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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.


Impulse Response Libraries for convolution reverbs

November 14, 2014 | Robert | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

I am half way through my Audio Innovator In Residence program at Fort York Library's Digital Innovation Hub and the response to the workshops and lectures have been great!

As part of the series I've had some fantastic one-on-one sessions with aspiring musicians, engineers and people interested in all things audio.

Although I covered the use of effects in some of my audio workshops, reverb, in particular, came up again in one of my individual sessions last week so I thought I would share the information here in greater detail. 

Reverb based effects come in many different flavours and mix engineers always have a solid library of quality reverbs for whatever room or ambience they are trying to create.

Here is an online library of impulse responses from various sources. For those who use convolution reverbs, having a good and varied selection of IR's is a great way to flavour many different tracks and closely match concert venues.

Impulse ResponseAll reverbs use one of two processing methods, algorithmic or convolution. Algorithmic reverbs use calculations based on hypothetical rooms and spaces to give the reverb its sound. Although it tends to be more artificial sounding, typical of the iconic hardware reverbs of the past 35 years, it is at times the perfect effect required by the music.

Convolution reverbs use pre-recorded samples of real rooms and spaces to build Impulse Response (IR) files of those spaces. The incoming audio signal convolves with the IR to create the reverb sound. Although they require significantly more processing power they are much better at simulating real spaces than algorithmic reverbs.

Popular convolution reverbs:


Space Designer (Bundled with Logic)

Waves IR1

Knufinke SIR1 (Free)

Impulse Response Library's are all over the internet. Here is a comprehensive list of Impulse Responses to start building your library. The two worth looking into in greater detail are by Voxengo and Audio Ease. 

Here is a quick video tutorial on creating your own impulse responses of your favourite spaces or reverbs. Have fun!

Maker Faire Preview: Q&A with Directors Eric Boyd & Jen Dodd

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

Robots will greet guests at the Toronto Mini Maker Faire.
Robots will greet guests at Toronto Mini Maker Faire (Photo Courtesy: Chow Productions, Inc.).
Robots, drones, 3D printing, laser tag, soldering, toy hacking, and even boat racing are just some of the cool stuff that guests can expect to see and to experience as the library welcomes over 100+ exhibitors - creators, tinkerers, hackers, makers of all kinds - over two days.
I recently spoke with Faire Directors Eric Boyd and Jen Dodd to get a preview of what guests can expect, how they can make the most of the weekend, and where they think Toronto's maker movement is going.
How did the Toronto Public Library (TPL) partnership come about and why did you choose the Reference Library as your home?
Jen: Last year’s Faire was held at the fantastic Wychwood Barns, but we absolutely packed it out and so we were on the lookout for a much larger place to hold the 2014 Faire.
When the Library approached us about the idea of holding it at TPL, we were really excited by the possibility of being partnered with such a key organization in Toronto. In all honesty though, we went in expecting that the partnership wouldn’t work out. After all, robots, remote-controlled blimps, and DIY pinball machines are not the usual occupants of a library!
Luckily, we were wrong, and over the past year we have discovered that the Library manages to combine open-mindedness and creativity with being an established Toronto institution. For the Maker Faire, being at the Library is an incredible boon.
As a new sort of event, and one that isn’t that well-known outside of maker and tech circles, being hosted by the well-loved and trusted Toronto Public Library makes a huge difference to our visibility and our ability to connect with a much wider audience. Plus, our partnership with the Library has made it possible for admission to be free this year, which means we will be even more accessible.
On a personal note, the Reference Library is one of my favourite buildings, and one of the first things I loved about Toronto when I moved here a few years ago, but I never dreamed I’d be running an event there!
What are some of the things you're looking most forward to at this year's Maker Faire?
Jen: So many things! To pick a few: We’re looking forward to having Battlegrounds returning this year. Last year, they had just completed their prototypes in time for the Faire, so it’s nice to see them returning with a complete game set-up this year.
Maker Kids is running several big workshops for kids this year, including an all-new water-based boat-building workshop where kids will get to test their creations in the fountain at the entrance to the Library.
Epilog Laser will be there with two laser cutters, ready to laser etch some giveaways, or something you bring yourself! This is especially neat because laser cutters are a central tool for maker spaces, but most people have never seen one in action.
Our Learn How to Solder drop-in workshop is going to be amazing this year. We’ve designed our own kits for people to make and customize—a rocket ship and a snowbot.
Laser tag
Try out laser tag at the library with Battlegrounds during this year's Maker Faire (Photo Courtesy: Chow Productions, Inc.).
What are some of the unique challenges and opportunities of hosting an event like Maker Faire?
Jen: As an event that is aimed both at the general public and at people who already consider themselves makers, one of the challenges is finding the right balance between things that are interesting to people — old and young — who are new to the maker movement, and things that are exciting for experienced makers. We’ve worked hard this year to get that balance right.
For myself, the best thing about Maker Faire is how it makes everyone want to pitch in. Being a Faire organizer means that I’m receiving a constant stream of offers of neat installations, useful tools, helpful volunteers, invaluable sponsorship support, and so on. It really makes me feel that this is an event that Toronto wants.
For someone who is attending the Maker Faire for the very first time, what advice and tips can you give them to help them have a good experience?

