June, 2015

  1. PANCAKE MANOR: Putting a flip on “the typical”

    June 18, 2015 by Tessa Bousfield

    Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 1.20.17 PMIf you have children or have babysat for a friend or family member, you have probably endured the nails-on-a-chalk-board “kiddie” tunes that end up being played on repeat. You know, the ones that make something like a kid screaming, sound soothing in comparison?

    Well what if there was a kids’ show that combined childish themes with a more universal pop/rock sound? What if they were heavily influenced by Weezer, The Ramones and the best of the ’80s? It just happens to exist and it’s called Pancake Manor.

    Pancake Manor is a Victoria-produced music video series for preschoolers that features music, puppets, humans and occasionally, angry bananas. They recently surpassed the 100 million view mark on YouTube (the creators were flown down to use the studio facilities at the YouTube Space in Los Angeles as a treat), and they are in the top 60 most-viewed education channels. You may have been watching the Pancake Manor channel with your kids for years and never realized those puppets could be right next door…



    This success story is led by a couple named Billy Reid and Reb Stevenson who do all the singing, puppeteering, acting, shooting and editing.

    Billy is from Victoria and is a former CBC television host who had some early YouTube success with his comedy channel “Very Tasteful.” He’s also written original music and jingles for CBC Television, Kellogg’s, MTV, Public Mobile, McDonald’s, the Science Channel, and The Comedy Network. Billy writes and records all the original music, illustrates/animates and edits the Pancake Manor series and performs both Zach and Reggie puppets.

    Reb Stevenson is originally from Parksville and a former travel columnist with the Toronto Star. She also keeps a blog called The Life Nostalgic and has made videos for Canada.com. She is the primary cinematographer for Pancake Manor, provides the voices for females and occasionally appears as “mama”.


    AN 80s FLAVOUR

    “Our goal is to make kids’ music videos that won’t send parents running for noise-cancelling headphones,” commented Reid. “ When we were kids we both loved Top 40 pop. After all, it was the glorious heyday of Madonna, Michael Jackson and, oh heck, let’s give a loving nod to Gowan as well.”

    They make over classics like “Old MacDonald” and “Five Little Monkeys” by adding a bridge or chorus which most children songs don’t have (which may be why they drive us crazy), and they produce complete originals.

    They’ve just released an entire original album called “Colors” (American spelling because most of their fanbase is in the US). Each colour gets its own song and they just uploaded “Red” on Wednesday, the first of the colours series.

    “We’re honoured to have just received a grant from Telus Storyhive to make a 100% animated musical video for our song ‘Blue’,” commented Reid. “The grant enables us to try something completely new; hiring a professional animator to squash our puppet characters Zach, Reggie and Lulu with a steam roller (digitally, that is) so we can see them as two-dimensional cartoons!”

    Re-find your 80s spirit and stay tuned to Pancake Manor’s YouTube channel or jam out to their songs on iTunes or CD.

    Visit www.pancakemanor.com for more info



  2. EMP Interactions: Bringing art to life

    June 11, 2015 by Tessa Bousfield

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    A few members of the VIATEC Team attended the #Think15 Ideas Session at Atomique earlier this month. As they entered, a new level of shock came over them and their eyes lit up like it was Christmas morning.

    A giant, uniquely shaped structure made of coroplast was smothered in a moving, targeted projection and filled the stage. Every single surface was outlined on the structure, bringing it to life. It was like 20 projections were shining on it, but it was all coming from a single unit.

    VIATEC instantly found the creators in order to pick their brilliant minds.


    EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) Interactions is a collective consisting of technology-oriented and hands-on designers. Hailing from electronic, sculptural and digital animation backgrounds, Steeve Bjornson, Toni Hall and Arya Hawker join forces to specialize in projection mapping. Projection mapping is a technique that allows you to use any surface as a projection screen, instead of the conventional, flat, white surface.

    “EMP’s mission is to ‘WOW’ and to induce a hallucinatory experience minus ‘medicinal aid,’” commented Hall. “EMP strives to explore materials, light and media experimentation. Think artists trapped in a chemistry lab. With lasers.”


