Author Archives: MMI

Madison Media Institute among colleges on President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for 2013!

2013 Honor Roll Award

2013 Honor Roll AwardThe President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll was established to recognize those institutions of higher learning that provide meaningful service and civic engagement among students through service to the larger community.  It is the highest federal recognition a college can earn for community service and engagement.  Throughout the year, Madison Media Institute participates in and often organizes events and volunteer opportunities that benefit many members of our community, especially younger students.  In addition to regular support for local schools and students through equipment donation and other outreach activities, MMI participated in the following projects:

  • Madison Police Department Cyber-Safety/Social Networking
  • Community Hunger and Homelessness
  • 2nd Harvest Food Bank & “Make Room for Youth”
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Western Wisconsin

Because of Madison Media Institute’s work with community service and outreach, MMI was among the list of colleges and universities honored for their outstanding commitment to learning and civic contributions.  Our students reflect the value of connecting positively with the larger community in both their academic and personal life and as a core value of MMI.  Congratulations to all the staff and students of MMI who worked so hard to provide service to the community, to each other, and to creating such a positive acknowledgement of our college!

For information on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

For a complete list of all 2013 honor roll members


Push Pull Pedal fundraiser

Push Pull Pedal Photograph

On Saturday, June 9th, Children’s Hospital held its annual Push Pull Pedal fundraiser in support of the Herma Heart Center, and for the third year in a row MMI was invited to provide coverage of the event.

Milwaukee’s Herma Heart Center fixes little hearts, using surgical intervention to correct congenital problems in babies and young children. The best evidence of their success is the boisterous group of red-shirted “Herma Heart Heroes” seen in the photograph, all survivors of open-heart surgery, and all ready to ride, along with their friends, siblings and parents, in a sponsored circuit of Winnequah Park. Strollers, little red wagons and inline skates are all permitted, as the event name implies, but the short of choice is the bicycle, with or without basket, tassels and training wheels. The best sight of the day was the two little girls, no more than four years old, zooming down the slight hill on the north side of the park, escorted by a police car and trailed, about fifty yards back, by a breathless father; “they just got away from me,” he gasped.
Push Pull Pedal Photograph
DAD chair Tim Mickleburgh did the still photography; VMG chair Nella Citino made the video . MMI students have also provided graphic and motion graphic designs to help promote the event.

Helping Madison Public Schools


Recently, instructors, Will Nimmow, Brian Alberth , current VMG students, Chris Boldger, Mason Pasker and past VMG students, Max Koehler, Melanie Meixner and Ellie Haverkamp worked with the Madison Metropolitan School District to produce a number of videos for the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools, Circle of Friends luncheon on May 5th.

Host to over 700 teachers, administrators and local business owners, located at the Alliant Energy Center, the annual event raises money for the Foundations many awarded grants throughout the school district.

MMI students raised the level of production on the videos this year, and their efforts did not go unnoticed. Many speakers throughout the event praised the MMI students work, and when the event ended I received numerous positive comments about the videos.

MMI looks forward to continuing their relationship with the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools, and their quest to support quality education through innovative programs, creative opportunities, and imaginative approaches.

Go to to learn more about all the Foundation for Madison Public Schools does for the Madison community.

New Music Monday

By Mike Bailey
Matt Ward is a singer-songwriter from Portland, OR. Over the last decade he’s quietly become one of the standard bearers of hipster folk. Though he takes a lo-fi approach, recording much of his material on a 4-track recorder, his mainstream popularity increased in recent years with two high profile collaborations; Monsters of Folk, with Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), and She & Him with quirky starlet, Zooey Deschanel.

Ward just released his 7th studio album, A Wasteland Companion. You can listen and watch the albums first video, The First Time I Ran Away, below.

If you’d like to see M. Ward perform live, MMI and True Endeavors are giving away tickets to his May 23rd show in Madison, enter here.

Staying with the folk theme, former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman released his debut album under the moniker, Father John Misty (he has released many solo records as J. Tillman). Tillman wrote Fear Fun in Laurel Canyon and the vibe of the songs truly reflects the rich tradition of 70’s songwriters that shared his hallowed setting.

Here’s the video for “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” featuring actress/comedian, Aubrey Plaza.

Mike Bailey

The Art of Creating a High Pass Filter

High pass filter diagram

Our goal was to produce a high pass filter using a hand wound inductor created in class.  We wanted to achieve around 2mH of inductance so that we could use a 3 to 5 Ohm resistor in the RL network.

