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A* Episode 11 
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Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:18 pm
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I'm looking around to see how close I can have a decently sized moon to a scenic ring system; I think it's unrealistic to have one inside a dense ring system--going by how Saturn's work, anyway: a large moon will disturb the ring too much, clearing out a large space with its gravity. Which is kind of too bad because a large moon plowing through rings would be kind of cool to draw. Ah well.

Saturn's moon Prometheus pulls material from rings

Image
image by NASA (source)

but it's a tiny 43 km radius moon, and even it clears a pretty big path most of the time.

Titan is a nice big moon--nearly twice as massive as our own--but much farther out than the primarily visible rings; for a body that large to be as close to the planet as the ring material, it would have to be orbiting really, really fast to resist the pull of gravity from the planet, and that would certainly perturb a huge amount of the ring material anyway.

Titan is pretty neat, though; the only moon we know of with a *dense* atmosphere. The atmosphere is mostly nitrogen, but there are lots of hydrocarbons, so that it actually rains methane into liquid methane seas! Methane in the upper atmosphere

Image
image by NASA (source)

is broken by sunlight into other things like ethane and acetylene, and the accumulation of these gases forms a strong "anti-greenhouse" effect, reflecting something like 90% of the sunlight back into space. So the haze over the planet is pretty thick, but if you use tricks, like looking at it in ultraviolet and infrared in this false-color image

Image
image by NASA (source)

you can see there are a lot of nifty surface features down there. That brighter area on the right is a plain of water ice about the size of Australia named Xanadu; to the left are darker areas thought to have been hydrocarbon seas in the past, although most of these are now concentrated around the northern pole as seen in this false color radar image:

Image
image by NASA (source)

But if you're at the right angle you can also see them reflecting sunlight back up through the atmosphere:

Image
image by NASA (source)

Cassini, the probe that took all those photos, also had a sister probe, Huygens, which dropped down to the surface of Titan, sending back data for about 90 minutes before expiring, including this simulated-color surface photo:

Image
image by NASA (source)

Huygens was another interesting demonstration of how things don't often go right, even in rocket science; Cassini/Huygens was a joint operation between the North American, European, and Italian space agencies (NASA/ESA/ISA), and it was found, by a test while the two were winging toward Saturn, that Cassini would not be able to receive data from Huygens once it was plunging through Titan's atmosphere, due to the increased Doppler shift from its difference in speed. So they actually had to change the planned drop trajectory of Huygens, but this worked, and Cassini was able to digest most of the data sent back.

Another problem was that the ESA forgot to send the command to Cassini that would turn the receiver meant to listen to one of Huygens' two data channels, so they missed some information, such as wind speed, and only got 350 pictures, rather than the planned 700.


Mon Oct 18, 2010 11:36 pm
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Got the research done and over half of the script for episode 11 written today, I think. Actually after much hand-wringing ("Why why won't science let me do this?") I realized that I'd already lit upon--or come to peace with--the same solution I settled on today, months ago. So at least it's nice that I agree with myself! It was good to get a little more in-depth on spaceship limitations, though. One particularly neat site I found today was Atomic Rockets, a rocket science site written specifically with an eye toward science fiction writers.

Keen stuff, and some of the equations and tables on their Space War: Weapons-Conventional page even confirmed that the plan I cooked up a while ago for this episode would produce a sufficiently large boom--I didn't know I was this good at estimating huge space detonations! I mean sure, we've set off a few nuclear explosions so far here in A*, knocked around an asteroid and some big ships a bit, but them's small potatoes compared to episode 11! See, this time, we're going after a whole darn planet. ;)

Also, I came across the name Geminga, a neutron star, or pulsar, specifically, in the direction of the constellation Gemini, and just a bit over 800 light years from Earth; that's relatively nearby, and it's thought that it might be the remnant of the supernova that blew the low-density "bubble" in the interstellar medium in which our solar system currently resides. Funky name! According to this page, "its name is both a contraction of 'Gemini gamma-ray source' and an expression in Milanese dialect meaning 'it's not there.'"

Oh and we need our traditional script line leak, don't we? See if you can guess who this is:

"R-really, sir, you've been listening to too many ghost stories. I'm sure it's someone much more mundane."


Tue Oct 19, 2010 9:11 am
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(I think I'm better at estimating than calculating, though, because when I was first trying the impact energy equation

impact energy in joules = 0.5 x mass in kg x (velocity in m/s)^2

I forgot to square the velocity! =P And I spent a while scratching my head in distress because my big clever massive planet-buster was only producing a mild earthquake.

