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Armando Gallo - Genesis: I Know What I Like iPad App

Armando Gallo - Genesis: I Know What I Like (App)

The legendary book, served as an interactive App.


Prologue:

The band Genesis has been existing for so long now that the 50th anniversary is not far around the corner. It witnessed the introduction of the cassette and the triumph of the CD during its active period while getting less involved with failed formats such as DCC or MiniDISC. Finally, the DVD also entered Genesis' catalogue of publications. When DVD-Audio and SACD made a promising attempt to establish a market for high-definition music, Genesis made the decision for a large tour and all albums were republished on SACD. Then came the Blu-ray format and Genesis took quite a while to react. Even though When In Rome was filmed in HD, for example, it wasn't published in HD. It's only this year (2014) that there will be the first Genesis Blu-rays with Three Sides Live and Sum Of The Parts. Right now, Apps for smartphones and tablets are a completely new terrain. It's not very surprising that Peter Gabriel was the first to try out the new format with his Full Moon App as part of the release of Scratch My Back. Other interactive apps like SoGabble and MusicTiles followed. This time it was Armando Gallo, who advanced further projects. For the anniversary of So, he and his team created a So-App, which can be seen as a prototype for the app at hand for the book I Know What I Like. However, there is a conflict on the technical side again - similar to how it was with DVD-Audio and SACD. All apps named above are only available for Apple's iPad (and sometimes iPhone). Android users have been at a disadvantage so far.


 

The book and the idea for the app

MenüArmando Gallo's book is not just any work on Genesis, it's the ultimate fan bible. Even though it only tells the band's story until 1979, it's never lost its status as the 'definitive biography'. It enjoys cult status with fans and different versions of the book have sometimes changed hands at sky-high prices on record exchanges. Armando Gallo had put a lot of care into reissuing the book I Know What I Like in 1998, but this version sold out very quickly since there were only ever 3000 copies. Background info on the books and the reissue of '98 can be found in a special with interview at this link (this special is only available in German language).

Armando Gallo started the project to turn his book into an App because of the sheer amount of material, the fact that the photos printed in black and white were all available in colour and because of the technical possibilities. For that purpose, he got the team around Gabriel Foux on board. Developing the complex project was not cheap, however, so Armando Gallo started a Kickstarter campaign to fund it. The App is now available for Apple's iPad since September 2014.


 

Technical Details

Gallo App 2I Know What I Like is not a small app. It requires 700MB of memory space on the iPad and isn't available for the iPhone. It can only be used in horizontal format on the iPad, which makes sense anyway. It may seem strange at first glance, since it is a book on its most basic level, but this was solved very well by intelligently integrating many pictures and sometimes videos next to the text passages. Lots of small gimmicks are also part of the App besides music and videos and it features an Exclusive Content Area for anyone who supported the project on Kickstarter.
The App also has the advantage of making it possible to get new contents via future updates. Important: the App only runs on the iPad, 2nd generation upwards and IOS7 or newer.

 

Prices

The App itself is free, but anyone who wants to read the book has to purchase it for €17.99. Prices vary from country to country but are always similar. The book costs $19.99 in the US, for example. On first glance, €17.99 seem expensive for an app, but considering that the book's last issue cost approximately €50 and that the app offers an incredible amount of possibilities and features, the price seems more like a bargain.


 

Gallo App 3Structure

A menu opens after the app starts with a brief intro animation. There is a 'Musical Box' in the background and the individual menu items can be rotated into the foreground by swiping. The book can be unlocked from this menu, which is done via iTunes.


 

The Areas


1. The Book

The app's central piece is the book part, of course. This part contains all of the original book's pages with all the photos, many of them in colour for the first time, and additional pictures not used in the original book. The book opens with a video intro by Armando Gallo and a foreword of sorts by Mike Rutherford, which is visualized with an animated typewriter. Even before the index we get to hear the first bit of music - The Musical Box (part of the closing section) starts as soon as the photo of Genesis (Punstead Feb 1972) appears. The individual areas about the band's early phase, the albums and the solo careers can be accessed directly via the index.