Hand wound high pass filterTo wind our inductor all we needed was 120 or so feet of bobbin wire, a piece of 1 inch diameter PVC, some hot glue and a whole lot of patience.  Our best inductor was produced by one of my patient students; I call him, “Rock Solid” because he has nerves of steel.  He was able to get a value of 1.937mH or so.  Not bad considering there was in the neighborhood of 400 turns, all of which had to be meticulously wrapped and aligned.  We wanted a cutoff frequency of around 300HZ which lead us to our resistive value of 3.7 Ohms.  All frequencies below 300 Hz would be essentially blocked, while those above 300 Hz would be passed.  We were then able to plot the voltage magnitude out with respect to frequency.  This showed the cutoff just as expected.  It was a great learning experience for students in hands on precision component fabrication as well as protoboading. Hand wound is the method used for high-end speaker crossover networks.

High pass filter diagram

2012 IFTA Conference

By Will Nimmow

Hello all, I just got off the road from the Independent Film & Television (IFTA) 2012 Conference in Beverly Hills. The purpose of the conference was to bring together top producers with finance, distribution and digital marketing experts to discuss the current state of film financing.

As I arrived at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills, I was surrounded by a plethora of $50,000 plus automobiles. Sitting down to eat my complimentary breakfast of perfectly cut fruit and petit pastries, I began conversation with Marvin Towns Jr. who has been in the film industry for over 30 years, working on such films as Wildcats, Weird Science and The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Also at my table were a couple people from a new production company, A.C.I Films, who had been working with Marvin to produce their latest movie, The Wicked.
As I was speaking with them, Lawrence Goebel, President, of Imagination Films sat down and discussed The Wicked. The estimated cost of this movie, so far, was at one point five million dollars. Marvin didn’t understand how anyone could make a movie for less than one million. It is not that he didn’t think it’s worth it, but only that he has not figured out a way to do so. As we were all talking, people continually came up to the table to speak with either Lawrence or Marvin, (and they did not care if they were interrupting), It was easy to tell these two gentlemen had a reputation within the industry. The conversation was rich with information for a guy like me who had never been to a conference about independent film; and clearly everyone at my table was knee deep in the industry.

As we all moved into the conference room to find our seats for the presentation, I thanked everyone for the enlightening conversation and quickly scanned the room. I noticed a gentleman with a Chicago Cubs hat and worn out camouflage pants. Using my keen profiling and stereotyping skills, I figured he would give me some ideas on how you could make a feature length film for fewer than one million dollars. I sat down next to him and started conversation. Sure enough, his name was Rick Almada and he had produced and directed one film, and the budget was thirty thousand dollars.

As the presentation began, I quickly got his email so that we could continue our conversation online in the coming weeks, (I’ll let you know how he did it…stay tuned for future posts).

The keynote speaker was Producer/Director, Eli Roth. Instantly, he captured the audience with tales from his childhood and excessive use of the word f*&k. After he had everyone’s attention, he held up the Canon 5D Mark II and proclaimed “this is your friend,” also stating, “the best thing about this camera is everyone can make movies, the worse thing about this camera, everyone can make movies.” According to Eli, here are the main components to being successful in the film industry.

  • Your job never ends. In order to make it in the industry you will always be working, looking for work, or learning. If you love what you do and you are passionate about your films, then you will make it through. The film industry is not an eight to five job.
  • Realize that you have to know a little bit about everything. Even if your goal is to be a director, you better have a good understanding of the editing process, costume design, cameras, sound equipment, schedules, budgets, make-up, acting,…etc.
  • Get involved early. No matter what the job, paid or unpaid, get involved in the filming process right away. There is only so much you can learn in school; you have to be on-set, to really learn the process.
  • Keep your eye on the doughnut, not the hole. According to Eli, “the doughnut is your movie and the hole is all the s&%t that goes with making the movie.” Eli stressed to the audience that you have to focus on the passion for your film and the reasons why you are making the film. Therefore, do not obsess about all the irritating aspects that are inevitably going to happen along the way. Otherwise, he says, it will beat you up and tear you down to the point where you will never finish the movie and you will begin to resent the industry.
  • Get in touch with your business mind. It was clear listening to Eli’s stories and the approach he took when trying to sell himself and his films that he clearly was a smart business man. He knew how to utilize any opportunity to its fullest. If you do not consider yourself a business minded person…start learning…Check out the EMB program here at MMI.

