Sounding board... for ideas and the like.

Sounding board... for ideas and the like.

Postby ScottE on Tue Aug 27, 2002 2:51 pm

Okay, these are ideas I've sounded out on other forums, but I'm curious to know what your thoughts and reactions would be.

The first is a question of making use of the masking effect described by McCloud for backgrounds, to help manipulate the reader's emotions with ultrarealistic backgrounds... induce a sense of alienation or horror or fear, (done in 3D perhaps), for example, with characters rendered normally. Good idea?

The next is using 3D for minor characters themselves, making use of a cel shader for accomplishing thickly outlined characters. Maybe more than for just crowd scenes.

These have been slightly controversial, in part, I think, because no comic I've yet seen that makes use of any sort of 3D package does it well. I'd say that it makes the characters look plastic, but I've seen photography of plastic characters done highly effectively (leisure town, for e.g.), so maybe I'll settle for unnatural and sterile. Most artists skip learning about lighting and rendering on the assumption that the software does it all for them. Naturally, it doesn't.

Finally, what do you think about tightly plotted and paced stories (Buck Godot) versus loose and locutive stories (e.g. Freefall)? Do you have a preference?
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Postby ZOMBIE USER 8454 on Wed Aug 28, 2002 2:19 pm

The first is a question of making use of the masking effect described by McCloud for backgrounds, to help manipulate the reader's emotions with ultrarealistic backgrounds... induce a sense of alienation or horror or fear, (done in 3D perhaps), for example, with characters rendered normally. Good idea?


yep. good idea. a good, detailed background is a great way to pull readers into the action, or make a scene or shot seem highly important and not just filler. i say this with unusual conviction because it's the one thing about the art of cartooning that i'm sure of. by the way everyone, Scott McCloud's book Understanding Comics comes highly recommended from me, and some of the chapters, especially 7, are relevant to all disciplines of art.

anyway, i do really love this technique, although i don't get a chance to do as many good backgrounds as i'd like to. still, i have done one or two, which is one or two more than Scott Kurtz has done.

The next is using 3D for minor characters themselves, making use of a cel shader for accomplishing thickly outlined characters. Maybe more than for just crowd scenes. These have been slightly that makes use of any sort of 3D package does it well. I'd say that it makes the characters look plastic, but I've seen photography of plastic characters done highly effectively (leisure town, for e.g.), so maybe I'll settle for unnatural and sterile. Most artists skip learning about lighting and rendering on the assumption that the software does it all for them. Naturally, it doesn't.


i'm afraid i'm not exactly a computer genius (a fact which has actually angered some readers)... could you possibly show some examples of what you're talking about? of course, my natural Luddite response is "why do you NEED to do it on computers??" which i can say with impudent pride, as QPQ is 100% traditional! uh, usually.


Finally, what do you think about tightly plotted and paced stories (Buck Godot) versus loose and locutive stories (e.g. Freefall)? Do you have a preference?


i myself have never cared for in-depth continuity comics like Sluggy Freelance... but that's me.
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Postby ScottE on Wed Aug 28, 2002 4:12 pm

PROKOFIEV2000 wrote:
The first is a question of making use of the masking effect described by McCloud for backgrounds, to help manipulate the reader's emotions with ultrarealistic backgrounds... induce a sense of alienation or horror or fear, (done in 3D perhaps), for example, with characters rendered normally. Good idea?


yep. good idea. a good, detailed background is a great way to pull readers into the action, or make a scene or shot seem highly important and not just filler.



Or contrast the characters more strongly from the evironment?


PROKOFIEV2000 wrote: i say this with unusual conviction because it's the one thing about the art of cartooning that i'm sure of. by the way everyone, Scott McCloud's book Understanding Comics comes highly recommended from me, and some of the chapters, especially 7, are relevant to all disciplines of art.




I ditto that.


PROKOFIEV2000 wrote:
The next is using 3D for minor characters themselves, making use of a cel shader for accomplishing thickly outlined characters. Maybe more than for just crowd scenes. These have been slightly that makes use of any sort of 3D package does it well. I'd say that it makes the characters look plastic, but I've seen photography of plastic characters done highly effectively (leisure town, for e.g.), so maybe I'll settle for unnatural and sterile. Most artists skip learning about lighting and rendering on the assumption that the software does it all for them. Naturally, it doesn't.


i'm afraid i'm not exactly a computer genius (a fact which has actually angered some readers)...



