Category Archives: Concept Art

Body Armor, and Kicking Butt in Hong Kong 2. The Lightstream Chronicles, online graphic novel continues.

“Director’s Commentary” p49

As Kristin Broulliard and Toei-N arrive at the waiting area for the intensive care regen unit on floor 212, it looks as though they might be a bit late. It looks like a cast of characters has already assembled. Col. Lee Chen is snapping orders at a couple of his elite enforcement droids, and there are a couple of folks in the background to whom we have not yet been introduced. Soon.

The question arises about body armor. As we noticed early in chapter one, Col. Chen wears his armor pretty much wherever he goes, but his reasons are different from the droids. Being a droid in DownTown can be a life threatening proposition. True, the droids need to look intimidating, but their armor is much needed protection. Killing or disabling synthetic, (aka droid) is not a capital offense, (which many believe to be discriminatory), but it carries stiff penalties and a mandatory, non-parolable prison term or erasure. As with any crime, however, criminals rarely plan on getting caught. Drive by shootings and snipers are fairly common, so the  armor comes in handy and protects the most critical operational functions of the droids, which are contained in the chest and head. In DownTown, whether you are human or synthetic police, there are sections where armor is strongly advised. Col. Chen has no fear when it comes to busting heads and kicking butt in DownTown. His elite droids have a nasty reputation and their sometimes brutal tactics, are rarely questioned by the New Asian government. As for why the colonel is wearing armor in TopCity, the answer is simple, he’s a badass.

Lee Chen and his armor.
Lee Chen and his armor.

For the record, when Col. Chen is in TopCity, he wears his white dress armor, when he’s in DownTown, it’s the more intimidating black version.

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The 22nd century medical center. A double-page feature and a new location for the digital, online, graphic novel.

Previously in The Lightstream Chronicles,

… Kristin and Toei received the report that another human was assaulted in DownTown. There have been a series of attacks where humans, primarily young males have been assaulted, “headjacked” and then killed, or dead on arrival; eleven in the last six months. None of these assaults were detected by the ultra-sophisticated surveillance “mesh” that supposedly protects Hong Kong 2 citizens.

Discovering that the latest victim was not only the renowned scientist and prodigy, Dr. Sean Colbert, but that he was still alive and  the step-son of the governor of Hong Kong province. This is big news and has obviously aroused the interest of Lee Chen, Colonel of Special Forces, Elite Corps Enforcement Unit. Lee’s elite corps of droids handle the heavy crimes. They are powerful, connected and operate with minimal government oversight. He also gets the job done. The recent spate of assaults are a thorn in his side and now that it has touched the family of the governor of Hong Kong, Lee is probably loosing patience.

Hence, Kristin and Toei make haste to the Prefectural Medical Center. They’re going to be interested in Sean’s condition. Aside from any other injuries, if he was “headjacked” like the other victims, he could be in a vegetative state, and mentally damaged beyond repair. Not all headjacking results in this but often, a random street “jacking” is not done under ideal conditions and the equipment could be cheap or even home made.

Pages 47 and 48

The way I designed this page, there is really no way to deliver it but as a two page spread. Not a lot of dialog here, but I’m hoping to set the mood of this eerie hospital setting. I imagined the opening scene at the medical center to be this massive white expanse, pristine and almost silent. The occasional synthetic voice calmly directs visitors throughout the space. Maybe there is some creepy, almost imperceptible 22nd century musak playing hauntingly from somewhere. On pages 47 and 48 we hear the hushed chime of the elevator and a disembodied, but remarkably soothing female voice introduces Kristin and Toei, far off in the distance, to the intensive care regen unit. As the panels continue we hear the echo of footsteps as our team approaches the waiting area.

Can't you hear the 22nd century muzak?
Can’t you hear the 22nd century muzak?

A few notes on the medicine of 2159

Medicine has eliminated nearly all forms of disease. Genetics has enabled zero-defect births and isolated the genes that cause aging. The aging gene can be switched on and off (usually in a human’s 2nd decade), through a simple medical procedure.

The wealthy can afford to have themselves replicated and stored as back up in the event of accident or overall wear and tear, Their consciousness can then uploaded into the replicated self. Though some contend that the soul is left behind in this process, many aspire to have this option.

