Dopping was was (not was).

was

As detailed in the DCR changelog – xeno did a read and caught a few typos that slipped through my August editing pass.

No major alterations, fortunately!

Photo by xeno.

< mrs_xeno> Well jeeze, he didn’t need to tear it out and leave it on our porch…

DCR now 144, still 138 actual. Shiny!

atc_c_000_temp_Woot, woohoo, yay, etcetera and so forth. It’s not the final cover, but it’s done, it’s up, all of the necessary template rewiring has been done (I think!), and – most importantly! – for a temp cover, it looks pretty good!

I have a fairly good idea as to what I want for the “proper” cover – I just don’t have the time for it, and won’t for quite awhile. I also have plans to consult with a professional, so my plans could easily be scrapped and replaced with Awesome{r}.

Work complete, for the time being. Tomorrow? Back to work-work. Stuff’s building up on me, and while I’m relieved to have the site brought up to spec and to have DCR technically complete, ATC ate a lot more of the last week or so than I would have liked, and now I get to play catch-up.

Though before I start with that, I’m taking the rest of the night off. For once!

The next major update will hopefully be the launch of the “New Reader” section – the plan for that is mid to late September. In the meantime, enjoy the new site – and keep an eye out for Universe updates!

Alllmost there…

DCR 5.20 is up, which wraps production of DCR.5 and completes DCR as a story. Web-completes it, anyway – there’s a couple of scenes I’d like to do for hardcopy but given the urge to get Transitional Voices back into production as soon as possible it’s safe to say that DCR won’t get the same sort of “fleshing out” that added a considerable amount of production time to The Dualist.

DCR does need a cover, however. The other two books started with Book and Chapter One covers. DCR’s never had one – initially an artifact of the story beginning life as a comic strip, I decided at some point along the way that I’d start thinking about a cover when the thing was done.

And it is!

I still need to do an editing pass, mind you. But I’m doing some sort of cover thing first, and I’ll retcon it into place. I managed to wrap the story ahead of my August 31 deadline – hopefully I’ll be able to put the finishing touch on it before that day passes!

30 Days of Nights

I just finished primary assembly of pages 5.15 and 5.16. I penciled and inked them Sunday, cleaned the line art up yesterday, and spent a chunk of the afternoon on flat colors, assembly, and effects. I will be spending the rest of the day on non-comic stuff, and most of the rest of the week as well.

With the stated deadline of August 31 looming,* as of this writing six pages remain. Of these, two are ready for shading – so that’ll be four pages remaining by the end of this coming weekend. One of the four has been rendered and is ready for line art. Of the remaining three one has all necessary 3d assets and the other two require some modeling work to get into production.

In short, things are thing. While the situation is looking positive it’s far too early to declare victory – never underestimate the ability of a Democrat to lose an election, and never underestimate the ability of a deadline to slip into oblivion!

So. At least two pages this week or weekend. I hope. Then 5.17 ASAP, then the rest as time allows.

All told.

Postscript : The post title is a play on the franchise. It also indicates the time period in which work will likely take place, and how much time I have between now and the deadline – technically thirty-one days. Of nights. If I’m going to get this thing done I’m going to have to give up my wind-down period (roughly 3-5 am) to do it.

* A month is a good-sized chunk of time until you hit your late 20s. Get into your 30s and a month contains roughly the same amount of perceived time as a week of high school.

Go, but carefully. This pit is slow.

DCR.5 primary assets are 90% complete as of this writing. I still have some plot- and cover-critical assets to develop – these don’t otherwise appear until a few pages into the chapter, so I’ve taken the {!un}usual step of starting rendering work. At the moment, pages 5.01, 5.02 and 5.03 have been rendered and are ready for line art, and panel one of 5.04 is 89.3% of the way through the reference render. I don’t need the cover assets until 5.05, so there’ll be a natural production break after the renders for 5.04 have been generated.

I haven’t drawn any of the rendered pages yet – my head has been elsewhere with Work-work, I have other drawing obligations, and I’m mentally hung up on starting work on a chapter that doesn’t have a cover. So, what’s probably going to happen is this:

I’ll render 5.04, not work on the comic for a few days, prep the assets required for 5.05-5.17 and the cover, render the cover, then draw the cover and get it prepped while 5.05 through 5.whatever are rendering. Either the cover will go up and a few pages will follow in a batch allotment a few days or weeks after that, or the cover and the first batch of pages will hit all at once. I like working and posting in batches – drawing and processing a few pages in parallel makes much better use of my time, and as to posting them… I know there are a few readers who’d prefer regular updates, but I don’t live that kind of life and this isn’t that kind of comic. If I could clockwork it I would – as it stands, I’m uploading pages as soon as I consider them finished. I’d rather produce DCR.5 as four or five (probably six or eight) big updates as opposed to 20 individual page dumps.