Jen: First: Come at less busy times. That means early in the morning. We open at 9am on Saturday and 10am on Sunday. Or come near closing time; 5pm both days. Sunday is generally a little quieter than Saturday too. 
Second: Come prepared to do things with your hands! Maker Faires are all about doing things yourself, and almost every exhibit and installation is something you can interact with or build.
Third: Bring a friend or the whole family. We’ve got things to do for everyone (even maker story time with Peekapak for the little kids).
Kids soldering
Learn how to solder at the Maker Faire (Photo Courtesy: Chow Productions, Inc.).
Toronto is home to a growing and vibrant maker community. As someone who is in the inner circle of this community, where do you see Toronto's maker community going in the future?
Eric: Well, Toronto's maker community has been growing a lot over the last few years, and I think we'll continue to see that - new and bigger makerspaces, more workshops, more people getting into the community and learning and making for fun.
There has also been a move to do more commercial things with the maker movement and more people making things with an eye towards making money, be that through a kickstarter or a startup or even just doing small runs of stuff on your own. It's great when you can make money doing something that you love!
Another thing we're seeing is the continued lowering of costs on larger or more complex tools - 3D printers are now almost mainstream. You can buy then at Home Depot! And other complex tools like CNC mills and lathes are becoming more affordable and easier to use as well. 
I feel like there's never been an easier time for people to get involved and make things, and I hope the Maker Faire reflects that spirit!
The Reference Library just completed its re:vitalization. Some of the new features includes the Digital Innovation Hub. What role do you think this building plays in the life of our city?
Jen: Where to start? The Reference Library is central to what makes Toronto a good place to live. The new features all seem to be designed to make it a more accessible, welcoming space for everyone in Toronto. Several of those new features, like the Digital Innovation Hub, will be part of the Maker Faire too!
Whenever I talk to people from other cities, I am reminded of how lucky Toronto is to have such a vibrant library at its core. Part of what makes that true is that the Library is constantly working to be a relevant and creative space, and hosting one of the world’s larger Maker Faires is one way to achieve that. On behalf of Toronto’s makers, thank you!
3D printed objects
3D printing will be showcased again at this year's Maker Faire, including a project hosted at the library's Digital Innovation Hub by the library's first Innovator in Residence Derek Quenneville (Photo Courtesy: Chow Productions, Inc.).

3D Printing is for Everyone

November 10, 2014 | Derek Quenneville | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Innovator in Communities program at The Spot

3D printing is a very popular technology to show in TV and film right now, but until recently it hasn't been accessible to a lot of people.

Thanks to the Digital Innovation Hubs at the Toronto Reference Library (TRL) and the Fort York Branch, many people now have access to 3D printing who might otherwise not have a chance to use it.

I was fortunate to be TRL's first Innovator in Residence earlier this year, teaching a variety of programs related to 3D design and 3D printing. Now with the Innovator in Communities program, I get to share those same skills in non-library community spaces.

So far we've covered several 3D design tools, such as 123D Design, Meshmixer, and TinkerCAD. All three are free to use on Mac or Windows, and have user interfaces designed with beginners in mind.

It's very important to me that as many people as possible get to experience the feeling of creating in 3D. I've said this many times before, but there's something magical and empowering about going from an idea in your head to a physical object in your hand.

When you put 3D printing into libraries and community centres, you nearly eliminate the costs associated with making things. Add free workshops to the mix, and you have a perfect, safe environment for people to learn and experiment in.

Who knows what amazing things will happen when these skills and tools are utterly normal for everyone to have? Let's do everything we can to find out.

Torontonians Imagine and Design the Library of the Future

November 7, 2014 | Ab. Velasco | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...


The journalism team explored what library card and membership looks like in the future.
The Journalism Team explored what library card and membership looks like in the future.


Robot librarians, hologram rooms, digital memories, and wearable library cards. These are just some of the amazing and fun ideas imagined by Torontonians who participated in a design challenge at the Reference Library on Thursday, November 6.

The event was presented in partnership between Ryerson Transmedia Zone, Penguin Random House, and the library, via our Digital Innovation Hubs. Inspired by Stephen Fry's new book, More Fool Me, the design challenge invited the 60+ participants to design and imagine the library of the future.

