Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday, February 26th, 2016: Editing, Animating, Socking and "Con-ing"

Some character sketches Herb Apon drew while at Wizard World Portland.
Well dang! It's been months since I've made a diary entry just like my real life diary, I guess. Shameful. But I have been busy. Let's see, what have I been up to?

For starters, I got my round-1 edits from my editor on January 17th and had to dive into the first revisions I've done on the book in over a year. That was...interesting. For the most part, I was tasked with fixing some of the remaining laziness in my writing. Too many repeats of a particular word or another, too much reliance on those hated adverbs, and too frequent use of the word, "said." Going back through and tweaking the language (and a few other minor things) took me two full weeks. While there were occasional moments of worrying at a single word for far too long, for the most part, the experience was weirdly enjoyable. But I did notice a sneaky desire to tweak a few little things I wasn't asked to tweak. I tried to resist, but resisting fixing things turned out to take a lot more effort than fixing them. Anyway, the manuscript is back in my editor's capable hands and I am waiting for my round-2 edits to arrive.

   A wireframe of a scene from the upcoming Fish Wielder trailer

And the same frame fully rendered with all the bells and whistles
In the meanwhile, I'm running on about an hour's sleep for the third time in four days, so I'm a little punchy. You see, I've been working on putting a book trailer together to debut on March 1st. My publisher would have been quite content to handle putting the book trailer together for me, but I had these grandiose dreams of doing something animated. I actually have an animation background, professionally. I was a computer animator, technical director and director for almost a decade in television commercials and entertainment. You know those animated M&M's? I worked on those. You ever watch the UPN stop-motion series Gary & Mike? I worked on that.

When I first hatched my animation idea, I actually looked into hiring some of my friends who still work in the industry. They were all eager to help me out, but even cutting me massive deals, it would have been too expensive or taken up so much of their time that it would have made me feel guilty. So I thought, "Come on, how hard can it be? I know how to do this stuff...basically." But the last time I animated anything was almost 15 years ago now...and the technology has changed quite a bit.

I swear, if someone was trying to write a comedy film about a guy bumbling his way through every blunder and mistake it is possible to make when trying to animate a book trailer, my own personal comedy of errors would put it to shame. I had computer crashes, bones for animating characters that didn't work, bones that did work but caused the characters to become un-animateable, computer crashes, scenes that I saved in the office that wouldn't open at home, scenes I saved at home that wouldn't open at the office, computer crashes, characters that seemed ready to go but immediately turned themselves inside-out as soon as I tried to play the animation, and of course, frames that took so long for the computer to generate that the whole thing would take months to render before anyone could see it. And don't even get me started about my grand misadventures trying to locate a render farm that could render the frames for me! That's a post all in and of itself. But in the end, and after many sleepless nights and days spent in a daze, I finally finished it with three days to spare!

I have to give a shout out here to three talented friends who helped me immensely:

Steve Bailey, who helped me figure out how to make Brad

Nick Childs, who performed the voice of Brad

Brett Caudle, who did the excellent soundtrack music for the trailer.

For those of you interested in the technical details, I did all the animation in Poser 11 Pro, which I had never used before I first fired it up for this project. It is a great value for the money, and an excellent amateur animation tool. It has some significant shortcomings when you need to use it in a more professional way--like it doesn't do distributive rendering, which is why my book trailer is not rendered in HiDef resolution. From the time I started my first shot to the moment I finished my final render it took exactly one month. I started on January 26th, and here I am, finished on February 26th.

Side by side comparison: Printed versus Embroidered
And now, on to the socks. Who would have thought that getting good promotional socks would turn out to be a big deal? I sure didn't. And yet...

It's actually really easy to get custom printed socks. The only problem is that they are printed on an ink jet printer, which means they look good from a distance, but they don't hold up so well when you examine them closely and they feel terrible on your feet. I'm kind of a sock guy. I like socks a lot, so the inferior printed socks did not really do it for me. That's when I started looking into embroidered socks. Again, you'd think it would be easy. In this case, the problem was that various sock places, while very helpful, would give me back proofs where my fish looked like crappy graphics from the most ancient of home video games back in the dark ages of the mid 1970's.

I tried out three different sock places, each time expecting that I had finally found the one that could make my socks, but being bitterly disappointed with the results each time. And then, I found EVERSOX. And they rocked it. Of course, preparing my fish image to be properly translated onto a sock took a bit of doing. I had to reduce Brad from the brilliant full color art Herb Apon drew down to a five color image. I wound up using Adobe Illustrator to do that.

Five color separation. White and black count as colors!

And then the final bit for today! I had a table in the artist's alley at Wizard World Portland, where I promoted the daylights out of the book. I was there from Friday, when they opened, to Sunday, when they closed. I gave out 300 hundred tote bags, 400 buttons, 250 book marks, 3 dozen pairs of socks, 50 tattoos and a whole bunch of Helm comics to get people familiar with my writing style. Also, the wonderful and talented Herb Apon joined me at my table on Saturday and Sunday to autograph copies of the Fish Wielder poster. We gave out about 200 posters!

No telling whether that fairly large investment in the Con and in the swag will pay off in the end, but it was nice to get to talk to people and see them get excited about the book. A few folks have begun following the Fish Wielder Facebook page and there was a big uptick in traffic on this website as well. There were also a lot of people who signed up for the Fish Wielder email list. The first email they are going to get will be the one telling them that the trailer is done and debuts on March 1st! March 1st! MARK YOUR CALENDARS!

OK, that's it for today. I hope I get the next entry up here in a more timely manner! Thanks for reading.