Most organs can be grown in the laboratory for emergency replacement. Some humans, known as “agers” have decided not to have their aging genes modified, relying instead on technology and “original” genetics. Their life expectancy is usually only 150 years even after replacements.

Next week:

The waiting area, where Lee Chen is… waiting.

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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.

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

 

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“What have we here?” The drone makes a discovery. A cyberpunk webcomic update.

pxi2-pxii2

What have we here?

Before the Chapter 2 Prologue, we ended up with Sean being accosted in a DownTown alley (pages 37 – 38).

This week I offer up another gratuitous double-page spread. I consider these two pages to be the real prelude to the Season 2 opener since they literally feed into the Chapter 2 title page (39) and (40). In the shadows of the TopCity Spanner, a robotic  emergency surveillance drone zips through the rain soaked underbelly of society; DownTown, Hong Kong 2. On any given night these drones may encounter the casualties of being left out after curfew. As discussed in a previous blog (p31):

The criminal element in Downtown is robust, but the after hours street criminals are in another league entirely. These consist of roving gangs of synths who were twisted by local gang lords to rape and/or torture their victims while recording everything from the victim’s perspective; a process called head-jacking. A small device is clamped to the back of the neck directly over the victim’s chipset and the memories of the incident—complete with all five senses—are recorded. The experience is then sold on the black market. Depending on the quality of the device and trauma the victim is subjected to, if the victim survives the crime, headjacking can result in partial or total memory erasure, and in some cases, death.

Headjacking is a capital offense.

The drone might also encounter other emergencies: a chem overdose victim, the remains from a gang hit squad or even someone who didn’t make it inside before curfew — and they’re still alive. If they’re uninjured the drone would call in a synth sentinel to escort the lost soul to a holding cell until morning. Surviving a curfew violation is only slightly better than being a victim. The penalty for being out after curfew, is a cur-too, a tattoo. Three curfew tattoos and you can be sent to one of the penal colonies for an indeterminate time.

For the injured, a quick chip scan will identify you as being from DownTown or TopCity, whether you have a criminal record or just ended up chem’d out. If you’re from DownTown you’ll most likely end up in a clinic, TopCity residents get treated above the spanner.

 

Hmmm. What have we here?
Hmmm. What have we here?

 

 Next week

In The Lightstream Chronicles Season Opener (aka Chapter 2) next week, we get to see what the drone is looking at, though there are zoom opportunities in this weeks post to get a little more information. Is Sean dead or alive? And exactly how bad is it? This warning: there will be blood.

 

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Breathtaking Hong Kong Aerial View – Web Comic Prologue Continues

pix2-px2

If you only take a quick glance, you may mistake this prologue to chapter 2 spread, pix2-px2, as a repeat of the splash page that preceded chapter 1. So, don’t do that. Take a closer look. The cityscape is busier, more congested and populated with several new buildings. It’s also a bit more noir. As we progress through this cyberpunk future, I’m feeling that it’s all a bit too bright and chipper so I think the city will continue to change as the book progresses. It’s also more than just mood.  From the very beginning, Hong Kong was constructed using GPS data, satellite photography and Google® Maps. Since i’m trying to be as authentic to size and scale as possible, I wanted the view from the hospital, a key location in chapter 2, to be accurate. In other words, if we’re standing on top of the hospital and looking around, I want us to see the surrounding architecture as it actually exists in the story. But I didn’t really have a firm location for the hospital when the story began. Thus, when I placed the hospital, as a structure, where I wanted it in the cityscape, it became noticeably absent (to me) from the aerial view featured in chapter 1.

This kind of accuracy may not be necessary in the long run but when you look out a character’s office, or apartment I want the views to be true to their actual locations in the city.

As for the architecture, almost all of the high-rise structures in TopCity, the newest and most modern part of the city, had no precedent so their models had to be created from scratch. These were designed as taller versions of cutting edge 21st century buildings, with some inspiration from Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry. Some of these structures are 300 stories.

It should be noted that not all the buildings are 3D shells. Several, like the hospital, police headquarters, other places where characters work or live, were built to include detailed atriums, aircraft landing pads, restaurants, and bars, even though they may not actually have a part in the final story.