The next presentation, from 6String Media, was all about marketing yourself and your movie via social networking. I can wrap that presentation up in one sentence… If you and your movie do not have a facebook page, twitter presence (everyday), Pinterest one sheet, and a Youtube trailer, you are missing the bus. These sites provide a ridiculous amount of exposure at no cost (or very little) to you.

Lastly, the presentation ended with a panel discussion from a number of industry professionals regarding increased commercial distribution opportunities for films, as well as the unconventional resources available for financing, producing and distributing. One notable panelist was Adam Chapnick, Principal/Business Development for, the leading global platform for crowdfunding. Adam’s motto is “your list is your life.” All of your contacts, including, friends, family, bosses, co-workers, colleagues, lovers, haters, and everyone who knows you is the potential for money. Adam stressed to the audience to use your “list” as a way to promote your movie, make those people brand ambassadors for your film and for you! Among some of the discussion many of the panelists agreed that the theater is not the only place for your film. Remember that there is VOD, Netflx, Amazon, and many of the cable channels, like the SyFy Channel are always looking for content. The main theme from the panel was to never give up. If you believe in your film and you believe in what you are doing, never give up, someone will buy your film!

MMI Instructors Judge the 2012 SkillsUSA Contest

SkillsUSA Judges

On April 19th MMI instructors Nella Citino, Robert Gee and Tim Mickleburgh joined Hanah Jon Taylor in the Chula Vista Resort to act as judges in the 2012 SkillsUSA contest.

SkillsUSA Judges

They judged high school students competing in the categories TV and Video Production, Advertising Production and 3D Animation, and were impressed by the high standards of the winning entries. Hanah Jon Taylor was on hand to inform interested students of the opportunities available at MMI.

New Music Monday

By Mike Bailey

A little something different this week, On May 5th Madison Media Institute is hosting Play Like a Girl, an event  that encourages young women to get creative and collaborative with other music and media minded individuals. In the spirit of Play Like a Girl, I’ve highlight three women – ZZ Ward, Grimes and K. Flay – that are starting to garner attention for their artistic contributions.

ZZ Ward refers to her music as “back porch blues meets hip-hop,” she’s currently bringing that unique style to venues across the country as she prepares for the release of her debut album (late summer). You can download her mix tape for FREE, but first you should get acquainted with ZZ via this spotlight on “Last Call with Carson Daly.”

Canada’s Claire Boucher performs under the alias, Grimes and she’s making waves worldwide with what’s been called “a haunting brand of lo-fi dance music,” I like to call it bedroom electronica. Below is a live performance from KEXP (awesome independent radio in Seattle!) that showcases her one-woman performance style.

Finally, Kristine Flaherty a/k/a K. Flay, cut her teeth in the Bay Area hip-hop scene, creating hip-hop informed by strong female artists like Fiona Apple and Liz Phair. Her one-woman show (who needs a band?!) is catching the attention of both hip-hop and indie rock crowds alike. Watch the video for her song “Less Than Zero” and check out her feature on “Last Call with Carson Daly” (what can I say, the guys got good taste in music…). You can also download her new EP, Eyes Shut, over at her website.

Watch The Carson Daily Clip Here.
Mike Bailey

Animating on feature films and TV productions, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

By Eric Weiss

Over my career, I have had the opportunity to animate on several very high budget and recognizable features including, Godzilla (1998), Final Fantasy the Spirits Within, Polar Express, and Superman Returns. In each project there were highs and lows and those unforgettable moments that continue to inspire me and keep me excited about the industry. In this series I hope to give you a glimpse into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly part of working on animation and visual effects on feature films and TV shows.

(PART I) The Good,

There have been so many instances where I can look back and say, “Wow, I actually get paid to do this!”

Godzilla was the first Hollywood feature I worked on. After striving to reach a role as an animator on a feature film for almost 5 years, I finally found my dream job working as a lead animator for Centropolis FX, in Santa Monica, California (read Hollywood). Centropolis just finished the block buster hit Independence Day and I had the opportunity to work on their very next project with many of the same team that brought ID4 to the big screen and even bigger box office numbers. I will be working with Roland Emmerich the Director and Executive Producer, Dean Deviln the Writer and Bill Fay Executive Producer, this team has a combined box office total in the billions of dollars and a string of hit after hit. Even Midas might be envious of their success. The VFX was headed up by Volker Engel and Karen E. Goulekas. Wow, just wow.

