The Pen and I

I’ve been eager to try out the new Pen at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. Here are my impressions!

It’s quite hefty but very comfortable to hold and use. Even kids have no problem with it.

Two girls using the Pen on a touch table

Once I got into the galleries having the Pen gave me a sense of freedom, and power. Freedom, because I could “grab” anything for later viewing and therefore didn’t need to spend a lot of time looking at the objects – which was helpful since I didn’t have much time; Power, because I could “have” anything in the displays that piqued my interest. I felt a little like a kid in a candy store.

Happily I went along matching the cross hairs on my pen tip to the cross hairs on the labels of each object I wanted to take home with me: See it, Match cross hairs, See the little strip of 3 lights turn green and it’s saved.

Objects I collected

My collection includes this model of a giant tunnel boring machine, ( the real one was used for cutting through solid rock to create the Second Avenue Subway tunnel), and a delicate chart made of sticks loosely tied together, used by Marshall Island sailors to understand ocean swells and currents far, far off shore.

The fork I designed at Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum

Having been inspired by Eva Zeisel’s elegant silverware on the first floor, I decided to try my hand at designing a fork. I hoped that choosing gold as the material to make it in would somehow elevate my very primitive result. You can judge for yourself – I saved it with the Pen and prepared to leave.

Returning the Pen to the station to transfer my collection to my specific URL worked easily. The URL had been pre-printed on my entry ticket so when I got home I typed it into my browser and voilá, there were the 26 things I had collected and the one I had designed.

My visit as captured by the Pen, viewed through the Collections Portal

This is where in some ways, the real fun begins. Part of the pleasure of the experience comes from the way the Cooper Hewitt collections portal itself is designed. It has such a friendly feel to it, and it couldn’t be simpler to navigate the links related to your object, without losing your place.

The descriptions are almost wikipedia-like, linking to so many different places on the collections portal. Each object description offers access to other relevant items in the collection, based on artist, material, donor, date of donation, country of origin, colors and more. In addition, the site  remembers you after you’ve logged in and set up your account so you can bookmark the page for easy access later.

I can’t get the amazing stick navigation chart out of my mind. I want to go back and see it in person.

Thoughts on the MCN2014 Conference

MCN 2014 Conference LogoThe Museum Computer Network’s 42nd annual conference held in Dallas this year was one of the best I’ve ever attended. There was a whole lot of learning, sharing and schmoozing going on in our tight knit crowd of 450 attendees, not to mention the crazy karaoke! The theme was Think Big, Start Small, Create!

Lance Weiler, writer, director, experience designer and keynote speaker, lifted the conference way off the ground and into the idea-sphere. He captivated us all with descriptions of projects like Pandemic and Sherlock, using storytelling and digital technology to produce fascinating, massive, complex events where thousands of people interact in both physical and virtual game worlds.

He also inspired us with descriptions of projects like Lyka (a good fit for museums!) and MySkyIsFalling, which harness storytelling and digital technology for social change. Importantly, he emphasized the value of designing with the people you are designing for. This approach works with school children and teens aging out of the foster care system, and it can work as well with museum curators, conservators and schoolteachers.

Lance Weiler giving his keynote speech at MCN2014

Toward the end of his talk he asked “How do you know if your project has succeeded?” I’d say see how long people stick with the activity, and how often they come back. People want to feel a sense of belonging, and to be respected – to feel smart, valued for who they are and what they have to give.  Weiler’s methods create this relationship. They’re exciting, productive and worth learning from. I’m eager to apply his thinking to our work for clients going forward. I encourage you to discover Lance Weiler for yourself. Start by listening to his entire MCN talk here.

The next post will also be about why this is such a good conference to attend, in summaries of the sessions I attended. Stay tuned.


Our Planet, Our Island, Ourselves

Now that we’re several weeks into 2014, we’ve finally been able to stop for a moment and take stock of 2013! From an audio tour to a custom online education platform, MediaCombo collaborated with new and long-standing clients on a remarkable range of projects.

Last_shot_C3TEC-sIn February of 2013 our research and script writing team set to work on this orientation film for the Centro Criollo de Ciencia y Tecnología, (C3TEC) the first science center in the Caribbean, in Caguas, Puerto Rico. Liberty Science Center’sMuseum Planning Services (LSC) consulted on the master plan and developed and designed the exhibition for the Municipality of Caguas.

The exhibition focuses on the theme of environmental sustainability, the interconnectedness of living systems and the relationships between a healthy body, a healthy Island and a healthy planet.

Our mission was to focus young visitors’ attention on this theme in a four-minute introductory video that plays in a viewing area each visitor passes through to enter the exhibition.

