REEL LIFE / FILM & VIDEO FILE : ‘Movie Books’ Borrow From Hollywood : A Thousand Oaks interactive firm has branched into the CD-ROM edutainment market with such titles as ‘Lassie’ and ‘Black Beauty.’ It also offers ‘Star Trek’ sound bytes.
More than a few of you probably got computers for Christmas. So Reel Life decided to explore Cyberia for a special report.
First stop on the 805 Cyberia tour is Sound Source Interactive in Thousand Oaks, where CEO Vincent Bitetti has successfully made the transition from operating a flame thrower to putting “Lassie” on CD-ROM.
Bitetti, a recovering rocker from the early ‘80s, gave up stage pyrotechnics after he started a family and devoted himself to software publishing. Sound Source uses movies and television shows to produce interactive “movie books” for kids, and “talking utilities” for their parents.
“Our business started by supplying musicians with custom sounds for their synthesizers,” Bitetti said. “When we decided to try and grow the company, it occurred to us that it would be really cool to attach sound clips from ‘Star Trek’ to different computer system functions. You could turn your computer into the bridge of The Enterprise.”
Sound Source Audio Clip software has 50 different sound bytes. You can start your computer and hear James T. Kirk say “Captain’s log star date . . . .” You can automatically play a pneumatic sliding-door sound every time you open or close a file or you can turn off your computer with “Beam me up, Scotty.”
Sound Source got a license from Paramount. It was the start of several licensing arrangements with Hollywood studios. Sound Source now produces a line of movie-based screen savers and recently branched into the CD-ROM edutainment market. “Lassie,” “Black Beauty” and “Secret Garden” are three titles that use pictures and video clips from films by the same name. Several other edutainment deals are in the works, Bitetti said.
“Basically we want to make reading entertaining,” he said. “Ninety percent of edutainment titles are dancing bears with bow ties. We don’t do that. All our titles are based on movies.”
There are still some blasters, lasers and phasers in Bitetti’s life. Sound Design has a “Star Wars” talking utility with your favorite imperial villains and rebel heroes.
At last, the circle is complete, Obi-Wan.
Local fans of the ABC series “My So-Called Life” are adding support to a novel campaign aimed at saving the endangered series. Viewers have started an initiative on the America On-Line computer network to show ABC execs that the show has more viewers than ratings suggest.
The show, which ranks in the Bottom 10, is about a 15-year-old girl reaching out for adulthood but not quite grasping it. It’s slated to begin a so-called “hiatus” after the Jan. 26 episode, with only a possibility of returning next season.
“We not only want to generate broader awareness of ‘MSCL,’ ” said Robyn Landis, who co-directs Operation Life Support from San Fernando, “We have evidence that the show has far greater viewer support than the Nielsens reflect, and that ABC is not attuned to the real market--twenty, thirty and fortysomethings. We’re the kind of people who can make their advertisers very happy.”
Paula Obermeyer, a Simi Valley teen-ager, posted a message in the ABC on-line forum telling executives that she’s not the only one in the house who watches the show.
“It’s my mom’s favorite, also.”
The show has generated more than 1,500 messages since October, more than twice the postings of any other ABC show. Send your messages to SAVEMSCL@aol.com