Fortunately once you square it properly it's quite a bit stronger. :)


Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:47 am
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Dude, this is awesome stuff!

Can't wait for Ep11.


Also, isn't it frustrating how all these crazy scientific laws get in the way of good art?


Tue Oct 19, 2010 12:51 pm
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I think it is and it isn't. For me at least it helps to have limits that force you to think harder about your work; not only does that help me learn a lot more, but I think by forcing me to hone what I'm doing, working with a specific set of options, it ends up sharper than it might be in a situation where everything's wide open and I can do whatever I want. I think that particularly helps if you're dealing with a mystery/suspense type of story, or approach to a story, like I'm doing currently, because the more believable you can make things, the more you'll get people really thinking about what's going on, since they know the "rules" under which you're operating, and so can reason out for themselves what the possibilities are, and then have fun making their own predictions on how things will go. So hopefully I will have you guys trying to outguess me!


Tue Oct 19, 2010 5:57 pm
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Okay, think I've finished the script, so next I get to do...about twenty fewer storyboards than I had to do for episode 10, which was probably too long. :D In fact I'm fairly pleased with how concise the episode 11 script has ended up, considering that it summarizes about half a year (story time, I mean) of the story through to episode 10--not to mention an event or two that took place well before it began--and then covers something close to another two years after that. How's this for a general summary of Vero's story in a single line of dialogue, for instance?

"She had been tracking a shipper--Vero Plank--in connection with an advanced, clandestine Core Sys cloning project: a project that appeared to have some degree of access to Perriman's perfected cloning techniques."

Perriman's Perfected Cloning Techniques! Available only from A* and licensed resellers!

Ahem. Anyway, I don't want to give you the impression that there isn't any new action going on in this episode, because there's actually plenty! Covering two star systems and even a goodly bit of interstellar space! And oh, those corporations...

"It MUST have been one of the corporations. Only they could afford to be this devious. But why?"

But it isn't all just suspense and big speeches! Nope, there's the down and dirty, too:

"These are robots we're up against, men; don't make the mistake of thinking they'll accept surrender or escape."

Robots?! Whose idea was that? They always turn on mankind and cause trouble, don't they? Boy, maybe the high rollers cruising around near A* should have read more sci-fi.

Okay, that's probably more than enough dialogue leakage. Next day's update will have what will probably be the first of two batches of sample storyboards from the upcoming episode.


Wed Oct 20, 2010 11:27 am
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Eesh. Slow as molasses trying to get through storyboards today; I only got through about a quarter of them. ;| This probably means I won't be able to get to actual episode 11 pages until Monday.

I guess it was because I was trying to work out some tricky camera angles and lighting for the opening of the episode, because the character in these scenes isn't wearing clothes, yet I'm determined not to show nudity in A*! So that was a bit of a challenge. I guess I just make things difficult on myself on purpose, don't I.

And I can't even show you those scribbles that took so much time to work out, because I don't want to show you the main character of this next story yet! So...boy, I don't have much to show you for a day of work. Here's about all I can show you, and I'm not particularly excited about any of these as drawings in their own right:

Image

But at least we've learned that flip-flops are just the thing for icy moon bases around Saturn-like gas giants, eh? (And actually that flip-flop storyboard--the top one--is one of the many rejected sketches for that page; can't show you the winning version, too revealing ;P. The tricky part for that page was that I wanted to show the person both putting on their flibbops, AND going through a doorway--in the same picture. In the end (and after a good deal of hurting myself trying to act it out) I think I got it worked out, but it took a while. :P) Guhhh hopefully I'll make better progress tomorrow--I'd better!


Thu Oct 21, 2010 8:49 am
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e-pi-sode !
e-pi-sode !
e-pi-sode !
=@*


Thu Oct 21, 2010 9:31 pm
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Gaaahh I know I hate these little pauses! I'm tempted each time to say to heck with storyboarding, I'll just wing it, but then I remember that that would cause me big headaches down the line, like when I'd accidentally repeat the same shot during a conversation, or forget that somebody's supposed to be wearing a helmet...and more than likely I'd have more days where I'd only manage a single page because I'd waste a lot of time on layouts that just aren't working. Soooo... eh. Okay just gotta manage at least 50 boards today and I'll still be on track...


Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:06 am
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there's no substitute for quality !
=(A*) !


Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:04 am
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