Gallo App 4The first picture in the first chapter (the Characterhouse-School) already shows a lot about the App's possibilities. The photo appears in black and white, Only Your Love by Anthony Phillips starts playing and the picture slowly gains colour. You leaf through the book as with normal iBooks. The following pages contain many pictures that can be enlarged, turned and moved freely around the screen. The book's text is presented in two columns filling the screen, so the photos and graphics are always in another corner and have to be moved around in order to be able to read these passages anyway. Some pictures are integrated into the layout though and can often be enlarged. Many pages show a music note that, by touching it, offers more information about the music used. Since not all background music is composed by Genesis, this is very useful. Tapping one of the pages shows a navigation bar that can be shifted to skip several pages ahead. There, you are presented with a thumbnail image of the page. This is also the first instance where it's noticeable that there are no page numbers. This could surely be added in with an update though.

Some pages contain a photo and a statement by a band member. These are also available as an audio file most of the time so it can be heard in its original recording. Other pages have a bunch of photos that are neatly stacked when opening the page and are then scattered randomly across the screen in an animation. Individual pictures can again be turned and enlarged. The photos are always arranged in a different pattern on every opening of the page, by the way - another instance where the attention to detail is visible.

Gallo App 5With Trespass we get to the first album cover Detour - Armando Gallo interviews Paul Whitehead, which is embedded as a video. Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot each have the same feature.

 

Music In Use

Besides music by Genesis, there are also contributions by Daryl Stuermer (during the last passage in the book) and Anthony Phillips (at the start of the book). The latter also contributed an unreleased Genesis song with Winter Flies By, which can be found on page 35. Steve Hackett also contributed sometimes completely new pieces of music that are mostly used as connectors between chapters. The small acoustic snippets are accordingly named "For Armando's Book 1-5".

 

2. Wallpapers

Not a ground-breaking feature, but a neat extra. Three pictures are available as iPad wallpapers, two in horizontal and one in vertical form, all from the Seconds Out Sessions.

 

Gallo App 63. Tribute

This area seems to be intended to keep a growing database of tribute bands. It currently lists The Musical Box, Dancing Knights, Bad Dreams and Genetics. Each band has an extra page with links to their respective website, Facebook and Youtube.


 

4. Thanks

This area names all Kickstarter backers (if they so wished) and there is a link to the exclusive content for the Kickstarter backers.

 

5. Social

This feature allows the sharing of 4 photos by Armando Gallo via Facebook or Twitter.

 

6. Photo Booth

Anyone who always wanted to be on a photo with Genesis or one of its members now has the chance. There are five pictures to choose from and the feature then takes a photo of the user with the iPad's front facing camera and inserts it in a 'fitting' spot. You can see the reviewer's self-experiment here. This feature needs a slight update though, since it's sometimes impossible to see how the photo will be positioned when taking the picture.

 

Gallo App 77. Art

Here one can order art prints of selected photos directly from Armando. There are more than just Genesis motifs available, including pictures of Sting, Bruce Springsteen or Bono, among others.

 

8. Music

Anyone who has all the Genesis albums in their iTunes library can play them on an animated vintage record player. The animation might use a little optimization to look even more realistic. Apart from that, it's a nice feature. It's also possible to purchase the music via the feature directly from iTunes.

 

9. Help

Also important: there is help for anyone who can't find their way around in the form of videos. This way, anyone can check whether they've used the App to its fullest.

 

10. The Lightbox

A nice titbit: Armando's slides can be examined with a magnifying glass and there is audio commentary by Armando for each picture selected.

 

11. Credits

A list of all contributors is needed as well, of course. Armando's obvious love for Apple is interesting. He thanks Steve Jobs for the iPad ...


 

Gallo App 8All In All

There are small issues that could be improved. There are a few small mistakes (dates, it reads 'Willow's Farm' in the credits, and so on) and it's not possible to see which page is currently displayed. But in the end, these issues should be fixed easily with updates. What remains is a terrific interactive spectacle. The iPad App gives a whole new flair to the cult book and also illustrates the possibilities for further projects of this type. Thematically, the book ends in 1979 but we will probably have to live with that. There currently is also no version for Android tablets. This would be another project Gallo could tackle - despite his love letter to Apple in the Thanks section.

But any Genesis fan owning an iPad anyway won't get around this App. The sheer amount of information is just as impressive as the visual part and the lovingly crafted animations. Hats off, Armando!


Buy the App in Apples App-Store at this link. An official Facebook page about the App is available at this link.


A short interview with Gabriel Foux, the man Armando has been working with to realize the project, can now be found below.


written by Christian Gerhardts
English by Robin Morgenstern



GNC: How did you get in touch with Armando Gallo?

