Category: Lynne – Media Production Management

SWOT Analysis Retrospective

Original SWOT analysis can be found here

Essentially, nothing has changed. One could say that my organisational skills have improved somewhat, though I still find myself panicking come deadlines.

My knowledge of texturing objects have improved slightly. I still really, really hate the entire process though.

I found out however that my “Working knowledge of game engines and technical possibilities/limitations” isn’t as sound as once thought. I learned and grew my knowledge of game engines with Source engine, an engine released in 2004, so I found that my knowledge was very dated. I kept referring to and using a style of texturing that isn’t even used by modern developers anymore, but was common place with Source.

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Graphic Narrative – Evaluation and Processes

My comic book was uploaded and it received some pretty nice feedback, mostly about the graphics, but honestly the graphics are the only generally engaging feature anyway.

General Personal Consensus


Graphics

The graphics were certainly the strongest part without a doubt. Like the vast majority of my work, I put a disproportionate amount of effort in when it comes to making things look visually appealing, and it’s nice to see that people noticed and appreciated that with the feedback I got. Someone even said “As soon as I saw the cover, it reminded me of the old Marvel comics I used to read as a kid”. That’s not exactly the vibe I was going for but I’ll happily take it.

Narrative

By far, the weakest part of the product. There’s no human characters, no dialogue and no emotion. I would have really liked to include a real human element into the comic, but various things stopped me from doing that. Partly me wanting to keep the age rating down, and mostly me being completely incompetent at drawing human characters.

I was aiming for a more artful approach if you will, trying to convey a story from just still images with zero speech what so ever, but because of that I felt that nothing that occurs in the comic has any particular weight or depth. It’s a shallow story, and it’s made even worse because of these faults.

Conclusion

Pacific Steel: Moonlit Wings is a success. At face value. What it lacks in depth, emotion, story telling ability, length and general setting it hopefully makes up for with the visual aspect.

I’m starting to see that’s a re-occurring theme with my work. Pretty graphics but no more than a hollow shell beneath.

Production Process


This module wasn’t without it’s difficulties. I’m really not a fan of drawing. So much not a fan of drawing that I decided to simply write my storyboard out with some descriptive writing, so at the very beginning I found the production process very difficult. It was hindered further by the fact that I decided to use Paint.NET, a program that I was very familiar with, and a program that isn’t available for me to use at college.

Concept and Planning 

The nature of Moonlit Wings was directly tied to my animation concept for Pacific Steel. And if really wish I hadn’t come up with an concept with such a mundane setting.

I really love history, but a lot of people really couldn’t care less, and it would be extremely hard to convince people through my work that history is engaging and exciting without disregarding historical facts. A benefit of using a historical setting however is that all the visual designs for characters, objects and vehicles have already been made for me. T

Production

To save myself from the absolute torture that is drawing, I took a slightly sleazy but ultimately effective route. After contact with my tutor to confirm that this was okay to do, I decided to trace over 3D models. Some ripped from other games and some created by myself. This spared me a boatload of time, time that was rather limited.

I was able to manipulate these objects into suitable poses, perspectives and lighting conditions, and then simply trace over them in Paint.NET. For the ship and the aircraft I used models ported into a game called Garry’s Mod, and for the ship interior I modelled that myself with Cinema 4D.

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The initial picture of a the model, ported from World of Warships

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Final image created in Paint.NET

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3D model of the bridge created with C4D

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Final 3D Render

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Ditto, final product

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The simple technique of using layers to slowly draw and build up the image. The final results in around 5 or 6 layers for each object

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I experimented with a few different graphic styles before settling with my chosen style. A more in-depth look at that can be found here. 

The style was easy to produce and visually effective.

The rest is simply various techniques in Paint.NET, then compiling the individual assets into the comic book panels that come together and compose Moonlit Wings.