So. Pages are in the pipeline, though it’ll be at least a week before any of them are ready to post. Probably two or three, as I want to get the cover done first and a couple of pages in the first batch are fairly complex.

All told!

Test Department

Spoiler-heavy screenshot of various DCR.5 development efforts below the fold. The environment geometry is pretty much done – I need to do some more work on textures and tweak the lights a bit more. Things are shaping up nicely. Time permitting, the environment and character reference props should be done within the next week, with production renders to follow.
Read More →

And for my next trick…

As I’ve mentioned previously, planning and pre-production for DCR.5 is well advanced. The script and layouts were finished months ago, all page files have been created, and several pages have been “framed” (initial panel layouts nailed down). I started prep-work on one of the major CG assets a couple of weeks ago and it’s nearly ready for primetime.

The majority of the chapter takes place in a single environment with fixed assets – this environment technically already exists, though like other key assets I’ll probably spend several hours (or days) updating it in order to make sure that it renders with minimal effort. As the source environment is roughly six years old I expect some degree of work to be necessary. DCR is a higher resolutio[Power blinked. First time MT’s spastic-by-default autosave has come in handy!]n than The Dualist, so there’s a good possibility that several support assets may prove insufficient.

I’m mentally budgeting two to three weeks for asset creation and updates – I’ll need just about everything the chapter requires to get the cover and first few pages out the door. Once assets have reached that point the major bottlenecks will be rendering and drawing.

So. DCR.5 is at roughly the same point as any previous scene of a chapter in production – the key difference is that with a couple of minor exceptions the scene is the chapter.

Cars, guns, paramilitary hardware – I should have it sorted and started at some point in May.

Big emphasis on hopefully. I’m presently working on two separate freelance contracts and am loosely attached to two more. Shoving Provision out the door has had a measurable impact on my ability to handle my paid workload, so to keep everyone happy (and to free up some time down the road), ATC will need to take a back seat to fulfilling contracts for the next several weeks.

On the upside, I’ve gone to rather a lot of effort to make DCR.5 the easiest-to-produce ATC installment to date, and that prep work should pay off handsomely over the course of the next few months.

< xeno> EXTRA POINTS FOR LOUD NOISY SLOBBERING

Leap Year Update!

Provision 15 and 16 are up. Worked a piece at a time, a few minutes here a few minutes there over the past couple of weeks. The past month if you include modeling and rendering time. I could have uploaded them a couple of days ago but I figured I’d wait for the 29th. Mark the occasion, etc.

Five more pages are ready for line art, and I’ll bust ’em out whenever I have the time. The last month or so has been nuts. Point of fact the reason the new pages are up now and not this afternoon or close to midnight tonight is thanks to a 9am meeting. My internal clock is currently a good fit for a 9-to-5 in Hawaii and the relevant time zone is in the other direction, so it’s either stretch it a couple of hours (my relative 2am, their actual 2pm) and get some less critical stuff done, or try to sleep and run the risk of missing out. I could have page time this weekend, I could have page time in August. I have no idea – even less of one than I usually do.

I have managed to get rather a lot of the hands-off bits taken care of, though. 22 2/3 pages of DCR left to render, 28 left to draw!

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 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.

Coping with the annual Holiday Madness

All of the missing DCR metadata has been added – an exercise in data management that’s given me focus and kept me sane for the past couple of hours. That’s the last bit of “paperwork” for the reworked books. There’s still a lot of work to do on the Universe, but as far as DCR, The Dualist and Transitional Voices go, well…. there’s nothing left to do but MOVE FORWARD! *

Happy holidays, etc.

The next step? Well, I’m thinking about making the blurbs less intrusive. Either a CSS-based “flipper” sort of thing, or fiddling with templates and “forking” the comic into two display versions – one that’s Just Pages and one that’s Pages With Blurbs. That’s the horns of the dilemma – there’s a hell of a lot of emo I’d love to eject, but the blurbs are also a production bible and blog of sorts – something I’d like to keep, but something I’d also like to sweep out of casual view. “Forking” the metadata into a separate page stream will be interesting for analytics, and in that respect it’s certainly worth trying. I’ll figure out what I’m going to do with that eventually – in the meantime, I need to figure out what I’m doing with the DCR website. That’s been a “priority” since late 2009 – put off until DCR.2 was completed, then put off some more while the DCR.3 script was hashed out and finalized.

