Tag Archives: illustration

The long litany of new and improved.

Artifact from the future.

Ed. note: I define an artifact from the future as something you might bring back as evidence that you were there. A sort of proof of what it is and what is there. Think Rod Taylor and the flower from The Time Machine.

 

Closing excerpts from a journal found in 2101.

I was born on this day in 1990. Somehow it seems as though my 111th birthday would be more auspicious, more cherished, more celebratory. They tell me I can live forever if I want. But the question that burns into my brain is, “Why?” What is left? What is there here that I should look forward too?

When I was a boy, before the surge, I remember  looking forward to going to the ocean. The trip couldn’t come soon enough and the days seemed like years until finally we would go. We would drive in a car, my parents and I, and I would stand there with my feet in the wet sand and feel the warm water lap at my toes. Perhaps it was the waiting that made it all so meaningful. We don’t wait anymore. We don’t have to. If I want the ocean to circle around my ankles and feel my feet sink into the soft, supple sand, I have only to plug-in. I can smell it, feel it, hear it, and see it. If I want, I can even dip my finger into the water and experience that unmistakably  intense saltiness. When I’m ready to come back, I simply unplug. I think that it is the ocean, but I know that it is not. I don’t have to wait for it.

Already I’ve had 3 organ replacements, grown from my own DNA, I’ve spent thousands upon thousands of hours in the V; the virtual world we have created out of our own fantasies, dreams and perversions. Nothing is real there, and there is no waiting. The crimes I have committed there are harmless they tell me, even therapeutic. It keeps us docile in the real world. But I think there is damage. I know there is.  It goes beyond the virtual. It wreaks havoc in my soul. People don’t believe in souls anymore. They don’t have to. If you never die, what’s the difference?

My avatar tells me that death is the final frontier the one thing you can’t experience in the V.

Soon I will know for certain. Here is my plan: It’s difficult to gain access to the mag train tunnel, but I’ve found a way in. They say that when a mag train hits you at 700 miles an hour you vaporize. I kind of like the thought of that.

There’s really no one to say goodbye to. If anyone wishes to pursue the vapor trail to me, my memories and persona are in the vault at the IABank on Prosser Strasse. My account number is #459LK077JE28977. If anyone wants to know.

Good luck with all this.

Alphonse

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In the future, synthetic humans are as common as automobiles today.

Don’t lie, wouldn’t it be fun to kick the tires?

In a previous blog, I posted a rambling essay on roboethics and the misuse of synths. However, in the world of The Lightstream Chronicles, most synths are used well within the limits of the law and those like Marie and Toei are almost ubiquitous. As we can see in page 79, Lee Chen’s houseboy is a synth, and a masseuse. People in the 22nd century look at synths the way people in the 21st century looked at cars. The wealthier you are the more likely you are to have more than one synth and probably more sophisticated in their design and feature set. Those in the lower income brackets might have an older or more basic model. You might even find those who are strapped for New Asia credits to be doing their own synth repairs and cobbling together parts from scrap or other models.

The average future family has one synth, like Marie, usually a domestic who doubles as a nanny, cooks cleans, and handles a variety of household chores. The price for a domestic synth varies based upon what the unit is capable of doing. Slightly analogous to the smart phone of the 21st century, the feature set of a synth can be augmented or uploaded with apps, called scripps, that could include features such as language proficiency, and levels of expertise such as in medicine or music. Scripps are moderately priced, but based on the model there are limitations to scripp memory. Special functions such as sex organs are another optional feature.

There is also a booming business in synth companions. At the top of the line are recent improvements on nearly human characteristics such as those present in Keiji-T. Keiji’s T-Class designation is, of course, reserved for the police force, however the domestic counterpart would be an H-Class. This class of synth can also be modeled to a near-exact visual duplicate grown from its owners DNA.

