Madison Area Music Association Breakthrough Artist 2016

Trap Saturn

On Saturday, March 19th, I was a judge for the Madison Area Music Association Breakthrough Artist of the Year competition. It was a great event and a great experience. I’d like to give a brief overview of the event and then offer a few takeaway impressions and bits of advice.

Madison Area Music Association Competition

The event was held at Full Compass Systems, in their large and very well equipped performance hall. It bears mentioning that the space was designed and built by Full Compass specifically to provide a free venue for local non-profit groups like MAMA, which in turn uses all proceeds to provide music education and instruments to local schoolchildren. It’s a good cause. And it was fun to browse around Full Compass’s retail store before the show – Jonathan Lipp has a very cool collection of microphones and vintage gear on display. It also warmed my heart a bit to see a pristine Studer A800 tape machine in one of the studio rooms – a legendary piece of recording equipment, to be sure.


Front-end or Web Design

web design

Last Time

“Wait a minute. Your last blog was about Front-end Development. Now you’re talking about Front-end Web Design. They’re the same, right?” Honestly, the correct answer is a confusing “maybe.” Last time I laid out the skill set and importance of the Front-end Developer and how they fit into the creation of an app or website. I also continued with the lovely house analogy of how to compare back-end development to front-end: back-end people design the blueprint while front-end people are the interior designers. If you want to go back and see what I wrote in more detail, you can do so here. [More…]

Front-end Development

Front-end Development

Last Time

The last blog we discussed some of the roles and desires of someone involved in Back-end development. I also gave a house analogy of how to compare back-end development to front-end: back-end people design the blueprint while front-end people are the interior designers. If you want to go back and see what I wrote in more detail, you can do so here.

Next Time

So what is the goal of this blog? It’s simple: to education and share information to those that are just starting out in the field and are looking for some clarification. We’ll go over some common roles, skill sets and (further along) techniques that will hopefully help you in your education and career choice(s). We’ve already discussed back-end and front-end development and it’s a fairly clear divide between the two with no other interpretations, right? Tune in next time to find out why this isn’t the case.

This Time

Since Back-end Development got to bask in the spotlight last blog, Front-end Development will get their turn for this session. The first thing that we need to understand is that in this context, Front-end Development does not mean the same as Front-end Design or simply Web Design. If you see a job title with the word “Development” in it that means that there will typically be coding involved. Not as much as Back-end, but it will be there: HTML, CSS and Javascript. The more coding you can do, the more marketable you will be. [More…]

How much is a picture worth to you?

Horror film shoot

A thousand words? A few ideas? One solitary concept? What story does it tell?

This is the basis for film. The story in front of the camera is just as important as the story behind the camera. Having worked on many productions, I can always remember what went on behind the camera. Those moments are embedded in my memory. I’m not sure why. Maybe it is because the heat on a summer day reaches 103 degrees and the crew still had four more shots to do or I was standing on a frozen lake with wind whipping at my face in minus ten weather waiting for the iceboats to get ready. I remember the emotional challenges of trying to stay focused and finish the work. [More…]

Motion Capture Using Motion Eye Tracking

Motion Eye Tracking Glasses

Why should MMI be your choice of a school to learn about Motion Capture? Here is one reason why. Recently the UW Madison approached our Game Art & Animation Staff to test their new motion eye tracking glasses. Of course we took on the project, because this is the kind of first-hand information we like to pass on to our students. Our animation and motion capture teachers and students have fun with this kind of stuff. [More…]

Social Media and Video Engagement

social media video

For those that manage a social media account (or ten) there is always the challenge to create relevant content that engages your target audience. Few forms of content do this more reliably than short form video. The key to engaging video content for social media is relevance to your audience. Yes, slick video production and editing skills help (you can get those skills here), but consistently relevant content trumps even the slickest video if it lacks a meaningful connection to the audience. Lets take a look at two companies that are using video engagement on social media to its upmost potential.


This might seem unfair, as GoPro is a camera company, but I dare you to not contain your excitement about their product when you see how they use video to engage their audience on social media. They have a simple plan; “we make a camera that captures fast moving action; let’s give cameras to a team of action sports fanatics and world travelers; and let them show what the camera can do”. Brilliant! They have obviously mastered both content and video skills; check them out on Instagram (8.4 million followers) and YouTube (over 1 Billion channel views). [More…]

Why Doesn’t Pro Tools Play Back My Selection?


I got a call yesterday from my friend Ken, a singer-songwriter and music producer I’ve known for many years.  He was pulling his hair out – it seems his Pro Tools system had gone temporarily insane. No matter where he placed the cursor in a track, Pro Tools would play back somewhere else. Ken is quite skilled as a recording engineer, and he’s been using Pro Tools for a number of years, so he thought it might be something related to pre-roll. Unfortunately, toggling pre-roll on and off (command – K, in case you’re curious) made no difference.

Pro Tools Booby Trap

It turns out Pro Tools has a little booby trap built into it that a lot of people don’t know about.  Actually, it’s a very useful feature once you know about it, but it can be a bit of a nightmare if it catches you unaware.

The feature in question is called “Link/Unlink Timeline and Edit Selection.” The button that turns it on and off looks like this:

protools button


How Graphic Design Speaks to Me

graphic design listen with your eyes

Why do I like Graphic Design? That’s actually a really good question and probably the best place for me to start with for some of my blogs. I think the major reason that I like it, is the same reason I like Game Design or art in general. It speaks to me and enables me to speak to other people. Design is the ability to communicate to people through an image whether it involves words or not doesn’t matter. It’s the ability to relate an idea or story to the viewer that draws me in every time. The way we can use either the single image to make someone think about something in a completely different way, or the ability to use motion to draw their attention and keep them captivated for however long it may be is an amazing thing. [More…]

Digital product marketing, does it always work?

media business digital product marketing

Well, just like last week here is another blog that involves a recording artist. This week we focus on their digital product marketing. Have you heard of the music streaming and download site Tidal? If so, I am guessing it has more to do with the publicity it has received due to Kanye West’s decision to release his new album exclusively through the service than anything else. That is right; Kanye West gave Tidal the exclusive on his new album.

Why would he do this in the first place?

So why would a well known recording artist release a record on a little known online streaming and downloading site? I suspect the answer is because his friend Jay Z was involved in the founding of the company, and prior to the Kanye album they had very few users when compared to their competitors. What I am saying is that Jay Z used the Kanye West album exclusive in an attempt to make the site viable. [More…]

Work Hard or Skate By in the Recording Business

Woark hard in the recording business learn how at the Media Institute

“Yeah, who cares anyway? I’ve got natural ability so I really don’t have to work too hard on this project. I can skate by on this one, and nobody will be the wiser.” I’ve been in the recording business a long time and I can honestly say I’ve seen these people and they do get noticed eventually. That attention is not the kind you want. With that being said let’s get back to my point. “Who cares! No one will notice!”

The Recording Business vs. Natural Talent

Natural talent can sometimes be a license to be lazy. Your colleagues might not notice, and you probably will “get away” with not bringing 100% for a while.

The problem with this scenario is that there is one person who will know that you are “phoning it in.” That person is YOU. [More…]