for videos like the one posted below.

For all the dates and times of the iMovie classes, visit the Toronto Public Library website. The first class, scheduled on February 25th, will open for online registration starting tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.

With a bit of practice, your videos will look like something straight out of Hollywood.

Have fun!!

ZBrush: Digital Sculpting and Painting Software

January 13, 2015 | Greg Astill | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Happy New Year to all our customers.  We’re happy to announce that the Hub at the Toronto Reference Library has just acquired a really cool 3D design and sculpting software.  The program we have added to some of our computers is ZBrush.  ZBrush is developed by Pixelogic, the same company that also has made Sculptris, a free software package with limited tools but certainly exposes users to this technology at an easy to use level.

Image Courtesy of ZBrush Gallery

ZBrush is a digital sculpting tool that combines 3D/2.5D modeling, texturing and painting. It uses a proprietary "pixol" technology (see below) which stores lighting, color, material, and depth information for all objects on the screen. The main difference between ZBrush and more traditional modeling packages is that it is more akin to sculpting.  Built within an elegant interface, ZBrush offers the world’s most advanced tools for today’s digital artists. With an arsenal of features that have been developed with usability in mind, ZBrush creates a user experience that feels incredibly natural while simultaneously inspiring the artist within. With the ability to sculpt up to a billion polygons, ZBrush allows you to create limited only by your imagination.

Image Courtesy of ZBrush Artist: Gregory Callahan

ZBrush is used for creating high-resolution models that you can use for movies, games, and animations.  Lots of high power companies use the program and is most known for being able to sculpt medium to high frequency details that were traditionally painted in bump maps. It is for this reason why ZBrush is used by everyone from art enthusiast to major film and games studios. Leave technical hurdles and steep learning curves behind, as you sculpt and paint with familiar brushes and tools.

Image Courtesy of ZBrush Gallery

So come on down and try this amazing software package today.  A significant amount of tutorials can be found online to help get you started, and take advantage of the Hubs graphic tablet to make the drawing a little easier.

Some great resources to get you started with some of the more popular tools, you should check out these great videos that were posted by Gamestar Arts on their Youtube channel.

If you want to check out some alternatives that are free, check out Blender and the already mention Sculptris. 

See you then!!!

Hour of Code at Toronto Public Library!

January 7, 2015 | D!ana | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Earlier in December, Toronto Public Library celebrated the Hour of Code.

Hour of Code LogoThe Hour of Code is a global movement with the aim of reaching people in countries all over the world to learn more about computer science during Computer Science Education Week

Here’s a short video on what Hour of Code is all about:

From December 8th to 14th, 2014, several Toronto Public Library branches offered free, hands-on programs to people of all ages. Here’s a highlight of some of the fun Hour of Code programs:

Innovator in Communities Coding & Programming Expert - Lindy WilkinsThere was also an opportunity for people to meet the library’s Innovator in Communities coding & programming expert, Lindy Wilkins!

Lindy’s Exciting Electronics program was held at York Woods, Morningside and Eglinton Square Branch where people of all ages got to learn about Arduino microcontrollers and how to use them to make cool interactive objects!

Participants at York Woods Branch learning how to light up an LED using an Arduino
Participants at York Woods Branch learning how to light up an LED using an Arduino
Participants of all ages learning how to program an Arduino
Participants of all ages learning how to program an Arduino
Lindy introducing participants to the Arduino at Eglinton Square Branch
Lindy introducing participants to the Arduino at Eglinton Square Branch

If you’re not familiar with Arduinos, check out this video from Make Magazine:


The Hour of Code programs were definitely a fun way for people with or without computer or coding experience to learn something new and to get excited about computer science and technology!

Want to learn more? You don’t have to wait till the Hour of Code! Check the Toronto Public Library website for more programs and books on Arduinos or coding

Arduino Uno

You can also use an Arduino at one of our Digital Innovation Hubs! Here’s a list of all the in branch equipment you can use

Thank you to all those who participated in the Hour of Code for 2014! Look forward to even more programs and ways to celebrate the Hour of Code later this year!

For more information about the Hour of Code, visit

Welcome to The Innovation Hubs blog. Highlighting the features, programs and customer innovation stories from our Digital Innovation Hubs.