Really? Bizarre (the anger bit).


PROKOFIEV2000 wrote: could you possibly show some examples of what you're talking about?


Yes. Leisure town comics can be found here:

http://leisuretown.com/

And some limited 3D-rendered comics (with some cel-shading):

http://dragon-tails.com/comics/large.php?date=020828

There were a number of Poser-looking stuff I've found that prompted that sterile comment on my part, but I can't find any of it at the moment. Crap.


PROKOFIEV2000 wrote:of course, my natural Luddite response is "why do you NEED to do it on computers??" which i can say with impudent pride, as QPQ is 100% traditional! uh, usually.



So is OQ&C (now, though I did dabble with no great effect by doing it on the computer--the color characters logotype at the top is done in Adobe Illustrator, but the extent of the experiment was panels and typesetting).

But I like tools (not buzzsaws, obviously; they unnerve me), and I wonder about stuff. I've seen cel-rendered 3D animation used beautifully in movies (The Iron Giant, eg), so why not a comic? As much as I love animation, I think I could appreciate the potential of comics more than animation, which is a lot more work than a comic, and yet doesn't quite have the communication potential of comics.

I guess your question really looks (to me) like:
But why would you NEED to use [A]?
where A is any of the following: computers, RapidoGraphs(R), brushes, pens, crayon &c.

In a sense, there's no need. I could doodle it in the sand. Even that wouldn't satisfy any _need_.

But.

Moonshadow was a series of comics done largely in lush, moody watercolor paintings. Pen continues to be popular. Brush as well. I've even seen photocomics, wherein actors pantomime and distort and exaggerate with the best silent actors I've even seen. They didn't need to be any of these things... they could have been done in pencil or pen or brush and ink...but they weren't.


And so... why not?


PROKOFIEV2000 wrote:
Finally, what do you think about tightly plotted and paced stories (Buck Godot) versus loose and locutive stories (e.g. Freefall)? Do you have a preference?


i myself have never cared for in-depth continuity comics like Sluggy Freelance... but that's me.


Fair 'nuff. I guess you could call it a continuity comic of sorts (I'm mostly unfamiliar with it--I've only read about 6-months' worth of archives, and it was enough to put me off the strip).

I'm thinking more along the lines of Peter A. David, Phil Phoglio, or even Alan Moore's lengthier work. (Interesting that the only examples I can come up with are print... I like Freefall a lot, but I never get any sense of closure from reading it, something which I think is necessary for continuity.)

Originally, I wanted to do something nonfictional, but I need more education in the topic I'd cover. So I'm back to stories, if I want to exercise anything that remains of my artistic abilities while I work out the writer's block and general cluelessnes.
Beware he who writes more than he reads.
--Harlan Ellison.
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Postby JimRob on Wed Aug 28, 2002 5:34 pm

ScottE wrote:The first is a question of making use of the masking effect described by McCloud for backgrounds, to help manipulate the reader's emotions with ultrarealistic backgrounds... induce a sense of alienation or horror or fear, (done in 3D perhaps), for example, with characters rendered normally. Good idea?

I'd say it depends on how well it's done. (Doesn't everything.) And I can't say I've ever seen it done well (except, if it counts, the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode when a 3D Homer ends up in the real world). To me it tends to look tacky, unless you can process your source image so that it corresponds with the style of the rest of the comic (which might in itself detract from the desired effect).

But perhaps McCloud does it better.

ScottE wrote:The next is using 3D for minor characters themselves, making use of a cel shader for accomplishing thickly outlined characters. Maybe more than for just crowd scenes.

These have been slightly controversial, in part, I think, because no comic I've yet seen that makes use of any sort of 3D package does it well. I'd say that it makes the characters look plastic, but I've seen photography of plastic characters done highly effectively (leisure town, for e.g.), so maybe I'll settle for unnatural and sterile. Most artists skip learning about lighting and rendering on the assumption that the software does it all for them. Naturally, it doesn't.

I think it's an area that has a lot of potential, especially if it's used not to create obviously 3D characters - which, I agree, usually look plastic and distance the reader from the story - but to partially replicate the appearance of hand-drawn art. So an eye, say, would be modelled as a particular flat shape, yet retain a consistent black outline in various positions. I've seen cartoons which make use of something like this - and indeed contrast it with hand-drawn animation very effectively - and it works well. Especially for crowd scenes.

