Goals for 2012

In brief:

1. Finish DCR.

2. Website tweaks/overhaul/etc.

3. Get back up to speed on Transitional Voices.

Expanded:

1.A. 4.12 has been rendered and I have draft renders for 4.13. Draft as they were generated under rushed circumstances and may require either a significant amount of work or a fresh approach to make them acceptable.

1.B. While 4.12 has been ready for Photoshop ops for roughly a week, I haven’t – and won’t – have the time to work on it for awhile. Hopefully early this coming week, probably longer. 4.14 will require fresh CGI and I have other 3d modeling obligations to see to before I can start on that, so the “back end” of Chapter Four is going to take awhile.

1.C. The chapter five script is done. Transcribed, too. Several pages have layouts. I plan to have the script for this chapter fully developed before chapter four wraps so that production continues without a break. CG requirements are minimal, the panel count is relatively low (compared to Whitehouse, anyway), and it’s short. Bit of a Stephenson ending but avoids a lot of repetition – most of what isn’t in the script is filled in over the course of The Dualist.

I’d like to have DCR wrapped by June if possible.

2.A. While it’s tempting to apply the current state of web fu to the ATC site, if I hold off until after DCR wraps, my fu will be even stronger. I’d sooner do one overhaul than two.

2.B. Given that, any mutterings about possible changes now would be moot, as where my head will be in a few months and where it is at the moment will hopefully be two very different things.

I’ll probably stick with the current aesthetics – major aesthetic changes will hopefully be limited to improvements to the existing CSS.

3.A. TV.2 (Water) has been percolating in my head since 2008. I’d be lying if I said it was ready to fall out, but I do have a pretty good idea of what the chapter is going to look like and what kind of work it’s going to entail.

3.B. Hopefully my experience with DCR will pay off and Water will be a 28-36 page jaunt instead of a 40+ page production slog. We’ll see!

Item one – finishing DCR – is priority. With 32 pages left as of this writing, one of them rendered, another probably rendered, ten more laid out and the remaining 20 already existing in script form, and the fact that I managed 48 pages this year… it’s looking doable.

Eight years on 2.

16:08 <xeno> Heinlein’s rules for getting published: 1. Write it. 2. Finish it. 3. Send it out. 4. Keep sending it out until someone sends you a check.
16:09 * xeno errors out on 2
16:09 <xeno> and most of the time, 1

SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!

11:48 < solios> fagbot: spacebot?
11:48 < fagbot> SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!
11:48 < xeno> i love just letting that scene on for a while
11:48 < solios> 😀
11:48 < xeno> and watching him whizzing by
11:49 < xeno> Star.
11:49 < xeno> Star.
11:49 < xeno> Star.
11:49 < xeno> ‘Nother Star.
11:49 < solios> There’s another one!
11:49 < xeno> Grandma!. I’m in space.
11:49 < xeno> Getting bored of space…
11:49 < solios> Wanna go to earth.
11:49 < xeno> valve++
11:49 < solios> valve++
11:49 < solios> need to work something like that into TV
11:50 < solios> < thad> god DAMN this is BORING
11:50 < solios> < ornix> SPAAAAAAAAACE!
11:50 < solios> < thad> BORING.
11:50 < solios> < ornix> your mom.
11:50 < solios> or something
11:50 * solios very much wants to be back in TV production this time next year
11:54 < xeno> Panel one: [ship in the vasty black] speech line thingy / < thornix> SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!
11:55 < xeno> Panel two: [ship in the vasty black] DAY 2 speech line thingy / < thornix> OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGHEHEHEHEHEHEHE WE’RE IN SPACE!
11:55 < solios> panel three: (daedalus bridge, West covering his ears) < west> Make it stop. 😐
11:56 < xeno> Panel four: [ship in the vasty black] DAY 9 < thad> Getting bored of space. < ornix> SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-
11:56 < solios> XD
11:56 < xeno> Panel five: [ship interior, west’s bunk] *book over head* **groaning** < ornix> AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-
11:57 < xeno> Panel six: [ship in the vasty black] DAY 47 *gunshot* *gunshot* < ornix> AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!
11:58 < solios> I think you just cut TV production down considerably.
11:58 < solios> xeno++
11:58 < xeno> 😀

Words to live by.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Steve Jobs (1955-2011), 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

TD2E Metadata: Audited!