Synths can also be built to resemble any species or even combination of species. Nearly half of all domestic pets are synthetic. Popular cross-species varieties are Homo sapiens crossed with Canis Lupus Familiaris, Reptilia, Felidae, Ursidae, and Delphinidae. Many of these blends can also be done in the lab combining human DNA though the variations are considerably fewer.

 

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Web Comic Comments on the Cyberpunk Future

As many a CG artist will tell you, finding something productive to do between renders can be a real challenge. I’ve manage to submit an article to a magazine and an abstract for a conference in Berlin this summer, but that seemed too go awfully fast. To make the time a bit more productive, I have been immersing myself in the world of cyberpunk, via Tumblr. I’ve managed to post and research quite a few images, and there seems to be no end to the creative visions of whoever my fellow Tumblr’s are. The hashtags are pretty consistent: #dystopia, #cyberpunk, #urban, #urban decay, #architecture, #futuristic, #transhuman, #sci-fi, #science fiction, #tech, #cyborg, #android, #crime thriller, #design fiction. But the well is very deep. If you are interested in seeing what I’ve compiled thus far stop on over to The Chrons.

Page 27

Need some cheap replacement retinas, a refurb on your artificial skin, a 50 finger massage, virtual, synthetic, or any other kind of sex you can imagine (or would rather not)? You’ve come to the right place: DownTown, Hong Kong 2, in the Mong Kok sector. Sean has arrived as of last week, his location logged by cyber-surveillance, and in panel 1, he has just crossed the street where he encounters throngs of people (using the term loosely) as well as all of the diversions DownTown has to offer. Sometimes I wish this really was a movie instead of still images, because in panel 1 the woman to the left of Sean has programmable skin that shows live action video of… whatever.

The 50 Fingers Massage Parlor. Therapeutic.

But Sean is on a mission and in panel 2, “A few minutes later” he has walked to a less crowded alleyway. Sean is a bit of a fish out of water here and the locals know it. A street urchin goads his friend to hit on the guy who looks like he’s from TopCity. Maybe the boots are a dead giveaway; too clean.

In panel 3, Sean has arrived a his destination, an antique electronics store that looks like it has all the most popular antique brand names from the 20th century (zoom opportunity).

What or who awaits him?

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Cyberpunk Web Comic New Post Page 26

Page 26 commentary

This is another one of my favorite pages. Sean has just emerged from the MagShuttle that descended the more than 300 floors to DownTown Mong Kok. There’s lots going on with this page but I have not spelled it out hoping that you will download and zoom in to the high resolution image. I’ve discussed the mesh in previous commentaries, so you already know that the New Asia government prides itself on knowing where everyone and what they are doing at any moment. In the year 2159 just say, “Goodbye privacy.” The only consolation is that most of the visual record of your life is monitored by dispassionate synthetics or biocomputers that aren’t voyeurs and they don’t make personal judgements. That is, unless they determine that you are breaking one of the laws of the New Asia Protocols. Risky business.

In panel 1 Sean is being scanned by a Hong Kong Police surveillance drone TS-1. If you don’t speak Chinese, these signs highlight the fact that this section of town specializes in buying and selling experiences – some legal, some not.

The TS-1 surveillance drone.
The TS-1 surveillance drone.

The drone in panel 2 captures both a visual of Sean and his identity data stored on the chipset that you are implanted with at birth that lives at the base of your cerebellum. This chipset is continually updated throughout your life with memories, emotions and experiences. The resulting readout gives a complete dossier on young Sean, but there is some data missing.

Even computers in the 22nd century have glitches.