Constraints/Problems 

The main issue (other than time and lack of talent) was inexperience. I’m not a writer nor have I ever produced anything like this before. The whole time I was just throwing things around to see what stuck, I didn’t really know what I wanted it to be up to the very end when I was started composing everything together,and by then it can be considered too late to change anything.

Creating the narrative was also very difficult. My initial idea was for Moonlit Wings was more in-depth, with human characters with interactions, dialogue, and personal motivations. After realising I couldn’t draw people, I couldn’t 3D model people, and couldn’t write a convincing conversation between two people I gave up on the idea.

Technical issues only came with Paint.NET’s limitations, mostly over having to create the art at a ridiculously high resolution so it wouldn’t look rough and blocky when displayed at normal resolutions.

Regarding time, to my surprise I actually finished 2 days early. In an ideal world that would have given me 2 days to fine-tine and add more stuff but that wouldn’t be the case. I couldn’t think of anything to improve on as I’d created it to the best of my ability.

Feedback

The general feedback for Moonlit Wings was very good. I scored 5 across the board from 18 individuals for the most part, and tied for the lead as the highest rated product in the room. A few individuals just looked at the first page and instantly gave me a 5 star rating, which was flattering, though very strange.

From these results once could assume that the product would be commercially viable. Though the pool of people for the feedback was quite small, and generally all share similar likes and dislikes when it comes to media. A more in-depth collection of feedback can be found here. Unfortunately, at the time I created that survey I was too deep in development to make any changes based on the feedback I gathered.

I’ve heard from someone, and I totally agree with this, is that it’s very generic. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done in one form or another before, and I’ve been really struggling to find ways of making it unique, original and ultimately more interesting. I refer back to my previous statement; “I really love history, but a lot of people really couldn’t care less, and it would be extremely hard to convince people through my work that history is engaging and exciting without disregarding historical facts”

Others say (again I totally agree) that the scenes jump too far forward, and often too fast to create a cohesive narrative. I should have added interim panels to help ease the visual flow, and given more time I certainly would have.

Conclusion 

Through this ordeal though, I have found various new skills with Paint.NET and Cinema 4D, and learned that I can avoid drawing anything if I try hard enough. In the end I’ll have to say that, though I am disappointed in a few areas, I surprised myself and achieved my intentions.

 

 

3D Animation Process 5 – When in Doubt, Render it Again

Nearly 20 renders later, I think I’ve finally (hopefully) maybe achieved the final look for my animation. I knew rather vaguely what I wanted from the beginning, but what I wanted was hidden behind a thousand lighting and colour correction sliders. And ontop of that, I was battling to keep the render times down whilst keeping the quality high. A careful balancing act.

First Batch

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The first render I did of my finished ship in the enviroment. It’s nice, but the lighting is completley off. The ship doesn’t blend with the enviroment at all. The water is also way too reflective, something I’ll tweak continously throughout further tests.

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The fog is also way too dense. It elongates the rendering time alot and anything not placed in a tight bunch you wouldn’t even be able to see.

Second Batch

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An improvement, I think. I toned down the fog and water reflections. Also created a cool scene of 4 ships in a firing formation, to test the impact of rendering the model in bulk. To my surprise the models perform very well.

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The lighting is awful though. This what I originally thought I wanted, a really deep and strong sunset scene. I thought it was great at the time, but further renders proved me wrong.

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Third Batch

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Really, really liked this one. It wasn’t at all what I thought I wanted but it turned out rather nice. The lighting is a lot gentler, though less realistic and more surreal. The material I used for the ships I found was also way too shiny. I wasn’t aiming for a realistic look, but this was a little over the top.

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Fourth Batch

A fine balance between all of the previous tests. Using colour correction and a primitive HDRI I could really fine tune what I wanted.

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Not too realistic, but not too shiny and colorful either. By optimizing the shadows and anti-aliasing, I was also able to considerably nerf the render time to around 1 minute 30. It’s quite long, but it was quite a full scene and at HD. There’s still a whole bunch of tweaks I can make.

