Thursday, October 11, 2012

On thismia americana

We thought we'd take a break from working on our rockin' Kickstarter video to tell you guys about one of our favorite stories here at the Big Idea, a story that partially inspired the show and is going to open the series. It's the first story we tell when we pitch the show, and it's a wonder it's not a more well-known tale.
We filmed part of an historical reenactment on it last month, which is why it's on our minds.

The story behind the unique plant Thismia americana, discovered by the equally fascinating Norma Pfeiffer.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Big Idea Interview: Amy Fowler

Hello all!
So, check out where we went today the other day last week a few weeks ago:
That adorable little cottage is the location for Mimi's Garden, a small business that is run by the lovely Amy Fowler. Amy was nice enough to let us into her home and take us on a late-summer tour of her grounds, guarded by the fierce pup Jessie.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Crunch time

Well, we're pretty much unstoppable.
Managed to get through a lot of the Kickstarter video. Our idea is rather ambitious and involves a lot of location and wardrobe changes, but we burned through the more complicated half. We'll be shooting the remainder of the video next week up at Harper College, as well as interviewing Mimi's Garden entrepreneur Amy Fowler. Suuuuper pumped.
Today we filmed under the el tracks of the Armitage Station:
As well as at my favorite, the Field Museum:
Where the monetary gods were smiling upon us. Not only did we avoid the $22 minimum parking lot for a $4.00 hourly parking spot, but we also managed to negotiate our way from paying $32 to $24 because Mario, ever the prepared one, brought his student ID.
We wandered, getting appropriate shots where, we could, paying the badass Sue a visit:
Working with some good stuff here, folks. Things are really starting to roll. Expect to see a lot of activity here in the next few months...
Signing off til we realize we've forgotten to update yet again.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Gemini Capsule

Lots of stuff is going on here around The Big Idea.
We had an awesome meeting this week with Cameron Moore (of the electronic band When Clouds Attack) and Michael Una of Unatronics, two very talented gentlemen who are working on building the instrument you see in the video above. It's called The Gemini Capsule, and it's a nifty little instrument where each knob controls an aspect of what's playing (tempo, pitch, etc).
This was all we planned to interview the guys on when, digging deeper into our opinions on music and sound they started getting into the nifty, fascinating world of circuit bending and opened a whole new can of worms.
The link provided tells you all about the details of circuit bending, but it's basically where a person opens up a simple electronic instrument (we saw some children's toys and there were some mentions of a since-sold cop-shaped cookie jar that talked when you opened it) and mess around with the circuits inside, causing the instrument to make all sorts of interesting, funny, weird sounds. Simply licking your fingers and touching the motherboard wires work, but these guys went as far as to stick screws in the instrument and put clamps on the screws (we got to play with one of these -- a small keyboard -- and moving the clamps from screw to screw made the tempo, beats and notes change. Pretty fun).
A perfect subject for the show; circuit-bending is all about learning by tinkering and exploring. Michael called himself something along the line of an engineer by experimentation. Between the two of them, Cameron being more of the software guy and Michael more into the hardware, they've got a great team going, and we here at The Big Idea are sure looking forward to our official interview for episode 104, the episode on Waves.
Also in the works:
-An interview with gardener Amy Fowler of Mimi's Garden, we'll be exploring her garden for episode 103 (Growth) and talking about the disappearance of the honey bee and what it could mean for us fpor Episode 101 (Extinction).
-Another interview with a registered dietician (thanks to Cameron and Michael!) for episode 105 (Nourishment)
-Also for the Episode on Nourishment, we're trying to get interviews with Pastry Chef Amanda Cline of West Town Bakery and The Travelling Cowboy Chef John Wayne Formica.
-We're also proud to say we're close to locking down an editor, who also produces and directs. You can check out Aaron Trager's own work here.
-Also, we are close to locking down a composer too.
-We've also taken aboard another awesome camera guy, Mario Contreras, a veteran documentarian and an all-around great guy with a ton of experience and advice.
-In addition to that, Mario's amazingly talented artist wife Diana Gabriel, is helping us put together a poster contest/art exhibit slated to go up next Spring. Keep an eye out for it, we'll be giving you tons more updates on this as things develop!
-Kickstarter is now slated to launch September 15th.
Updates soon!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I know, I know...

