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!

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.

Tightening the focus.

This weekend was enlightening, to say the least.

The trailer (which I’ve muttered about on IRC, in metadata and to various people in the meatsphere) is still a good idea, still something I want to do, and definitely not an August Project. For one thing, August is half over and I’m still working on the July workload. For another, holy shit on toast – while my hardware can barely handle 720p, my current disk capacity can handle, at most, twenty or thirty seconds of it. As for rendering… thirty minutes of setup, five hours of grind for a five second preview render that looks good aesthetically but falls way short in the animation department and I’m back to thinking Best Use Of Limited Time.

Right now, that ain’t it. Another six months of heavy grind on pages and I’ll definitely have something to talk about. Six pages from now, DCR will be done with transitional material and setting. All Plot, all the time. Three and a half chapters of it. Finally.

In light of that, I think production of actual pages needs to be the priority. After most of a year (or two years, depending on how you look at it) of shifting, splitting, multiplying, changing priorities… putting another distraction in front of the story seems like something I need to stop doing.

Like, now.

That said, any work or real solid decision-making on the DCR website is also A Distraction, at least at the moment. As such, DCR strips will post to the DCR site until the end of chapter two, which is a good time and place to shift gears – consolidating the comic projects onto the ATC site and retooling the DCR website as…. something else.

It also means “Advised To Clean”

July has been a busy month. It’s not over – not by a long shot. The workload that nuked comic production back into neutral will be bleeding over into August – how long that’ll last, I don’t know. With luck and proper planning, things will be getting thing again in a couple of weeks.

I’m Re-Jobbed, at least for the time being – I don’t know how stable it’ll be or how it’ll shape up in terms of workload, but for the time being it’s looking good. That’ll have positive benefits in the near and hopefully long term – in the immediate term, I still have a ton of freelance work to wrap up… and as soon as those projects are finalized and the clients are happy, I’ll be hacking out new business cards and doing some work on the DCR website.

What kind of work, I don’t yet know, exactly. An overhaul at the very least, potentially a total repurposing. Something involving less duplication of effort.

On a web-related note… there’s still a ton of work to do on the ATC site. Mostly in Universe, but comic chapter descriptions still need a rewrite, analytics is still being a goober, I’m cleared for ads I still need to figure out where to put, etc.

The DCR chapter two script is inching along – upcoming scenes are now on their third or fourth draft, the next few pages have been finalized and have layouts, and I’ve managed to get some plotting work done but nothing in terms of actual work. That comes later, after the bits in the previous paragraphs have been dealt with.

My love is stronger than most explosions.

16:48 < xeno> <- Wagner : Die Valkure
16:49 < xeno> solios: you need to learn flash animation and do a short of wangfish launching like rockets synched to ride of the valkyries.
16:49 < xeno> it would rule.
16:49 < solios> hah.
16:50 < xeno> with a silhouetted Val conducting
16:50 < xeno> a la fantasia
16:50 < solios> hah.
16:50 < xeno> or mst3k
16:50 < xeno> fagbot: doot my brainmeats.
16:50 < fagbot> 2.25 and a handjob
16:51 < xeno> pretty much
16:51 < xeno> except it’s more like .45
16:51 < xeno> solios: it would only need to be about 2.5m, because at that point Sven would be chasing her around with a straitjacket

I do need to learn some Flash, but not for that reason. And I *do* have an ATC video thing in the Serious Consideration pipeline. Bits of storyboards, some editing and CG ideas, but no time to work on it at the present.

If I can get my clone out of storage – or pull off some other form of time management miracle – then maybe I’ll be able to do something about that little project this month.

Further bulletins etc etc.

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.

Bedtime Stories

01:07 < dasunt> solios: Tell me a story where everything turns out right in the end.
01:07 < dasunt> And I’m happy.
01:07 < dasunt> And I don’t have to go to work in 5 hours.
01:08 < solios> dasunt: well…. 50,000 years ago, 7 entities destroyed the entire human race.
01:08 < solios> or rather, they tried to.
01:08 < solios> they missed.
01:08 < solios> then, plot happens!
01:08 < dasunt> Damnit!

