Well I have gone and done a very foolish thing: I started another comic. :o
"Sketchy" is very sketchy indeed, and was born late last night out of the fun I was having with this new fat line technique I started using for the storyboards, and of this urge I've had of late to have some way of doing really absurd adventures.
Sketchy aims at having a new crude comic for you every weekday--or, well, weekday evening, so for most of you it'll probably be more like Tues-Sat =p. You'll find it at sketchy.smbhax.com, and linked on the more comics by me page. Also, there is a little more blathering about what the heck I was thinking, and some icons, in the Sketchy discussion thread.
Got a batch of storyboards for episode 7 done today: 56 so far! A selection:
As you can clearly see, in this episode, Vero becomes Neo.
Okay, maybe not exactly. Zero-g would help if you were trying to do a good Neo impression, though! And actually it isn't zero-g, because even though being in orbit (which is where this takes place) gives the appearance of weightlessness, you're still under the gravitational influence of whatever you're orbiting, so there *is* gravity--but you're effectively weightless because you're in free-fall: orbit is kind of just falling in a circle!
Well isn't that fun. Should get the rest of the episode 7 storyboards doodled up tomorrow, so prepare for more messy sketches and incredible revelations!
Here's the final A* Christmas card (for 2009, anyway)--click for the large version in the gallery:
And there's a version without the "from A*" part, right here.
I hope you're all enjoying some holiday time, whether you're building your own Snow-Mars, or whatever!
Whipped up a new ad campaign over the weekend, using stuff from chapter 6. Hopefully these will last me through chapter 7, so I can concentrate on getting the new art done! :D I think they're a little punchier and even more relevant to the plot than previous banners, and also more rainbow sherbet-colored, which can only be a good thing, right?
They don't quite fit in the news column, but if you click this cropped montage you can see them in their full, individual glory on the icons page.
I also whipped up a rotator to display the four of them in random order on sites like my weekly comic, The Princess and the Giant. Speaking of which (was that a super lead-in or what???), I made a couple new vertical banners/bookmarks for the Princess recently, based on the past two pages--which you can get to by clicking on their banner versions below:
Ad-zooks! I still need to get ad spaces rolled out for my own site...gotta get to work on that later this week, really...but first I've got to generate over 100 storyboards for episode 7, so that I can start getting episode 7 comics to you, hopefully by Wednesday of this week. So I ought to have some of the more presentable storyboards from my first episode 7 batch to show you, later tonight!
I drew up some Christmas cards with A* characters and printed them out as inconveniently large, glossy 11x17" card gifts for a few people here in Seattle. Taking off the mushy personalized stuff and sizing them down a bit so the original recipients wouldn't feel stiffed that I'm releasing their Christmas gift to the world, here are two of them (click these smallish versions to get to the largish versions in the episode 6 gallery):
There are also blank versions--I mean they say "Merry Christmas" but leave out the "from A*" part so you can fill in your own words if you wanted to do something crazy like printing these out to give to someone--of both: blank Mick card, blank Vero/Selenis card.
Yay! I have one more card left to give away, after which I'll post the web version, which will probably happen on Monday. And I don't think it hurts to repeat: Merry Christmas!
Got the script for episode 7 written today. Should be a pretty exciting episode, with lots of action, the arrival of the long-awaited Captain Fizer, and some Vero/Selenis head games. Whee!
This episode marks the beginning of what'll be an acceleration of the storyline; in fact I had a surprise brainstorming session a few weeks ago, and came up with the full ending for Vero's story, which previously had existed to a large degree only in sort of nebulous and vague general plot ideas. Vero's story will go through chapter 10 (OMG spoilers!), at which point we'll be perfectly set up for the next story, which I think has the potential to be even cooler. So Vero has four chapters left to tell the rest of his story, and I am going to put the poor guy through ever-increasing stages of hell. Muwahaha! :D
So anyway, whereas it took him two episodes (1 and 2) to blow through a space station before, in episode 7 (OMG more spoilers) he'll do it in one. There's progress for you!
