A Step into the Journey

In my endeavor to produce my web comic, it became increasingly evident that I would need some sort of presence on the web to have a chance at success.  More specifically, I needed a place for readers and potential fans would be able to refer to often for new comics and to house an archive that is easy to navigate.  As easy as it would be to post comics solely on various social media outlets, these sources are best used to cultivate a community that I can direct to my work.  As much as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can serve as depositories of work, they are tedious to navigate in terms of searching for a specific comic, posted on a specific date or from a specific storyline and frankly, repetitively scrolling through a feed to find and  reread your favorite strip will get old very fast.  It became imperative that I needed a home for my comic. I needed a website!

 

For  a hosting solution, I decided to go with Bluehost to register my domain and manage my site.  Bluehost uses WordPress as a content management system, which is great because of familiarity and ease of adding content but also daunting because the deeper levels of control in WordPress has a bit of a learning curve.

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Once my site was created, the first order of business was to get a skeleton version of the site handle on the theme and plugins that I needed to use for the site.  I decided to use ComicPress as the theme and ComicEasel as the plugin.  Below is an example of how the site may appear.  Note:  The site is a work in progress and will look different as time passes.

 

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An example of the home page and navigation on the backend of the site,

 

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Additional content added to test the navigation of the site

 

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The website as available to the public as of the publishing of this post

Moving forward, there are a lot of tweaks necessary to get the site to a state that I am happy with, to include CSS editing to allow the site to be responsive to different screen sizes and to the layout, adopting a two column or no column layout to place the comic higher in terms of visual hierarchy and for general appeal. There will likely be many iterations of the site and its design until it reaches a satisfactory state.

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Tutorial Sources and Links

Below is a collection of resources and tutorials that I plan to refer to as I develop my webcomic.

ComicPress Setup

6 Web Comics Best Practices WordPress Makes Easy

How to Create a WordPress-Powered Webcomic with ComicPress

 

Customizing your site’s navigation buttons (ComicPress / Comics Easel)

Clip Studio Paint

Official Tutorials

How to ink in Clip Studio Paint Pro

20+ Clip Studio Paint Tricks

Lynda.com

Learning Graphic Novel Storyboarding 

Designing Dynamic Layouts with Text and Dialog in Comics

Comic Books: Digital Inking and Refinement 

Reference Books

The Webcomics Handbook – Brad Guigar

Making Comics – Scott McCloud

Creating Stylized Characters – 3dtotal Publishing

 

Character Design

Indistinguishable From Magic – The Obligatory Top 10 Favorite Character Designs 

Indistinguishable From Magic – Costumes: The Wearable Dialog 

Indistinguishable From Magic – Figures: They Speak For Themselves (mildly NSFW) 

Back for the Third Time: Thesis & The Semiotic Square

 

THESIS

The genre of comics as a medium has gone through a myriad of changes since its earliest iterations as political cartoons in Victorian era newspapers, to their current form as various print and digital formats. From newspapers to comic books, underground zines, graphic novels and the web, taste and technology has shaped what we look for in comics and how we consume them.  One major shift is the decline of newspaper readership and closure of longstanding newspapers, as the internet as a source of information increased.  For cartoonists, whose livelihoods relied on the syndication, licensing and printing of their comics on many numerous papers, these closures meant that they stood to face significant cuts in pay or worse yet, complete loss of income.  Those who were able to adapt to the change carved out a new form of comic, the webcomic, and paved the way for new artists to share their work with a wider audience.  Due to the nature of the internet as a source of freely distributed information, the challenge of making money remains.  Through exploring different methods of how contemporary comic artists make a living through their work, I hope to lay the groundwork necessary to launch my own webcomic campaign and turn it into a successful trans-media experience.

 

Semiotic Square

I will be creating the beginning of a web-comic series based off of the semiotic square shown below.  The development of this semiotic square allowed me to explore different facets of the nature of webcomics, particularly how they are distributed and how a creator might make a living from its creation.  From this square, I hope to devise samples of the webcomic itself, along with showcasing hosting solutions and ways I may be able to monetize the webcomic as an intellectual property.

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Breaking down the Semiotic Square, we explore the terms digital, tactile, not digital, not tactile, and how they relate to expand the field of the subject, Webcomics.