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.

Rub a dub dub.

Over the past week or so:

The ATC data structure has been Organized. This means some Big Things – namely integrating DCR – and it also means a lot of little things. It’s a big deal for me in terms of navigating and backing up the project, it’s a necessary step between where things are and where I need them to be, it’s been a huge pain in the ass… and it has absolutely no bearing on the website or its contents. For the time being, anyway. The organization has had the following effects:

1. All panel renders have been converted from straight tiff to tiff with LZW compression. All – okay, probably most – panel file duplicates and panel CG file duplicates have been weeded out, and all panel-relevant CG data has been filed in the relevant page directory. This has cleaned up the CG source directories, added some size to the page directories, and through elimination and compression cut the project from ~270 gigs plus an additional ~18-20 gigs of Transitional Voices render data down to – at present – 253 gigs.

Which is slightly easier to back up.

2. TD1E has been integrated into the TD2E data structure. It’s cleaner and easier to navigate. Somewhat. That whole “chapter zero” thing still throws the math off when it comes to navigating on the fly.

3. Candy (a thing long-time readers may remember), Logos, tattoos, shirt decals, etc. have all been properly named, organized, and filed.

4. As has the CG. Which took an entire day, in part due to a weird networking glitch that caused XP64 to repeatedly BSOD – but also due to the task running in parallel with panel-related CG organization and mass LZW compression (which would have been unthinkable without a handy Photoshop droplet I took the time to debug). Everything that’s “done” has been properly organized and version-synced, some minor repairs to a few files were made, one file (the S-VHS deck) will need extensive work before I reuse it for anything other than parts, and most everything is “boxed up” and ready to move forward.

5. DCR templates have been “verified” and extensively reworked. DCR.1 page files have been {mostly} cleaned up, standardized, and prepared for the impending rewrite. DCR.2 has a temporary cover and the four complete pages of that chapter have been assembled and prepped for rewrite. The DCR.2 bits will go up when the new website – which I haven’t started on yet – is finished.

So.

The cleaning was a follow-on from the year spent “cleaning” The Dualist and TV, and has lead into the prep-work for DCR (which I’m now ready to start on).

I get that done, and I get the website done, I run a backup to DVD-R (instead of other hard drives), and I’ll finally be in a position to….

… well, to keep finishing stuff. Namely DCR.2. Still finishing? Boo. Making new stuff and actually progressing the story for the first time since 2008 to finish stuff? Yay!

Over the next few days, I’ll be concocting a hopefully-complete list of the CG objects I’ll need to build in order to get things moving again. Then I’ll deal with the website. Then modeling.

New art in March, with any luck!

The Dualist – covers complete.

See?

Very anime. Blame bda for liking the original-original cover, circa 2003.

All of the TD2E covers are art complete, but not formatting complete – that’ll happen when I get the book formatted for publication and squeeze out a test chapter or act. I really have no idea when that will happen – it’s a ton of work and not a very high priority at the moment. The book requires a lot of supplemental material for context – a big ole’ Shirow-style Appendix, the kind of thing that would be brewed from the website’s Cast and Lexicon and whatnot.

If this version of the site had a Cast page, Lexicon page, Shipyard, etceteras.

All bits missing from the current version of the site, all bits needed in some form for hardcopy, all bits that are planned for the next version of the website, all stuff that’ll be formatted into hardcopy after they’ve been banged out on the interweb.

The sv.2010 data structure and layout exist on paper – I haven’t done anything digital yet. I’ll fix that over the next few days, and start implementing stuff over the next couple of weeks.

The Dualist (second edition) web copy is as complete and as redone as it’s going to get for the time being – enjoy! Read! Find a typo!

Next up – belt-sanding as much of the bullshit as I can out of Dead City Radio : Whitehouse, then the new website, then content for that and DCR.2.

Fasten your seatbelts!