But I also want to accelerate things in a much simpler way, namely that of getting you the daily comics for each episode at a faster rate; since moving to the daily comic format, the episodes (5 and 6) have taken three months each to complete, and I would like to get that down closer to two months. I've been averaging about 2.5 daily comics per day, and I want to get that closer to 4 per day. Which means I just really have to concentrate on the drawing--and taking what I've learned about what works and what doesn't for the animation, so that I'm not wasting time drawing things that I won't actually use, or that won't be effective. I'm not sure how much more drawing I can get in on a daily basis than I have been, but we'll see. Hopefully this increased focus will mean at least a few more comics coming to you each week than you've been getting.
So there, how many webcomics tell you they're going to try to *increase* the number of comics you get per week? Doesn't happen very often that I've seen! (Hm maybe there's a reason for that... Nahhhh, I'm sure this'll work just dandy. =p)
And it is now 11:59 PM...
12:00 AM! Woohoo! Merry Christmas! Look for some A* Christmas cards this evening, probably at my usual very late hour. ;)
Oh! And I was going to leak you a fun line from the episode 7 script. Here goes:
"I don't want your thanks, Fizer. I want this over with and your men off my station before you start a goddamn riot."
Aaaand Happy Holidays!
Also in researching for this next episode I came across some interesting real-life stories about things like space-ship crashes, mold taking over a space station, and how fast you need to rotate a space station in order to get artificial gravity (and reasons why you might not want to rotate it that fast), all of which I posted at the beginning of the episode 7 forum thread.
The trailer is also up at Newgrounds (if you want to help it get more views, check it out there and give it a rating; you don't have to be registered at Newgrounds to vote!) and on deviantART.
I mentioned yesterday that I thought I'd have some A* Christmas cards for you on Christmas evening, and I got those drawn today, so they'll definitely be coming along that evening. I can't show them yet since I have personalized versions waiting to go to one lucky local person each (this is what passes for Christmas gifts from beginning webcomic artists, you know!), buuuut I suppose one tiny little icon-sized teaser couldn't hurt:
Ohh actually, come to think of it I probably won't be able to give that one away until the weekend, so I suppose I won't be able to show that one until Monday. But the other two should be in the clear by Christmas night!
Don't forget, tomorrow (Christmas Eve) as I'm writing the episode 7 script, I'll be sharing some details of upcoming storyline plans--not spoilers, but cool stuff nonetheless!
And a big thanks to SEPET for supporting this episode! You'll spot his name at the beginning of the episode's credits.
This isn't quite all for episode 6, as I still have to make an episode 6 trailer for Newgrounds and deviantART; I'll probably get that posted tomorrow.
On Thursday I'll be writing the episode 7 script, and I'll have some exciting things to share about the storyline as a whole.
Friday is Christmas, BUT I think I may have some goodies for you late in the day, namely sort of A* Christmas cards that I'm going to be drawing and printing up for folks here at home.
And then next week we'll start off with some episode 7 storyboard sketches!
So, lots of holiday plans here at A*. I hope you'll be checking in to see some of this stuff, but even if you don't, have yourself a gosh darn swell Christmas or whatever you call your what you're doing.
I'm pretty amazed that SEPET is still getting these done, because the Flash movie files are huge now and really beastly to work with! Even if you can't read Italian, though, his version is worth checking out because it's in Flash, rather than a movie processed from a Flash file, as my YouTube versions are--so his version is actually sharper than the official English-subtitled one! It is a bit of a hefty download--and split into two parts thanks to an annoying compiler bug in Flash--but hey, that's why there's broadband, right? So again thanks to SEPET and crew for doing all the hard work and hosting such large files; they are awesome.
If you ever need to find the link to his version in the future, it's listed below the English version on the A* episode 5 page.
Still working on lip-syncing today, so let's see, what else can I show you for the upcoming episode 6 movie...