I’d planned to do a chapter a day like I’d more or less done with the DCR and TV audits, but the idea of that much tedium spread out over that much time didn’t sit well with me. I sucked it up and plowed through it in three work sessions – the original “test” chapter, two through Expulsion yesterday, then everything else this morning.

The major achievement is the removal of all links to the old version of the website – the book now has a solid, self-contained data structure for the first time in a couple of years. I’ve also pruned out a lot of dead links, removed a bunch of unnecessary links, updated the links I deemed necessary, did some editing and some culling. I also altered the formatting – prior to the audit, nearly every page of The Dualist had a Movable Type tag in the entry. This pulled in the formatting for the “first edition metadata” splitter with the notion of retaining some form of forward malleability.

I’ve also culled some (not all, but some) of the emo. My consistency in this respect made sense in the second edition commentary, but to see myself stuck in a loop on a few specific issues for years was a bit disturbing. Fortunately I’ve quit drinking (for the time being) and I’ve more or less got my diet sorted, so two of the major sources of whinging are currently moot.

I also removed a shitload of “woot” and “ph34r” and variations thereof. I didn’t get ’em all, but they have been culled from an incessant refrain to every so often.

There’s only one major thing left to do for The Dualist and Transitional Voices,* and that’s to create a hardcopy-scale file for each page. The “live” area is already the right size, mind you – they just need their gutters expanded. That’s a photoshop batch action, and that’s something I can do later.

Now that this bit of work is out of the way, the way is clear for some more work on the Universe (hah!) and the DCR.4 script.

My current goal for DCR is figuring out how to cram DCR.4 and DCR.5 into 50 pages or less. I’ve already cut the equivalent of an entire chapter from the story – now I need to figure out how to cram the last handful of scenes into a reasonable page count. I’d like to be on TV.2 this time next year, and I consider the script and this little bit of site maintenance to be steps in that direction.

* DCR is produced with the print-scale gutters. I use a photoshop action to crop and scale the page to web presentation, instead of simply dropping it to 600x900 like I've done with the color books. When TV resumes it'll be guttered and actioned like DCR.

TV.1 Metadata: Audited!

The metadata for Transitional Voices chapter one has been given a thorough once-over and is back online. Unlike DCR, there were a few pages that didn’t need fixes. Like DCR, there were a lot of links to fix or remove. Also some subtle editing and some images to transfer.

If yesterday and this morning have proved anything, it’s that I can comfortably bite off audits one chapter-sized chunk at a time. This bodes well for The Dualist – though it’s a different challenge with vastly different editing requirements, a couple of hours a day should still see it ground out and back online before August is out.

DCR Metadata: Audited!

The DCR metadata has been cleaned up and put back online. The work focused on chapter one and the first four pages of chapter two, and consisted primarily of link editing. Links to most old instances of The Dualist (back when it was ATC) have been fixed and in a few cases removed. A load of old dead links have been removed, though all of the old dead links to various PGHGoth-related nights and personalities have been retained. I also indulged in some minor editing and removed all links to images hosted on dcr.org and the old version of the ATC website.

By the time the metadata audit is complete, I should have that site isolated enough to finally delete it.

I’ve also added most of the Hemera crew to the cast section. The mass entry is missing one or two Addicaines, which I’ll generate at a later date.

All ATC data has been copied out of the CMS. TV and The Dualist are ready for auditing – TV will be next. I’ll likely do The Dualist in chunks and then apply the fix after all pages have been processed. That’s gonna be awhile – this bit of work (pulling over 500 entries and proofing just over 30 of them) has made my brain gooey, so I’m gonna do something else for a bit.

