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WordPlay Festival To Showcase Innovation in Video Game Storytelling

October 29, 2014 | Ab. Velasco | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

WordPlay: A Festival of Writerly Games


On November 8th the Toronto Public Library and the Hand Eye Society will present WordPlay, a festival of writerly games. The event is to be held at Toronto Reference Library from Noon to 5pm and will be free to those in attendance.

Unlike the more traditional videogame events in Toronto, WordPlay will showcase the unique and innovative ways writing and literature are being applied to the art of videogames, and in doing so, provide a platform for game developers to share their writerly games .

This event will be an opportunity to discover games in a whole new light, and witness the limitless potential that the craft of writing has in this young and burgeoning medium.

 Some of the highlights from this year include:

  • If you can imagine a live theatre performance fused with a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style of narrative, than you might come close to understanding the experience that “Coffee: A Misunderstanding” has to offer. Coming all the way from Santa Cruz, creator Deirdra “Squinky” Kiai(Dominique Pamplemousse) will present this interactive play, and the audience members themselves will be the actors.
  • Boston’s Andrew Plotkin will also be present, talking about his just released iPhone text game Hadean Lands; an alchemical interplanetary thriller that was funded and made possible by his enormously successful kickstarter campaign.
  • Joining us as well will be Brent Ellison and Tanya X. Short. Based out of Montreal, these two developers will be coming down to talk about their cult narrative game Dungeons of Fayte. A game that was a big inspiration for games like Toronto’s The Yawhg.
  • For those who are keen to the hands-on learning, there will be tutorials for easy to use interactive fiction tools like Ren’py, and Inform. And if you just want to play some unusual and fun games, there will be a showcase of writerly games juried by Emily Short, Leigh Alexander, Paolo Pedercini, Duff McCourt, Liz Albi & Susan Patrick.

Whether you are playing the games on display, attending the presentations, or getting involved in the hands-on workshops, WordPlay will prove to be quite an enjoyable and educational experience for all attending.

It’s absolutely free. It’s videogames. What more can you ask for? Come out and play!

Meet Robert DiVito, Audio Expert & Innovator in Residence @ Fort York Branch

October 28, 2014 | D!ana | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Robert DiVitoWhether you're a singer, musician, audio engineer, record producer, or someone who is interested in the music industry, Toronto Public Library invites you to meet our Innovator in Residence with audio expertise, Robert DiVito!

From October 20 to November 30, the multi-talented Robert DiVito will be sharing his expertise in a variety of areas within the music industry through free programs, workshops and consultation sessions at the Fort York Branch. Some of Robert's programs include a lecture on the recording industry, a hands-on, LIVE orchestra recording session and a workshop in the Digital Innovation Hub on editing with Logic Pro X.

Want to get to know our audio expert? Here's a little Q&A session I had with Robert:

What interested you about the library’s Innovator in Residence (IIR) position and what are you looking most forward to during your residency?

My interest in the IIR position is that it utilized many of my core competencies. That being music, audio engineering, and the entertainment industry. I felt that it would be a great opportunity to give back to the audio community in Toronto. That was my biggest motivator but I am looking forward to meeting and connecting with many audio enthusiasts during the residency and hope to inspire and be inspired with the exchange of information, ideas and passion for the arts.

What is your favourite piece of audio work or performance?
Oh, goodness there are so many! Glenn Gould's Bach Goldberg Variations is an iconic recording when the modern day record was just beginning. The 1955 mono classic is one of the reasons I got into audio.
What makes a good track or musical performance?
Engagement. If the performer can connect with the listener and engage an emotional response then they have done their job. As an engineer, if I can translate that performance onto a recording and elicit the same emotional connection (via the recording) then I've done my job.
What do you enjoy the most about being an audio producer?
As an engineer I enjoy trying new things. Different combinations of microphones and preamps, different recording and mixing techniques, new outboard gear, boutique plugins. All in the pursuit of creating a better than real life experience for the listener. 
As a producer I really enjoy interacting with the performer. Being a musician myself I find it intuitive to get into the head of the performer and know when they are on their game and when they are struggling, when to push and when to back off, when they are confident or vulnerable and knowing when I have the best take I am going to get from them. 
What is your advice for someone who wants to get into the audio industry?
Really want it a lot. Network with many audio engineers. Ask a lot of questions. Listen more than talk. Know the language of music. Listen, listen, listen. Listen more. To everything.
Audio experts are often behind-the-scenes. Who are some audio professionals that you think people should know more about?
Tom Coyne - Mastering engineer at Sterling Sound NY. Top of his game at the moment.
Wes Dooley - 50 year career in audio. Ribbon Mic specialist. AES legend.
Mark Donahue - Engineer at Sound Mirror in Boston. A broad spectrum of knowledge in audio from mastering to audio equipment construction and repairs.
Manny Marrochin - Mix engineer over an unusually broad spectrum of genres. Very talented.
Bill Putnam (1920 – 1989) - father of modern recording as we know it.
Can you tell us about your upcoming audio projects?
Starting the g27 orchestral season with fresh ideas in the mix. Upcoming recording with one of my favourite performers William O'Meara, organ soloist. We will be recording a new disc at St. Georges in Kingston, Ontario. Working on a pop record with soprano Rebecca Whelan and new choral disc in early 2015. Also looking forward to finally launching a new radio broadcasting project.
Thank you Robert! 