Ah, I learned some new audio tricks this time around, including how to do muffled/spiked "radio" effects using, among other things, High Pass and Low Pass filters. Yay! So here are voice clips from guards two and three (the ill-fated Murphy is guard #1), coming through their little headset radios:
Oh and hey, my weekly comic, The Princess and the Giant, got a new page over the weekend as it usually does, so you can go check that out right here or via this handy-dandy little button/banner thingy:
Just processing the voices for episode 6 took all day yesterday (and some of today), so I've still got the lip-syncing to do, which will probably take me all the rest of today and some of Monday. After that is just the music, and then generating the actual movie file; those two together should take less than a day, soooo if nothing untoward occurs, I hope to have episode 6 playing before your peepers by late Tuesday.
Now that I've got the audio all nice and divvied up, dig some lines from the main characters. In fact, these three taken together kind of encapsulate the plot of the whole episode, so I'll blot out the name of one of them juuuuust in case you're a reader who's managed to come all this way without already having read episode 6 in the daily comics
--if that's you, and you've been trying to avoid knowing about the episode all this time because you want to experience it for the first time in movie form, then you DON'T want to listen to these files, because they're SPOILERS for the movie--
but if you already know the plot, then enjoy these first glimpses of the main character voices in episode 6!
Had a productive yesterday, finishing laying out the animation AND recording all the voices for the episode 6 movie. The animation for the episode weighs in at 202 MB in GIF format--nearly twice as much visual data as episode 5's 105 MB! Must've been all that animating gas. ;)
Today and probably part of tomorrow is going to be taken up by processing the recorded voices, placing them in the animation, and then lip-syncing mouths to the words. I don't have the lines really cleaned up and balanced yet, but here are a few rough cuts of new character voices:
Auri the bartender -- Came up with an actual voice for him without having to resort to an accent. There are Sal-like overtones in this particular line, but I think of Auri's voice as that of an aging swinger still flying high on the rose-tinted glory days of a decadent youth.
Almost at the end of putting the pre-sound animation together. Here's a rough preview of a bit I put together yesterday:
So I should be getting on to the sound later today, and keeping my neighbors up all night with funny voices.
I've only got one daily comic left for this episode, and I've gotta save that until the day the animated episode is done, so that means that we're going to have a day or two here where I don't have a new A* comic for you! I am super-good at planning! But I will have more fun things like animation clips or voice clips or something that I will make sure to post here in news articles each day.
Among other things, I gotta figure out what Auri's voice will be. Technically people around A* shouldn't have what we think of as regional Earth accents, due to how they got there (OMG spoilers), but I've found it hard to resist resorting to accents, both because they're fun (<3 Mick's drawl), and because I've only got my own fairly inflexible voice to work with, so I need to use every trick I can to differentiate the characters vocally. So maybe Auri will have an accent of some kind! We'll see what desperation drives me to.
I added "<< movie" text links to the episode list page, next to the movie buttons, just to make it even more obvious that there are movies here on A*! Scientists think that at some point I will reach maximum obviousness, at which point we'll reach perfect clarity and universal oneness. Om.
Hah well I didn't get anywhere near finishing getting the pre-sound animation assembled yesterday, but at least I'm through the atmosphere scenes and safely indoors, where the going should be a lot faster now. Here's a rough cut of one of the last gassy bits:
By my watch there's about four more hours left if you want to support A* episode 6 and get your name in the movie's credits.
Hopefully I'll have the movie done by the end of this week! Here are some rough previews of animation sections I worked through on Friday:
All that atmosphere takes a lotta animatin'!
And hey don't forget there was a new Princess and the Giant comic over the weekend! I made some new icons out of it and the previous week's strip; here they are as links to their respective strips, in backwards order:
I'm at the final animation stage for A* episode 6 now, so if you'd like to contribute to A*'s production and thus get your name and web site (if you've got one) forever emblazoned across the might episode 6 credit sequence, now's the time to channel a mere $5 through the big gold button on the support A* page, because the cut-off for getting in this episode's credits is this coming Monday, December the 14th!
In addition to being awesome and showing up in this episode's credits forever and ever, you will also have my undying thanks for supporting this little comic of mine. And even if you don't pony up a few bones for this episode, just the fact that you've visited the site to read this is it's own form of support, so thanks, you crazy reader you!
Ad rates on the web just about double in the big holiday ad blitz, but the stars have aligned for me this Christmas season or something, because, thanks to the massive generosity of others, A* has not just one but TWO free ads running this week! Yay!