    You may have seen one of their pieces at events such as Rifflandia, multiple Lucky Bar events (including Sub|Division’s 5th birthday), events at Copper Owl, the Grand Opening of Studio Robazzo, and most recently, the BC Premier’s announcement of ‘BC Creates’ at the Union Club right beside Sarah McLachlan and her grand piano.

    Medium scale 3D work at Lucky Bar

    Medium scale 3D work at Lucky Bar

    “Visual work is the kind where you are not noticed when a job is done well,” commented Hall. “The installations can be the main attraction, yet input and control is naturally masked and mysterious. Similarly, the designs are usually inspired by the clients’/collaborators’ branding. In those ways, EMP will remain hidden.”

    In addition to local events, EMP has travelled to Virginia Tech to work with local professors involved in visual computing and information technology, and to Hawaii for a Virtual Reality Symposium held by Japanese holdings company, Forum8.

    Sub|Division’s 5th birthday at Lucky Bar

    Sub|Division’s 5th birthday at Lucky Bar


    This year, EMP has its sights on interactivity and illusion (Xbox Kinect and holograms!).

    The Xbox Kinect camera senses depth, so it allows the audience to go from observing, to giving physical input. Together with free flowing, 3D holograms, they want to bring interactive elements further than just at raves and festivals, and into the normally ‘dry’ art and educational institutions.

    Art projection mapping at Studio Robazzo's opening

    Art projection mapping at Studio Robazzo’s opening

    Also in the works this year:

    • Collaboration with professors in Alberta and the native Blackfoot community on educational and cultural projects
    • Showcasing work at Bass Coast music festival, Rifflandia music festival, and Fashion Splash in the inner harbour
    • Revamping Lucky Bar’s in-club visual branding
    • The 2015 VIATEC Technology Awards!

    To contact them, please visit www.EMPInteractions.com.
    VIDEO: Art projection mapping for Rifflandia at Wolf/Sheep Arthouse

  3. Elizabeth Buckley Middle School

    June 4, 2015 by Tessa Bousfield

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    Just over a year ago we wrote about the Pacific School of Innovation & Inquiry (PSII), an innovative high school where students are empowered to create their own learning path, with a focus on individuality and creativity.

    This shift in education seems to be trending in Victoria, and it may have started with the Elizabeth Buckley Elementary School 3 years ago, or even 29 years ago if you count when it was a deaf and hard of hearing school (located in The Cridge Centre for the Family on Hillside). Well, due to popularity, Elizabeth Buckley is expanding to a middle school this fall, sharing space in Nootka Court downtown with PSII, and will be the first STEAM middle school in Canada.

    As a STEAM school (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math), their curriculum is experiential, hands-on and incorporates technology in the classroom. The teachers also connect their students with expert mentors from the community to provide authentic experiences. It’s all designed to foster critical thinking skills, global citizenship, and literacy in the STEAM subjects.

    Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 11.38.59 AM

    “At Elizabeth Buckley School we foster a culture of respect, and each learner is supported on their own unique educational path” commented Roberta MacDonald, Principal. “Our program nurtures students to be adaptable, independent thinkers, able to work effectively with others, and imbued with a life-long curiosity and love of learning.”

    They are a “Group 1 Independent School” that follows BC Ministry of Education guidelines and their programs meet, and often exceed, the curriculum outcomes of the BC Curriculum. Most of the learning activities are hands-on and they like to get out of the classroom and into nature from time to time.

    “We want it to be really applied, so when kids learn things out of a book they don’t necessarily realize how that applies to daily life,” commented Principal MacDonald. “If you can give them engagement and experiences where they’re doing hands-on and exploring, they’re creating their own understanding out of things. it’s much more memorable and meaningful for them.”

    The staff, families and students are pleased to be partnering with the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry to open the middle school in a shared learning space this September.

    “Jeff Hopkins, PSII’s founder and principal educator, is a visionary who is working to make meaningful changes in education,” commented Principal MacDonald. “PSII’s philosophy and approach are a good match with what we do at Elizabeth Buckley School, and the opportunity to join forces to offer innovative and high-quality education opportunities to the community is exciting.”

    To learn more or to register your children, please visit http://www.steamschool.ca/middle-school.