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A CG Web Comic for the Thinking Man or Woman

The original intent of The Lightstream Chronicles was a tasty coffee table, hard-bound book with slick, varnished black pages and a sweet linen cover with LSC emblem embossed in silver foil. Sounds cool, huh? Well, if you have been following the story, the blog, or the web site, then you know that that idea died a painful death on Kickstarter some months ago. I did a full diagnosis on that in a previous post, but now that I am several weeks into what has become The Lightstream Chronicles Web Comic I’m thinking that digital is not so bad after all.

fingerSSaSM-480

 

There are a couple of reasons for this change of heart:

Experiencing The Lightstream Chronicles has two foci, one for the reader-observer and one for the designer. For the designer, the experience of creating the story, the research, scriptwriting, planning, design, and production become processes of continuous challenge. Each embodies design in different ways from the not so familiar means of writing fiction and dialog, to the more familiar methods of visual thinking, planning, prototyping, rendering, retouching, selection and layout. These, however, could all be grouped into the category of doing, which are valuable exercises in polishing the craft of a visual designer. A less visible benefit of the design fiction process is accessible only if the designer embraces the intentional act of questioning and reflection. The fabrication or visualization of realistic diegetic prototypes can play a major role in suspending disbelief about change and the plausibility of near and distant futures, but at this level, they are little more than contextual support for more believable stories.

A 24 percent version of a full page spread. For the full res version visit: http://thelightstreamchronicles.com/WebComic.html
Click on this and you get a 24 percent version of a full page spread. For the full res version visit the site link above.

 

In order for diegetic prototypes and artifacts from the future to provide the subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) commentary on the artifacts in use today and the interconnectedness of design and culture, the designer must ask, “What if?“ And the question does not concern the, “if ” of whether the artifact could be made, it asks what would happen if it actually was made, and subsequently used. It is this inquiry, that yields the story of human interaction, and the resulting behavioral and or social changes that occur. The experience of the designer then, can be twofold: as hypothesizing visualizer of future artifacts, adjunct to a believable tale, or thought leader who welds artifacts with human behavior in the form of narrative to provoke discussion and debate.

The latter was the intention of this thesis and project. It yielded and continues to yield an experience that drives reflection into the end-result of design and technology. Indeed, if in the storytelling, the audience of science fiction and its design sub-genre stops with the satisfying act of consumption, a strong element of the meal is left on the table. Such design fiction is intentionally made and should be similarly examined. Through reflection, these future artifacts provide form of social introspection and a way of slowing (at least long enough to converse and examine) the headlong pursuit of more, because we can. Therein the designer’s experience is enhanced through a far deeper examination of the process of design, and it’s consequences.

The second focus is deals with the zoom tool in the hands of the viewer. For the audience, in many ways, The Lightstream Chronicles is an interactive graphic novel. Though it is not built with sophisticated programming that incorporates motion and sound, it is built in a high-resolution format (300 ppi) that on most computer displays requires the reader to engage by actively zooming, panning and scrolling to navigate the pages. This was intentional. Building this level of detail facilitates the process of inquiry. It draws the reader into a more inquisitive relationship the environment, the characters and the diegetic prototypes. This sense of realism, of tangible artifacts, tactile surfaces, and atmospheric detail is critical to the design fiction experience. The resolution serves the dual purpose of having artwork that is of sufficient resolution for an eventual printing, and it encourages the reader to push into the imagery up to five times, thereby increasing engagement with the narrative.

This is a key distinguishing difference between traditionally hand drawn sequential art. While hand drawn art can be scanned or digitally built at a similar or higher resolution, it most often does not hold the level of 3-dimensional detail that would, upon inspection, yield any further value (beyond a fine examination of the artist’s technique). With CG that is built, realistically textured, lit, and rendered in virtual space the reader must adopt the illusion that the objects and people are not simply implied through the artist’s technique, but actually exist in 3D space.

In no way do I slight the sublime satisfaction of flipping through those glossy pages, but diving deep into virtual space has it’s advantages.

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It’s alive! GG design fiction graphic novel – Chapter 1

Good morning!! I’ve done it. The first 40 pages, chapter 1 of The Lightstream Chronicles graphic novel is now online and available for a free download.

The Lightstream Chronicles Banner
Chapter 1 is alive!