Inertia. Gotta size that up and ambush the hell out of it in a dark alley – there’s a lot of little, easy things I can do with the site to help push things forward. At this point it’s largely a matter of figuring out how to put myself in a position where that impulse – that type of work – comes naturally.

That said, pulling the comment logic and “extended” entry bits from the comic pages would be fairly trivial – adding a template “fork” would be a bit more work. My initial tests are looking good, though there’s a CSS issue to sort and the question of which template the front page writeout will “grab.” Work will be progressed or completed when the Web Ninjas are available, after the holiday.

* Oh, and the book and chapter synopses. Still gotta do those… but I don’t associate a summary paragraph with page production, which is what I’m referring to above – all the pages have been combed over, all the associated metadata has been filed appropriately, everything’s been rewritten once or twice (or three or four times)…. page-wise, it’s all good to go. Finally. 😀

DCR.2 cover in full effect!

atc_c_200_cover_It took awhile, but there it is. The chapter story is solid enough that this can go up without causing undue head-scratching. Slightly more commentary in the page metadata, as per usual.

Stuck on the environment for the next scene – the geometry is something like 95% complete. I’m stuck on mapping and layouts – or rather, I’m not stuck on layouts, I still need to do most of them. Which influences the environment, which influences how crazy I get with the texturing. I’m not going to over-model or over-map this one, dammit!

I’m also not getting a lot of work done on it at the moment, due to a swath of external factors – some I can deal with, some I need to wait out, some I’d need to call in some voodoo favors to clear. Huzzah.

I’D RATHER BE SAILING

Look, a screenshot!

608_base

That’s a not-entirely-accurate-but-I’m-going-to-use-it-anyway floorplan for 608 – Casa De Whitehouse. After a couple of days spent dusting off the floorplan, refamiliarizing myself with the production toolchain, promising myself I’ll hate it less after I’ve reacclimated.. It’s GO TIME!11. Meaning, time to fill the apartment with stuff. Stuff like doors – with no future scenes planned for the bedroom or bathroom, the first item on the to-do (now that the apartment is all set for work) is sealing those off. Then it’s closet doors and the usual tchotchkes, starting with the few items that can be swiped from The Dualist and proceeding to more complex things, such as the couch, Whitehouse’s guitar, etc.

Time estimate : I have no idea. Soon, I hope. It’s going to be awhile before I can do anything new with EVE, so I’m making the best of it.

A couple of Studio apartments will be getting some love soon, but I don’t need them just yet – the order of operations is (basically) 608, parking lot, studio – with a strip as soon as 608 is useable. My development preference has been for TV space hardware – fortunately, that’s not really slowing anything down. Not that things could get much slower – getting over my CG mental block has been an epic* ordeal, so at this point I’m jumping on any inspiration that hits me. The days of trying to manage the idea flow are long past, at least lately – right now, I’ll take what I can get, apply my trademark Myopic Determination to what comes along, and hopefully get something done.

I’ll settle for moving. That screenshot is a tremor in the windsock – I’d like a typhoon, but I’ll settle for a breeze.

The story’s in good shape – I just gotta grind out the CG to get things moving again. That’s been the case for about two years, give or take – with the rewrites behind me, the whiskey evicted from the apartment, and my video game addiction at low ebb… well, hopefully it’ll be easier to get moving again than it was to get moving the first time.

Inertia’s a bitch.

* Epically boring, but still epic. And definitely an ordeal.

Signs of life.

I just posted a Squelch file from April of 2009 to the DCR website. If you read both sites and are of a mind to comment, this would be the place to do it – I still need a field test of the new comment capabilities and the usual hoard of test monkeys have been sucked into EVE.

When things are being thing again, I plan to update DCR strips, followed by full pages to the ATC site when they’re completed. Meaning if a page is a four strip stack (like they’ve all been so far), there’ll be one ATC update for every four DCR updates. If it’s a three strip stack, one every three, etc. Strips to DCR, pages to ATC. You get the idea.

With the exception of the new pages created for TD2E, the next new strip – the next new page – of DCR will mark the first time the story has progressed since July of 2008.

