On art media, sound, and teamwork

Our discussion about the making of the iPad story app “A Present for Milo” continues. . . .

Mike Austin, 1968

Mike Austin, 1968

7. What art media did you use? And what computer apps did you use yourself?

Mike Austin: I use a lot of scanned textures in my illustration, so before I began I gathered up a folder of all the things I wanted to use (different kinds of paper, cloth, banana leaves, etc.), I worked in Illustrator and Photoshop on the Mac.

8. What was the approval process or protocol between you, Rubin, Sequel Digital, and The Ruckus Media Group? Time frame?

Rubin Pfeffer: It was an iterative process — we approved it as we went along.  I touched base with Ruckus at key points along the way.

Ruckus had the same objective:  Great storytelling. They were actually more resolved to avoid gratuitous clickables that might suggest anything gimmicky.

The intent all along was to deliver a delightful reading experience that very young children would enjoy, and in turn, would be endorsed by parents and educators.

Mike Austin: It was a great collaboration between everyone.  It went very smoothly.  Sharon, Ken and I would communicate just about every day, with cc to Rubin.

We focused on one screen at a time. I would send the layered Photoshop files of the finished screens to Sharon for review. Ken would program the screen, and then send a prototype app that Rubin and I could upload to the iPad for proofing.

It was so funny, because I would get the app loaded, and then start jumping up and down, screaming “THIS IS SO COOL!!!!” The farther along we got the funnier our video Skypes became.

Joy Chu: Could you address the topic of voice-over? That is, did reading the text aloud have an effect upon who was selected to do the vocals? Who was responsible for that end of it?

Rubin Pfeffer: Mike’s reading was the most natural.  He recorded a preliminary track that we planned to use only for visual pacing.

We’d always intended to bring in a professional reader. When it was time to do the actual voice-over, we did a test with a professional.  It was very good, but it lacked the authenticity that we’d come to enjoy from Mike’s voice.


So we sent Mike back to the studio to re-read the manuscript. This time he was the voice celebrity. It just wouldn’t have been the same with someone else.

Most of the sound decisions were invented and decided between Mike and the Sequel Creative team, Sharon and Ken Streger. They had great fun “illustrating” with sound!

I got to see what a silly kid-at-heart Mike is, by listening to the many sounds that he himself is able to make up, right there on the phone.

Mike Austin today

Mike Austin today

8 responses to “On art media, sound, and teamwork

  1. Thank you, Joan. I can “see” you painting — in your Impressionist way — on an iPad, quite readily!

  2. Thanks to you Mike, and to you Joy, for a very interesting visual and educational experience. I finally had a chance this afternoon to sit down and read through the entire session. It was very fascinating. To finish your whole project in that short amount of time is amazing! I can see I have a LOT of learning to do. For now, I’m happy painting individual paintings.

  3. This is SO COOL!… Love the technology, I hope it promotes stories for children.
    Tomorrow I am going to find Milo!
    I see a future in my story, renamed it: Angels wear Cowboy Boots
    aka. our duck story

  4. I think ebooks/apps have had a huge impact on the publishing industry and I would suspect most publishers are gearing up to take full advantage of the new (or not so new) medium. Will it be financially successful? I don’t know but you’re right, it is fun to see what happens!

    It will be very interesting to see how the digital book/app world evolves in next year or two. Apple is opening a Mac pc app store in early January, and that could create even more momentum.

    If you do a google search you’ll find a bunch of interesting articles about digital vs traditional book publishing online.

  5. Hi Mike,
    Do you know if all the publishers gearing up to make more ipad app/ electronic books? One of my books, Hey, Little Ant, which has been in print for around 14 years, just became an eBook. I have no clue what will happen, sales wise, but it’ll be fun to see.
    —Debbie Tilley

    • Hi Debbie! Good to see you here. And Hey, Little Ant is a natural as an ebook. Congratulations!

      Tangent: Debbie Tilley and I are currently collaborating on a project, which will be the topic of a future Countdown. More details to come. And incidentally, she created that grinning kid within our “Got Story Countdown” masthead.

  6. This is fascinating! I can’t wait for each installment.

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