 

One of several changes to the Hong Kong skyline.
One of several changes to the Hong Kong skyline.

Other parts of the world were combinations of stock models, and customized 3D modifications. For scenes that take place in DownTown, a decaying version of the low-rise sprawl of 20th century Hong Kong, the distinctive look of Asian urban-architecture has a needed to be recreated. A few existing stock models were found that captured the basic essence of decaying Asian city dwellings.

The structure that spans the harbor is a bit of design fiction. The TopCity Spanner covers most of old Hong, and provides a clean break between TopCity and DownTown. The spanner is conceived to use high strength, lightweight, “programmable” materials that provide the ability to shift shape, organically to accommodate new growth. The Spanner became the new, affluent “street level,” towering 50 stories above the original streets of Hong Kong. The shadow of the spanner over old Hong Kong serves as a constant reminder to the inhabitants of DownTown of the gap between the wealthy and the poor.

There are a few more changes that I would like to make but you’ll have to wait until chapter 3 to see them.

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Futurist Context and More Backstory Highlight New Web Comic Content. The Lightstream Chronicles.

C2 prologue continues

As promised, the prologue to chapter 2 is a mix of backstory and context to provide a better sense of the world as it is in 2159. We can well imagine that so much as changed politically, socially, technologically — in every way — except perhaps for the human condition. For those of you who are looking for clues, you have to remember back to the early pages of chapter 1 when someone is positing a query with their AI system to piece together a chronology of recent events (which haven’t exactly revealed in their entirety, but then that’s why you’re reading). The AI is named Sevin, but we don’t know who the impatient questioner is; so impatient that Sevin is authorized to tap all the questioner’s memories and sort them out later. At the beginning of the prologue to chapter 2, Sevin announces it’s disappointment at not being able to figure out whether the memories are relevant or not and when exactly some of them may have been logged. Much of the prologue, through this week, is part of Sevin’s dilemma. But, it is great for us since it is providing us with additional, important texture to start the next chapter.

Herewith we have another morsel from the questioner’s memory. Location? Unknown. Access date? Unknown. Information? Probably important, at least for context. This week you get a four-page treat.

 pv2-vi2

This page is a room, possibly an office and definitely, based on the view, in TopCity.

 

pvii2-viii2

This scene shows an array of display interfaces accessed from the Lightstream (by now you should all know what the Lightstream is). One is an interview with author, historian, and philosopher Akihito Mori by talk show host Alvin Lee. Are these guys human, I wonder? And opposite their dialog is the beautiful and flirtatious Bylnn Maize interviewing the handsome, young Sean Colbert. Maybe they go out for coffee after.

 

Blynn Maize sizes up Sean Colbert.
Blynn Maize eyeballs Sean Colbert.

Next week:

The changing landscape of Hong Kong 2. New, improved and a bit more noir.

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Page 36 – Approaching the webcomic exciting season finale.

Page 36

Sean is in a bit of a jam. There’s two minutes to the “no-excuses” curfew. He just made it to the Magshuttle in what he thought would be plenty of time, but only to find that it is out of order, the next nearest shuttle is a big block away and, of course, it’s raining like hell. Let’s not forget that he’s carrying a mysterious bit of contraband, as well. Downtown is now deserted. If anyone has found themselves too far from home they have already ducked inside one of the all night bureaus, to sleep, disappear into the V or some other diversion.

With only two minutes Sean makes a run for it as the ubiquitous surveillance provided by mesh imaging throughout HK2 monitors his activity. Security surveillance may be the least of Sean’s worries, as panel three reveals someone else is watching Sean. Eyes glued to the treacherous, slippery pavement ahead of him, Sean jogs through the torrential downpour. As he passes an alleyway, arms shoot out and make a violent capture.

Production notes:

The last few pages were quite a technical challenge as I detailed in a previous post. It’s difficult to create the feel of a torrential downpour in cg. Everything about the scene changes because — everything is wet. There are lots of zoom opportunities on the last two pages. The surveillance image is nicely realistic, and the water on Sean’s face was a real trick. Though not entirely satisfied, I think it gets the point across. You can also spot a zooming air taxi in panel three and the feet of someone waiting in the alley in panel 4.

Next week’s season finale, the final spread of Chapter 1 will answer some questions on what happens to Sean, but also leaves many unanswered.