But I don't know about the process itself.

ScottE wrote:Finally, what do you think about tightly plotted and paced stories (Buck Godot) versus loose and locutive stories (e.g. Freefall)? Do you have a preference?

Theoretically, I should like loose and locutive, as I think they're the better adapted to a regularly-published serial medium (which most online comics). In reality, I tend to like shorter 'chapters', if only because a huge linear archive is daunting for new readers. (Which is why I still haven't begun to read Freefall yet.)
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Postby ZOMBIE USER 8454 on Thu Aug 29, 2002 11:28 am

ScottE wrote:But I like tools (not buzzsaws, obviously; they unnerve me), and I wonder about stuff. I've seen cel-rendered 3D animation used beautifully in movies (The Iron Giant, eg), so why not a comic? As much as I love animation, I think I could appreciate the potential of comics more than animation, which is a lot more work than a comic, and yet doesn't quite have the communication potential of comics.


the 3-D animation in Iron Giant looked pretty good, but it was only there for practical reasons; no human animator could have drawn that machine in perfect dimensions (although some could have done a damn good job), so computers were used. however, a comic strip lacks most of the technical necessities inherent in animation. the juxtaposition of the panels, the involvement of the characters, the "communication potential" that you speak of, are much more important in a strip than the way the characters are modelled.

anyway, when they figure out a way to do 3-D in a comic strip and still give it individuality and style, i'll be VERY impressed. as for now, though, i don't see a way or a reason to improve on hand-drawn cartoons. i believe that in comics, style should be transparent; it shouldn't get in the way of that communication that we've discussed. when you add decadence to the process of creating the visuals, you are giving that area of it more weight than it needs. people shoudnt' have to worry about how you did it... that's why i took down my "PROCESS" page (that and it seemed a bit like Michael Jordon writing a book entitled "How to Act").

i think that 3-D should stay in animation.
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Postby ScottE on Thu Aug 29, 2002 4:26 pm

JimRob wrote:
ScottE wrote:The first is a question of making use of the masking effect described by
McCloud for backgrounds, to help manipulate the reader's emotions with ultrarealistic backgrounds...
induce a sense of alienation or horror or fear, (done in 3D perhaps), for example, with characters rendered normally. Good idea?

I'd say it depends on how well it's done. (Doesn't everything.) And I can't say I've ever seen it done
well (except, if it counts, the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode when a 3D Homer ends up in the real
world). To me it tends to look tacky, unless you can process your source image so that it corresponds
with the style of the rest of the comic (which might in itself detract from the desired effect).

But perhaps McCloud does it better.



Well, no he doesn't. But to be fair, they were merely very brief examples in _Reinventing Comics_ (a la "look what you/I can do!" followed by some rather silly statements that computers do all the work for 3D). I've never actually seen him make use of the stuff anywhere else in his work. RC is not the book it could have been, but I did appreciate the historical stuff and the infinite canvas ideas. I'm not certain how far I'd be willing to go to implement that sort of presentation. The trails are a good idea, but I don't use a Mac or PC and software that would make implementing them anything short of a hassle (my html editor is a text editor; I like simple pages free of tables and frames and crap). Maybe I can get away with lots of big, fat squares with little lines connecting them. Layout and I have always been strangers, even when the layout is always the same number of consistent panels.



JimRob wrote:[...]
I think it's an area that has a lot of potential, especially if it's used not to create obviously 3D
characters - which, I agree, usually look plastic and distance the reader from the story - but to
partially replicate the appearance of hand-drawn art. So an eye, say, would be modelled as a particular
flat shape, yet retain a consistent black outline in various positions. I've seen cartoons which make use
of something like this - and indeed contrast it with hand-drawn animation very effectively - and it works well. Especially for crowd scenes.

But I don't know about the process itself.


Well, I work for an engineering company, doing animation and simulations, but the stuff is pretty boring (road grade separations... now that's excitement), and I never get time to do what I'd like visually with
these projects. So I have a bit of background with 3D, about ten years' worth at this point.