Ahh, life.
The Big Idea has been on a three-week hiatus but we are going to be back in fine fighting form in no time. The problem with a project like this is it's not a money-making thing.
We are all working on this project in our spare time; right now most of us are in that place in our lives where passions and money have not yet met up, or not completely, anyway.
So, there's the job for money, and the job for love.
As the producer/director of this webseries, and the writer of the blog, I'll admit, I haven't reached that place yet where passions and money intersect. I have my "money-job", and then I have my "passion-job", or as I prefer to call it, my "sanity-job". And lately, my sanity-job has taken a back seat to my money-job. This is clearly not sustainable, and thankfully the hours at money-job are dwindling, so hopefully sanity-job can take the forefront again.
Skyping with one of my camera operators later this afternoon. Shooting the Kickstarter video next week. Things should be rolling again in no time.
Updates to come.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Big Idea Interviewee: Steve Heminover

When seeking out subjects for a documentary, Steve Heminover is exactly the kind of person you want for your film. He's a member of that subset of scientists who are personable, have good camera presence, and are charismatic as well as knowledgable. There aren't many out there, which is why you see a lot of the same scientists crop up in TV science documentaries. Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, and my our personal favorite/patron saint of the show, Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Steve Heminover should be added to this list. Our interview with him was delightful, and the camera only seemed to make Steve goofier and more gregarious.
We filmed his interview in his workspace. Steve owns a company called Aura Technologies, which specializes in many things, but mostly does laser shows for Chicago-area events. If you've seen a laser show at the United Center, that's him.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Hey there readers! Been a while, yes?
Apologies for the lack of updates as of late; it's not because we haven't been busy here.
Of course things always take longer than expected, and production of The Big Idea's first season is no exception. The Kickstarter campaign is now set to launch towards the end of July -- a very fun video has been planned for that, so look out for it! 
In the meantime, there's been lots more going on. Last month, we interviewed Steve Heminover (more on him later!), owner of Aura Technologies, which specializes in laser shows. If you've ever seen a laser show at the United Center, that's his work. We talked all about waves, and how they relate to sound and light. He showed us all sorts of cool things, including an Oscilloscope and several lasers, one of which he set a post-it note on fire with. 
This month, we're doing the second part of our interview with Dave Dolak. In March, we interviewed him about dinosaurs and geological history. But being the multi-talented person he is, Dave is also an expert in the science of acoustics (he builds ukeleles like the one he's playing in the sneak peek video we posted of him), so we'll be interviewing him about the science of sound and discuss how various instruments work for the Waves episode.
We will also be interviewing Amy Fowler, owner of Mimi's Garden, who cultivates (wait for it) a garden as well as pollinator boxes for bees. We'll be exploring her garden for the Growth episode as well as discussing the recent honeybee population decrease and how their demise might spell ours.
Finally we are also trying to squeeze in an interview with Amanda Cline, the head pastry chef at The Bleeding Heart Bakery West Town, who's gonna tell us all about baking and the science behind it.
What else...?
-In addition to launching the Kickstarter, the Big Idea is trying to hunt down a Fiscal Sponsorship. This means we would be affiliated with a non-profit and be able to apply for a lot more grants.
-On the non-interview show media front, we are working with the incredibly talented animator and musician Elisabeth Blair on animations for every episode. You can check out some of her other stuff here -- she's working on some amazing original experimental animations for the show that we are absolutely thrilled about.
-In addition to bringing Elisabeth aboard, Rose Jermusyk has completed an incredible poem for the show. We can't print it yet (she's submitting it to several poetry journals first), but in the meantime you can check out her own Kickstarter, which, if you pay her a dollar, she'll take a name you give to her and re-arrange the letters to make a new name, then make a character based off that name and write it into a giant poem she's composing.
-We also have been working on lots of media for the show. Jeremy Mumenthaler and Asif Ahmed are developing poster designs, as well as six icons that correspond to each episode in the first season. These icons will be on buttons, stickers and other swag as kickstarter rewards and promotional material.
-Speaking of poster designs, we are collaborating on a poster contest with the amazing artist Diana Gabriel -- submit a design relating to one of the six episodes (extinction, growth, angles, waves, nourishment, or genesis). Best of each theme gets displayed at Morton College next spring, and best overall gets $100. We'll keep you posted on when that contest launches!
-In the process of locking down for interviews: an architect, a food scientist, an epidemiologist, a midwife, and a hockey player. If anyone knows of a friend in one of these professions, send them our way!
We will be updating more frequently from here on out. Keep checking back!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Killing Chickens with Resonance