I need to edit a couple of pages of DCR.1 to bring them in line with standards established in DCR.3 – I’ll post links to the pages when I’ve finished the fixes.

Later : Make that page, singular. The cars in whitehouse -16- have been silhouetted. Whitehouse -27- gets a pass for now – the visible vehicles can pass for ’97-era and the main panel was hit with a filter. It looks nice, but my usual stencil approach won’t match without a good amount of rubber-stamping. I’ll probably fix it at some point down the road, but for today… I’ve done more than enough work. Time to shift gears!

The Traditional Between-Chapters Laundry List

Production of DCR.3 wrapped this weekend, clearing the way for me to Get Serious about DCR.4. Originally titled Seasons in the Abyss, now tentatively titled Diatribe, the chapter has a full outline and partial script and will need an extensive amount of development within the next month if I’m to shoot the images I’ll need for the opening at an appropriate time of year. I’m in a position to chew on this while getting work done on paying projects and wrapping up a few other things – script development isn’t nearly as onerous as page production, especially given the fact that it’s half done already.

When I tell writers that writing comics is the easy part, the writers who write frequently bristle and get pissy with me, whereas the writers who also work on the art side of a project have a tendency to agree. They’re different challenges – while they use different parts of the brain in different ways, there’s no disputing the fact that once something pops into your head, writing out a description takes a hell of a lot less time than drawing, modeling, photoshopping or otherwise rendering the image – especially if, as the writer, you know exactly what you want on the page.

This applies to the next chapter in spades. While script development has been relatively straight-forward, visually realizing what happens in chapter four is going to be one hell of a challenge. The beginning and end are straight-forward, chapter five is straight-forward, but the middle (the majority) of chapter four is something I’m still trying to wrap my head around from a feasibility standpoint. It’s some seriously major plot stuff, both for DCR and for the story as a whole, and I’ll need to be at the top of my game just to get the layouts right.

I don’t know how long the script will take – I’d like to shoe-horn it in over the course of the next month in addition to other obligations, and would like to have the critical assets modeled and page production under way by some point in October. I don’t want a repeat of DCR.3, where the cover goes up in November and I spend the next four months in an alcoholic haze. I want this thing to go cover to pages quickly, and I’d like production to be as regular as the latter two-thirds of DCR.3 was.

That said, there’s a few website-related details that need taken care of over the course of the next month, as well as some back-end bit-shifting. Here’s the list:

1. The Hemera crew needs to be added to the Cast page. I may split them into ICG and Addicaines, I may lump them into Heirotus, I may use this as an excuse to play with tags a bit further down the road. There’s a skeletal writeup already done – I just need to flesh it out and select headshots.

2. I need to audit the metadata. Technically I need to do it for all three books, but DCR and TV get priority, as between the two I’m looking at just under 80 pages that need to be proofed versus the 350-plus of The Dualist. Metadata for both books will be back online within the next couple of weeks. The Dualist will take longer – I’m currently thinking of it as a winter project, and I’m thinking on ways to re-jigger the CMS templates to hide/disable unaudited sections while rolling out the revised material.

3. As part of the audit I’ll be creating disk-side metadata files for each page. I’ve already done this for DCR.3, and for TD2E in bulk. In this case I’ll be extending it to all pages, and that’ll be part of an effort to get the file hierarchy for The Dualist reorganized – something I’ll be starting today or tomorrow. The original pages are in an original chapter directory that’s a sub-directory of each new chapter, and long story short that’s made it a bit disorienting to find color palettes and other reference material on short notice.

4. I’ve been threatening to edit and add to the glossary/Universe and refusing to actually do it for so long that this is effectively the list item that cried wolf. There’s a lot of work to be done, and there’s enough material on “paper” to justify spending some time at least editing the existing entries. While I doubt this will actually happen (beyond adding the Hemera crew), there’s always the possibility that it might actually get done at some point.