 

Visit The Lightstream Chronicles website and comb through all the great content that I’ve put together for the project such as backstory, character profiles, behind-the-scenes, etc. and then navigate on over to chapter 1 and download the HD graphic novel for your reading enjoyment.  The download is a 69MB PDF so it might take a couple of minutes based on your internet connection but it shouldn’t take too long. (The link will take you to ge.tt and you’ll have to look for the download button off to the right.) Remember that it is HD, which means you are missing out if you don’t zoom in and inspect the scenes and panels. But you can read it however you want; fast, slow, twice. If you’re going to view it on an iPad, which works quite well, make sure you have a pdf viewer app like GoodReader, but there are also free apps too that work fine, like Stanza.

If you are a graphic novel fan, then you know that this is not the first CG graphic novel, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that you’ve never seen one quite this detailed. I could tell you more about it but I would really prefer that you visit the website and get a more detailed version. Where we may be onto something completely new is that it quite possibly may be the first design fiction graphic novel. If you follow this blog, then you already know all about that, but here are some refresher links. Like this or this.

Latest update on Kickstarter is that I’ve received Amazon approval and I have submitted the project for KS approval… I’m hoping to go live with the project on October 30. Stay tuned.

If you like what you see in chapter 1 – “like” it  on Facebook. Thanks! Enjoy!

 

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More graphic novel concept art

The Enforcer Synth is the latest supporting character in my graphic novel. Enforcers are part of the Elite Corps that report to Col. Lee Chen. They specialize in tactical enforcement and crowd control. A regular presence in the worst parts of the city, they spend much of their time policing “downtown” which is hundreds of floors below “top city” where the “respectable folks hang out. Downtown is old, decaying, a hot bed for techno-crime, and vice of every kind imaginable — and some unimaginable. It’s dirty and crowded; a cross between Vegas and the old Kowloon. This is the place for re-skinning parlors, black-market organs, implants and technology to elude the omnipresent surveillance of the New Asia Police. Not a place for the timid. You can get the whole synopsis on my site, and see a hi-res version on DevArt.

It’s a back to school week, so I’ll get to more updates this weekend.

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Concept art for a new graphic novel

It has been about a week since I posted my concept art for the upcoming graphic novel. Thanks to all the encouraging emails and Facebook messages from friends. Response from outside the “circle of friends” has been slow. Possibly it wasn’t such a great idea to slide this out over Labor Day weekend. My rationale for getting this out so far in advance is to get some conversation going about both the project and academic paper that goes along with it. Patience is a virtue. If there was a magical formula for social networking, I suppose, everyone would be going viral, all the time. response has been 99% positive, with some reservations about my 7th character Marie. It’s difficult to explain when you haven’t read the script but one thing you need to keep in mind is that the story takes place 148 year in the future. If you think things have changed since you were in school, think about that kind of time frame. We’re looking at major upheavals in politics, religion, even the human body. We’re grappling with epic shifts in the way people look at the world and their lives, their perceptions, their lifespans, their ethics, their technology, their taboos, and their existential struggles. Even though the story falls somewhere in the sci-fi, crime thriller genre, all of this other is the swirling cultural backdrop that becomes part of the story’s texture. I think it makes a good narrative doubly fun to jump into.

Since posting I have attempted to take care of some other business, like getting ready to teach Design 251 in about 10 days, and general life stuff.

As the production schedule goes, I still have a few characters to tweak and I have been modeling away at more 22nd century props that will be part of my future design world. The next major undertaking is thumbnails for the hundred-some pages that will comprise the book.  I think this is an essential phase. (In fact, I am taking a sequential imaging class at ACCAD in the fall where storyboarding is on the docket.) Putting my people into a sequential narrative format is where the rubber meets the road. Thumbnails will provide a visual roadmap for the project, essentially telling me what I need to render, what will be in each scene and the overall flow of the story.

I hope to have this phase complete, or at least well underway by December so that I can focus on rendering the imagery.

