Clip Studio Paint (formerly much better known as Manga Studio) has just been released for the iPad.
Lumion 8 has just been released. Mostly intended for architects working with CAD models of buildings for construction clients. Which makes it very very costly, but as a result, also very fast and streamlined — if you have the ninja workstation needed to run it. In terms of the tools that readers of this blog are likely to have access to, it only interfaces nicely with SketchUp and (apparently) Cinema 4D. As such it’s probably not for most people who read this blog, but it’s interesting to at least see what the architects have at their disposal these days.
Here are all the new features in Lumion 8. I like the look of the “softening of hard edges” filter, which smooths some of the razor-sharp edges that 3D renders often have…
Can’t wait for the big sales on Black Friday (24th November) or Cyber Monday (27th November)? Vue artists can pick up Tony Meszaros (RealmsArt) content in his big 80% sale on Vue content at the Cornucopia store. It’s on now…
“Monster, Myths, and Legends” art contest, although only for entrants in Louisiana, USA. All places should tap into their similarly spooky local folklore at this time of year, bringing it together with local aspiring artists.
Movie trade magazine Deadline reports that…
“the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien is currently shopping around rights to a TV series based on The Lord of the Rings with a hefty sticker price. The Tolkien estate has put a price tag of $200-250 million dollars on the rights and is currently taking meetings with Netflix and Amazon”
Ugh. I do hope it’s not going to be “Games of Thrones-ified” and “global-reach”-ified once they get the rights. But it probably is. Because a $200-250m price, plus the $750m making-of costs, will demand as wide an audience as possible, with only a few scraps thrown to the fan-base for Tolkien’s writing. Jeff Bezos just sold $1.1 billion in Amazon stock, so they have that sort of cash.
There are more back-stories to be told in The Lord of the Rings, it’s true.
For instance, one could have an alternately charming / creepy Shire Stories series of self-contained episodes: Bilbo’s visit to the Michel Delving mathomhouse; Ted’s “cousin Hal” encounters the “walking trees” “beyond the North Moors” (last of the Ent-wives?); Gandalf’s arrangements with the dwarves for the making and delivery of the Party toys, his design and making of the Party fireworks; the building of The Hedge, the attack of the trees of the Old Forest, the burning of the bonfire glade; and Farmer Maggot’s encounters with Tom Bombadil. Etc.
There are also plenty of pre-Bilbo places for more epic back-stories, such as the life-story of Aragorn. I’d guess that may be what the Tolkien Estate is shopping. I expect the Estate might also be hoping for a worthy series of The Hobbit, after the messy “dog’s dinner” that the cinema trilogy made of the book.
But as Phil Dragash has so ably shown, full-cast / full-symphonic audio-only seems the best way forward. Which, interestingly, puts such back-story ventures well within the reach of fan-work makers, and for a lot less cost than $1bn. All you have to do is find someone who can write like Tolkien, and with the same pre-modern concerns. Which may, admittedly, be rather tricksy.
Update. Amazon got the TV rights to The Lord of the Rings…
“Set in Middle-Earth, the television adaptation [“a multi-season commitment”] will explore new storylines preceding J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. The deal includes a potential additional spin-off series.” Telling… “previously unexplored stories based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s original writings”.
Interesting, so it’s a prequel series. Which opens the door to telling Aragorn’s life story, as I suggested here earlier. New Line Cinema are lined up.
The popular free audio-editor Audacity has just released version 2.2. Audacity is used by many creatives, from animators to podcasters. Now handles MIDI files, autosaves-on-crash when recording, and has lots of bugfixes. Also new UI themes, found at: Edit | Preferences | Interface. Such as this one…
The Blender Institute has started working on their 12th open movie, to be made as a showcase for Blender 2.8. The new one is to be called Spring, in which a mountain spirit and her wise little dog bring springtime to a mountain valley after a long and dark winter. Concept artist David Revoy is once again onboard, and the pre-production assets are being released under Creative Commons Attribution — though sadly it seems hi-res downloads are only for subscribers to the Blender Cloud.
Pre-production concept paintings by David Revoy for the Blender Institute.
DAZ Studio 4.10 is out. The eye-catching bits, in terms of what’s new…
* a new cloth physics engine called dForce, which does realistic dynamic cloth draping. The FAQ talks of… “dForce compliant clothing items, that customers will be able to purchase from the DAZ store, will be both rigged and dynamic at the same time”. Presumably those browsing the store in the near future will start to see clothing packs with “dForce enabled” swooshes on them.
* An NVIDIA iRay upgrade, which… “Increases hardware requirement to Fermi class or newer generation GPUs; recent driver recommended”.