Gabriel Foux: On May 23rd, 2011, Gustavo Vallazza, a friend of mine that loves Genesis as much as I do, sent me a prog mag that recreated Armando’s Lightbox in its cover. I instantly remembered my teen years, saving the money and going to the store to buy the first edition of the book. That book was very important for me back then. I had just developed a framework to create cool interactive books on the iPad, we had started with Ciruelo’s Dragon book (Ciruelo was discovered by Roger Dean back in the day) and the version we did amazed Ciruelo and the fans.
We had very cool software to bring Armando’s book to life. So ...
... I emailed Armando this:

Hi Armando,

My name is Gabriel Foux and "The Evolution of a Rock Band/I know what I like" was one of my favorite books ever. I loved every page. Your photos are wonderful. I remember being a teenager and reading every page over and over again. And then your "Peter Gabriel" book... magic!

I am no teenager now (sigh) and I have a company that has developed a Publishing System for the iPad called Pressto! It literally allows you to create instant books from books in Adobe InDesign format, and it was designed for rich media books, like Photo Books, Architecture, Children Books, Travel and more.

I think we could make a wonderful book with "I Know what I Like" and "Peter Gabriel"...  Pressto allows Photos, Movies, animations, soundtrack, sound effects and voiceovers, interactive contents, wallpapers and more. If we could get approval to include snippets of audio/video recordings, the book would come to life and it would be an impressive treasure for every Genesis fan. It would be fairly easy to get word of mouth in the Genesis community and it could start to build sales over time without printing copies and maintaining inventory.
We have created Ciruelo's Book of the Dragon for the iPad and the iPhone... if you want I can send you a Promo Code to download it for free so you can check our work. Here's some info: http://www.ciruelo.com/
I think this will give a lot of people the chance to experience your book, a masterpiece for Genesis and Photography aficionados.

Would you be interested in creating an iPad version of this outstanding book(s) with us? Please let me know!

Thank you for creating your amazing books. Best Regards,
Gabriel Foux

Zentric


And Armando replied, a few hours later:

This is one of the best emails that I got in the past couple of years!

We got on Skype the next day, talked about the project and we instantly knew that we were going to do it. We didn’t know HOW yet, but Armando’s love for Genesis came back to his body instantly after many years of being one of Hollywood’s top photographers. And that was all we needed as we had what I took technically speaking.


GNC: Are you a Genesis fan yourself? What's your favorite album?

Gabriel: Yes, I am! Genesis is my favourite band, ever.

My favourite album is The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. I might end up listening more tracks from Selling England By The Pound, Foxtrot and more… but The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is a religious experience.


GNC: Please explain to us, how a book like Armando's I Know What I Like is transferred to an App (i.e. concept, technical background, how many people are involved etc).

Gabriel Foux @ZentricGabriel: You start with love and passion. Without that, the project could never have survived. We are talking about a book that was out of print forever and was first published over 30 years ago when we started. For Zentric, my company, it was a long, winding road. We started with a very cool prototype, with interactivity and animations. Armando loved it, that was a start.

Animations were created by a big artist that works for Hollywood … Star Wars, Iron Man… Amazing CGI talent.

Programming was initially based on our own publishing framework, but we had to come up with new ways to show material interactively, so we designed a lot of new stuff for this app (and the previous Tony Levin app). We have one of the best iOS programmers out there, Ivan Leider… He’s a magician and loved the project, always giving his very best.

In the middle of the project we did Peter Gabriel’s So app, and we shared many programming resourced we did for both.

We had between 6 and 10 graphic and book designers working on the project. A studio did Sound Mastering. Three amazingly gifted musicians did a lot of work on sound and music work very close to the app and over 10 musicians around the world contributed bits.

My partner Mike Sobek overtook the book control and he is the soul of the Book part of the app. He did the most amazing job with it… it’s very hard to manage all that content so creatively and accurately.

And Steve Hackett of course, who contributed sounds and tracks and was with us from day one, without his support we could not have made it. He is the true Godfather of the app.

Anthony Phillips also contributed music (even unreleased Genesis material!) as did Daryl Stuermer.

Three amazingly gifted musicians (Mateo Rodó, Gaby Myndlis and Leo Fernández) did a lot of work on sound and music work very close to the app and over 10 musicians around the world contributed bits.