If you have comments on the art or story, (here’s the links again:1. DeviantArt, 2. the CGSociety, 3. scottdenison.com Ultra hi-res images are on DeviantArt which is set up for big files), please join the discussion.

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Graphic Novel plan unveiled this Sunday

On schedule, the day has finally come to unveil the title, synopsis and character concept designs for my graphic novel. I’m really excited, but it’s also a little terrifying, and amazing to see how each of these milestones drives the project further down the road. There are so many decisions that have been required, even in character design, that affect the overall story. Clothing, technology, the scene and set design, are all telling a part of the story. Just writing the synopsis, that is, committing it to cyberspace, makes it seem somehow set in stone. While the story (in the form of a screenplay) has been written for several months, I have teetered back and forth on the name several times and the location (as you have read in previous posts), but sharing a synopsis to the world was a matter of how much and how little can I tell. I guess movie studios are ridden with that kind of angst all the time.

As I have stated, DeviantArt will be my main launching ground, along with lower res versions on my site and some thumbs here, but I have also decided to post to the CGSociety. This is probably the most daring part, since these are literally the gods of concept art, so far superior to me that I feel very intimidated making an appearance.

I’m secure in the style that I have selected (although I think the final book will take on a somewhat grittier feel), but this is no way intended to be some kind of overture of skill and so much more about an engaging, visually stimulating narrative. There is a huge chunk of story behind each character. It all gets woven together.

I had promised to unveil eight characters but decided on seven finalists, not because I couldn’t finish, but just because I want to hold out some of the minor characters to reveal along the way.

Since I will be absolutely amazed if this gets finished before another entire year passes, another question that will come up is, “What happens after this? How do we know you’re still on track and producing?” So, I’ve decided to continue to post important stills and concept art as I go, as well as some of the supporting cast.

So, just come back here on Sunday and I will give you all the links you need.

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Design challenges in design fiction

Part of what makes design fiction so interesting is that you have to speculate, an exercise almost unheard of in the traditional practice of design. In fact, after 30 or more years in the profession, most clients would probably concur that the designer has no right to be wrong. Market research, iterative design and prototyping, along with the rigor of the design process should eliminate ideas that don’t cut it or won’t cut it in the outside world. Design, as we know it, is a criterion-based practice. Time, money, market, manufacturing, competition, user analysis/interface, usability testing and a myriad of other forces are what shape, and ultimately mold, the final solution. It is a fact-based, reality-based endeavor. The exercise, if you will, of design fiction, forces the designer — not to abandon research — but to venture forth without the comfort of the conventional design climbing holds, or to create their own. Building design constraints for a speculative future can be approached two ways, through pulling threads of existing technologies and social trends (which seem to be becoming the same thing) or through wild unbridled fiction. The latter carries the dismissive, “Don’t ask me how, it’s just that way”, as something akin to the writer/artist’s artistic license. Hey, it’s fiction. The former blends the brain of the designer and the writer/artist and insists that he or she ground the idea, however speculative, in the roots of some plausible science or social momentum.

Hence, as I begin crafting the visual world for my graphic novel, I find myself struggling with these challenges daily. This summer, I am working on the self-imposed deadline of August 31 to have completed character designs for the eight, key cast members. Each character is posed in a relevant (though not apparent without having read the story) scene from the book. That requires not only the design of the character and the questions of what they would wear, the material, the design, and the function, but also the design of their accessories, as well as the design and construction of the set on which they are standing. The decisions seem endless, sometimes terribly frustrating and enthralling at the same time. The CG workflow, which at this level often distributed between specialists in modeling, texturing, posing, lighting, rendering etc., lies squarely on my shoulders. Since I don’t posess virtuoso proficiency in any of the above, it adds to the challenge. On the up side, I may well be a virtuoso (at something) by the time the project is completed.

I plow ahead, but I am excited to show my progress, and hopefully on, or near to the deadline.

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