That’s a heady thought.

In other news, there’s sneeze on my monitor.

Finally. (?)

I just uploaded the DCR rewrite. it took awhile, but as of a few minutes ago, EVERYTHING has been Rewritten. All of The Dualist, the first chapter of Transitional Voices, the first chapter of DCR and the first four pages I’d completed of chapter two of said.

The comic hasn’t been this “ready to go” in years.

Next up – new version of the web site. Some time this month.

And I’m thinking (while I’m thinking)

And I think I think too much. If you’re in my age range, the rest of the Stone Temple Pilots lyrics are probably filling themselves in now. I don’t even know if that’s correct, and frankly I don’t care – I wish The X would get over its aggregate federally-mandated Bush and Smashing Pumpkins boner and play the half a dozen mind-90s radio tracks I actually liked.

When I was exploring CCR and The Animals and Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, my dad bristled. He “hates that shit,” he said, for good reason – he couldn’t get away from it then, and now? Now it’s all the classic rock stations play. A purgatory of a few dozen top forty rock tracks on endless shuffle.

Which has nothing to do with the ultimate subject of this post, that being DCR status as it relates to ATC production.

Here’s a simple fact: DCR.2 (“The Operative”) is heavily outlined, mostly scripted, and needs two or three major CG assets to proceed. It’ll need these assets for the rest of the story. DCR.2 already has four pages (16 strips) complete. These will be acceptable with a little bit of work on the writing to correct grammatical errors and such.

TV.2 (“Water”) has a firm outline but no actual script, and a CG to-do list that is, in a word, insane. There’s a TON of work to do to get the chapter ready, and almost all of it is one-off work. One-off for Transitional Voices, anyway. It’s stuff I could use later, and it’s stuff I can use for portfolio development (a high priority after immediate production goals are met, along with securing income, employment, etc), but between the shape of the script and the shape of the assets, well… DCR.2 would be ready for production even if I worked on DCR and TV assets in parallel.

DCR needs Whitehouse’s apartment (in some detail), Jesse’s apartment (skeletal), the outside of Gheny (for closeup balcony shots, and the parking lot for top-down shots at the end of this chapter), and the skeleton of an Aeon corridor. And a DCR.1 rewrite (THIRD EDITION!), but after a very quick skim that can be done in a day.

TV needs a finished Banshee (aerospace fighter), tweaks to Sabrosa textures, a section of sickbay, and part – or all – of the Daedalus bathroom. And that’s just for the first scene. From there it’s all new exterior stuff, but it’s complicated new exterior stuff.

Ultimately, after the current round of re-covering is done, after the website is done, it looks like I’ll be targeting DCR for production. The fact that the chapter has an almost-complete script and already has pages weighs favorably, given the amount of work required to get TV.2 into a similar state.

That leads to the puzzle of DCR formatting and layout, with a special emphasis on the DCR website. For the last several years it’s been a blog with an occasionally updated strip-format comic. These strips have been the “draft” form of DCR pages and in some cases bear little resemblance to the whitehouse that appears on the ATC website. The story can either continue in strip form (as, after a fashion, my “commentary” on other college newspaper comic strips), drafted in DCR.org and showing up here as full pages, or it can mutate into straight-up Full Pages, in which case, the ATC site is a more natural vehicle. What with being completely geared towards comic presentation and whatnot.

I plan to have the thinking on this done by the time the chapters and site rework are complete. At the moment it looks like production is going to be DCR assets, DCR.2 while TV.2 assets are generated, then TV.2. Then either DCR.3 or TV.3. However things develop, DCR.2 actually has pages – which puts it firmly in the “unfinished business” category. Unfinished Business is what the past eighteen months have been about – it would be foolish to keep the project on the back-burner at this point.

The Operative will be short – shorter than Whitehouse – and with four pages already done-for-art, it’s that much shorter. In terms of work left to do, anyway. 18-20 pages as strips, possibly 22-24 if I “expand” to pages or expand the strip format from 4x to 3x or even 2x.

Any way I cut it, regardless of the amount of time I spend on it, we’re not going to see anything in the way of new pages on any front until February or March at the earliest. Maybe January if I’m phenomenally lucky and accomplish everything that needs to be done to close out The Dualist, update the site, etc.

Another round of Thinking Out Loud, brought to you by Philosmatika, Garfield Artworks, and a clock radio that can’t let go of the 90s.