This is the first post by Emily Connell, creator of The Jumble Bugs book app for children. Look for Jumble Bugs Book One: Bloomie and the Birthday Blunder on the App Store in early 2012.
November 1, 2011
I discovered Demibooks® Composer while attending StoryWorld Conference in San Francisco with my husband Kevin. We had written the story for our first book app, and were working with an amazing NYC based illustrator, Kristine Marsh, who was turning my original Jumble Bugs plush toy designs into cartoon characters. The Jumble Bugs are ladybugs that are jumbled up with all sorts of adorable things. The first book app tells the story of Bloomie the Flower Bug and her trip to the beach to give her best friend Leilani the Hula Bug a birthday surprise. At Jumble Beach, Bloomie stumbles upon a surprise of her own…..(cue exciting music here!)
I thought that the next step would be to hire an iOS developer, who would then build the app from our storyboards and specifications….we thought we’d meet a keen developer at StoryWorld……
Instead we met Rafiq Ahmed and Saadat Qadri, who were demonstrating their new ipad app, that allows non-programmers to create an app themselves. I was amazed and excited! I have been working in multimedia and web design for over 10 years, and was happy that I could now use these skills and build the whole thing myself. Sweet!!
The benefits I saw from the start were how much money this was going to save me, and that I could change my mind on screens whenever I’d want, test out different ways of doing things, and not have to endure the hassle of sending changes to a programmer. But most importantly, this was going to be a fun project and something I’d be proud to say that I put together myself.
November 3, 2011
I returned home from StoryWorld, downloaded the free Composer app, and quickly began playing around with it. I joined the Demibooks forum and poked around the demo apps that were included – Not Without Bear, A is for Aardvark and Steampunk Chess Puzzles. These were a great help to me, as I could take a look at how things were set up and coded, and get ideas for how to bring my book app to life!
Animation plays a large part of my app, and I used the tool most familiar to me, Flash, to build the walk cycles and character animations. Once complete, I exported these as individual .png frames to bring in to Composer. Since Flash is not supported on the ipad or iphone, I was real happy that I could still use that program to create animations for my project.
Authoring the app directly on the ipad is cool. I like that it is super easy to preview your work by pressing a button, this is more natural than running a simulator on a desktop application, as you get a real feel of how the user will interact with the behaviors you set up in the program e.g. you can instantly see what happens when areas of the screen are touched or swiped. And then you can show it to people directly on the ipad and get their feedback and suggestions.
I spent the next two weeks creating animations and test pages.
November 23, 2011
On a short trip to Sydney, Australia to visit family and friends I stopped by the Demibooks office and met programmers Christopher Roosen and Andy Skinner – awesome guys! It was pouring with rain so I left my waterlogged sneakers at the front door for my first ever barefoot meeting. I got a first hand look at Composer Version Two. I showed them the Jumble Bugs test screens I had made, and they were keen for me to get 5 or 6 pages ready to include as demo when the newer version of Composer is launched in 2012. We talked for an hour or so and I gave them a list of ideas and features to add in that will improve work flow and make it faster to set up animations – I left the meeting with a huge grin and warm and fuzzy feeling inside! These were cool people making a cool product and it was fantastic to meet them in person. And being Australian, I liked that there were fellow Aussies involved!
December 1, 2011
Back home in San Diego, I received an email from Andy saying that the book app pages for the demo were due before Dec 15th. My initial reaction was to re-enact the Home Alone scene where Macauly Culkin slaps his after-shaved face and yells “aaaaaaaaaah”. After calming myself down, I realized this is an achievable deadline if I made the most of my free time after work: “Late nights and a lot of coffee on the weekends!”
I downloaded the beta for Composer Version Two and started building my app “for real”. No time to second guess myself, I worked full steam ahead. A notable improvement was the ability to import the frames of an animation as one zip file, instead of selecting each frame one by one – a huge time saver. Also noteable is the addition of easing effects to motion animations created in Composer. I applied these to the sunbeams on the page that shows the exterior of Bloomie’s house, and also on the wooden “Bloomie’s House” sign to create a fun bounce effect when clicked. Lots of possibilities!
Without time to audition “professional” narrators, I turned to those you can rely on in a pickle, my family! My brother Alex had read a few lines of the story to me when I saw him a week before in Sydney, and these sounded excellent. So I called him and asked if he’d record the lines. He downloaded a free app called Italk to his ipad, which made it easy for him to record the narration and email them straight to me. And after 2 weeks of hearing him narrate over and over, I still loved his voice, so this is a good sign! He really “hams it up” and I hope this opens up a new career for him!
I used Adobe Soundbooth to slice up the audio for each page. Kevin and I created most of the sound effects ourselves – the snore is me snoring, the swoosh sound on the mail box is me saying “swoosh” and the sound of the drawers opening and closing in Bloomie’s bedroom is Kevin opening and shutting our drawers, you get the idea – fun!
December 12, 2011
I had my 5 demo pages ready, before my deadline, wohoo! I am very happy with how they turned out. For the final version of the app we will have Alex re-record the audio with a proper microphone to improve the overall sound quality, and also add or adjust effects on the first 5 pages. Next I updated my website to showcase the new app in development: http://www.jumblebugs.com
December 30, 2011
Ready to start the New Year with a bang! We will work hard to complete the first app as soon as possible, and would love to have it in the app store by March 2012. This is just the beginning — we’re looking forward to creating many more book apps in the Jumble Bugs series, there are over 40 unique characters and they all have a story to tell, so this could keep me busy for the next few years. We’d love to re-release the Jumble Bugs plush toys soon too. Thanks to the Demibooks team for their inspiration, encouragement and support, but most of all for creating the tools that are making my dreams come true. Cheers!