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The lighting also looks good from every angle, which is pretty essential for a 3D animation.

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3D Animation Process 4 – Learn From the Best

To really get my animation looking as best as it can be, I had to study the work of professionals. Rather luckily for me, there are tons of examples that I can take plenty of inspiration from.

The best possible reference though, can only be my original inspiration for creating this, World of Warships.

To get a really good idea of what I needed, I booted up the game, chose my favourite boat and took it out for a quick cruise.

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I sailed to an environment similar to the one I’m trying to create myself, and waited a short while for the sun to set.

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Almost immediately I knew what I needed for my 3D environment. The water, the sky, lighting and fog all came together rather beautifully. Of course this is the work industry professionals, and I could never hope to recreate this exactly, I just needed to get close enough.

Taking a leisurely cruise at a comfortable 26 knots I tried to take in as much of the atmosphere as possible, trying to figure out why exactly it looks the way it does and what possible techniques were used.

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Turning the ship away and into the sun gave me a good idea of what the lighting looks like on all angles.

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The effect that really stood out to me was the way the ship reacts with the water. The wash and waves from the bow and stern really complete the visuals. Something I really need to figure out how to do in Cinema 4D efficiently.

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Graphic Narrative – Primary Research

To help me make a more informed decision on the direction of my graphic narrative, I conducted some primary research on Survey Monkey.

I asked questions relevant to my proposed comic book series, and had 9 people fill out the survey. I know that 9 people isn’t really enough to make an informed decision, and the pool of people asked was also very limited in terms of widely differing opinions and general tastes.  Either way, the information is valuable.

If you wish, you can take the survey yourself here

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This was a big one for Pacific Steel, as the comic book is planned to be released online. A multitude of large studios choose to release their comic books digitally (Blizzard Entertainment, VALVe software etc.) due to them being more easily assessable. Pacific Steel would be released online not only for accessibility, but because it will have animated assets incorporated into the panels.

Unfortunately the response wasn’t what I’d hoped. It seems as though people still prefer the traditional comic book format. There is no reason why my comic couldn’t be adapted to a physical format, however.

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After knowing how and if people read comics, it’s important to gauge what sort of comic they are reading. Luckily, Pacific Steel falls into the categories of the two most popular genres on this quiz.

Were it to go the other way, there isn’t much that could be done to rectify this issue without redesigning the entire project unfortunately.

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Another important question to ask. What draws people to a comic in the first place? The people answered both art and narrative. The art is what draws you to a comic in the instant you see it, and the narrative is what keeps you hooked and continue investing in the series.

Pacific Steel is very much focused on the art, and attempting to make a lasting impression that way. Unfortunately The first issue (the one I’ve made for the project) doesn’t contain much in the way of narrative. Narrative was high on the list, but it seems art is the most important feature to have.

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A question not related to comics specifically, but very important to Pacific Steel due to it’s setting. It doesn’t matter if people like comics or not; if they don’t care enough for the subject matter they won’t buy it.

It seems however people are decently interested in history, only 1 out of 9 people said they weren’t in any way. This is good news for Pacific Steel.

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Being more specific and combining the previous questions, I asked if people would buy a comic based around historic events. Again, one person said no, but everyone else would*

“History” is a very vague term, and could apply to any time period. Either way, the subjects said they would buy said comic book, depending on what specifically it was about. Specifics are what I needed to be able to fine-tune my product to appeal to the widest target audience possible.

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The last, and most specific question asked, essentially asking “Would you buy Pacific Steel?” without actually asking it. To my surprise, it turns out people would! 3 people would certainly buy it if they saw it in the shelves, 4 people would at least be interested. 1 person wouldn’t, and another thought it was a terribly idea to begin with.

Either way, it seems Pacific Steel has the majority vote for being relativity successful in the current market.

(EDIT- added detailed, descriptions and reasoning behind the questions and answers displayed)