Filming the Pitcher

We went to Caguas to film Little League baseball players and local flora and fauna in May, so that we could situate our story right where most of the visitors to the science center live. We shot live action with a helicam and a Red camera, and commissioned original animations to visualize activity at the molecular level.

The video is narrated by Yamaris Latorre, a Puerto Rican celebrity, and will be available with English and Spanish subtitles. It will be installed at C3TEC in time for a soft opening in late spring 2014, but you can see the English language version here!

Still from OurPlanet_OurIsland_Ourselves

Thoughts on Gallery One and Art Lens at the Cleveland Museum of Art


This gallery contains 11 photos.

On September 18th, Museums and the Web organized a wonderful field trip, a Deep Dive, in/to the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA), to explore and experience Gallery One and the Art LenseGallery One opened on January 21, 2013. It encompasses … Continue reading

On Location in Puerto Rico for C3TEC, a Post Script

When we got back to New York, Maricarmen sent me a link to C3TEC’s Facebook page, where she posted several pictures and videos that she took while on the shoot with us on Saturday. You can really get a feel for the rain forest and the whole production. She also shot a great little video of the helicam moving up and down a river in El Yunque. Check it out if you have a moment!

On Location in Puerto Rico for C3TEC_Day 4

Sunday, May 12, 2013: call time 6:00AM

Another early call, another sunny morning. Off to the Mogotes, a distinctive and dramatic feature of Puerto Rico’s northern Karst landscape. This is for the section in the video about the importance of a clean water supply. It’s an easy job for the helicam: go straight up, do a 360 panorama from above, and come straight down.

The battery lasts for seven minutes but somehow no one is paying attention to the time, until suddenly we see the little helicam come spiraling out of the sky and crash into the trees.

Luckily the camera’s okay, and so’s the little download chip, the most expensive part of the entire rig. Eric doesn’t seem worried about the heap of blades, struts and wires on the grass; he’s got three more helicams in the van if we need them, but we got our shots. It’s a wrap, and it’s not even 8AM.

We have plenty of time to get to San Juan for margaritas and lunch and a walk on the beach before heading to the airport to go home, wake up tomorrow and get to the edit room.

On Location in Puerto Rico for C3TEC_Day 3, Afternoon

Saturday, May 11, 2013: 11:45AM

It’s sunny and hot and very sticky in Caguas, as we arrive at the baseball field. Michael is directing Eric and the helicam, whose mission is to zip around over the field for aerial shots of the little league game and the surrounding neighborhood. Did you know that your breath can travel several blocks in about five minutes?

I’m working with the RED camera crew who have to get slow-motion footage of a pitcher pitching and a batter swinging. Their body positions have to match up with our graphics of how oxygen travels through the lungs into the bloodstream and then into the muscles that power the arms that pitch the ball and swing the bat.

If you’ve never been to a Puerto Rican little league baseball game, it’s a raucous event. Mothers bring panderos and other percussion instruments for their plenas, their songs of encouragement to their sons. I’ll have a little audio clip up here soon. You have to hear this!

The last shot of the day is at 4:00PM, at C3TEC itself, and it goes off without a hitch. Props to Enid, Nereidin and Maricarmen at C3TEC for all their help! Then it takes more than two hours for the RED camera digital files to be downloaded to a drive and back ups made, 460 gigabytes in all. It’s just about dark by the time we hit the bar La Verguenza, in the center of Caguas, for a few beers.


On Location in Puerto Rico for C3TEC_Day 3, Morning

Saturday May 11, 2013: call time 5:45AM

We depart from the hotel just before dawn in two production vehicles, with Maricarmen from C3TEC following in her car. After yesterday’s heavy rains and dark gray skies, it’s a huge pleasure to see the sun rising on our left. Our crew includes Carlos, Director of Photography, his assistant Alphonso, digital media wrangler Alfredo, sound man Juan, helicam operator Eric, his assistant Brad, the grip Cangri, our production coordinator, another Eric, and production assistant Gilberto.

By the time we’re climbing Mt. Cubuy sunlight is raking across the tranquil landscape of cows in fields – like a tropical version of a 17th century Dutch painting.

It’s only 6:30 when we arrive at El Yunque. I’ll direct Eric and his team after they assemble the helicam for its trip up and down the river over gentle rapids. They’ll shoot through the tops of the trees.

The helicam is really an attraction all by itself. All of us are snapping pictures as it does a few practice lift offs to check for the correct camera exposure.

Michael works with Carlos as he and his team set up for close ups of the waterfall, and hope to find some rainforest creatures for closeups. Juan, our soundman, stays away from us to immerse himself in the sounds of the El Yunque, and the rushing water. We have the forest to ourselves.





