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MARKETPLACE | Tech Careers

They Could Write a CD-ROM on Doing Business Long-Distance

April 06, 1998|KATE DUNN | Kate Dunn is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles

Jim Bunte and Dave Hallman met two years ago, while both were working for Lionel, the Detroit-based model train manufacturer. A year later, with the help of modern technology, they formed a long-distance partnership.

Their company, American Eagle Entertainment, takes collectible books off coffee tables and puts them on computers via interactive CD-ROMs.

Before launching the company, however, Bunte and Hallman had one obstacle to overcome.

"We knew that we wanted to work together," Hallman said, "but we also knew that we couldn't work well unless we had our families nearby."

The complication was that the men lived 2,500 miles apart: Bunte in Santa Monica, Hallman in Detroit.

But Federal Express, e-mail, FTP file transfers and the telephone made it possible for the two to give it a try.

Bunte brought to the cross-country endeavor an expertise in graphics design and copy-writing. He had spent five years with Kalmbach Publishing in Wisconsin, where he was the editor of two magazines about toys.

Hallman is also a graphics designer, but his particular expertise is the refining of images, a skill he acquired by producing catalogs for Lionel.

Bunte and Hallman began designing their first CD-ROM using mTropolis, the multimedia authoring package from mFactory in Burlingame, Calif. To pay the bills during this development phase, they contracted out their design services.

The partners chose as their first product a CD-ROM series titled "Toy Collection." "Vintage Automobiles" is the first release in that series, and, according to Bunte, points the way to publishing's future.

"You can look at the still shots and read about the toys," he said, "but you can also watch movies of the toys in action or spin a virtual-reality representation of a toy to see all sides of it."

Bunte and Hallman both say they had to adjust to working out of sight of each other.

"It was kind of weird at first," Bunte said. "We were together when we photographed the toys at the beginning of the project and again when we wrapped up the disk last December, but the rest of the time we've worked separately."

Hallman believes the rewards of their working arrangement more than compensate for the occasional inconvenience. "By working at home, where I was at least available to my family, I was able to put in more hours each week--hours that I wouldn't have spent in an office," he said.

The partners' plans include expanding their contract client base, finalizing their Web site (http://www.ameri-eagle.com) and publishing three more CD-ROMs in the "Toy Collection" series, as well as print companions to the discs.

Kate Dunn is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. She can be reached at katedunn@earthlink.net

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