When Rolf Zuc­kow­ski waves from the book’s cover in the form of a hologram

An inter­ac­ti­ve children’s book not only brings the musician’s songs to life

If the audi­ence can’t come to the musi­ci­an, then the musi­ci­an just has to come to them: this is exact­ly what the recent­ly published pic­tu­re book “Rolfs Lie­der­ge­heim­nis­se” is now making a rea­li­ty. The colourful design is inspi­red by the songs of Rolf Zuc­kow­ski, the well-known aut­hor of children’s songs - but that’s not all: a free Aug­men­ted Rea­li­ty (AR) app brings the musi­ci­an straight into the living room in the form of a holo­gram. And the publisher, pro­ject initia­tor and illus­tra­tor Sarah Sett­gast is also the­re next to him waving from the book’s cover as a minia­tu­re 3D figure.

The children’s book with the digi­tal exten­si­on was published by Pots­­dam-based Deut­sche Papp­ebuch Gesell­schaft (DPG) which Sett­gast foun­ded tog­e­ther with her busi­ness part­ner Sven Sla­zen­ger. The publi­shing house stands for hap­ti­cal­ly high-qua­­li­­ty card­board books made of bite and sali­­va-resistant mate­ri­als, eco­lo­gi­cal­ly cer­ti­fied and pro­du­ced in Ger­ma­ny. The team achie­ves this stan­dard by working with Sach­sen­Druck in Plau­en, one of the oldest prin­ting plants in Ger­ma­ny. DPG’s acti­vi­ties ran­ge from this col­la­bo­ra­ti­on with the long-estab­­lished com­pa­ny through to the digi­tal future: Volu­cap in Pots­­dam-Babels­­berg was invol­ved in the pro­duc­tion of the app and the deve­lo­p­ment of the holo­grams. The volu­metric studio’s ela­bo­ra­te tech­no­lo­gy help crea­te life­li­ke 3D scans which are inte­gra­ted in Vir­tu­al Rea­li­ty appli­ca­ti­ons and make films into “walk-in” experiences.

Howe­ver, the pro­ject only came about becau­se of Settgast’s enthu­si­asm for Zuckowski’s songs which gene­ra­ti­ons of child­ren have now come to know for many deca­des. During the first lock­down last spring, she had regu­lar­ly fol­lo­wed his “Lie­der­ge­schich­ten aus dem Dach­stüb­chen” on Face­book whe­re the musi­ci­an sang some songs for enter­tain­ment and dis­trac­tion and then told some litt­le sto­ries around them. A let­ter fol­lo­wed sug­gest­ing a joint col­la­bo­ra­ti­on and then a mee­ting in Ham­burg during the sum­mer. Zuc­kow­ski was imme­dia­te­ly taken by the idea of crea­ting an inter­ac­ti­ve children’s book based on his lyrics.

A long pro­duc­tion peri­od ensued bet­ween the ori­gi­nal idea and its imple­men­ta­ti­on. While Sarah Sett­gast work­ed with water­co­lours on crea­ting colourful and at times mys­te­rious loo­king worlds for a total of 12 sel­ec­ted songs, Volu­cap was occu­p­ied in deve­lo­ping the AR app and test­ing it for various kinds of devices. Zuc­kow­ski and Sett­gast spent a who­le day in the Volu­cap stu­dio having them­sel­ves digi­tal­ly scan­ned by 32 came­ras from every ang­le for the spe­cial high­light of their per­so­nal holo­grams. View­ers can fol­low the spe­cial shoot in a You­tube video. Atten­ti­on has to be paid to every detail in the lar­ge, white Volu­cap stu­dio. White clo­thes make the peo­p­le keep dis­ap­pearing and even the musician’s gui­tar was mat­ted so that it did­n’t over­ly shi­ne later on in its digi­tal ver­si­on. If you now leaf through the finis­hed book, the app auto­ma­ti­cal­ly reco­g­ni­s­es the respec­ti­ve page via the pho­to func­tion and, thanks to a coope­ra­ti­on with Uni­ver­sal Music, plays the song and lyrics for you to sing along with. The pages func­tion like QR codes, so it does­n’t mat­ter whe­ther you are in the midd­le of the book or want to leaf from back to front. The inter­ac­tion with the app is deli­bera­te­ly kept stream­li­ned - the com­bi­na­ti­on of hap­tics, see­ing and hea­ring mean that child­ren can calm­ly and easi­ly immer­se them­sel­ves in the world of images. “Some­ti­mes, it does­n’t take much to make a strong impres­si­on or con­vey joy,” Sarah Sett­gast says. “Here it’s sim­ply about good sound and nice images.” Good sound - that was also important for Zuc­kow­ski. The fact that tablets and smart­phones can now play his songs in high qua­li­ty was also one of the decisi­ve fac­tors for the suc­cessful coope­ra­ti­on. “Espe­ci­al­ly given the cur­rent situa­ti­on whe­re peo­p­le can’t go to con­certs and see artists per­form­inh live, this is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to have a litt­le bit of enter­tain­ment at home. Rolf Zuckowski’s songs unite gene­ra­ti­ons,” Sett­gast says.

“Rolfs Lie­der­ge­heim­nis­se” func­tions as a pic­tu­re book with or wit­hout the inter­ac­ti­ve ele­ments. Whe­ther it’s with their par­ents or older siblings, with or wit­hout the accom­pany­ing app: many a clas­sic song is wai­ting to be redis­co­ver­ed by the rea­ders. The song “Good Mor­ning, Sal­ly!”, which is about a girl in a wheel­chair and could now actual­ly be regard­ed as a song about inclu­si­on, was writ­ten about 30 years ago.

The Deut­sche Papp­ebuch Gesell­schaft is not only working in the children’s book sec­tor, but also pro­du­ces the high-qua­­li­­ty card­board books for cor­po­ra­te cli­ents. The cor­po­ra­te publi­shing pro­ducts can be used to pre­sent the com­pa­ny phi­lo­so­phy or a pro­duct cata­lo­gue with a spe­cial feel. The cli­ents can be addres­sed in par­ti­cu­lar via an addi­tio­nal Aug­men­ted Rea­li­ty appli­ca­ti­on. The Deut­sche Papp­ebuch Gesell­schaft is curr­ent­ly in talks with the next pro­mi­nent part­ners and com­pa­nies. So watch this space.

By Chris­ti­ne Lentz

More blog artic­les can be read here.

About MTH Blog

The media technologies of the future are already being used today – not only in the entertainment sector, but also in a wide variety of industries. Christine Lentz meets up with tech enthusiasts, established companies and researchers for our monthly MediaTech Hub Potsdam blog to tell the stories behind the innovative business models.