5. DCR.3 needs to be typornographed. Rather or not xeno will actually remember to do this is anybody’s guess.

One is happening soon, Two is happening soonish, and half of Three will be done today or tomorrow. The third item means nothing to readers, so it’s best to get it out of the way quickly. Five isn’t a xeno-only thing – if you find a typo, feel free to contact me or leave a comment!

So.

That’s the short term between-chapters plan. With a bit of luck and a lot of effort this stretch of downtime will be a short one, and I’ll be back on the stick before the year is out!

The Battle of Marathon

It’s been a couple of months since I blogged – fortunately, that time was spent on work and pages, then sobering up and producing a lot more pages. Drying out has made me a bit terse, here and elsewhere. Comic metadata has backed down from epic Giant Walls Of Text to the old fashioned A Few Relevant Paragraphs, Facebook is back to being nearly useless, and clicking on the hashtags I’ve been adding to the twitter updates has been like people-watching at the mall – a massive boost to my self esteem.

Sorta.

First thing in the morning I check IRC scrollback and email instead of razing facebook entries and wiping malformed tweets. My SMS log is no longer an embarassing mess and is starting to gather dust.

This is a very good thing.

Intellectually I’m aware that I need to get out and socialize a bit more. Emotionally, sobriety has dried out the plaintive reedy whine of “But I gotta meeeeeeet people!!!!” and replaced it with a cold crisp husk of Fuck That Noise. Week Six on the wagon and I’ll be going out again – hopefully I’ll have a better time of it tonight. My last outing was a social misfire but good for the chapter four script – I’ve made a couple of revisions to it since then and need to start filling in the gaps and tightening the screws.

At this point I don’t care who’s eyefucking me or shouldering me out of the way or yelling idiocy into my ear – clubs are no fun at all sober. They still put my head in a creative place that’s hard to find elsewhere, and the script needs that more than I need to not be listening to mouthbreathers bellow about Dat Ass.

That I’m doing this on walks, in the laundromat and sober is pretty awesome, honestly. While the entirety of DCR (and The Dualist) was outlined and developed as a DWI, this is the first block of script that’s made meaningful progress under the watchful gaze of a recovering liver. For chapter four to get rolling conveniently, I’ll need to further develop the script while working on the rest of chapter three. While only twelve pages remain, I expect them to take another six to eight weeks to produce, at best – several environments need to be modeled, rendering time needs to be tanked, work will be picking up and there’s a good chance I may wind up juggling multiple clients.

In other words, I’m coming up on a gear change and after 3.25 – which I plan to produce on the 10th – DCR will be dropping out of update supercruise for awhile. As per usual I’ll be working on the comic, just not updating it. The real change here is “working on the comic” actually means “working on the comic,” not “nursing a hangover and playing EVE.”

I’d like to hit 500 pages by the end of the year. Given that ATC is currently somewhere in the 470s you’d think this would be a slam dunk – if I can keep my shit together, hopefully it will be.

INCOMING!

The full environment for scene one of DCR.3 is done and running. 29 panels, 2-4 assembly renders and one main render for each, a predicted worst-case of three hours per main render and 3.5-4.5 total CG rendering and setup time for each panel… add in plenty of real life slosh and we’re looking at roughly a week to ten days to grind it all out. Dropping final gather and global illumination from 250 samples to 200 seems to have given this thing the kick it needs – the first panel of 3.05 is way bigger than the main render the last panel of 3.04 was built from and rendered in roughly 2/3 the time. While it’s still longer than I’d like, I’ll still be rendering a lot faster than I can draw, given that I can render while sleeping, render while editing video, render while showering…. render while I’m otherwise occupied.

Rendering is fire-and-forget. Actual page assembly – once the renders are plugged in – averages 6-8 hours, depending. My printer’s about out of ink and may make it through this scene – that’s the only potential production hiccup outside of my work schedule.

Renders are go, pages will follow – I aim to bust out at least one this weekend; we’ll see how quickly the rest follow.

The Snooze Button

Insert boilerplate "I'm not dead, I've been busy!" bit here.

