Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Every Time is Bear Time

Mr. Bear is my bear. His name is Bramwell, after Bramwell Brown of Jane Hissey's Old Bear series. If you're a crossover reader from Rock, Paper, Cynic, then I won't need to tell you why I still have this fuzzy fellow. One may find an additional clue stitched into the bottom of his feet; the numbers "1989" - the year of my birth. Mr. Bear is not a real-life alcoholic. He just plays one on the internet.

Toby's coding room also happens to be my room, but I'm a little bit less proud of this because our requirements for Lev's sleeping quarters are "messy, squalid"...so yeah. That's also my computer (Core 2 Quad Q6600, 4GB RAM, Nvidia 8800GT, built it myself). We switched to my room from our previous location, [redacted], because of a [Redacted] when we [Redacted] and [Redacted] so here we are, and hence the edits to our previous pages. I, like Peter, am actually pretty happy about the change because the Mr. Bear stuff plays into a gag we had already planned for the character - one that should become evident rather quickly.

Toby...well, ok that's not me. That would be Peter. He and Dani are real-world roommates (or..housemates? Whatever you call it when people rent a house with other people but don't share rooms)...but they live in a different house.

We don't have - to my knowledge - a grand plan for Little Worlds, a rather necessary state of affairs when you're dealing with a cast of actual people with actual lives. For that matter, we may not always be able to shoot at the locations of our preference (see: above). With that in mind, I wonder how much Little Worlds will come to reflect aspects of our real lives, at least in the parts where we have our characters living in houses and not being beset by eldritch terrors.

I think a lot of the fun doing these shoots has been with the facial expressions Dani makes for Lev. I guess I'm echoing Peter's comments once more, but it really is worth that much mention. Keep an eye out in upcoming comics for a look so scornful that we have dubbed it "French Lev".

Friday, July 9, 2010

Preliminary Thoughts on "Wake Up"

[I'm probably past 36 straight hours awake, so a full post is going to have to wait until tomorrow.]

This felt like a successful shoot. We are continuing in our hilarious Little Worlds trend of taking pictures in real life at times diametrically opposed to when the scenes are supposed to take place (most notably our use of dusk as dawn way back when Derby leaves the Depot), as Lev finds himself waking up in the "morning" (actually close to 9PM real-time).

I adore that in Panel 3 the filter lends a very angular shape to Lev's face and jaw, which makes him look kinda chiseled and manly. And during the shoot we were affectionately referring to Dani's arm in panel 2 as "beefy". I'm really interested to know what people think about Lev's look. Knowing who Dani is makes it a little hard to judge how good a job we are doing in turning her into Lev, so I (and probably everyone here at Dreampunk industries) am/are very curious about what you think. I should note that we welcome all kinds of interpretations; some ambiguity may or may not be intentional on our part. That's all I'm sayin'.

More tomorrow (including pictures, this time I promise. I just re-installed Windows and I was having some trouble setting up photoshop for importing/touching up my RAW files)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Through the Looking Glass

Peter asked me to write about what it's like being in front of the camera, as opposed to behind it. In some ways it can be the same: I can't see into Peter's head so I've got some basic direction and then I more or less wing the rest and hope it works out. As far as differences go, well, imagine if you were asked to describe the difference between kicking a soccer ball and drinking a glass of milk. The kind of thing where you might be tempted to say "well, they're just....not really alike!". When I'm taking the photos, I get to see the whole picture. I'm worrying about lighting, composition, and how much the people I'm taking pictures of hate me for having them hold awkward poses. On the other side of the camera, I'm not quite as sure of what I should be doing. I'm not an actor. Yes, Little Worlds is essentially tableau, but I don't mean "I can't remember lines" (actually, I can - or I could, once). I don't have that drive to inhabit the mind and body of another being in the search of greater truths, nor do I particularly thrill in the artful deception of others. I don't by any means dislike acting, I just don't think I'm the acting sort.

I have some other, more mundane worries when I'm in front of the camera. Most of them boil down to "is this going to look good/right in the comic?", but so far playing Hal has required me to perform actions that I'm fairly good at - namely climbing up onto things and goofing around. I don't think we have an established physicality for Hal yet, of course (I think that if he just climbed things he might end up being too much like Derby, so I expect some amount of differentiation in future).