Culmination, sort of

Below is a video that culminates the end of the semester and the Dreamscape Project created by myself and my classmate Joanna Nawn.  You can see her blog here and her portfolio here.

There is much to talk about regarding to production of this animation namely the amount of planning required to make a successful animation.  On my end, storyboarding was an integral part of planning the scenes and helping me make decisions as far as pacing, action and camera angles.

Many of the shortcomings and hiccups can be chalked up to inexperience and getting acquainted with a newer version of Maya and incidental issues with the recently severed relationship between Autodesk and Nvidia and procuring a full license for rendering with mental ray.  Despite this and ultimately being unable to render before the deadline, this has been a valuable learning experience that I’ll take with me to future projects.  We plan on rendering the animation after ironing a couple of minor issues, so please come back in the future.

 

Project Update – Nov. 02

As for the last few weeks,  I have been concentrating on a particular object of interest for the upcoming animation and sequentially an upcoming TransMedia Narratives project.  This object of  interest is a manhole cover. It came about in a discussion about how it may be used as a narrative device and took off as its own kind of beast, requiring a lot of thought in modeling one as three interlocking pieces that can in theory, be milled out or 3d printed.

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Transparent side view of the cover.

How the pieces fit together.

When planning out the object, I drew up some illustrations to help me plan how it may fit together and some designs inspired by the Voynich Manuscript. that I want to implement on the surface through the use of a displacement map.

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Moving forward, I plan on using a displacement map to sculpt the final design onto the surface and prepare the model for use in fabrication.

Storyboards and Camera Tricks

In preparation for the ongoing collaborative project with Joanna Nawn,  I came to the conclusion that I needed to learn some basic cinematography techniques and a plan for the first scene.  It was tempting to just dive right into Maya and start animating away, but I knew that I’d likely find myself  either stuck deciding what to do or getting lost in some direction outside of my vision.  To order keep myself grounded and to emulate the professional planning process, I knew that I had to draw up some storyboards.

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The storyboards were a helpful tool that allowed me to get my ideas on paper and make some creative decisions that would ultimately save me time in production.

 

Coming into the project I had very little background knowledge with using the camera as a storytelling device besides some basic still photography techniques, so I had to refer to a few sources to educate myself.  The best sources that I was able to utilize was a tutorial on Lynda.com, an extremely helpful video on Vimeo, A Guide to Basic Cinematography, and a wonderful YouTube channel, Every Frame a Painting. Below is a video from that channel that inspired me with the first scene.

The Lateral Tracking Shot was instrumental in the conception of my first scene.

 

With the knowledge I gained, I proceeded to tackle the test shot for the first scene:

As you can see, I utilized a renderable camera to create the tracking shot while having some secondary animations occur in the background.  As the camera stops and centers on the picture above the bed, I used a Push-In, simultaneously changing the focal length from 55 mm to 2.5 mm to achieve the vertigo effect, kinda opposite of the famous Hitchcock Pull.  The final intent of the shot is to have the girl literally fly into the scene, transitioning to the dream state.

Back to the Thesis: Return to 415

I return to 415 this time around to collaborate with my classmate and fellow animation enthusiast, Joanna Nawn.  The aim of this collaboration to create an animated short while strengthening our understanding of the roles that environment and camera manipulation have in enhancing storytelling.  To have a better understanding of our aim, please see our combined thesis below:

 

THESIS

Films both animated and live-action alike rely upon a balance of dynamic storytelling and cinematic techniques to provide their audience with meaningful entertainment. This balance is often elusive, as many films fall short of this balance, over-reliant on gimmicks, star power or special effects, while an exemplary few, e.g. Disney’s Moana and The Shining, excel and become instant classics.  It’s the masterful use of setting, camerawork and great storytelling is what earns these films distinction. Our intention is to capture that balance and create an animated short that showcases how visual effects and the camera can become characters in their own right.

 

Semiotic Square

We will be creating the short based off of the semiotic square shown below.  A semiotic square helps artists to figure out their ideas for a project and become the beginnings of a thesis.  Together this semester we will work to create a short which will include a rig, nhair, ncloth, a water simulation and an environment along with camera manipulation.

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