Par’s tech group preps interactive discs for zoo

PARAMOUNT COMMUNICATIONS’ new technology group isn’t wasting any time getting into interactive discs. Its Simon & Schuster publishing arm hired L.A.’s AND Communications to work on two projects for the latest exhibit at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.: “Virtual Bio-Park,” which will be installed in a kiosk at the zoo, and “Amazonia,” which is the educational package and goes into the classroom. Both will run on different operating systems–DOS, OS/2 and Mac. The project was budgeted at just under $ 1 million and started last January.

AND, which is headed by Allen DeBevoise, ran into trouble earlier this month when it ran out of cash. The fledgling multimedia developer managed to skip paying several of its writers for more than a week, which led to grumbling.

“Last week’s salaries were paid,” insists Allen’s brother, Philip. He denies that people have gone without, but quickly adds, “It’s natural that things are winding down because of the holidays. But we’re going ahead with some projects in January, in a number of areas, including interactive TV.”

In the meantime, AND did ship an interactive CD on the U.S. Bill of Rights to IBM’s Eduquest division. Developed for $ 1.5 million, the disc enables students to pull out Supreme Court cases to see how laws were developed from the original bill.

INTERACTIVE INDIANS: Kevin Costner’s “500 Nations” miniseries for CBS will have a multimedia CD to go along with it. The eight-hour “Nations,” slated for the fall of 1994, will document the history of American Indians from pre-history to 1890. Costner, whose Tig Prods. is executive producing the title, will host both the TV series and the disc.

Bill Morgan, who was head writer and senior producer on “Columbus,” the mammoth Synapse Technologies project last year, is heading up the interactive-CD part of the project.

“This is sort of hitting the reset button on history and telling it from a more truthful standpoint,” said Morgan, who is also writing on the series. “We’ll have eight hours of the highest quality footage and computer-generated versions of the early Indian villages.”

CLINTON CLIPS: Contrary to rumors that circulated following turnover at the top, Warner New Media hasn’t been shut down and will be very active in 1993 under Terry Hershey. And the betting, by the way, is that the group also will have a new name next month.

Its first title is “Clinton: Portrait of Victory,” in CD-ROM form as well as a conventional book, published by Warner Books, with stills by Time photog P.F. Bentley.

Interestingly, it was Epicenter Communications in Sausalito that brought the project to Warner Books and then to Warner New Media. Epicenter hired Amazing Media, based in San Anselmo, to design and produce the title.

Clinton’s giving the book away as a gift to campaign volunteers, but they’ll be getting something less than multimedia fans. While the book is $ 20 and it’s $ 40 for the CD, the disc comes chock-full of campaign coverage, including three times more photos than the book, video clips of Bentley’s sessions with Clinton and snippets of the candidate’s stump speeches.

NEW THEATER: If the buzz around Controlled Entropy’s interactive movie “I’m Your Man,” caught your attention, you can see it at Pacific Theaters’ Regency 8 in Lakewood at the end of January.

The company sprang its 20-minute interactive movie, or Interfilm, on the public at Loew’s 19th Street in New York. The film lets the audience vote on a new direction in the plot every 90 seconds by using a joystick on each seat.

Bill Bejan and partner Bill Franzblau, who made the film for less than $ 500, 000, figure one would have to see “I’m Your Man” 68 times for all the possible versions.

“There are six to seven films here,” says Bejan. “The audience becomes the final editor.”

Is this the movie of the future? No. But it’s certainly gotten a lot of attention from Loews parent Sony Corp. and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The early report is that for $ 3 a pop there has to be a lot of repeat business to justify a $ 50,000 retrofit of a theater.

NEW YEAR’S PRINTS: Consolidated Film Industries will be offering companies doing effects and titles for commercials and features the opportunity to print the images out from computers to 35mm film. CFI bought Management Graphics’s Solitaire configured for either the Apple Macintosh or Silicon Graphic’s Iris.

“There’s a large market for this in three areas,” says Hal Cohen, image director at CFI. “The indies and agencies, and then effects companies, plus folks who make trailers who need to design on computers and need printing right away.”

The price is $ 5 a frame plus $ 150 for setup. For 10 seconds of footage, or 240 frames, that’s less than $ 1,500 and includes processing and printing. “It’s a package deal,” Cohen said.


BELOW THE LINE: Brad deGraf, one of Hollywood’s top computer graphics designers, has moved to the Bay Area’s Colossal Pictures, as a board member, shareholder and head of the new digital department. Colossal is best known for animated work with MTV and others.

Also on the move: Scott Billups has been given the special effects task for the first of the Marvel comic characters, Roger Corman’s “Fantastic Four.” Billups’ new company is Sand Box Prods., which employs the Littleton brothers. The siblings’ recent handiwork, with Visual Concept Engineering Inc. in Sylmar, can be seen in Warner’s trailer for upcoming feature “Dennis the Menace.”

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