This particular shoot felt very streamlined. Perhaps because we had comparatively few characters, perhaps because we knew the location from our previous visit, or maybe we really are getting into the swing of things with Little Worlds. And speaking of the location, I think these abandoned(?) tracks behind the refinery are my favourite place to shoot so far. It helps that we've only ever been there on extremely nice days, but it's quite literally 5 minutes away from our costume supplier (read: Value Village), it has really nice views of downtown Halifax (being on the Dartmouth side of the harbour), but all of the pipes and valves and steam give it that awesome grungy-but-cool feel that I love. That Little Worlds as a whole embraces this aesthetic (or tries to wherever and whenever it can), so much the better!

Will update with pictures in an hour or two

Monday, June 21, 2010

Re: Finery

You'll note that the design is a little cleaner; I owe a debt of gratitude to Peter who has been fussing with HTML longer than I. The slideshow is now down at the bottom of the page, and I'll try to update the rotation more regularly now that we're shooting again. I'm also going back and making some improvements to previous posts, such as this one, where clicking on the first two images will now take you to slightly larger versions where more detail becomes apparent. I'll try to keep a log of such changes at the start of newer posts, as I have done here. Oh, yes: We have Twitter now.

On that note, we also have Peter to thank for today's splash page. During the shoot, I hadn't considered the amount of railside foliage in my pictures, which undercuts the industrial aesthetic that we're trying for (I'm going back over my pictures right now and yeah there's a LOT of green there. How did I miss that before?!).

Dani/Lev and the Factory, with perhaps excessive greenery

the oil refinery, closer-up

We shot today's panel, along with what will become the next several strips on a Saturday, and I would be so remiss not to give Dani


props for having come out with us, because that was also the day she left to go on vacation! To take hours out of her day to come costume/prop shopping AND for the photo shoot was very big of her. Costume shopping (hence "finery") was as usual at Value Village. We needed something that looked like sheet music, something that could be of some measure of sentimental value...and, well, something else that you'll get to see very soon. All I'll say for now is that I'm particularly excited about this new and mysterious thing!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What is this I don't even

The other night I suggested to Peter that we add a Q&A thread to the forums, in case you folk had some burning questions about how or why we do what we do. There's only one question so far, but let's have a look, shall we?

I don't understand anything about Little Worlds. I read to like comic 6 and had absolutely no idea about what was happening. Any advice? Am I just stupid?

In the infamous words of some illiterate, meme-making intertroll,
"what is this i dont even"

- TurtleMidget

Oh....oh my. Well, here I go.

Dear TurtleMidget,

You're not stupid. The confusion is half inevitable, and half intentional. I'll explain in order: we're a fairly new strip, one that's only just surpassed 30 pages uploaded. If this were a gag strip you'd probably have a handle on it by now; we'd have established that A crushes on B who is emotionally unavailable so he complains about it to drinking partner C. Little Worlds being far more narrative in nature will naturally take a little more time to get started. On the second note, I think that Little Worlds wouldn't be quite the same if we had an omniscient narrator to clear everything up. That said, I don't think we're guilty of witholding much information: at this juncture you understand the Duke and the Accountant about as well as Derby could hope to.

I had initially considered trying to break the strip down to explain it bit by bit, but it's not that easy. If you've seen the back-and-forth our in-character posters have been having with forumgoer Snarkalicious, you'll see that we're trying not to make Little Worlds a simple allegory. If there's symbolism worth paying attention to it's in the environment; so far we've been tending to set LW in places that are at least mildly evocative of urban decay. We shoot at night a lot (again, that's been partially a necessity, but it works). Places and times when "normal" people tend not to be found wandering about. In that sense I think it might not be unlike Vampire: The Masquerade, where unsuspecting people go about their daily lives ignorant of the glistening fangs which lurk in shadow. Derby has accidentally wandered into such a hidden world, and as it stands your confusion mirrors his.

In short, we have you right where we want you. Please, continue reading.

So about Tuesday's strip, these shots are from the same photo shoot as the last two comics, just across the road from where we were before. Lev is a rather...precise person (I think that's the word Peter and Dani used), and so here he seeks sanctuary among machines...well, ok some apartment building's Gas or Water meter. I think Peter and I together must have taken pictures of Dani from almost every angle possible while she knelt near that tangle of pipes. You've likely seen the chapter title page and the promotional shots, so you have an idea of where Lev may be going, and we're trying as best we can to segue into that world of Clang, Boom, and Steam.