First, a fine fellow known as Jelly Bean Sniper has been kind enough to host an A* ad in the ad rotation on his new comic, The Space Between. Thanks, JB! It appears in alternation with others at the bottom right corner of his comic, and looks like this (I also did up a Princess and the Giant one, not that he's running it but eh just for symmetry I guess =P):
Second, the fairly famous Fesworks of such projects as The Webcomic Beacon and his comic P.S.I. has kindly put an A* banner in rotation with others for a week on the Rampage Network forums. The Rampage Network hosts a bunch of fine comics which of course you should check out. Thanks for the free ad, Fesworks!
Today's comic is brought to you by my good friend, Photoshop's Smudge Tool, which I will proceed to exploit way too much, as I often do with my good friends. Yay friends!
I know it's a bitter time when I only upload one A* comic per day during this frenzied animating period at the end of each episode, but I almost forgot that I did put up a new -word- poem comic yesterday, sooo it's *almost* like two comics in a day, right? Sorta? The new poem thingy is called "RMHN," and the secret meaning of that acronym is revealed inside!
Speaking of the animating, it's pretty interesting this time around what with all the atmosphere's and gasses involved. For instance, remember the nebula swooping in on Pyrite, as seen in episode 6 dailies 10 and 11? Well, here it is animated (click-um the icon to get to the full version in the gallery--it's about a 5 MB animated GIF):
SPACE GOES 3D! Actually it's just panning layers in Photoshop. Still it's not a bad illusion, eh? It will be in the episode 6 movie along with a bunch of other neat stuff which I am about to get back to animating after I finish all today's news!
Finished the art so I'm starting on the episode 6 animation today, yay! This means that if you were thinking of supporting A* for this episode and thus getting your name and (if you like) web site emblazoned in the episode 6 movie credits for all eternity--eternity for a mere $5! Not a bad deal, right?--then get that in by the end of the day this coming Monday (which is December 14th). I really appreciate the support! You can get it done nice and easy and online via the gold button on the support A* page.
So as I animate I'm spending my not-so-carefully hoarded buffer of daily strips a measly one at a time! Whee here's today's...
You might have noticed the fancy movie button on the front page, below the comic! They're also on the revamped episode list, and you'll see them in the daily comic archives, if you're browsing through comics from an episode that has an animated version online. The idea is to make it obvious that there are A* movies, which was probably way too easy to overlook before when it was only text links pointing to the movie pages. The buttons are:
Thanks again to Beertycoon of Maskerman, whose feedback has been helpful in this regard.
That's someone speaking off-camera there, not Vero, which is why the subtitle is italicized. This is always much clearer in the animated version where the difference in voice (even with just me doing them) is the real tip-off to who's saying what. I try to keep the speaker on-screen with their mouth open most of the time to keep it clear, but you can't really do an "ominous shadow approaching" bit that way!
I made a bookmark-sized banner out of this weekend's "The Princess and the Giant" comic that came out pretty well I think. Maybe I could actually sell these as printed-out bookmarks some day, that would be keen. Anyway here 'tis:
Ohh also after getting some feedback and doing some more looking into webcomic ad layout schemes, I came up with a more streamlined ad layout for A*, which replaces my initially proposed bulky vertical side banners with a nice little row of button ads below the comic:
Better yes? Anyway the theory is that if you have multiple large ad spaces on the page, they're competing with each other for advertiser bids, whereas what you really want is one prime space that advertisers will fight each other to get, giving you a higher bid price on that one, and leaving less ad clutter on your page. Thanks to Johnny Lin of Orbit, Beertycoon of Maskerman, and Peter Vine of Hard-Graft for their helpful feedback on the layout issue.
I had to make most of a walk cycle for this one! In perspective! Gah! But fortunately it wasn't dramatically heavy--just getting Selenis off stage--so I could get away with making it tiny and silhouetted:
Best. Walk. Cycle. Ever! ;D
Next episode is going to have a fair amount of action and chasing, so I think I'm going to have to do at least one or two large-scale run cycles for that one. Ooh! I did come across a pretty decent six-frame side-view run cycle in Cowboy Bebop recently, though, so I'll probably just try to sort of imitate that one. It's still a long way off but these things prey on my mind. :o
Isn't that sweet? She's just a big softie after all.