Don't pass up this opportunity to meet our first Innovator in Residence specializing in audio production and the first Innovator at the Fort York Branch!

3D Printing Projects

October 15, 2014 | Greg Astill | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

It has been almost three quarters of a year since we opened the Digital Innovation Hub at the Reference Library. It’s been amazing to see how many customers have come down to check out the service, attend classes and participate in the numerous workshops. I know I can speak for all the staff, when I say, that it’s been great to see the wonderful range of projects that library customers have decided to pursue in the Hub. We have been lucky to get a front row seat in assisting customers doing some of the most amazing work, from digitizing old VHS tapes; to scanning; learning Illustration and desktop design; or dabbling in both audio and video Production; and of course 3D Printing.

The 3D printing that we have seen in the Hub ranges from just projects of simple curiosity to advanced rapid prototyping. Projects can be as basic as a cell phone case, or a character from a TV show or movie that they found online. What has amazed the staff are the entrepreneurs who have come in and designed a whole project that they are hoping to bring to the mainstream market one day. I would love to tell you more about those, but I’m afraid I can’t. But when we can, I will definitely share them with you.

Arm Prototype

Over the span of a few weeks, I will take the time to share some stories from within the Hub walls. Projects that were developed and completed using the many resources that are available. Success stories that will help inform and inspire other customers with their goals and ideas.

The project I chose to start writing about is one that is on the larger scale of what we generally see. A group of students from University of Toronto’s engineering department came in with the plan to print a hand and an arm. Their goal was to make it fully robotic. 

With access to the 3D printers here, available at a significantly lower cost than commerical 3D printers, the group was able to print not one but two full projects. With their final prints, the expertise and knowledge they learned in school, this amazing group successfully transformed plastic into a fully robotic hand and arm. 

Building the project

Thestudents Bo, Justin and Rob were able to write programming code and wire the arm fully with motors and sensors to complete a school project. The version in the photos is one they hope to build on over time and add new technology in time that will control the hand/arm using brain waves. 

The students with their project

They came by the Hub a couple of weeks ago to help promote the use of the 3D printers at the Digital Innovation Hub, and to show library customers what can be achieved using these great resources.

Interacting with the library customers


Meet Filmmaker and Innovator in Residence Sarah Goodman

October 14, 2014 | Ab. Velasco | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Sarah Goodman

From October 20 to November 30, the Digital Innovation Hub at Toronto Reference Library welcomes award-winning filmmaker Sarah Goodman as our second Innovator in Residence.

Sarah will host discussions, workshops and one-on-one appointments for aspiring and practicing filmmakers. Discussions include a kick-off panel presented with Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival – which will also screen Sarah’s award-winning documentary Army of One on Sunday, November 2 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (details coming soon on Hot Docs' website).

I recently chatted with Sarah to find out her thoughts on filmmaking, which filmmakers inspire her, and what her upcoming projects are.


What interested you about the library’s Innovator in Residence position and what you are looking most forward to during your residency?

I love that the ideals of the library to provide a safe learning space, to encourage learning across all barriers, and that it attracts all different sorts of people across our city. I’m eager to bring what I know as a filmmaker to this diverse group, and especially for older learners who may not have had the environment to learn these skills before.


What is your favourite movie and why?

That is an impossible question, because there are so many films that are important to me, but I can choose a recent stand out. Meek’s Cutoff by Kelly Reichardt is a beautiful, tough movie that focuses on the struggle of early settlers, trying to find their way west, but is also a subtle metaphor for Bush’s incursion into Iraq. It centres on a strong woman character who is living within a man’s world.


What are the essential ingredients to a good film?

A good story and the tools to tell it. The strength and talent of those you collaborate with is paramount.


What do you enjoy the most about being a filmmaker?