* Better BVH animation import.
* Better FBX export.
* A YouTube 360 fix: “The stereo 360 horizontal shift has been fixed. Iray stereo 360 output now directly conforms to the YouTube 360 stereo format.”
I haven’t heard that any especially vital plugins need 4.10 to run, as was the case when Scene Optimiser required a version higher than 184.108.40.206 to run.
Poser 11’s service release patch is out, the eighth such. To get it, launch your Smith Micro Download Manager, switch to the Updates tab. There you’ll see 11.0.8…
There appears to be no accompanying Content update pack this time, as there has been in the past.
If you run a 64-bit instead of a 32-bit install of Poser, then you need to make sure to uncheck the 32-bit check-box when the installer runs. Otherwise it may look for both 64-bit and 32-bit installs of Poser, and may then get confused when it can’t find the 32-bit.
Changes with the new patch:
* Queue Manager Installer now works on Windows 32-bit.
* Sketch Render no longer crashes or hangs when using Make Movie.
* Master Control light burning issues were solved.
* Graph Editor opens with last window size. [meaning: the Graph Editor no longer opens at a tiny size].
* Area Render fixes.
* Direct Manipulation Tool is now being rendered as intended.
* PNGs with alpha are now supported. The alpha is discarded, and the PNG is looked as a 24 bit image. [Poser can already output alpha-masked PNGs, so presumably this has to do with input of PNGs].
Here’s my pick of this month’s new content, released for Poser and DAZ Studio. It’s slightly early this month, as I wanted to get the Halloween items in before Halloween is over and gone.
Sayomi Anime Outfit for G3F looks fabulously detailed and designed. I presume it’s fairly close to some famous-in-Japan anime character outfit, but I can’t immediately find which one.
Techno Render Room and glass throne.
Dushka Machine Gun by Cybertenko, for Poser. Would suit a steampunk makover, but that shouldn’t be too difficult to do.
The Silent City, with a nicely subtle retro-future edge to some of the details.
R2R Crash Landed by Coflek-gnorg, for Poser. A quick setup for a spaceship or UFO crash site in a desert, with a lot of presets. If you want a non-crashed version of the ship, the older Fighter Spaceship by Coflek-gnorg is very similar to the crashed one, but with non-crashed textures.
Coflek-gnorg also has R2R Thunder Road, which may interest Poser users who don’t have access to Vue’s atmospheres, and who don’t want to get into multi-pass renders + Photoshop in order to do depth-fogging. 16 presets plus terrain.
Power Board is a powered super-skateboard by The ArtFarm, with poses.
Tactical Mask for Poser.
Fantasy / adventure:
Body Hair for G8 Female, for DAZ Studio. Each hair is geometry, so I’m guessing it may impact render times.
Kitty meets G8F: the poses, for G8F and the HiveWire Housecat.
Scythian Archers for Genesis 3 and 8, for DAZ Studio.
A free Fantasy Harp, with commercial use.
Villainous Lair, complete with V2 rocket.
Old Theater Changing Room by Cybertenko, now upgraded for Poser 11’s SuperFly renderer.
British railways expert DryJack has a warmly Autumnal GWR Bloater Fish Van, made with his usual high level of detail.
HiveWire Whisper is a baby unicorn for the HiveWire Horse. For Poser and DAZ Studio.
Flinks Scary Forest for Poser.
Sayuri Hair for V4.
Fairy Shroom World from HD scenery specialist ShaaraMuse3D.
Catula, a Dracula-style semi-toon for the HiveWire house cat. With a texture fix, could also work as an alien sci-fi cat. I like the Disney-ish side-profile too.
For matching fur types, look at the CWRW Black, White & Tuxedos for the HW House Cat.
Baby Barry, a kiwi-style baby bird for DAZ Studio. Could probably use a set of feathers.
Precious Lynx, which doesn’t appear to need a base such as last month’s Precious Deer.
GroBot, a super-flexible super-morphable new Poser character. In the large mix, there’s a nice cat-bot.
Sharks by AM: Hammerhead for Daz Studio.
PterodaustroDR by Dinoraul, for Poser. A sort of ‘demon pelican’.
Landscapes and sea-scapes:
Need a home for your wyrms? New from Stonemason, Misty River Gorge, a gorge system with river and foliage.
Pitts Special Stuntplane for Poser, with extreme HD dashboard and other textures. Perfect for flying over your landscape renders.
Prefer to stay on the ground? Try The Private Garden by Stonemason.