Thanks to starschwar for pointing out that Selenis' look here was probably influenced by rocket girl from The Matrix Revolutions! I just can't get away from the Matrix world after all these years. I was thinking of other, larger similarities last night, too, such as the fact that, like the Matrix, I haven't told you exactly what year A* is set in. That will come along at some point, though--well, a rough estimate, anyway--but not any time soon I don't think.
Oh yeah, I think Selenis may also be starting to look a little like the character Sheva Alomar from Resident Evil 5 because I've been playing that game fairly obsessively lately since discovering Sheva's unlockable bow weapon. There's just something so right about shooting zombies with arrows.
Let's see, back to business... I'll be putting large versions of either this comic, or the next one (which is similar in look--omg spoilers) in the gallery, but I guess that'll have to wait for tomorrow, if I can resist that long.
Here we go with the daily comic stinginess so I can get ahead a little bit. :p I actually had to make a sort of walk cycle for this one, though! Sheesh, animation.
~~~~~~ Stealth update! See I have such a hard time holding the ahead work I'm trying to do back that I couldn't resist showing this little, tiny, wouldn't spoil anything, silhouette preview of the next daily comic:
(I usually draw the silhouettes first, then use them as a mask to fill in their surface detail.) Figures I'd finally sorta settle on the face/body look I wanted for Selenis at the *end* of the episode. Giving her that rifle seems to have helped... Maybe it's reminding me of someone I'm subconsciously using as a model. That butch chick from Aliens? Hm, no, it isn't quite her; hey anyway she had a smart gun, not a shotgun or rifle. Oh darn this is going to bug me now. :P
Here's a fun (well...) game you can play with silhouettes: which way is she facing there--toward or away? Oh wait I guess the shouldered rifle gives this one away. Darn. Which reminds me, I moved the rifle strap attachment point--don't tell anyone!
Bounty hunter and educator Selenis demonstrates the proper manner of equipping a Core Sys trooper rifle in a new piece in the gallery (click this small preview to get to the full version):
In the animation, she'll be shouldering the rifle, which she just got from the trooper killed, as she stands and says her lines.
Speaking of the animated version of the episode, I'm nearly done with the daily art, so I've gotta start doling the daily comics out at just one or two a day in order to build up a buffer that will keep you guys getting new comics each day while I'm animating all the artwork together. On the plus side, they might actually be a little more timely each day, rather than arriving really late at night as per my usual. ;)
Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi recently posted on his blog a pretty cool old interview in which Mel Blanc describes how he got the job as voice of the Looney Tunes cartoon characters, and how he came up their different voices. Pretty cool to hear. Anyway, in the interview, Mel also throws out the factoid that it took a Warner Bros. team of 125 people 9 months to make a 6 minute animated short. Sometimes I feel bad that it takes me nearly 2 months to make an ~ 6 minute A* episode, but heck, if it took 125 WB people 4.5 times as long to make one of theirs, I don't feel as bad about it! Boy, if I could only run a Mick-style cloning process and get 119 more of me, in theory we could be kicking out 2 A* new episodes per *day*.
In reality, of course, we would quickly kill each other off in a brutal fight for dominance.
Er, where was I? Oh! Episode 6 now has a couple 150x150 icons on the icons page:
What else... Ooh yeah! I know I promised a few weeks ago that I'd be inflicting ads on you guys soon, since my readership is now big enough for ads to start helping me pay some bills (thanks guys! :D), but here I find myself in the busy time of wrapping up an episode, and redoing all the site's page layouts to add ads will take some doing, so I'm gonna put that off until episode 6 is safely in the can.
I know, I know... You all *really* want those ads. =P Well, I did squeeze in a little layout experimentation this weekend, so you can see in this preview what their placement might look like
only they'll be other people's ad banners, not mine; they'll probably mostly be ads for other webcomics, but heck they could be for any kind of weird thing really. :o