I'm Zach Collier, from Austin, Texas, and I love making all sorts of things.
Thanks for checking out my portfolio of stuff I've made. Like anyone who has created cool things professionally, I'm unfortunately unable to share some of my favorites. Good news: I can still show you some of the things I made as personal projects or for clients or past employers who don't mind sharing. Here are a few you might like.
To check out my projects, either scroll down through all of them, or click/tap on an icon above to jump directly to a particular project.
Have any questions or comments about anything you see on here? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you!
Animated TV Commercial
I once made a TV commercial for the mobile app from a major university. I also worked on the first version of the app, and eventually helped lead the team building later releases. Small world.
95% of the content in the commercial is my own work, including the concept and most of the illustration. And I wrote, performed, and recorded the music using real instruments. Nice little riff, if I do say so myself.
This commercial played for several years on the Big Ten Network, as well as on the big screens in the university's basketball arena and football stadium.
Mobile App HTML5 Framework
I created a mobile app framework for building hybrid HTML5 PhoneGap/Cordova apps for iOS or Android. Apps built with this framework are, to some people, indistinguishable from pure native apps, including things like fast momentum scrolling, device features like GPS, compass, and photo uploading, and a clever (if I do say so myself) system for caching data for offline use without using HTML5 application cache.
One app in the App Store and Google Play using this framework is called "Bloomington Craft Beer Week". The coolest feature of the app is the "Craft Beer Compass" that directs users to their selected brewery or pub with a live updating compass arrow and distance measure. Check it out for free:
I'll post a link to GitHub soon to share the code with anyone interested.
After never being completely satisfied with available mass-production guitar designs, I began a project to design the perfect electric guitar for my own personal use.
I had several goals:
1. The guitar must look awesome.
2. The weight and balance must lend themselves to easy use on stage.
3. The electronics must sound good and the controls must work reliably.
4. Money must be saved where possible without sacrificing the end product and experience.
5. A green sparkle finish makes everything cooler, so use it.
The Thought Behind the Overall Design
I love the general Fender electric guitar aesthetic. I have owned several Fender guitars, and still own and play two. But none of them were ever quite perfect. I wanted to see just how close I could get to “perfect” without spending thousands of dollars at the Fender Custom Shop.
I have no complaints with most Fender neck designs, but none of the body shapes or control and pick guard layouts ever hit the sweet spot for me. This led me to start with a classic Fender Mustang neck, which has the 24-inch scale length I prefer and a great-looking headstock shape. Done deal.
For the electronics, however, I needed to take the custom route.
Most electric guitars come from the factory with more than one pickup (the electronic component which, through a few fun physics tricks, turns string vibrations into sound). These pickups usually use some combination of knobs and switches to modify their output and produce a wide variety of sounds. This makes a single guitar quite versatile.
In my experience, extra switches a knobs simply get in the way while playing a guitar on stage. And I found that I, personally, always found one setting for my instrument’s pickups that worked well for me, and I left it there forever.
My goal was to eliminate all switches and tone knobs. A master volume knob, however, could be quite useful, so that made it into the design.
I based all of the electronics around my favorite electric guitar pickup of all time: the original Seymour Duncan Hot Rails. I already used these pickups in two of my guitars, so I knew their capabilities well. And I also knew that a simpler signal path, completely bypassing any tone adjustment knobs, would provide a beautiful, biting sound that was just perfect for the type of music I was playing at the time.
I used a single Hot Rails through a volume knob. That’s it. Straight to the amp. No muffling tone knobs, and no switches to activate accidentally.
This is the part of the project where I could play around the most. I started with a big block of poplar wood, designed my own custom shape, and started cutting, routing, and carving. More details coming soon. It's a very 3D design, with a sort of pretzel-like effect with the upper and lower horns wrapping around on each other.
The bridge is cut from a chunk of aluminum, and the white plastic pickguard is made from the front of an old dishwasher. The odd shape of the pickguard was designed based on the pick scuff patterns on my other guitars, so on this design, my pick never hits the painted part of the body.
I've played this guitar live on stage and on recordings for years, and I always get questions from other players wondering where I "found" such a cool guitar.
iPhone Car Dock
Much like the guitar project mentioned here, when it came to iPhone car docks, nothing on the market suited my needs. This called for a completely custom design.
I built the dock out of steel, aluminum, plexiglass, and wood.
The dock connector on the bottom of the iPhone is adapted through a small circuit to output stereo audio and take in 5 volts DC for charging. The audio output is fed directly into my car stereo as a "faked" CD changer, allowing me to use my factory stereo (which is conveniently NOT of interest to car stereo thieves! Bonus.)
More details coming soon.
Games are awesome. So when my business partner and I founded Bento Mobility, we made one.
I had the idea for this game for a few years, with the core mechanic being borrowed from one of my favorite classic Atari games, Kaboom!, by the brilliant designer Larry Kaplan.
In our game, babies are falling from the sky and it's your job to catch them in the rolling baby buggy at the bottom of the screen. If you let the babies bounce and then catch them, they are worth twice as many points. Let them bounce twice and they're worth five times as much. Balance the risks and rewards, going for the highest score possible.
Top secret tip: Catch the elusive comet to blast off to the moon for tons of points!
We built the game using Corona SDK. My business partner wrote 99% of the code and I did all of the graphic and level design, and composed and recorded the soundtrack completely on GarageBand for iPad, just to see if it was possible (it totally was, by the way!) All of the on-screen instruments were played "by hand", tapping out drum beats and keyboard parts. No loops or samples were used. I'll gladly play any of these songs live on a piano the next time you see me in person!
Get the game from the App Store here.
Listen to the 22-song all original soundtrack on Bandcamp here.
I made this cool animation in Flash, and used Google's awesome Swiffy to convert it to HTML5 for your viewing pleasure. It's pretty large now that it's converted to HTML5 (1.6 MB), sorry! So wait a bit for it to load.
Try to find and click on the secrets. Find all ten!
Video Recorded with 4 iPhones
I worked with the Kuali Foundation as part of the team creating an open source mobile app framework, and at a conference I lead a presentation to build interest in the project.
Just for fun we set up three iPhones, in landscape orientation, on microphone stands converted into simple tripods, and a friend sat in the front row and followed me around the stage with her iPhone in portrait orientation. I later cut these four videos together, along with audio from the sound board and a stream of the slideshow, to make this video. Take a look.
It was my first time using Premiere Pro, so cut me some slack. Still, it was a fun project.