And finally, I see there’s a new version of SeaVue for Vue, SeaVue 2017 which supersedes the previous SeaVue ‘second edition’. Same price, $20. It’s a collection that helps you make classic surface seascape pictures with Vue, with crashing waves and swirling foam.
That’s it. More next month.
Oooh, a Blade Runner 2049 mini-prequel, from the Cowboy Bebop director Shinichiro Watanabe. In plot terms, the 15 minute Blade Runner: Black Out 2022 sit between the original and the new Blade Runner. As do the follow-on shorts 2036: Nexus Dawn and 2048: Nowhere to Run. All are now on YouTube for free, courtesy of Warner Bros.
Below is my itemisation of the “Marvel Method” of making a comic-book, as best as I can make it out from reading various interviews from Stan Lee / Jack Kirby glory days.
The method began at Atlas and would later change and morph at Marvel in the 1970s, but here’s what it was meant to be originally in the early days of Marvel…
1) Stan Lee wrote (or told face-to-face, sometimes with physical play-acting) a quick loose plot treatment for the comic’s next issue, ranging in length from a simple paragraph to a page or two. Just a plot with beginning – middle – end, and some general indications of where each scene might be set and what the character motivations/reactions might be at specific points. There were almost no detailed descriptions for the artist to follow, unless Lee wanted something very specific or innovative in a particular scene. The ending might also be made quite specific, in terms of exactly how things should end up in the final scenes.
2) The artist would break this story down into pages of framed art, pace the story across the number of pages available (sans splash page). The character designs and relationships/motivations had of course already been set up by previous issues of the title, so the artist could work pretty much ‘on automatic’ in that respect. Then he laid out the story across each page, with rough pencils. He might have to micro-plot specific scenes that the wider plot seemed to require, and/or bring a secondary character into the scene if that was needed. He added visual emphases and visual “cliffhanger” moments.
Obviously here the “Marvel Method” assumed a top-flight action artist like Kirby etc, as the method is not going to work with talent that has lesser visualisation and pacing skills. Or with comics that talk-talk-talk rather than show. Or with comics that need elaborate multi-issue pre-plotting and fiddly sub-plots.
3) The artist of course knows to leave space on the penciled pages for caption boxes or dialogue balloons, but doesn’t indicate exactly where they would be. He likely adds margin notes on the top of the page, to: i) explain the action to the writer, if the pencils are very rough or he’s invented a filler scene; or ii) repeat the section of the writer’s plot he’s covering, to jog the writer’s memory and/or for future reference later down the production line. That would be especially important if the plot had been delivered verbally.
4) The artist then added the splash (opening) full-page to summarise the story, meaning the story as they had imagined it on the page.
5) Stan Lee then came back into the process. He approved the penciled art pages for conforming to his basic plot, picked up errors and misinterpretations (most likely via notes to the inker, such as “the people in this cafe need to be more seedy-looking, please”).
7) Stan Lee penciled in the placing and size of the caption boxes, and suitably sized balloons, so as to meld these well with the artwork. Lee also said in one interview that he invented and penciled in all the sound-effect words (THHWONK! etc) at that point. This means the writer must also have an excellent sense of graphic design and spacing in page layout.
8) Once that was done he had a good idea of how wordy each page could be. He then wrote the copy for the caption boxes and dialogue/thought balloons, so as to fit with what was in the panels — the facial expressions, the details shown in the settings, any new elements the artist added etc. His captions would also help fill in plot aspects that were not being conveyed by the visuals.
Stan Lee: “And I found, as I was doing it, it made it much more enjoyable. Because I wasn’t looking at blank paper in a typewriter, but I was writing copy [dialogue, captions] for people, for drawings that I was looking at, with expressions and actions. I felt carried away.” [He would also ‘act out loud’ his ideas for lines, trying out how they sounded, in the same way that Robert E. Howard had done in the 1930s].
9) Small gaps left over in the layout might be filled with occasional footnotes to the reader, which referred them back to events in previous issues or in other titles. This helped to cross-sell titles to readers, and also helped the creatives keep track of continuity.
10) Did Lee also pencil in the lettering of his copy-writing? I guess it would have saved him typing time, and it seems he did — as in one interview he admitted: “I write the captions and dialogue [aka ‘the copy’], usually right on the original artwork”. This would also have helped with exactly fitting the copy to the space available on the page, making the finished page look even more elegantly arranged. Which means the writer also has to have lettering and copy-fitting skills, albeit not in ink.
The penciled and laid-out and written pages were presumably then photographed as a backup, and then went off to the inker of the artwork. Then to a letterer and colourist, under the supervision of an editor.