I love observing real life and finding the drama and significance within it – it is everywhere.  I love discovering the layers of human behavior. It is meaningful to be allowed into worlds I might never see, to cross boundaries that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to do if I wasn’t making a doc. I am now working in drama as well, so I think of myself of both a doc and drama filmmaker.


Army of One Clip from Sarah Goodman film on Vimeo.


Can anyone learn how to be a filmmaker?

Yes. Start today! Find people who are more experienced and learn from them. Trust your vision. While film school is valuable, it is not necessary.


Out of today’s filmmakers, who are the ones that are doing works that really excite and inspire you?

Kelly Reichardt, as I mentioned. Richard Linklater. There’s a movement of local filmmakers making very strong films on micro budgets: Ingrid Veninger, Calvin and Yonah, Igor Drljaca, Albert Shin. This movement inspires me and there are some great stories coming out of it. A new documentary by Jesse Moss called The Overnighter’s is terrific. Other filmmakers: Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Carlos Reygadas, Lynn Shelton, Mike Leigh. The list could go on!


Can you tell us about your upcoming film projects?

My forthcoming feature drama Porch Stories is my first feature drama. It will be released theatrically in Toronto in Spring, 2015, so look out for it!

I have a new drama in development called LAKE 239, an environmental thriller that was pitched at TIFF’s Pitch This and was recently shortlisted for the Sundance/Sloan Commissioning Grant.

My last feature documentary, When We Were Boys, will be released on iTunes in December. You can also sign up for my mailing list at to stay abreast of when films will be releasing.


When We Were Boys trailer from Sarah Goodman film on Vimeo.

Video Game Meets Book Club at Game Curious

September 30, 2014 | Ab. Velasco | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Game Curious

Every Saturday from September 13 to October 18, the Digital Innovation Hub at Toronto Reference Library and The Hand Eye Society are hosting a unique program called Game Curious - a mash up between a book club and video games for artists, educators, parents and gamers and non-gamers alike.

Taking place at the Reference Library's Browsery on the main floor, each two-hour program lets participants play a variety of PC and console games in the first hour and in the second hour, the group discusses the mechanics, history, and creators of the games they just played.

Game Curious

“We want to encourage people to get beyond game stereotypes and play and discuss the games themselves,” says Jim Munroe from the Hand Eye Society. “There’s an incredible array of creative expression happening in the medium that people are missing out on.” Munroe recently completed a stint as the Art Gallery of Ontario’s first-ever videogame Artist in Residence.

Each Game Curious program has a theme. Weeks 1 to 3 looked at: Games Set in Toronto; Life, Love & Relationships; and Artistic & Experimental Games.

Upcoming themes are:

* Sat. Oct. 4 - Games in Education, Activism and Politics

* Sat. Oct. 11 - Making Games

* Sat. Oct. 18 - Community of Play

Game Curious

Following the six-week program, up to 10 participants will be selected to take part in a six-part weekly video game incubation workshop at the Digital Innovation Hub. Industry experts will teach participants how to develop their own game. Details on how to register will be shared at the Weeks 4 to 6 programs.

If you're an avid video game fan, be sure to check out the books and other resources that the library has about the subject.

We hope to see you at an upcoming Game Curious program!

Game Curious

Microsoft Kinect and 3D Scanning

September 24, 2014 | Greg Astill | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Great news to report, the Toronto Reference Library’s Digital Innovation Hub just bought a Microsoft Kinect camera. Why is this so exciting?  For one thing it means you can come on down and get 3D scans made of yourself. Using the camera and the amazing software Skanect (which we also purchased), the camera allows users to come in and produce a 3D file of themselves. 

Microsoft Kinect camera

3D Scanning Drop-In
Come by the Hub at the Toronto Reference Library on Saturday, October 18th between 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and get yourself scanned by staff. No registration required, and scans will be done on a first come basis. Please note: Bring a USB or media device to save your file. 

3D Scan

After you’re done, work on the file using 3D editing software and once it's ready, print it using one of the 3D printers in the Hub.

With a bit of practise, anyone can produce amazing projects using the Kinect camera. My coworker Andrew recently used the Kinect to create a 3D visualization, now installed in the Hub.

3D Visualization

Using the Kinect camera and the Open Source Programming software Processing, Andrew produced a stunning visual incorporating people walking by the Hub on the main floor. As a customer walks by the camera, their image is reflected on the TV above using a system of either shapes or words. 

Come to the DIH at TRL and try it yourself!

See you then!!

October 3D Printer Certification Sessions

September 24, 2014 | Greg Astill | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

I just wanted everyone to know that we posted a few new dates for October's 3D Printer Certification sessions at the Toronto Reference Library.  Registration starts today at 4 p.m.  Be sure to sign up quick.


