Rendering trickery is part of the process for the digital, online graphic novel — The Lightstream Chronicles

Page 43

This week, two of the stars of our web comic, graphic novel continue chatting it up in the public security command center at Police HQ. I will let the conversation speak for itself and focus today’s comments on the challenge of rendering these control room scenes.

As I have stated before, everything is “shot” on location. That means that Kristin and Toei are on in virtual space, in a control room location, atop the same police headquarters featured on page 41 with a view of the built city of Hong Kong 2 that has been featured on pages previously. (The latest being chapter 2 prologue pages ix2-x2). Hence, when the camera is framing our cast the view is exactly what is “outside” the windows, or with them “in the room”. One would logically think, then, after all this “building” that it would be a simple matter of lighting and “shooting”. Alas, it’s not so simple. And the problem is focus. Using a real camera, in a situation like this would most likely yield a background out of focus so that we could capture crisp focus on our characters. Unfortunately, in Autodesk Maya, incorporating the rendering algorithms to calculate depth-of-field into all of these renderings would have increased rendering time astronomically, and probably not yielded a realistic look when it was all finished — if it ever finished.

I wanted the reflections in the glass to be fairly crisp, but the buildings that were far off in the distance to be more out-of-focus. All this required separate renderings. One for our subjects, another for the glass, and a third for the cityscape. Then the appropriate amount of blur was applied to each layer in Photoshop and composited into one single image with a believable depth-of-field. All part of the process of making The Lightstream Chronicles as engaging and visually interesting as possible.

A few of the layers that made up the first panel of page 43. There were more.


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Goodbye privacy, in 2159 it’s a surveillance state. At least there’s no humans watching.

The latest in the digital, online, graphic novel/web comic: Page 42

Last week we moved location from the Mong Kok district to high atop TopCity and the landing zone for Police Headquarters in what was once the Causeway Bay area overlooking the harbor. On the 275th floor of Police Headquarters is the citywide, public security, command center. From here, almost every square inch of interior and exterior space in the 560 square miles that is Hong Kong 2. Everything is monitored by synthetics and illegal behavior can be detected even within someone’s living quarters. To learn more about the mesh see this link. Most people have come to accept this knowing that only synthetics with artificial intelligence are able to view the most intimate aspects of their lives. That is, of course, unless it is illegal behavior and then it becomes accessible to human authorities for evaluation and action. Nevertheless, the incredible light show that is the “big board” in the command center at Police HQ is quite a visual treat and there we find two key characters in The Lightstream Chronicles story, Chief Science Officer, Kristin Broulliard, her right-hand “synthetic” Toei-N, Commander of Synthetic Police. While human presence is not required in the command center the two seem to be perfectly content just “hanging out” and surveying the multitude of feeds and data displays from thousands of collection sites around the city.

The “big board” in the police headquarters, public security command center.

This week we see some friendly banter between the two friends.  Kristin is lamenting the lack of excitement in her life, reducing her evenings to hanging out in the police command center and talking to a synth. Though the term “synth” can be used in a derogatory way, it can also be interpreted as affectionate slang. Synths make ups significant portion of society. Numbering in the millions throughout the world, they serve in civil service jobs, manufacturing, law enforcement, the military, domestic service,  and also for companionship. They are available in hundreds of different configurations and designs, from deliberately non-human to virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Some synthetics are so life-like that they are legally required to identify themselves and their “class” status upon before interacting with a human. A complex set of laws has been written and rewritten to accommodate these new designs providing rights and protections for both humans and synthetics.

Enjoy the conversation.

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It’s time to get the police involved. The latest episode from the digital online graphic novel, The Lightstream Chronicles

We begin a completely new scene and location this week as we shift up to TopCity.

This week I am moving back to single pages. In he past month, between chapter 1 and the official start of chapter 2, I posted 6 double page spreads with 17 renders. But, alas, I can’t keep that up forever. In today’s post, page 41, we move from the depths of DownTown to one of the highest spots in TopCity, namely Police Headquarters. The scene opens up with a view from the cockpit of a police shuttle on the approach path to the landing deck atop the police headquarters building. The rain has subsided but the remnants of clouds and mist still hover over the city.


Inside, we begin a conversation, though the participants are not yet identified.

Render notes:

The presence of palm trees may mislead us to think that we are really not that high up in TopCity, but as you can see from the latest update to the Hong Kong 2 cityscape on chapter 2 prologue page pix2-x2, many of the rooftops are populated with small palm forests — some of the last places in the city where there is greenery.

There have also been some tweaks to the website to lessen the clutter on the pages. Feel free to comment.

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The Lightstream Chronicles web comic, intro to chapter 2. Violence in the cyberpunk future.

For the last several weeks,

I have been serving up some seriously detailed double-pages culminating in this final 2-page introduction to chapter 2. Hopefully this season opener, pages 39-40 has been much anticipated and does not disappoint. Of course, at the end of chapter 1 Sean Colbert, frantically racing to the nearest shuttle to TopCity before curfew, was snatched—mid-stride— and hauled into a dark corner of DownTown. Confronted by an unknown assailant(s), Sean refused to cooperate. And then the violence started. This week we see that Sean was severely beaten and left in a puddle of rain and his own blood. Last week, in the final prologue pages to chapter 2, his body was discovered by a roving emergency drone that was patrolling the area. What exactly happened to Sean is forthcoming as chapter 2 unfolds.

Is this another act of random Downtown violence, or is it something more?
Is this another act of random Downtown violence, or is it something more?

Every page of The Lightstream Chronicles includes rather extreme details. The physical page size of a double-page spread is more than 80 inches across. As I encourage readers to zoom in and discover some of the fine points that I have taken such pains to weave in to the artwork, you can see Sean’s reflection in the lens of the emergency drone as well as the fine print of what’s going on in the “mind” of the drone. Since an ambulance was summoned immediately upon discovery of the body. the next thing that will happen is the emergency drone will try to determine whether the victim is dead or alive. The human chipset is located on the back of the neck. The drone will project optical beam and determine if there are vital signs being transmitted anywhere in the body. (You might remember another drone scanning Sean from page 26 in chapter 1).

This sets up one of the key mysteries of the story. Virtually every inch of DownTown and TopCity, including private living spaces, is visually accessible through the mesh. For your edification here is a definition of the mesh:

Mesh (The) – the massive proliferation of electronic image receivers, recorders, and active surface technology provides the ability to triangulate and decode a 3-dimensional image within virtually any modern environment. Using GPS coordinates any active technology produces a field which interprets the surrounding environment. Correlating data fields from multiple active technologies within contiguous environments creates a mesh, which generates a detailed 3-dimensional image of anything or anyone. There is no need for cameras or optical recording devices. The encryptions and addressing of millions of devices requires highly sophisticated decoding technology and is authorized for government use only. Because the resulting visual information has no regard for privacy, it is highly controversial. The government claims that mesh imagery of non-suspect activity is not collected. All mesh imagery, by law, is decoded and parsed using “impartial, non-judgmental” synthetic humans.

From an upcoming Glossary to The Lightstream Chronicles.

Welcome to the future.


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