I picked up and moved from a more corporate role and freelancer in Texas, to LA’s West Side and took an apartment in Brentwood (just blocks away from where the OJ trial shootings took place). I actually showed up for my interview in a suit and tie, but after I started working there, my boss told me I almost didn’t get the job because of it. Everyone in the industry in LA wears extremely casual clothing, and suits and ties are unheard of. They even questioned my mustache, very common at that time in Texas, but taboo in LA. Needless to say the ‘stach was quickly removed.

At that time, each animation workstation and animation software suite cost a whopping $300,000, yes Three Hundred Thousand, and I had one of the top machines in the office. Our team started with only 5 people and we were involved with every decision and methodology for developing the whole animation pipeline. This included using Softimage (now called Autodesk XSI) for animation and modeling, Mental Ray and later Renderman for Rendering and Inferno’s for compositing. I was put in charge of rigging the main star of the show, Godzilla himself and just loved it. I was also able to animate the big guy and his (its) brood of offspring, affectionately called Babyzillas, on many of the sequences throughout the film as well as the really cool teaser trailers.

This one still gives me Goosebumps when I see it.

In addition to animating a lot of really cool shots on the movie, the company took the whole crew and a guest to the Premiere. This was the real, red (Green) carpet premiere with all the stars and it was held in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The company paid for our flight and hotel for 2 nights in New York including a guest. Unfortunately, we still had to pay for our own limousine.   Yes, we did rent a limo.

I had another really cool experience while working in Sydney Australia, on Superman Returns.  As the Animation Supervisor for the sequence where young Clark Kent, learns about his super powers for the first time, I spent months living in the city and working with a cool VFX company, Rising Sun Pictures. One of my favorite past times while living there was riding on the extensive ferry system that shuttled visitors and citizens around the majestic Sydney Harbor.

Sydney Harbour

In the film we see young Clark, running in the corn field at the Kent Farm and then jumping first 10 to 20 feet and ending up with a mile long uncontrolled flight and a crash head first into his barn.

The production company hired an actor to play Young Clark Kent, Stephan Bender, who did some truly amazing stunts in hopes of capturing the whole performance in camera. They suspended him by 2 gigantic cranes in a flying rig, pulled him over the long distances and hovered him off the ground in giant leaps.

Stephan Bender in Superman Returns

Nearly a full year of planning went into the sequence which was shot in a remote part of Australia, north of Sydney.  Not only did they build the Kent Farm building sets from scratch including the Farm House and Barn, they actually planted an entire corn field months ahead of shooting, all to capture about 10 minutes of film.

Stephan, performed these stunts of runs and jumps attached to the cranes, suspending him over 50 feet in the air, but in the end, the performance wasn’t exactly what the Director, Bryan Singer wanted. Instead he turned over the sequence to Rising Sun Pictures in Sydney and I lead the animation team to replace Stephan’s motions with a digital double. In addition to replacing all but Stephan’s head, in most of the shots, nearly the entire farm and building complex was recreated and enhanced with 3D digital replacements.

See How It Was Done Here

One of the most memorable moments of the production for me was a day that had me showing the VFX Supervisor of the movie Mark Stetson, some of the shots the animation crew was working on. For the meeting, I had to visit Mark on the Metropolis Daily Planet set as they were filming some interior shots. The meeting started with a simple review of the animation shots completed the previous day (Dailies) and while showing the shots to Mark, Bryan Singer walked in and wanted to have a look. As a VFX artist, it’s pretty rare to have the director review work in progress and that was a pretty cool experience. Then a few moments later Kevin Spacey walks in just off the plane from LA. Jet lagged after an 18 hour flight, Kevin had little to say, but it was really and honor and amazing experience to have the work critiqued by both of them. By the way, he was wearing a fedora and sport coat and looked like he just walked off the set of a particularly hard day of shooting as Keyser Soze.

Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor

After endless 80 hour work weeks on Godzilla (see THE BAD), it was a time for a change of pace and there were a few possibilities out there. I was offered a substantial raise to continue with Centropolis FX and continue work on Stuart Little and The Patriot, Move to the desert of Simi Valley and work on Inspector Gadget with DreamQuest Images or work on the Anime film Final Fantasy the Spirits Within, for Square USA, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Just about the entire animation team from Godzilla all signed on to work Final Fantasy and I joined the crew as a Senior Animator and Rigging Artist. By the way the Dream Quest was bought out by Disney Animation Studios that year and it was renamed The Secret Lab. That would have been my ticket into Disney as an animator which has always been a life long dream. There have been a few times in my life that a mere sentence has radically changed the path of my life and the decision to go to Hawaii was one of those Big Moments.