The DCR script has been done for awhile – though I’ve recently revised the final scene to unfold more fluidly, and have revised the second major scene to implement some backstory continuity with Oiuja Bordello, a project I’m collaborating on with my friend Ben. I’ll be doing colors, shading, and digital bits for that comic – it’s a change in work methods, a challenge I’m rising to and a chance to work on a color comic – something I won’t be doing with ATC again until DCR is complete.

My preparation work for DCR.3 has been far more extensive than previous chapters – at this point I have a full typed script (my first), and 27 of the 36 pages have been laid out. The “prepared” portions bookend a scene I’ve been blocking on for awhile – while the dialogue is set, the demise of my digital camera last summer has left me without the readily available means to shoot the scene. I’ll have to be creative, and timely – the chapter takes place in August, so a late spring or early summer shoot would be optimal… which in turn means I can produce 12 pages of the chapter before hitting a wall.

Typically I finalize dialogue and do layouts on a scene-by-scene basis. This is the first time I’ve had more than 8-12 pages ready to start production on. I still need to do the initial 3d modeling and environment setup for the initial scene, a speed-bump that I’ve been stuck on for the past several weeks due to a combination of factors – both external and internal. Work is scratching my 3d itch – an itch that the comic used to have sole dibs on. The rest of my time has been split between working with Mike Schneider on some VFX shots, loose, messy development of ATC book one (which Ben has expressed interest in drawing, with the caveat that the story is tight enough to fit into a reasonable page count – roughly the size of a chapter of The Dualist, which is doable) and video games, which I’ve long since realized are more of an Avoidance mechanism than a means of entertainment (though Mass Effect 1 and 2 have fulfilled both roles admirably).

I’m maybe a week away from being able to start production of the first three pages, with an additional week to get set up for four through ten and another couple of days to prep resources for eleven and twelve. Environments need to be modeled (basic “sets” in the case of the first couple of pages, a more detailed workup for the rest), dummies need to be configured, props need to be created… that “week away” starts whenever I start grinding on assets. With a bit of luck and a lot of determination I could have the first page of the chapter up within the next two weeks, though at this point that’s a really loose estimate, and not a reliable one. At this point there are simply too many extra-comic variables to consider. That list could get shorter over time, though at this point it has the potential to explode into one hell of an exercise in time management.

Realistically, I’m thinking the first third of the chapter will be ground out over the spring, the second third during the summer, and the finale in the fall. While it’s a slower production pace than I’d like, that estimate considers the existing workload and resource restrictions – we’ll see what happens after I’ve transmuted the present inertia into something bigger than a blog post.

“Continuity” (I love TVTropes)

It occurs to me that this could be remedied with the addition of a line or two of dialogue.

Worth the effort? Probably – it depends on how much it gnaws on me between now and whenever I get DCR back into production.

20110304 : Changed one line of dialogue and effectively fixed the issue.

Finally, Synopses. And a new About!

(Synopses being the proper plural of Synopsis.)

I’ve been threatening “proper” chapter synopses for awhile – years in some cases. It took awhile, but my head finally hit the proper place and out they came. Now DCR, The Dualist, and Transitional Voices all have proper book, part, and chapter descriptions. They’re all on the terse side – some detailed, some vague, all done, and all accurate. I’ve also done a bit of cleanup of the production dates and page counts for The Dualist. Things look nicer, read smoother, and are generally more approachable, talking about plot instead of production for once.

I’ve also been working on a rewrite of the About page. When complete it will be an actual About – an overview of what you, the reader, are getting yourself into. I say “when,” as despite being very nearly complete, the text still has a couple of massive Sabrosa-sized holes in it. I’m blocked pretty hard on what it’ll take to fill them in, and I’m not posting the writeup until I’m happy with it.

As with all things comic related, I have no idea when that will actually happen. Given the completeness of the text, late January or early February seems reasonable.

Give ’em a read – if you spot any typos or other issues, comment on this post, email me, or message me on IRC!

Update, 20110203 : The rewritten About page is live. Woohoo!