The original image for panel 5 of Little Worlds 2010-06-15

Ninja Dani/Lev in the top corner panel really does look like that in the original photo. Peter did have to re-draw one of the arms in order to remove a tree from the image, but that's about it.

The original image for panel 2 of Little Worlds 2010-06-15

I'm dead tired now, but come back soon because I intend to expand on some old posts in addition to writing new ones (I'll be trying to synchronise my update schedule as much as possible to that of the comic)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"The Accountant Looms; Derby just fucks around"

I have yet to delve into the mise-en-scene of Little Worlds - if you can call it that - but today's comic provides a good initial example of how we're trying to give personality to these static images. In presenting The Accountant and Derby as...well, not quite opposing figures in Lev's ongoing ambiguous experience - I can say "starkly different" figures, in all certainty - we tried to put them in places and postures that fit. That's pretty vague. During the shoot, I put it thusly: "The Accountant Looms, Derby just fucks around". Hence, their placement as seen below (the picture of Lev and Derby is a little small, click on it for the unedited original)

Panel 1 from Little Worlds 2010-06-08Panel 5 from Little Worlds 2010-06-08

An interesting detail in this strip is that Lev is visually empowered by the low angles. This contrasts with the plotline in which Lev is running from some...thing? There's the one shot from on high, but beyond that we're always looking up. To an extent this happens because we like to frame our shots carefully. We don't want to include random passers-by in our comic without their knowledge, if we can avoid it. We sometimes need to take pictures in two different locations but have them fit into the same continuity. Actually, the pictures you see here were not taken all that far from each other, but in realspace Lev's route wouldn't be very practical at all, and so we withold the context and you don't notice! If Halifax were a more vertiginous city we might have larger problems doing this. Personally I think it's also kinda neat to rationalize the angles in-fiction: Lev might be running, but Lev is still (mostly?) in charge of his mind*. Maybe. The alternative is that while "we" might be looking up at Lev, he is in turn looking up at The Accountant, who looks down on Lev...

...and you.

*If that is indeed where we are. Man, WHO KNOWS?

Monday, June 7, 2010

[Halifax's] Back Streets are Back, Alright!

So we're back after a long hiatus, and we're back to the alleyway in which Lev and Derby met. OR ARE WE? You'll note that Lev is running. If we had been shooting in bright midday sun, this would probably have gone without a hitch. Given the tone of LW and the nature of Halifax, of course, we were most decidedly not. Some of our prospective solutions were to take screencaps from video (taken on Peter's new digital camera which is not an SLR but about the same size), use the burst shutter on my Canon and hope for the best, and use flash photography (which sort of mucks up the lighting in the rest of the picture). But I am getting ahead of myself; why did Lev need to be moving? Could he not have been standing still in a running pose?

Picture of Dani/Lev posed as though runningPicture of Dani/Lev actually running, caught in place with flash photography

Thing is, even though Dani (being in theatre and at least one dance show) is probably the most kinesthetically aware of the LW crew, this isn't that easy. It's actually pretty hard to strike a pose that authentically resembles running. Think about it: so much of how humans move is instinct; it's automatic. If we want the real body language of panic and flight, then the easiest way to get it is with a really running person. When you put conscious thought into the mix, it loses immediacy. Look at you, for example: it is likely that you're kind of awesome at walking*. But unless you're an actor, try walking* in a stage production. Maybe you've done this at school. Somehow between the lights and the audience and the script even walking* becomes kinda stilted and unnatural. It's crazy. Hence, Lev runs for real.

*replace this with your preferred mode of locomotion if walking does not apply to you.

As an approach, this had some mixed results, as you can see below:

In this image, you can see that Lev is just a faint blur

Now, in part this was my fault; I had my camera set at 100 ISO, which is another one of those things that's really good for sunny days. Absent-minded as I am, I didn't realize this until much, much later. The trade off of a higher ISO value is that the camera becomes more light sensitive, you can take shorter exposures which can mean a more stable image in low light...but the pictures are grainier, which I wanted to avoid because I want a set of "master" images that are as high-quality as possible in case we need print-resolution material. Admittedly, "blurry or grainy" isn't a good choice, which is why it's pretty sweet to have Peter's tripod around - which we did for the first time on this shoot. If everything goes well, you'll see a generally higher quality of night photography in future Little Worlds strips (uh-oh, pressure's on!)

I'll post some more about this shoot as the comic continues. In addition to more posts, I have some secret plans. Stay Tuned.