"…and the winner of the 2002 EMedia Magazine Discus Award for Best Instructive DVD goes to…drum roll please…Rules of the Road, brought to you by Jumby Bay Studios." The orchestra plays its theme, the spotlight searches the crowd…
While EMedia's Discus awards may not come with the same pomp and circumstance of some more visible extravaganzas, they recognize types of creative and technical achievement in the movie-dominated DVD field that occur outside the mainstream entertainment scene. This year's Instructive DVD category brings acclaim to one DVD that might otherwise have gone unnoticed by those outside of its late-pubescent target demographic. Rules of the Road, conceived and developed from storyboard to shooting to authoring by St. Louis-based Jumby Bay Studios, infuses the familiar driver's education video with the hands-on interactivity of DVD-Video.
In the Driver's Seat
Rules of the Road makes ample use of DVD's interactive capabilities in a variety of features aimed towards getting teens involved in the learning process. The first, and perhaps most ingenious, interactive element is the Virtual Driving Simulator. This feature allows teens to get behind the wheel of a virtual car through a split-screen effect. The top of the screen provides footage akin to what one might see in a rear view mirror while the bottom looks out through the front windshield of the car. Students are asked to pay attention to both views and be prepared to answer multiple-choice questions regarding the state of the road before and behind them.
Along with the Virtual Driving Simulator, Rules of the Road offers practice tests and quizzes at the end of each segment, each using multiple-choice data entry; a section in which teens follow their peers to the DMV and through an actual Driver's Exam; and computer-generated 3D renderings of various vehicular movements, such as Blind Spots and Parallel Parking. These animations make use of the Multiple Angle capability built into the DVD spec, allowing users to view the action from a variety of perspectives.
It isn't necessarily the specific interactive features that set this DVD apart, according to Jumby Bay's Jeremy Salvatori. "I think its biggest advantage is that we approach the subject of practice driving with parents and the nervousness and anxiety it causes," he says. They do this by including a variety of scenes with both parent and child driving together, bantering back and forth. Much of these skits sympathize with teenagers, in one case, portraying an overconfident father giving advice on driving while putting on a demonstration better suited for a bumper car rink than actual roads.
The Road to Rules
The impetus for Rules of the Road came from a near fatal car accident endured by another Salvatori, Jeremy's brother Jason. He approached their father, Allan, owner of Jumby Bay Studios, about trying to provide financially strapped school systems and concerned parents with a supplement to driver's education systems already in place. Using the Missouri state driver's manual as an outline, they began to prepare a script filled with teens talking to teens. "We decided early on that the program should feature actual teens driving—not a bunch of adults talking down to kids," Jeremy Salvatori says. After the two weeks of shooting, the project entered post-production at Jumby Bay, which was well-equipped to build the DVD. Jumby Bay utilizes a variety of nonlinear Avid systems for editing: Avid|DS, Symphony, and Media Composer. The DS and Symphony come with 600GB Medea RAID arrays, which provide enough storage for over 44 hours of uncompressed video and can operate in real-time. The Avid|DS doubles as a formidable compositing platform. While editors cut the program together section by section, others at Jumby Bay create the graphics and animation using Alias|Wavefront's Maya 4.0, the same software used for movies such as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Star Wars, Episode One. Salvatori says future projects at Jumby Bay will use this technology even more extensively than Rules of the Road. From here it's on to DVD authoring.
The Spruce Maestro system is a Windows-based professional-level DVD authoring platform purchased by Apple Computer in July 2001. It uses a real-time hardware encoder allowing for high-quality MPEG-2 compressions. With this system, Jeremy Salvatori says, "We have the option of doing constant bit-rate (CBR) encoding, variable bit-rate (VBR) encoding, and two-pass VBR," according to Salvatori. All of this gets created in real time, although the two-pass takes twice as long because it goes through the tape twice, allowing Jumby Bay to fill the 4.7GB single-sided single-layer DVD to capacity.
For premastering, Jumby Bay has one Pioneer DVR-S201 (the "DVD for Authoring" drive), although they typically use DLTs as masters instead. Along with these, they have a tower with five Pioneer A03 burners (DVD-R for General). This tower is primarily to duplicate discs for corporate clients interested in runs of one to fifty DVDs and don't want or need the 1,000-copy minimum needed to mass-replicate economically. Another tower of A03s burns demos and test-discs for internal use. Jumby Bay uses DVD-R media when burning discs in-house.
The final step in the DVD creation process comes in quality control. Jumby Bay spends several days play-testing their DVDs, searching for software-like bugs. Several different people watch sections of the program and try to "break" it by mashing buttons in various combinations while shouting expletives at the screen, to make sure that the DVD holds up.
Down the Highway
Like many a successful or award-winning DVD, Rules of the Road will likely spawn a sequel. "If sales continue to be good," Jeremy Salvatori says, "then we will make an updated version next year to incorporate new features and respond to the feedback that we've gotten."
Patent-pending Vault-21 technology, invented by Jumby Bay in 2001, could be one such new feature. Vault-21 allows a DVD not only to quiz and score quizzes, but also to create a unique verification code displayed onscreen at the completion of the program. Users can take this code and enter it into a database via the Web, proving their completion of the program. "These codes are never the same—the same disc will produce a different code each time it's played, and no two DVDs will produce the same code," according to Salvatori. This technology could prove very useful to the training DVD market for use with periodical recertification, in applications extending well beyond Rules of the Road. Several large companies have already expressed an interest and want to work with Jumby Bay to further its development.
In the meantime, Jumby Bay has signed a distribution agreement with a large St. Louis-based company specializing in selling video and multimedia products to schools and public libraries worldwide. They hope to utilize this company's resources to bring Rules of the Road home to families and schools across the country, perhaps easing the anxiety faced by both wide-eyed teenagers and white-knuckled parents alike.
Sidebar: The Secret Life of Jumby Bay
Back in 1980, Allan Salvatori owned a company called Innervision Productions. It grew so quickly that he was forced to build a bigger and better studio, a 20,000 square foot building in which Jumby Bay now resides. It came stocked with, among other features, the largest sound stage in St. Louis. By 1985, the company had grown enough to be sold to Anheuser-Busch, which was interested in producing its own video spots. The new millennium saw Anheuser-Busch exiting the video production market, thus freeing up the still Salvatori-owned building. The Salvatoris, now a father-and-son operation, decided to open a new company, banking on the future production market fueled by DVD and the Internet. They now have 10 full-time employees, including a director of photography, editor, animator, 2D graphics expert, audio engineer, and sales/administration staff.
Jumby Bay accepts projects at any point in the creative process, from barebones ideas to scripts to finished programs that clients want transferred from tape to DVD. They can provide full service to their clients, including cameramen, studio time, set construction, and audio. Their primary methods of capturing footage are DV for budget projects and Digital Betacam for high-end. The company has experimented with high-definition and the occasional film job, but primarily uses DV and Betacam.
(Jumby Bay Studios, 11783 Borman Drive, St. Louis, MO 63146; 314/569-1771; www.jumbybaystudios.com)