That, as best I can re-construct it, is how it was done.
Graphic Medicine : the interaction of comics & healthcare. A very vigorous and dedicated website complete with: an occasional podcast; a blog; a long-running “This Week in Graphic Medicine” news/link digest; reviews of strips and graphic novels; and even a long-running annual conference (2018: Vermont, east coast of the USA / 2019: Brighton UK).
The new relatively-affordable 10-inch tablets with 1920px screens are going to provide an excellent platform for such comics. Add to that Poser’s speedy comic-book rendering abilities and vast royalty-free content library, and there seems to be a huge open opportunity here for talent to get into creating healthcare comics, and then to teach others to make them. That would have to be about teaching people to make them in a non-naff way, a way which meets the high 2D standards which both kids and regular adult comics-readers now expect. Ugly grainy 3D textures with a few toon lines over the top, and “wanna-be-3D-really” shadows, are not going to be acceptable in a therapeutic context.
Now that the new Blade Runner movie has so expertly turned the corner of the year 2017, it seems timely for me to do a new survey of the forthcoming 2018 science-fiction and fantasy films.
There are of course still a few more films to come in 2017. Before Christmas we get Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok; DC’s Justice League; Guillermo del Toro’s acclaimed ‘beauty and the beast’ movie The Shape of Water; and of course the big-big release which is Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
But below I focus is on what’s coming in 2018. I should note that I’m not someone who watches trailers, due to the generally spoiler-ific nature of trailers. So these comments are not informed by any trailers there might be out there.
* Extinction: Extinction leads a whole pack of gloomy movies, with its January 2018 release. It sounds like Close Encounters of the Third Kind (the grim family-breakdown bits) meets any number of imminent-apocalypse movies. I’m not expecting much from this one.
* The God Particle: The heavily delayed space-station horror movie God Particle is now set for release in early February 2018. Despite the intellectual-sounding title it appears to be just a basic ‘dangerous aliens on a space station’ story. It’s also apparently now part of the Cloverfield franchise. Perhaps that’s how the makers rescued what was, by all accounts, a turkey.
* Annihilation: A Natalie Portman vehicle due at the end of February 2018. It features a small-team scientific expedition to an “environmental disaster zone”. Could be just another “monsters and guns on the jungle” action-eer with a veneers of sci-fi. But the fact that the makers had hoped to get Tilda Swinton suggests it may have a little more intellectual substance to it. One suspects that piranha-like flesh eating nano-swarms may be involved. However, with that sort of thing I’m always haunted by the huge pile of pretentious nano-crud that was Johnny Depp’s awful Transcendence (2014).
* A Wrinkle in Time: Once we get past the dead zone of the January/February releases, things become a little more upbeat with a Disney movie. This is an adaptation of a children’s Christian science-fiction novel that was well-known in the 1960s and 70s, but which somewhat faded from public awareness in the 1980s and 90s. It’s a big Disney live-action movie, so should be fairly enjoyable. Though it may work best for those aged 11-14. It’s due in early March 2018, and will possibly be the most cheerful fantasy of what appears to be a very gloomy year of movies.
* Black Panther: Yet more jungle adventure — is the Dominican Republic offering vast subsidies to movie-makers, to film in its lush jungles? I must stay I enjoyed the Black Panther’s first brief appearance on the big screen in Captain America: Civil War. But it sounds to me like this may be a re-hash of Avatar, with military outsiders invading the hidden jungle trying to steal the Panther’s vibranium metal. Yawn. Still, it’s from Marvel, so it should have some extra zip to it. Presumably it also somewhat sets the scene for the big Avengers: Infinity War blockbuster later in the year.
* Tomb Raider: A big Warner Bros. release in mid March 2018. Judging by the grim movie poster it’s not going to be bouncy and camp Raiders of the Lost Ark-style fun, and will instead go for a gritty “I’m a survivor, taste my bloody ice-pick!” angle.
* Pacific Rim: Uprising: A sequel to the big brash but forgettable Pacific Rim. This time there’s no Guillermo del Toro in sight. Sounds like a big dumb sequel, full of monsters vs. giant machines, but hey… that can be enjoyable too.
* Rampage. Yet another ‘bio-engineered monsters in the jungle’ movie, this time based on an old 1980s videogame. And of course the monsters escape and go on the rampage. Sounds like an over-the-top formula popcorn movie, basically Jurassic Park crossed with Godzilla. Expect laughs, if not outright parody.
