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FRONTLINE: 60 Seconds


Fabien-Baber Communications

Kids may just win the debate over whether they spend too much time on computers and cell phones if companies like Fabien-Baber Communication remain in the limelight. In June, the Springfield-based company, led by husband-and-wife team Rhonda Fabien and Jerry Baber, received an Emmy nomination in the Broadband Variety category for its entertaining and informative Icons of Science: Quantum Theory. The six-segment program introduces kids to the world of physics with a visual mix that recalls JibJab, South Park and other trendy animation touchstones in a fun and witty way—a far cry from the dry academic lessons of our day.

MLT: What makes animation such a good teaching tool for both kids and adults?
JB: With animation, you have no rules other than to keep your audience’s attention. Any environment can be created.

MLT: What’s the coolest technology implemented at Fabien-Baber?
RF: The human mind. Technology is a moving target. It’s knowing how to take the hot new thing and actually make something useful.
JB: New software continues to integrate better and better. We try to experiment with everything. Technology will never replace good storytelling; the creative mind still has to imagine the best way to communicate something.

MLT: Just how big of an honor is an Emmy nomination?
RF: It’s huge. Broadband is such a hot area right now.

MLT: On the technology side, what does it take to get something like this up and running? Do the normal rules of censorship, trade marking, etc. apply?
JB: We had to build a whole new production process. On the animation side, we had to push the software in new ways to create new riggings to get characters to do certain things. It was a lot of trial and error until we got it right.
RF: Broadband does have the appearance of a “free-for-all,” but the vast majority of amateur and independent media artists aren’t making a dime. When it comes to profit-making pursuits, the old rules of intellectual property, fair use and copyright still apply.

MLT: Any other ideas or concepts you’re exploring?
JB: There’s enormous opportunity in the mobile device markets that are just now emerging with the advent of the iPhone. People want media in their hand and they want to manipulate and interact with it.
RF: We’re developing a series based on a wild book of statistics called Number Freaking.

MLT: The tech field is littered with catchy acronyms. What are some of the industry sound bytes you guys throw around? I’m thinking DCG for digital communication goals…
JB: DMO. “Detach, move on.” When something is hung up, you have to re-boot. Another is TDL. “Tape doesn’t lie.” You have it or you don’t.

MLT: Schools are still using outdated sex-ed films. Any chance you might do an upgraded take on the topic with a modern look and message?
RF: I don’t know. Some of our animated characters are pretty freaky looking. It might be a little scary.

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