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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

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 (1) 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.

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