* Ready Player One. Steven Spielberg as director of a post-apocalyptic / cyberpunk movie, set in a future where most people prefer to ‘live’ in the virtual reality world of the OASIS. Sounds like Blade Runner meets Tron. Hopefully it will have an interesting Snow Crash-like edge in terms of the visuals, although it’s apparently based on a dire young adults novel that was anything but the great Snow Crash.
* The New Mutants. At first glance I thought this was proper X-Men movie, but from the description it seems to be a grim psychological teens-in-a-maze horror videogame dressed up in X-Men clothing. Nope, that just sounds awful to me — even when I learn that the great Maisie Williams is starring.
* Avengers: Infinity War: Which releases in early May and opens the summer season. One of the year’s big “must see” movies, of course.
* “Untitled Han Solo film”, in May 2018. A Lucasfilm space-western telling the backstory of Han Solo, and directed by Ron Howard. Yup, I’ll definitely see that.
* The Incredibles 2: Pixar’s big summer movie from… the great Brad Bird. Interesting. Yup, that sounds like another must-see movie.
* Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: Yet more jungles and escaped monsters, and yet more forgettable popcorn and people-munching action.
* Ant-Man and the Wasp: Presumably this will be Marvel’s lighter offshoot movie, serving as a palette-cleanser after the heavier Avengers: Infinity War. The first Ant Man movie was enjoyable, and presumably this will be more of the same.
* Hotel Transylvania 3: Hotel Transylvania 2 was a thoroughly enjoyable entertainment, even with its (thankfully quite short) musical interludes. So I have hopes for more fun from this.
* Alita: Battle Angel: Hollywood takes another crack at doing Japanese manga/anime as a big summer blockbuster movie. Maybe this time it’ll finally work, with James Cameron at the helm. In a grim post-apocalyptic future (Again? Yawn…), a girl robot is rescued from a scrapheap and becomes a Motorball player. It should be Valerian-style treat visually, if nothing else.
* Hellboy: Apparently Hellboy reboots into an R-rated Deadpool style, but… he travels to an ancient England, must defeat Merlin the wizard etc. Hmmm… Well, I guess an early medieval fantasy setting would allow for lots of gratuitous violence and gore. I’ve only ever seen the Hellboy movies, and I disliked the Deadpool movie, so while the setting excites me the style may not.
* Bumblebee: Apparently a Transformers spin-off movie telling the 1980s backstory of Bumblebee. I suspect a viewer will have to be younger than 11 to enjoy this one.
* The Man Who Killed Don Quixote: Terry Gilliam’s new project, in which a time-travelling ad-man meets the famous tragic hero Don Quixote. Any whacky and surreal Gilliam movie is always welcome.
* Mission: Impossible 6: Always a treat, with cool future-gadgets and snappy patter.
* First Man: a bio-pic on the life and work of the Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong. Hopefully a respectful one.
* The Predator: apparently an attempt to revive the Predator brand, as a sequel to the 1987 movie. Judging by the timing of the release it’ll just be a big dumb summer action movie.
* The Titan: Seems to be a low-budget action/horror movie in which an Air Force pilot is genetically re-engineered to survive on Saturn’s moon Titan. Might be interesting, though it seems he just turns into the usual movie-monster.
* Venom: In early October we get the big screen version of Marvel’s Venom character, introduced in the late 1980s as a new arch-enemy of Spider-Man. He’s from a time when I had stopped reading Marvel comics, so there’s no “oh wow, Venom!” reaction from me. But he sounds like an interesting character. I’m hoping this won’t be skewed into Deadpool territory, but I guess it will be.
* X-Men: Dark Phoenix: the big and long-awaited X-Men movie lands in early November. It is, of course, the movie version of the famous Dark Phoenix story. Just as long as they do it right…
* Batman: Gotham by Gaslight: an animated Batman feature, in which the Batman inhabits an alternate-world steampunk Victorian Gotham, is on the trail of Jack the Ripper. Based on the graphic novel, though that’s not always a recommendation. For instance, I was disappointed by the recent feature-animation of Justice League: The New Frontier, which was risibly simplistic compared to the graphic novel.
* Fantastic Beasts and Where Not to Find Them: A Fantastic Beasts sequel. The first one was entertaining, in a Doctor Who-ish sort of way, and looked great. Yes, more of the same would be welcome.
* Mortal Engines. An adaptation of the novel set in a steampunk-ish version of London, on an alternate-history desolated earth. Set for a 14th December release, so it must be really good if it’s going to do well in the Christmas slot.
That’s it. It’s interesting to see how steampunk comes through strongly at the end of the year, albeit with a gloomy edge to it. Can 2019 be a bit more cheerful and optimistic please, Hollywood?