We finish here on schedule and head down the mountain a short way to the eco-lodge where we have a list of shots to get, including a closeup of a jagrumo leaf for the photosynthesis section of the video.
Michael is planning to pull off something tricky: to merge a move in Google Earth with a helicam shot of a jagrumo tree with a dissolve to our leaf and then through to a graphic about how photosynthesis works. You’ll have to see the video for yourself to see what I mean.


We also need to convincingly illustrate clean air: breezes blowing through bamboo stands, RED camera time lapse footage of clouds appearing in the blue, blue sky, moving slowly across the frame.

While waiting for the sun’s angle on the tree canopy to be just right, I hear a roaring waterfall crashing over bolders in a river below us near enough to send the helicam scampering over it. Serendipity!

Once the shots are nailed, we make a company move down the mountain and back to Caguas to film the other stars of the video, humans, in the form of little league baseball players.




On Location in Puerto Rico for C3TEC_Day 2

Friday May 10, 2013

It’s 9:30AM and we’re at 1,800 feet, though on the ground now, having driven half way up Mt. Cubuy in El Yunque National Forest. We’ve stopped at an eco-lodge to scout the deep green views above and below us.

Tomorrow at dawn we’ll be back to film the forest with both the RED camera and the helicam, the cool little robotic helicopter camera.

Teddy Roosevelt established Luquillo Forest, now known as El Yunque, as the first national forest in the U.S. in 1906. Walking along by the river to the waterfall, then down a road through the trees, all I can think of “this is not the walk through Central Park I do everyday on my way to work!”




As we come down to sea level the road leads to the highway and we’re off to the north and west, to the northern Karst region of Puerto Rico, where the Mogotes are. The Mogotes are these amazing camel hump hills, made of limestone, and they hold a large part of the water supply for the island. They’re featured in our script because of this.

It’s an hour and a half ride and lunchtime when we get to the most famous cave, Ventana. We sit at an outdoor café, inhaling exhaust from the cars refueling at the gas station right next to us but no matter. The Mofongo – fried, mashed, refried plantains – are all good and garlicky, and it’s hot and sunny.









It only starts to rain as we head off up the trail to the cave. What’s a little tropical rain shower? Climbing down into the cave is just challenging enough for city slickers like us to make it fun. The flashlights we were handed before we left are essential for piercing the total blackness. We may be in the dark, but we’re not off the grid. Both a text message and a phone call manage to find me. I ignore them! Bats are chirping, water dripping. What’s a little mud, bat guano and moss matter when you finally get to the back of the cave, which opens on to lush, green tropical landscape far, far below.

As we slip-slide our way back through the darkness to the mouth of the cave to retrace our steps, it starts to pour. By the time we get back to the van, I look like I’ve been in a wet t-shirt contest.

We spend the rest of the afternoon, three more hours, looking for the right places to launch the helicam so we can get the shot we need to match both the Google Earth footage, and the graphic about karst water systems. All the rivers we drive by are flooding their banks as it continues to rain so hard we can barely see the road.

We found two possible locations for this shoot planned for Sunday morning. Gilberto has driven about 100 miles today, but Mission Accomplished.

On Location in Puerto Rico for C3TEC_Day 1

Thursday May 9, 2013

At 3,500 feet, the view of San Juan from the plane window looks like what you see in Google Earth. Why am I surprised?


Michael and I arrived yesterday, were picked up by Gilberto and driven straight to C3TEC, a brand new science center in Caguas, Puerto Rico. Liberty Science Center, in Jersey City, NJ, has been working with the city to bring the science center into being. It’s good to finally meet the Director of C3TEC, Enid Seneriz; the head of Education, Nereidin Feliciano, and PR/Marketing whiz, Maricarmen Reguero.

We’re here to film little league baseball players, forested slopes and big leaves in El Yunque rain forest, and the unusual karst formations known here as the Mogotes. What’s the connection?

Mother Nature. We humans live in cities but depend on clean air and water to survive. We need to protect the ecosystems that produce the oxygen we breathe and maintain the water we drink. The island ecosystems are part of the global ecosystem that keeps Planet Earth habitable for life as we know it.  Even our own breath, and even our pee are part of the system.

That connection is the message of the video we’re producing that will introduce visitors to C3TEC when it opens in the fall 2013.

After C3TEC, our next stop is the baseball field where we’ll film two teams of 12 year olds on Saturday.

It’s a nice field! The outfield is as manicured as the field at Yankee Stadium and the air smells lovely, like jasmine, not hotdogs. Pigeons however, seem to be ubiquitous.

Tomorrow we’re off to scout the El Yunque rainforest and the Mogotes. Good thing we can scout our hotel now. We’ve already been up for 12 hours and it’s only 4:00PM. Looking forward to some good Puerto Rican food at Los Olivos, and a good night’s sleep.