But even so, this is dark and dangerous territory for me. As it stands, comics are done by hand, with maybe some painting app or image editor used to color it. The few 3D comics there are don't really look any good to me.

One of the things that set my brain to this idea (again) was the film Richard III, starring Ian McKellen.
In it, uniforms change from standard British WWI issue to something quite a bit more Nazi (oh, BTW, see this movie, if you haven't. It's _fantastic_.). I somehow wandered from there and wondered what the effect of showing a scene from the
POV of one character as one thing (say, comforting), and the same scene from another character's POV as something completely different would be (disturbing). And then I wondered what I could acheive by causing an entire city to "change" over the course of the story by manipulating its look.

(And, of course, there's this character I've been scribbling in notebooks for 13 or so years...that's is
probably the only reason to even consider doing this at all...it might be nice to see what he does outside the binder.)


PROKOFIEV2000 wrote:
ScottE wrote:But I like tools (not buzzsaws, obviously; they unnerve me), and I wonder about
stuff. I've seen cel-rendered 3D animation used beautifully in movies (The Iron
Giant, eg), so why not a comic? As much as I love animation, I think I could appreciate the potential of comics more than animation, which is a lot more work than a comic, and yet doesn't quite have the communication potential of
comics.


the 3-D animation in Iron Giant looked pretty good, but it was only there for
practical reasons; no human animator could have drawn that machine in perfect
dimensions (although some could have done a damn good job), so computers were used. however, a comic strip lacks most of the technical necessities inherent
in animation. the juxtaposition of the panels, the involvement of the
characters, the "communication potential" that you speak of, are much more important in a strip than the way the characters are modelled.



I disagree that no human animator could have developed a means of rendering a perfectly mechanical character without distortion (the appeal, squash and stretch, aspect-to-aspect &c (cf. 12 principles of animation in _Disney's Nine Old Men_)). In fact, I can think of several ways: using maquettes with
rotoscoping for keyframes and then interpolating the inbetweens), modelmaking for stop-motion (which can be blurred in the
composites to enhance the illusion of motion), or even making multiple-pass photography over models. The latter examples do involve models (which makes it essentially 3D), but might involve more time or personnel (which is a more expensive way of saying more time).

Many animators did do work in the 60s-80s (albeit mostly for visualization and engineering) using nothing more sophisticated than what was available to animators working on "The
Fox and the Hound." You may even remember some bits from Sesame Street or the Electric Company.

Think of a CGI element as something which replaces no personnel in any kind of a production;
approximately the same number of people are involved in producing an all-CGI film as one which
is exclusively done by hand, although it's getting harder to find exclusive examples
anymore... the computer introduces too much power and offers too much control over a production to be excluded.

PROKOFIEV2000 wrote:anyway, when they figure out a way to do 3-D in a comic strip and still give it
individuality and style, i'll be VERY impressed. as for now, though, i don't
see a way or a reason to improve on hand-drawn cartoons. i believe that in comics, style should be transparent; it shouldn't get in the way of that
communication that we've discussed. when you add decadence to the process of



This nonplusses me. What do you mean by decadence?


PROKOFIEV2000 wrote:creating the visuals, you are giving that area of it more weight than it needs.
people shoudnt' have to worry about how you did it... that's why i took down my
"PROCESS" page (that and it seemed a bit like Michael Jordon writing a book
entitled "How to Act").



Well, i think that process..._is_ interesting (perhaps chiefly to other artists), so I'm not certain
really why you took your page down. If people aren't interested in how you did it, they probably won't
go to the process page. If they are, you may find yourself fielding more questions than you feel you
ought from other artists who are curious about your work. Technique and technical both have the same
root for a reason. One of the reasons why I love Walt Kelly (Pogo) is because he was willing to talk shop. It's hard to
diffiuclt to find his stuff at times, and even harder to find interviews, but it's worth it, I feel, because mere practice doesn't give you the experience of another artist. An interview doesn't, either, but it's better than nothing, and better than merely trying to copy his or her final result. If an artist says, use brush X, Ink Y, and this is why, well, there's benefit to it. My point is that all artists started somewhere. Missteps may
be more important that actual steps, because it's something to learn from.

And I can't be the only person who thinks like this, because shortly after I pestered Dave Simpson about
how _he_ does it, lo and behold, a new FAQ appeared on his site.