Also, check this blog in a bit as we'll hopefully add more dates for the rest of October and through until the end of the year.

The dates as of now are listed below:
Wednesday, October 1st from 2-3 p.m.
Thursday, October 2nd from 2-3 p.m.
Tuesday, October 7th from 10-11 a.m.

Hope to see you then.


Toronto Reference Library Drone Video: A Bird's Eye View

September 17, 2014 | Greg Astill | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

The Digital Innovation Hub staff from Fort York and the Reference Library teamed up to help create this amazing video.  They got together with other library staff from the Communications, Programming and Customer Engagement department to shoot and edit this short video that showcases the wonderful improvements that have been made to the Toronto Reference Library as part of the re:vitalize campaign.

The video was assisted with a drone to capture these one of a kind shots that give viewers a whole new perspective on the building.



Fall Programs for Filmmakers

September 15, 2014 | Greg Astill | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Just after another year at TIFF has concluded, the library and the Digital Innovation Hub are preparing new filmmakers to get into next year's festival, sort of. The Toronto Reference Library's new Innovator in Residence, Sarah Goodman, will bring to library customers a wide variety of programming, all related to the art of film making. There will be discussions on writing, the business of getting funding, and hands on workshops on everything from shot composition to video editing. 

Sarah Goodman
Photo courtesy of Sarah Goodman

Sarah Goodman's Army of One (Hot Docs Best Canadian Documentary, Gemini Nomination for Best Director) and When We Were Boys (Donald Brittain Gemini Nomination for Best Documentary, Indiewire's Top 10) launched her career. Her work has been featured at TIFF, Hot Docs, True/False, and Berlin, among others, and broadcast on CBC, BBC, IFC, and Discovery Times.

Her dramatic short Hidden Driveway premiered at TIFF in 2011. Her forthcoming feature drama Porch Stories will be released theatrically in Spring 2015 by Kinosmith. Goodman has written and directed for the small screen as well, including projects for History Television, Discovery, BBC, Global, W Network, among others.

In addition to the classes, another great opportunity offered by the Innovator in Residence is the chance to sit down with Sarah in a one-on-one session. This is your session, ask Sarah about how you might go about improving your project, get tips about breaking into and navigating the film industry, get help with editing software like Final Cut Pro or iMovie, and more.

There are a lot more sessions and times available. Be sure to check the event details for more information on how to secure a spot

Clap board

Below is a sampling of just some of the classes that are available.

The Language of Shots
Learn the basic types of camera shots - from wide shots to extreme close-ups and the meaning inferred by each. Using a sample scene, the class will brainstorm a shot list and create a storyboard. Then working in small groups, students will practice shooting inside the library.

Screenwriting Basics
Watch a few short films and analyze what worked and what didn't work from a filmmaker's perspective. Then learn how to workshop a concept for a short film, including "beating out" an outline, and take a try at it. Participants can then sign up for feedback on their script in a drop-in appointment.

Video Editing 101
Using sample footage provided by Sarah Goodman, learn the basics of using iMovie video editing software.


Reality of Film Industry: Production & Funding Models
Sarah Goodman provides an overview and insider tips about the steps of film production, including prep, equipment, and the different funding models available for filmmakers.

Have fun!!

Introducing the Innovators in Communities Program!

September 15, 2014 | D!ana | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

In addition to the Innovator in Residence program, Toronto Public Library will be launching its first Innovator in Communities (IIC) program in October 2014.

Toronto 3D Printing Meet-up
Previous Innovator in Residence Derek Quenneville chatting with library users about 3D printing!

Digital Innovation HubThe IIC program supports the Digital Innovation Hubs at the Toronto Reference Library and the Fort York Branch, however, the Innovators in Communities will be bringing some of the exciting technology and programs outside of the library and into different community spaces around Toronto!

There will be more information to come later this fall, but what we can reveal at the moment is the exciting opportunity to be one of the Innovators in Communities!

We’re looking for a coding and programming expert who not only has extensive knowledge and experience, but is also passionate about educating and inspiring coders and programmers of all ages and skill levels.

The eight-week residency will take place October 5 to November 30, 2014.

For full details of the job posting and for more information on how to submit your application, visit the Jobs at the Library page.

Deadline to apply is Monday September 22nd, 2014.

Stay tuned for more information on the Innovators in Communities program and what our Innovators will be up to this fall!

Welcome to the Digital Design & Technology Blog. Our bloggers post about topics like digital photography, audio and video creation, scanning, graphic and 3D design and printing as well as other emerging digital tech trends. We also take you behind the scenes of science, technology and “maker” programs offered at the library.

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