News for September 19th, 2005
We have decided to let people in on how we make the comic. Most folks think that we grab screenshots and throw it into Photoshop with a few filters and add text. This is not the case. So, after much time and effort...(DUN, Dun, dun)
The Making of PJ Chronicles!
Step 1:The Idea. Time frame: Varied
Admittedly, this can be the least time consuming part to the comic, however it often takes many hours and a lot of thought.The intelligent Ninja thinks of a gag for the comic. Sometimes they come quickly but there is the odd case of writers block. After that the dialogue gymnastics begins. The dialogue is massaged till it "sings" and then it gets sent to Nitui. Keep in mind that dialogue lengths are considered during this and may still be adjusted later during the "Text" process.
Step 2:Panel layout Time frame:A couple of minutes
Nitui checks if the comic needs anywhere from 1 to 6 panels and begins the layout. Sometimes the initial dialogue will have the panel structure listed, but often it doesn't. Unless the gag requires strict visuals for the joke to work, Nitui has the greatest influence on this process.
Step 3:Screenshots Time Frame:15 to 30 minutes
Ninja and Nitui start looking for the characters and props. Since Nitui is the Photoshop genius, she searches the web for props and her screenshot archives for useable pictures. Ninja logs into City of Heroes and plays for the next few hours while Nitui works. Well, actually he is running around looking for locations and getting screenshots of poses and bad guys for the strip. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of the poses we use do not exist regularly in CoH and therefore are formed from composites of different shots or are made by hand. I did say Nitui was a Photoshop genius.
Step 4:Artwork Time frame: Has taken as long as 22 hours, but most are 4 to 6 hours.
Many shots are manipulated simply to make them fit. City of Heroes uses 3d boxes to show where characters stand and to keep them from getting stuck. This means that characters can only be "so close" to each other. This is great for the game design and lousy for wedding pictures. The characters are cut out of the backgrounds and then placed into a cleaned up screenshot that has had "pesky civilians" and other characters removed. When was the last time you saw the Atlas statue without people standing around under it? Would you believe that most of Ninja's screen shots are done in the Hospital and not on missions or in the street? I will simply say, "Nitui is a genius" one last time.
Step 5:Text Time Frame:20 minutes on average
A great deal of this takes place while the regular panels are done but last minute changes to dialogue and kerning add to the timing of this piece. There have been lines of dialogue dropped or changed here and sometimes added if the shot is unclear. Believe it or not, the bubbles themselves are the most time consuming part. The arrows and shapes are not just dropped in using a tool but are hand formed from generic circles and rectangles.
Step 6:Polishing the comic Time frame:15 minutes to an hour
The next step is to drop it into format. Adding the trademark and the bottom of the title are fairly easy, but the exporting into a graphic for the web takes time. Nitui ensures that the picture uses the right palettes and compression to get the best picture for the smallest file size. Next comes Ninja's sign off on the comic. He looks for the minor details and has at times sent them back to fix one of the panels which can take up to an hour to fix. Once this is done, we upload the strip and hack out the news.
Step 7:The news (pictured here in well..the news) Time frame:15 minutes or more depending on numbers of links
This is where we decide what bits of our lives to share with you folks. It may seem silly, but we do try to let you in on the personal life without exposing ourselves completely. Once that is uploaded we call it done and go to bed around 1:30 am. It can be a very time consuming project.
We hope this has been interesting as well as informative and hopefully you won't think of us as complete hacks next time you read the strip.
Script for September 19th, 2005
2: Panel Layout
3: Screen shots
4: Art work