Add the testers, proof readers, amazing photo retouchers, the list goes on and on. It was not an easy feat, and Armando was behind every detail.

With all this talent, we couldn't give less than 100%. Lots of sleepless nights and lots of fun with the material we love.

Being fans and technically proficient we had all it took to really connect with the fans. We spend a lot of time making things click, intuitive and easy to use. And we know how our hearts beat. Emotion played a huge role on the design… many fans tell us that they sometimes cry experiencing the app… we can relate.


GNC: Are there plans for future additions to the book via updates?

Gabriel: Yes, sure. That was the plan from day one. To have this ever evolving "Genesis museum" that could carry the torch into the future, because a band like this should never die.

We have lots of material to add. We have the full original Interview tapes from Armando’s research… if there’s an interest we would love to have those remastered and streamed them from the app as a separate unlock, for instance.

We have some video interviews from the making of the app, when Armando met band members, producers, friends and more and that adds more stories. We could do more of that now that the app is out.


GNC: Fans keep asking for an Android version. Will you be working on that as well?

Gabriel: We are working on ideas to cover as many fans as possible. Many fans have asked about different versions for the app... Android (all mutually incompatible versions of them), Windows, Mac, Kindle, old iPad 1, web... Just about anything. There are dozens of technological ways to deliver content, and, unlike simple music, reaching every single one of you in your desired format can and will take considerable time and resources.

When we started this we wanted to offer the best possible app for the fans. For us, Genesis is the best band ever, and it deserves the best app available for any rock group, period. "I know what I like" is a classic that has been loved by fans since its original release and it is for them, for all of us, something very close to our hearts, emotional and close.

To achieve that, we have found that the only platform that could offer the tools required to build such experience in an elegant, seamless way to as many fans as possible, was iOS. There are many tools to build products that will "sort of" work on both platforms but, in our opinion, they deliver vastly inferior products, a low common denominator in terms of features and design, offering a poor compromise for a finished product. We didn't want this for Genesis. We didn't want this for "I Know what i like". We wanted to start with the best possible app for the best band ever. Their music quality just sets the bar very high and we took on that challenge. Based on the early reviews from fans all over the world, we might have achieved our goal, and we are proud.
Developing apps for Android is very different than programming for iOS, in the same fashion that a program for Windows needs to be redone from scratch for the Mac.

We started this journey with the iOS version as it covers hundreds of millions of devices around the world and we needed to see the interest and response, delivering a final product that could be developed with world class tools offering a truly innovative experience.

As the final work is in the readers hands, we are currently evaluating the resources it would take to put together a similar version for Android and based on that we will consider the appropriate steps to take. There is another consideration... The book has a specific layout and the myriad of android screen sizes will only allow an automatic layout system for it, making the actual design less personal and carefully curated. This "iOS first" approach is very common amongst developers, even with companies that can allocate significant resources. We will keep all fans posted on this in our Facebook Genesis app page when we have news. We truly want to extend the fullest possible app experience to as many fans as possible.

To do a full Android app costs as much as what we spent for programming on the current version. We might also try to do a crowd funding campaign to cover that part of the development… we are considering options, very seriously as lots of fans are requesting this version.
iPhone and iPod touch: The small screen is challenging for so much text so we are thinking of the best way to present it. It is also challenging for some interactive elements as they are now. The new larger sized phone add some extra air and we will evaluate if we could take that route as well to cover yet more devices and fans.
In the meantime, we are currently creating a rich ePub version of the book that could provide fans the experience of reading the book and checking out the photographs in a nice, clear layout, with less interactive features. The advantage of this simpler approach is that ePubs work on all platforms, so fans will be able to experience the basic book on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Kindle, other readers and More… A truly universal solution for a basic paperback, if you will.

This is the "meat" of the app. It would not contain special features and interactivity but it will offer the story and the photos, much as the old book did, but more modern, with better and more pictures and available instantly, universally and in all platforms.


GNC: Any plans for further Apps?

Gabriel: Yes, many! On the Music world, Zentric is currently working on Steve Rothery’s Marillion’s app and talking about other Prog projects (nothing confirmed yet). I hope this app opens the door to do many more for music groups.

We are also doing corporate apps, games, educational, other books and even doing one for controlling consumer robots for home tasks!

We are keeping busy and love new challenges… and our heart is with music apps.


Gabriel Foux
www.zentric.info

Interview conducted via Email by Christian Gerhardts
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