Seven teams, each with its own focus – such as journalism, fabrication, and architecture – and under the guidance of a team leader chose a timeline (e.g. 2080), a mood (utopia or dystopia), and an arc (e.g. rise or fall of the library).

Then with just five hours available, each team created an artifact that represented their timeline, mood and arc – and an area of focus (e.g. the future of the book). All seven teams presented their artifact at the final hour and received feedback from a rep from all three partners.

Design by the Architecture TeamThe Architecture Team imagined a future library where one's digitized memories are archived and publicly accessible.
The Architecture Team imagined a future library where one's digitized memories are archived and publicly accessible.

This was my first time participating in a design challenge, which is a variation of a hackathon. It was an amazing learning experience and a big thanks to our partners at the Transmedia Zone who led the formation of the teams and the day's structure.

I participated – along with three colleagues – as a “floater.” We travelled from team to team to help answer questions about the library that the teams may have.

I left the day very inspired by the teamwork and ideas on display. I loved the free-flowing process and how the event's structure encouraged open-mindedness and idea sharing. While pie-in-the-sky was encouraged, I also saw experienced design challenge organizers reign in the teams and focused them towards having a presentable artifact by the presentation hour.

The Fabrication Team prototyped a wearable library card using the library's 3D printers.
The Fabrication Team prototyped a wearable library card using the library's 3D printers.

As someone who very much has an in-library world perspective, it was refreshing to see non-library folks' take on the library. It was encouraging that all the teams envisioned a utopian future, where libraries continued to play a positive and strong role. While one participant had a slightly dystopian future, where oxygen refuelling stations are needed, it was amusing to see that libraries played a role in providing that access! I guess free wifi is not such a big deal anymore in 2080.

The presentations themselves were quite enjoyable to watch. The teams took different approaches. Some recorded and played back audio skits. Some designed and printed library PSA posters from the future. One team also used the Digital Innovation Hub’s 3D printer to print a prototype of their idea: a wearable library card.

As part of the day's activities, participants were also encouraged to write a love letter - a personal message - to the library of the future. The letters have been collected and stored in a time capsule in the library's Special Collections - with instructions to our future colleagues to open it on November 6, 2040. So save the date!

Missed the event? The Ryerson team had a video documentary team on site all day. Look for a documentary of the day's activities soon.

Free wifi? Nah, this challenge participant imagines a future library that offers free oxygen refuelling.
Free wifi? Nah, this challenge participant imagines a future library that offers free oxygen refuelling.

November 6, 2014 | Robert | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Thanks for the invitation to guest blog on the Toronto Public Library site. Looking forward to sharing information, stories and experiences from my Audio Innovator In Residence workshops and lectures at the Fort York Branch. Stay tuned for more!

Meet Our Innovators in Communities!

November 6, 2014 | D!ana | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Have you met our two Innovators in Residence yet? Sarah Goodman is our film expert at the Toronto Reference Library (TRL) and and Robert DiVito is our audio expert at the Fort York Branch!

What about our three Innovators in Communities?

The Innovator in Communities program is similar to the Innovator in Residence program, except industry experts bring the Digital Innovation Hub's exciting technology and programming outside of the library and into different community spaces this fall! 
From October to November, three Innovators in Communities will be sharing their knowledge and experience within their area of expertise by conducting instructional workshops with a focus on enhancing employability throughout Toronto.
Meet our three IICs:
Derek Quenneville   Chanda Chevannes   Linda Wilkins
Derek Quenneville   Chanda Chevannes   Lindy Wilkins
Toronto 3D printing expert & fabrication artist, previous TPL Innovator in Residence at TRL (Spring 2014)   Award-winning Toronto-based documentary filmmaker & writer   Artist, technologist & programmer, director of Site3 CoLaboratory

Derek will be teaching:

3D Printing 101


 Chanda will be teaching:

Filmmaking 101


 Lindy will be teaching:

Coding 101

Learn the basics of 3D printing from creating 3D models to how to sell your 3D creations!   Learn the fundamentals of filmmaking, how to shoot and tell a story through film!   Learn the basics of coding and how it works in hardware, software and the internet!
The workshops are offered in the following community agencies:
  The Spot East Scarborough Storefront Victoria Park Hub

The Spot

Black Creek / Jane & Finch
York University Heights

East Scarborough Storefront

Kingston Galloway Orton Park

Victoria Park Hub

Victoria Village

These workshops provide access to the advanced technology, programs and expertise available in the Digital Innovation Hubs at the Toronto Reference Library and the Fort York Branch. For more information about these workshops, please contact the community agencies.
In the following weeks, our Innovators will be blogging on the Digital Design & Technology blog about their experience doing these workshops out in the community spaces, so check back shortly!
Special thanks to the Metcalf Foundation for their support of the Innovator in Residence (Fort York) and the Innovator in Communities Program.

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!

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