Last week we did a shoot with Steve Heminover, the owner of Aura Technologies, a company that does laser shows (including all the laser shows for the United Center). Before we had fun with his lasers, he told us this interesting story, which we captured with our behind-the-scence flip cam. Check it out, and more on the shoot soon!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Big Idea Interviewee: Dave Dolak

Today was our first shoot day, and it went very well! We interviewed the awesome Dave Dolak, and I couldn't be happier to be starting off this webseries with filming him. A super guy, I met Dave back at Columbia when I signed up for his absolutely fabulous class Dinosaurs and More: Geology Explored. There was a little more about rocks than I wished to learn, but it was worth it to learn everything I ever wanted to know about dinosaurs. And Dave even mentioned in his interview that most geologists got their  start with dinosaurs, because let's be honest, who doesn't like them?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Science is the Quest for Truth

I've watched the video below several times and I've found it rather inspiring. I've been meeting a lot of scientists or people interested in science at my job lately and had some very interesting and stimulating conversations about science, specifically, how art and science are more closely related than most people assume.
We've always had this divide of left brain and right brain, and you're usually one or the other -- left brain; you're calculating, good at math and science, maybe a little more organized but emotionally distant. Right brain; you're creative, artistic, an outside-the-box thinker, scatterbrained and perhaps emotional. And those are the two camps we divide ourselves into and resign ourselves to. I've done it; always considered myself a right-brainer: good at drawing and other artsy things, only just good enough at math and science (the exception being geometry, which is pretty visual and less abstract).
But I think we all need to stop sticking ourselves at these camps and shortchanging our potential as curious, learning human beings. After all, I know a million artists who take one look at a restaurant bill and shrug at the idea of calculating a tip, almost proudly stating, 'I'm so bad at math'. No one does that about reading, you know; no one admits happily that they are a terrible reader. And I think putting oneself in one camp or the other makes it easy to never try or push or learn -- I decided I was right-brained and therefore bad at things like chemistry, which I think was why I didn't do as well in those subjects, as opposed to actually being bad at it, I think.
Science and art -- and I think a lot of people are realizing this -- are, at their hearts, the same thing. Science, if you watch the wonderful video below, is "the quest for truth", as Carolyn Porco says. And isn't art just that? The quest for truth? Of course, art and science take very different measures to finding those truths. Science uses repeated trials and educated guesses and concrete evidence to find their truths. Art uses abstract concepts and emotion to find their truths. Radically different, but at the end of the day, doesn't that mean right and left brainers -- humans, really -- are all searching for the same thing?
What I find so beautiful is our cosmic search for truth, all in our own ways. Perhaps it sounds a little grandiose, but I think it's what makes us so special. This is why I am putting together this webseries. There are a lot of creatures out there with the gift of curiosity -- you see it in primates, dogs and cats all the time; even birds or creatures of the sea. But we, as humans, are the only species that not only have that gift of curiosity, but the capacity to ask 'why'? and explore that why - each in our own way - 'til we get an answer. And that is absolutely beautiful.
Hopefully, with this webseries, we encourage exploration, we encourage asking 'why' and 'how' to people who both foster their curiosity as well as people who let it lay dormant. Marrying the ideas of art and science in an appealing way that shows left and right brain are, deep down, both asking 'why?' and finding different ways to answer that all-encompassing question.

Symphony of Science - The Poetry of Reality (An Anthem for Science)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Our educating forebears were...very '80's. We are working on trying to track down the rights to this song, very difficult! This song is from a math-themed TV show called "Square One".

Friday, February 3, 2012


Hey there, folks! Check this out. With the release of NASA's 2012 portrait of Earth (the most high-res picture of our small blue planet yet), we had to go on a hunt for more views of our planet from above. Check out this time-laspe video of our planet from the ISS:

Keeping on keeping on

Filming has been pushed back a bit, but The Big Idea is still going. In the past few weeks the pre-production has really started to gel.
In opening titles news, we have come up with concept art and a rough storyboard for the opening titles thanks to the super-talented Jay Patton. We have also developed several different versions of the opening theme from Glittermouse!
We're also happy to welcome Nic Wehrwein on board as a writer and have his help gathering all the puzzle pieces and putting them together. We're narrowed the first season down to six episodes. Keep reading for a sneak peek at the season one episode themes!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Meet the Elements

So much in the works...filming starts this month! More updates very soon. Til then, here is an amazing video from They Might be Giants and Boing Boing video. We've been playing the album this is from lately for inspiration.

Cute and informative, right?