1100 renderings (give or take)

Some notes on the ongoing production of my CG based, sci-fi, crime-thriller graphic novel: The Lightstream Chronicles

According to the script, there are somewhere between 212 and 230 pages of sequential art that needs to be created for the book to come to completion. At an average of 5 per page, the math tells me that there could be some 1,100 renderings that need to happen. More math: If I hope to complete it this year, that equates to 3.28 renderings per day. That would have to include post production; any Photoshop work that I need to do. But that’s just the rendering part of the project. There’s still dialog and page layout. I could probably do a more exact breakdown, but why bother? It’s huge.

While I acknowledge that this should plunge me into deep depression, I fully expect that some scenes will go more quickly than others. Scenes with dialog, without a lot of character movement and mostly “camera” work (I have several of these) are a “light-once-move-camera-shoot” proposition. I have been on enough live action shoots, however, to know that it’s not that easy. Sometimes lighting a close-up can take hours.

The most time consuming scenes are (and will be) the sweeping establishing shots, like flying over Hong Kong, Sean’s expansive synth lab, police headquarters, and the epic chase scene through the city.

Character Design

So far, all I have published is my character designs, which, so far, are pretty close to final though I have fully redesigned Sean and I have a first pass at Techman.

Sean Nakamura

I realize that, if you have followed the blog for the past year, you already know the basic story and you can glean some insight from the character descriptions that have been posted on DevArt and CGSociety, but even then, this name dropping doesn’t make much sense.

Scenes and proof of concept

For my 5th quarter thesis review, I have committed to completing an entire scene as proof of concept. Perhaps this will go online as a bit of an introduction. The scene I have chosen occurs early in the book where Sean Nakamura, the prodigy designer of synthetic, near-humans, is wrapping things up in his lab. The lab is one of those huge establishing shots that I was talking about and it starts out with a fly-over of Hong Kong with a zoom-in to through the windows of his penthouse laboratory at Almost Human Corporation (AHC). The strategy, thus far, is to build out as much of the lab as possible to focus in on the dialog.  The body of the scene takes place from pages 15 through 19. It would be great to add the big tension scene immediately thereafter on page 20 and 21, but this would require significantly more modeling, so it’s a long shot.

Conceivably, we could have these 7 pages by mid-to-late March. Snails pace. I know. It will get faster. Really.

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Back to design fiction

Strange that my last post was on the day Steve Jobs died. No relation, however. Part of the challenge in moving forward on the graphic novel is that this is also part of my thesis for my MFA. Hence, there are two parts, as I have blogged about before. The first part is the project itself. The second part is the scholarly work that gets me my degree, which will also authorize me to teach design. Without turning this into a lengthy excuse on why I have not blogged prior to this, suffice to say that between teaching and writing, visuals have taken something of a back seat.

New developments have occurred in the meantime. I have received word from Iridescent, the Journal of Design Research that my paper submitted last June has advanced to peer review. That surprised me. I guess it took so long that I had pretty much forgotten about it, and I think that a lot of papers that get submitted to these “Call for Papers” things sometimes go without a response at all. Of course, since June I have done a considerable amount of new writing on the subject and the whole idea of design fiction as it applies to my project. Clearly, at this point I’m seeing my effort at design fiction as both a work of fiction and a work of design, which definitely makes it a hybrid of that concept as defined by Sterling and Bleecker. Certainly, it makes it wildly ambitious, since it takes on many dimensions, including an interesting form of design research. I will elaborate on that in a different post.

As for the project, my thesis committee was pushing hard for more back-story. Imagine, asking questions like, “How did we get here?” I was considering this stuff possibly too tedious. Nevertheless, I think I have found some exciting new devices that can weave back-story into the body of the work without being boring. The fact is, I’ve done a lot of research into why and how the world got to the way I have depicted it in 2159 — why not weave it in?

Finally (for this post), I am staring down what they call 5th Quarter Review. This is the point in your thesis journey where you report to your committee on what the heck you are doing and show some work and progress. Theoretically, they can tell you to go back to the drawing board, or to look for some other career, or give you the thumbs up. In most cases, they tell you to make some additions and move forward. I have been staying in touch with them regularly and though we have had some bumps in the road, I think we are on the same page. My goal for 5QR is to have an entire scene from the book rendered, a couple of spreads of back-story and my thesis introduction, and outline complete. So, I will be busy this quarter, too.

Hopefully I will keep blogging throughout. Though I have plenty to talk about — no promises 🙂

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