Hawaii lived up to all my expectations and dreams of working on a big budget Hollywood movie, living the life of a celebrity (albeit an animation celebrity) and enjoying life to its fullest. I shared a mansion overlooking Waikiki high up in the hills of Manoa Valley.  Nearly every morning, I woke to a rainbow or two and an amazing view of the lush valley and beach front skyline. Each weekend, I spent surfing, flying gliders on the North Shore, scuba diving, or just exploring this terrestrial paradise.


Our work was also cutting edge. Final Fantasy was the first full length animated feature which attempted to create believable photorealistic humans and as the first, we achieved a remarkable level of art, technology and performance animation. I’ll get back to Final Fantasy in the following sections looking into its not so stellar aspects.


Our animation team were like rock stars, both for fans of the Final Fantasy game line, as well as the industry veterans themselves. Not only were we idolized, but we lived the life as well. The crew were all transplants for the most part from various parts of the world. Half the team was made up of Square artists from Japan, and the remaining portion made up of Hollywood industry veterans from LA and beyond.

In addition to living in one of the most enjoyable places on earth, the experience was topped off by a chance meeting of an interesting female soldier at the infamous Dukes bar in Waikiki. This soldier, a gorgeous 6 foot tall blond UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot, grew up in a small town in very rural Wisconsin, Oconomowoc. And to her amazement, not only did I know how to pronounce it, I actually had been there several times and even had my picture in the local newspaper. One thing led to another as they say, and we were married the next year.

To be continued in PART II

Every Organization Needs Video

MMI VMG students

by Nella Citino, Chair, Video and Motion Graphics

Ruth and Bill Berkan of Madison were almost taken in by an online scam.  Phone calls to their home indicated that their grandson had been arrested in Canada.  Alicia Kozakiewicz from Pittsburgh was taken from her home by an online predator and was brutally raped and tortured. These are two stories that appear on a video produced by the Madison Police Department in conjunction with the Madison Area Council of Cyber Safety for Children.


The DVD is presently in distribution throughout the Madison community. It is endorsed by Chief Noble Wray of the Madison Police who approached Madison Media Institute for help in the process.  Executive Producer and Coordinator of the project Laura Mael states, “We wanted to be sure everyone involved understood the meaning of the project and its value so we looked at students who understood what we were trying to do. Their contribution was invaluable.”

Madison Police Sergeant June Groehler has been making many presentations about Cyber Safety to schools and adult organizations in the community for several years and through her determination, she obtained additional resources from Chief Noble Wray.   She and other officers had a slide show but she knew she needed more and she knew video was the way to go.   “To give these stories some legs,” declares Sgt. Groehler, “We wanted them told no matter how heart breaking or frightening they were.  These stories need to be told.”

And in essence, every organization needs to tell a story.  And the best way to tell a story is through video.  Video can communicate a message and can create a presence for many organizations like the Madison Police Department.  This organization and many other nonprofits really, really need this type of communication because  most of the time they do not have the luxury of funding a production.  And the assumption is that many nonprofits are not in business to make money.  Small nonprofits have an outreach and community aspect that is ultimately more important than earning big bucks or spending big money for a video message. And that is where Madison Media Institute and the Video and Motion Graphics Department students come in.

  • The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
  • The Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools.
  • The City of DeForest.
  • The Herma Heart Center of the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
  • The Second Harvest Food Bank.

These are just a few of the nonprofit organizations that are working with the Media Institute’s Video and Motion Graphics students.   Students are learning how to work with a client while the nonprofit gets a much needed video.

And creating the video is the same process as any other production or filmmaking company.  Students meet with the client, determine their needs, create a budget and then the students shoot, edit, create graphics, and initiate a product specifically tailored for that organization and students can put these videos on their demo reels.

The most important part of this?  The student gains confidence.  The learning curve has flattened for  committed students who enter the video and film industry because they know they can present themselves as professionals.  Video and Motion Graphics students discover how to combine their creative talent with technical skills and create promotional works with vital ideas and concepts.   They learn by doing from informational (like the Cyber Safety video) to documentary to promotional, students can tell the story and get to a career they love just a little bit faster.

MMI  VMG students

And the students who worked on that video?  Many were given interviews and found themselves working in the video industry doing what they like.

See the completed video here.