BBC Artist-in-Residence liveblogs creation of Kids app on a dare

in Books (E)

[] London, United Kingdom - Dared by a London publishing executive to prove that iPad apps were viable for publishing, former BBC Radio 1 Artist-in-Residence and Ibiza clubland DJ and VJ Charles Kriel, created Handmade Mother Goose HD with EveryPage, in three feverish weeks. Handmade Mother Goose HD with EveryPage is a narrated, animated children's book scheduled for release 28 April 2011.

When a flurry of posts dismissing the viability of apps for the publishing industry appeared on The Bookseller's blog, Charles Kriel, former BBC Radio 1 Artist-in-Residence, read the posts in disbelief. Then he took up a challenge that, three weeks later, saw the iPad App Store release of "Handmade Mother Goose HD with EveryPage".

"Six months ago, apps were the most tangible manifestation of a new type of publishing," Kriel wrote on Futurebook. "Now [people say] they just suck."

Over beers, he shared his frustration at the posts with a London publishing executive. "Publishers were spending 40 to 50 thousand Euro, wondering why their apps weren't profitable, and blogging about it. I said it was ridiculous, and she dared me. 'Put up or shut up.'"

Taking up the dare, Kriel set himself a challenge. He would produce a low-budget, high quality animated children's book for the iPad in three weeks, and liveblog the process.

Twenty-one days later he submitted "Handmade Mother Goose HD with EveryPage" to Apple's App Store. Initial reactions were positive. Judith Richards, author of youth novels "Summer Lightning" and "After the Storm" calls "Handmade Mother Goose" "...a charming interactive book for children". And New York children's publishing house Rosen Publishing says "EveryPage is a real feature."

Kriel's familiarity with technology, media and publishing helped along the way. From 2000 to 2005, he toured with BBC Radio 1 as the Nation's Favourite's only resident Artist and VJ. Two years later, after appearing as himself in an Alternative Reality Game (ARG) for Disney/ABC, he wrote and produced an ARG featuring a dozen superstar DJs, including Pete Tong and Paul van Dyke, set against an Ibiza clubland backdrop.

"Then I wrote a book for Focal Press about DJing with video, and I got the bug." Books. Kriel secured a New York agent in The Gernert Company (the same agency who handle John Grisham), and began work on a series of novels.

"Books are a long process. It takes years. This dare to produce an app, especially in a couple weeks, really tweaked something in me. It was like, 'Thank God. A project we can finish before my next birthday.'"

Charles Kriel had the digital qualifications. In addition to being the world's most recognized VJ, DJing and recording music and video, he also held a PhD in digital imaging from Central Saint Martins, London's leading art university, and had served for several years as the UNESCO UK National Expert in New Media. "I created the system I used for video DJing with the BBC. I had actually written one of the first pieces of software to let you scratch video - this was back in the 90s."

"Still, none of that is much help when you sit down to code an app. I wouldn't have finished if I hadn't set parameters at the start."

Working with his wife, Sarah Warsop-Kriel, a designer and dancer, Charkes worked from a set of early 20th century drawings from the classic "Denslow's Mother Goose". He then decided what features were necessary and what could be left behind.

"Aside from the adult stoner appeal most children's media has, my audience was pre-schoolers. That means no Facebook, no Game Center, no networking. And no in-app purchasing. You have to protect the kids, even if it means dropping features. Once you've eliminated that feature set, you have a lot of options for fast production."

Emphasising his narration, the music and a set of animations, Kriel went for an unusual development environment - Gamesalad. "It's in beta, so it has some funky qualities, and it's usually used by professional developers as a rapid prototyping tool, but I took a critical look, and decided this was the way to go."

All the narration and recording were done in Kriel's music studio on England's South Coast. "And the graphics, that's laptop-on-the-train stuff."

With the app in review by Apple's iTunes staff, how does Kriel feel about taking on the no-budget, fast-deadline dare for "Handmade Mother Goose HD"? "I'm exhausted, and wearing an RSI wrist brace. But I'm really proud of how this turned out. With more money and time, I might have got a starlet to narrate, but I'm not sure an extra six months would have made 'Handmade Mother Goose" more entertaining. It feels like a damned good children's app."

And what about the switch from raving in Ibiza to making children's books? "Oh man, at some point you've got to think about ageing gracefully."

"Handmade Mother Goose HD with EveryPage" is scheduled for international release Thursday 28 April 2011, pending App Store approval, featuring twelve nursery rhymes, each animated and narrated by Charles Kriel.

EveryPage is an exclusive navigation feature, allowing pre-schoolers to easily and intuitively navigate to any nursery rhyme directly, in one step, from any page.

"Handmade Mother Goose HD with EveryPage" is designed, produced and developed by Charles Kriel. He also wrote and recorded the music and narration, and designed and produced the graphics.

Kriel's Handmade Tales is a partnership for the production of children's iPad books, with Sarah Warsop-Kriel. Sarah Warsop-Kriel is a designer and dancer. Charles Kriel is an independent media producer, artist, DJ and musician, based in London and Brighton. Copyright (C) 2011 Charles Kriel. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPod and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.


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