Subversion, Interstitial

Subversion and Interstitial have been re-covered and covered. Layout similarity is unintentional – I could have flipped Subversion, but really – I prefer the composition as-is.

Covering Interstitial is technically a retcon – more about the why of it in the page metadata.

Next up : the main cover!

Actually shower, dinner, bar, some work on DCR plot/script. Main cover work starts tomorrow.

impact impacting

Impact has been re-covered, and this repetition thing isn’t going to hold for Subversion, which I’ll be starting on either Wednesday or Thursday.

Health-wise, I’m in better shape – my present bit of ennui may be due more to my sleep schedule than anything else… and that’s about to get whacked upside the head. That should change things for the better!

descent; descending

Descent has been re-covered. Effectively finished at some point Saturday, it sat in RAM until a few minutes ago as a result of health issues – I’m still drained, still sick of being sick, but seem to be on the bounce-back. Slowly.

Will be moving on the c7 cover in a few minutes – I may be able to bust that out by tomorrow afternoon. If I don’t, then there’ll be a bit of a wait, as I’ll be offline for a couple of days. More on that when or after it happens.

< porkins> aaaaaaaallllmost there….

Motion, Motion

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, Motion has been re-covered.

Rather than rest on my laurels, I’m hauling ass – Descent is in test rendering as I write this. If the test works out, it’ll make Descent the only chapter cover to be re-interpreted for the new aspect ratio. I expect to have it done this weekend if everything goes smoothly – early to middle of next week if I hit the proverbial snags.

In other news, it’s 2010. Expect the new version of the website and a status determination on DCR and TV – and progress on one of ’em – within Q1.

Expulsion, Avatar

Expulsion has been covered. Real proper-like. More production info in the page metadata.

The Earth renders took longer than expected – four hours a pass, and I wound up redoing them thanks to the clouds being more at-issue than usual. Aeon was originally facing the other way – flipping it resulted in better lighting. It also matches the Expulsion intro scene and continues to obscure the ligature on the starboard side of the boat.

Usually, longass renders means time spent doing paperwork, surfing, and otherwise being fabulously unproductive. It used to mean drawing panels, but the CG backlog still needs to be knocked down before production is ready to resume. Sunday, thanks to my friend Martin, I was watching Avatar in 3d (in a high-end-but-not-IMAX theater) while one of those passes cranked out.

Avatar is the first movie of my adult life that’s lived up to the hype. Exceeded it, possibly – the 2d trailer, the 2d stills… 2d anything really doesn’t do this movie justice. After the years of hype leading up to the steaming turd that was The Phantom Menace, my heart hardened and my bullshit detector started spidering the upgrade tree like the Starcraft “AI.” That orgasm of hyper-hype made it easy to ignore The Matrix, its sequels, Lord of the Rings (and its relentless over-commercialization in DVD), and everything else that’s made lots of noise over the past decade.

That Star Trek was muddled fun, that District 9 was the best social satire since Robocop, that The Road puts the “bleak” in bleak… I could have watched any of those on a 19″ display and enjoyed them just as much. Not as big, and stereo-only, but ultimately… the same experience. The biggest home theater I’ve seen (Hi Greg!) isn’t big enough for Avatar.

I don’t know if Avatar is a “game-changer” or not – I don’t care. I’m more interested in the world. I want the Director’s Cut. I want to see it again.

This week, if possible.

In that respect, I suppose it is a game changer.

Eggs &

Incursion has been re-covered. Happy holiday, etc.

Also, perhaps more importantly, I have very solid ideas for the Expulsion and The Dualist covers. Lots of rendering, a good-sized chunk of line art… they’ll both look AWESUM and that leaves four more cover puzzles to solve.

Finishing work remains either ahead of schedule or has fallen far behind schedule, depending on how you look at it. I’ve drawn three covers this week, but I’ve only shopped one… and that cover had only one piece of art to go with it. A piece I had to draw twice, so I’m going to count it twice. Dammit.

The Expulsion set should have either no drawings, or integrated drawings – it’ll depend on the cover. The first of these should roll out at some point in the next couple of days.