I liked that page. Maybe because it helped me feel a little less clueless about my own so-called art and stuff. I had a great fear of putting OQ&C online, mostly because it's a bit on the personal side, but I'm still frankly embarassed by the art. Still not my best stuff (which is chiefly pencil drawings of nonavian dinosaurs and other exinct animals which I require to be meticuluously accurate and no more than conservatively speculative).




PROKOFIEV2000 wrote:i think that 3-D should stay in animation.



You do realize this makes you an ideal candidate to offer critique, yes? I may accost you on the way ("Your money or your opinion on this rendering!").

Anyway, i think the keystone of a comic is the writer or the writer half); good writing will save poor art in a way that great art can never save crappy writing,
and I really believe in experimenting with more than writing.

It _is_ a lot of work, however. But maybe I could make it work. Now, I admit I have no reason to believe that. It can't be my impatience with draughtsmanship itself, because I generally design stuff on paper before I ever pick up the mouse.

All I have so far is a bunch of vague ideas in the form of scribbles, a character who I hope is less autobiographical than I fear he is, and this malign urge to play.
Beware he who writes more than he reads.
--Harlan Ellison.
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Postby ZOMBIE USER 8454 on Sun Sep 01, 2002 8:19 pm

This nonplusses me. What do you mean by decadence?


all right all right. i've just looked up "decadence" and "nonplusses" in the dictionary, and i think maybe i used the wrong word there. use context clues to figure out what i really meant.

also, let the record reflect that my reasons for taking the "Process" page down were more than just that. allow me the pleasure of outlining them.

A) it was sort of pretentious. i didn't feel right, inviting the noncurious to hear me talk about all the tools i bought at the art store, etc. of course, the curious are very welcome to e-mail me at any time and i will likely talk your ear off.

B) the methods and tools i use to draw my strip change a lot. this summer has seen me make use of several different brushes, pens, pencils and all kinds of things that i never mentioned in that page. i don't use a font anymore, of course.

C) the "Process" page applied to a different era in QPQ's life. after last semester, i was freed from the format of the campus newspaper, and was able to pull out all the stops. since around mid-May or so, reckless inconsistency has been a very important part of my cartooning (not really in the style, but in the media certainly).

D) anyone who is actually interested has probably seen David Simpson's "Process" page which is basically the same as what i had. also, Bill Watterson's C+H Tenth Anniversary book has a nice description of a typical creation cycle for a comic strip, which basically every internet cartoonist has probably read and systematically absorbed (myself included).
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Postby ScottE on Tue Sep 03, 2002 11:02 am

PROKOFIEV2000 wrote:
all right all right. i've just looked up "decadence" and "nonplusses" in the dictionary, and i think maybe i used the wrong word there. use context clues to figure out what i really meant.



Nonplus is my favorite word. Well, maybe not better than antorbital, (fenestrae), but pretty close.


PROKOFIEV2000 wrote:also, let the record reflect that my reasons for taking the "Process" page down were more than just that. allow me the pleasure of outlining them.

A) it was sort of pretentious. i didn't feel right, inviting the noncurious to hear me talk about all the tools i bought at the art store, etc. of course, the curious are very welcome to e-mail me at any time and i will likely talk your ear off.




Yeah, but I'm really lazy. I mean, I can't fault anyone who feels uncomfortable with something they've written, but fwiw, I didn't find it pretentious in the slightest.


PROKOFIEV2000 wrote:B) the methods and tools i use to draw my strip change a lot. this summer has seen me make use of several different brushes, pens, pencils and all kinds of things that i never mentioned in that page. i don't use a font anymore, of course.



This is something I've wondered about. Writing by hand is extremely painful for me. It takes me forever if I want to be legible, and wrist pain is now a fact of my life. You'd think I'd favor more wordless comics, but no, my typing style is far more talky than actiony.

I've tried some fonts on the computer, but I find I hate most of them; also, I don't really think Photoshop provides adequate control over type for it to be overwhelmingly practical.

In the old days, someone else did the lettering, and Walt Kelly (or the like) did the art and writing. No such avenue is open to me at the moment.

But I've toyed with the idea of creating my own font, based on my own (ideally legible) handwriting...



In other news, I now have more than a bunch of vague ideas and scribbles. The writing now progresses.
Beware he who writes more than he reads.
--Harlan Ellison.
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