Next week: The season finale!
Next week: The season finale!
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Cyberpunk web comic and graphic novel | Page 34

Page 34

Let’s set the scene:

Techman and Sean have been chatting it up for the last 20 minutes and they’ve polished off the better part of a bottle of rare, original Asian pear brandy from the early 21st century. It’s safe, to assume they’re feeling the affects. According to Techman’s calculations on page 31 and if we tally up the time, it’s probably approaching 2250 hours and curfew is at 2300. If you’re caught in DownTown after curfew just about anything could happen and most of the options are not good.

As discussed on page 32, authentic alcohol exists, even in the future when when its simply a matter of tapping in the right molecular blueprint to “replicate” the booze of your choice, but most people skip the liquid and simply adjust their “chems” with a preloaded set of hormonal adjustments or “simstates” which are simulated states of whatever suits your fancy; inebriation, arousal, wellbeing, awareness, and just about any other state you can conjure up. The feeling of being drunk as a result of ingesting a quantity of real alcohol is less predictable and a bit more risky in a day and age where everything is pre-measured for pleasure. This is a totally new feeling for Sean.

At any rate he’s not slurring his speech yet and he can apparently walk a straight line. Techman has assured him that the MagShuttle is only a two minute walk from his place. If all goes well, Sean will be back in TopCity where there is no curfew, with a couple of minutes to spare.

The MagShuttle is just a two minute walk. Really.
The MagShuttle is just a two minute walk. Really.

What could possibly go wrong?

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Even cyberpunks can appreciate a little brandy.

Page 32

Last week we learned about headjacking. Nasty business. Today, its about brandy — much more agreeable topic.

This week we settle in as Techman produces the mysterious treat that he has asked Sean to stick around for. It turns out to be a bottle of 150 year old pear brandy. What’s unusual, (besides the age which means it was bottled in 2009) is that most 22nd century libations are replicated from molecular blueprints. If you want a bottle of 100 year old cabernet from the south of France, er, French New Asia – and you have the New Asia yuán, it is instantly dispensed from a beverage replicator. Purists claim that it’s just not the same as the real thing, so this bottle is pretty special. I chose a real brand here, Subarashii Kudamono which is real Asian Pear brandy that you can find in some states in the U.S. The fruit is grown here in the U.S. The name means “wonderful fruit,” and the pears are awesome. I designed the brand identity for this product, worked on the website and the packaging.

Real stuff. Click to enlarge.
Real stuff. Click to enlarge.

Panel 2

Sean, though he is 18 is a wee naive when it comes to partying so he’s a concerned that he might get drunk. Techman puts him at ease by reminding him that with the right sequence of  “taps” via his luminous implants, he can adjust his body chemistry to mitigate the buzz. (But why would he want to do that??)

Panel 3

There’s a free Chinese lesson in panel 3 as the duo toasts the equivalent of cheers, in the city’s native tongue.

 

Zoom opportunity:

Check out my cordial glasses that I designed a few years back but could never find anyone to produce them. More here.

Cheers. Or should I say 干?

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Inside Techman’s cyberpunk workshop. Comments on The Lightstream Chronicles web comic.

 Page 30

Thanks. You’ve made it to page 30. Now that we are inside Techman’s workshop you’ll probably find some interesting things to look at. Since one of T-Man’s income sources is antique 21st century electronics, this was my opportunity to douse the scene with lots of props, from phones, to cameras, Macintosh computers, headphones, copy machines and more. Yes, that is a 17″ MacBook Pro, (already an antique). I have also thrown in some 22nd century technology as well. Hopefully, you are downloading images from the web comic page and you have used the zoom tool to it’s full capacity on page 29 because there’s lots to look at there as well.

We also get the opportunity to see why Sean made the trip to DownTown in the first place. The “implant” and “thumb chiller” were interesting projects to work on.

Of course it's a liquid circuit.
Of course it’s a liquid circuit.

The tiny anodized chiller can be opened telepathically and the data is in liquid form, so it has to stay cool until it is implanted. At this point, the significance of this liquid circuit is unknown. If you zoom-in on the final panel, you’ll see a scrolling hologram that serves as the serial number for the little guy.

 

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