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!

TV.2 in Pre-Production.

I’ve been noodling around with iterations of outlines for a few months now. Given the results of last night’s pre-Curiosity development session I think I can comfortably state that after four years on the shelf, Transitional Voices is back in development. The basic outline for the story hasn’t changed, and that’s made burning it down to the skeleton and rebuilding it from scratch less of a challenge.

While development is still hit and miss, most of what I generated last night I consider Good, and at least one bit is In The Script for sure. I plan to continue evolving the DCR development model – script, layouts, assets, production and thorough documentation. I also plan to finish DCR, make the DCR and Dualist continuity passes, and overhaul the site before production on TV resumes in earnest. Script development is GO and will continue to be GO until I’ve got something to work with. After four years off it’s less a question of where things are going (that hasn’t changed) and more a question of how to get there efficiently, while doing things that haven’t been done with the other two books.

I could probably crunch out a viable script for TV.2 in a week – it has been percolating for awhile. I don’t actually need that script for at least a couple of months, so for the time being wrapping up DCR is the priority.

Message ends!

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.

A History Of Violence.

17:22 < xeno> solios: whenever you link a webcomic you think is funny, it makes me realize why you don’t try to make funny webcomics 😛
17:23 < solios> ATC has exactly two bits of funny.
17:24 < solios> It’s not huge, it’s glorious.
17:24 < solios> Fine time to notice.
17:25 < xeno> solios: see?
17:25 < fagbot> uh…
17:25 < xeno> neither were what i was thinking of
17:25 < solios> \o/
17:25 < xeno> BLAM(hat) > *
17:25 < solios> and….?
17:25 < xeno> the other one
17:25 < solios> o_o
17:26 < solios> Breach. ?
17:26 < xeno> i’ve never read any DCR* 😛
17:26 < xeno> DCR != ATC
17:26 < xeno> DCR, ATC, TV
17:26 < xeno> see?
17:26 * fagbot poops.
17:26 < solios> waiting for the eleventeenth edit?
17:26 < solios> hah
17:27 < solios> actually it’s ATC == { DCR | The Dualist | TV } but yeah, I can see that.
17:27 < solios> eleven pages and an edit and if I make any more of DCR it’ll be because a prospective publisher reads the pitch document and says “draw those bits.”
17:27 < xeno> When thad gets the beat shit out of him by val
17:27 < xeno> and is like FUCK YEAH STICK
17:28 < solios> heh.
17:28 < solios> fagbot: doot ATC
17:28 < fagbot> I’m makin’ my own GRAVY!
17:28 < solios> 😡

* Which is awesome, as he’s technically the first-string typornographer.

Birthdanniversary!

ATC is nine today.

To celebrate, I’ve posted production pages 515 through 519 in one block, timestamped 16:20. In part because that’s when I hit “post” on all of them. In part because 4:20, dude.

That’s pages five hundred and fifteen through five hundred and nineteen, as opposed to DCR chapter five pages fifteen through nineteen. Those… are a few weeks (or months) away at this point.

Now… back to work!

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

CONCRETE INSPECTOR

Between chapters I typically think about doing some work on the website. Outside of page posting and near-permanent browser tab residence I never monkey with the thing otherwise. Presently, I’m planning a couple of minor updates to templates and whatnot before I get serious about DCR.5 pre-production. DCR.5 already has a script, has layouts, has several key assets created, and is generally chomping at the bit in ways that previous chapters never have. Downtime will be shorter than usual, and during that downtime I intend to accomplish the following:

1. Comments overhaul. The CAPTCHA thing that made the current commenting system work appears to have died in its sleep some time ago. The comment system will be upgraded to what dcr.org is presently using, as foreshadowed previously.

2. In line with that, once comments have been debugged to my satisfaction they will again be enabled on all three books as well as the blog. Some future version of the site may expand this to Universe.

3. “Tool tips” will be implemented for all graphical links. Main left column navigation and the previous/next bars – and possibly the book root menus as well. Book roots will probably get a bit of CSS love as well – a background color declaration on the graphics is long overdue.

So, that’s it. It’s a short list and I should be able to bang it out in short order. Possibly this weekend, definitely before the end of April. With the exception of transplanting comment logic this is all extremely trivial stuff – the real update-and-overhaul will take place between DCR.5 and Transitional Voices 2.

As with past website updates, the changes will be announced in a future blog post.

18:48 : Comments are GO!. Tool tips are NOT! Due to poor interface design choices during the 2010 site build and a total derp on what to do/say in the first test instance, work on the site is presently half done. I’m presently learning towards shelving them for the moment, and doing it up all Right And Proper after DCR.5 wraps.

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!

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

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.