Monday, November 11, 2013

Comic Production: Editing & Art Direction

"Work Harder!"
An early concept by Adam Cartwright
We're only 8 days into November (at the time of writing this) and I know I've already spent well over 30 hours editing the comic book series. We're still storyboarding the final third of the series, and while I can't change a whole lot about what I've written, I've been asked to go through and revise all of the dialogue in the series with a fine-tooth comb, character by character. So I've had to go through the script, character by character, and modify each person's speech to be unique from the others. Most of our characters come from different places in society, don't have a very diverse vocabulary, and generally won't use words with more than three syllables, while others never use conjunctions, or intentionally use big words to confuse everyone else and take advantage of them.

More complexity is added to the situation because the world we've created is extremely phonetic, literal, foreign (different planet), and has to lack all modern idioms/references. So as I scour the pages of the script for instances of "makes sense", "make sure", "make yourself at home", etc, i'm also looking out for things in the social context of our series, like the various perceptions of how to measure time, how numbers are perceived/measured, or if a character believes in evil/good or moral ambiguity. I also have to avoid any modern terms or phrases like "fish in a barrel," "bull crap," or anything else that refers to plants or animals because they don't exist in the comic. It was a surprisingly more difficult task than initially expected and much of the speech patterns feel truly foreign to English. I had to create rules for a phonetic low-class language early on to make it understandable, while still not resembling good English, and remaining phonetically true to how I'd like the words spoken. For example, one character almost never uses "the", instead opting for " a'." While I could have opted for 'da (as in, 'da bomb) instead of a' the character doesn't use the "D" sound much, so it wasn't true to the phonetic rule. Hopefully what I've got passes the final editor's approval and is easy enough to understand. This sentence summarizes much of my work, how "I brought some mercenaries here as insurance to make sure that didn't happen" becomes "Got some friends here ta’ make sure ‘at didn’ happen."

Tattoos for Tarot
On the production side, I generally look at the last week's art and mark things that need to be changed. These are things like making sure that everything in the script that was important was included (continuity), that excess frames are cut, that characters don't look stiff, that with no knowledge of the script I as a reader can understand the visual motions happening in the scene without explanation, and that a given characters' expressions and body language fit the character. We've been working on concepts and thumbnails (basically storyboards) for the last few months so it's important that I suggest large artistic revisions before we get to the sketching phase. Our methodology is admittedly abnormal in the regard that we're working to finish the storyboards for the entire series before we move on to the sketching phase but otherwise we're following a fairly traditional model. 
Effective Pacing?
That is the question
Pacing is another one of those tough spots that separates a good artist from a good sequential artist. There is a balance between cutting a scene short versus dragging it out for too long and it's the difference between an interested readership, boredom, and being confusing. It's also fairly hard to convey subtle motion gestures like a "nod" in sequential art without spending too much time on them, so you need to improvise around certain gestures. Here's an example of the sort of things that sequential artists think about.

Illustrate a character picking up and eating an apple.

Idea 1 
Frame of the character eating an apple.

We skipped half of the job by not illustrating the character picking up the apple. Was it important to show them picking up an apple? Maybe not, but if so, the reader has no idea where the apple came from and there is not enough information in the single frame (without additional points of reference) to assess much of anything about it's origin. Perhaps the character was carrying it, perhaps it was in his/her pocket, perhaps they just found it. Most readers will assume it's clean because the character is eating it, unless the character itself looks dirty. However, this example has not conveyed a character picking up AND eating an apple, just the eating part.

Idea 2 
Frame of an apple, close up. 
Frame of character eating an identical apple.

This is still not very effective because we don't know where the apple that the character is eating came from. We are left to assume that the apple is the same one from the closeup frame (background can help sell this idea) or else the artist likely would not have focused on it for a full frame... Unless it's an apple not yet consumed (still in the background), implying that the character is eating many apples and that perhaps something bad/good will happen when they reach the one from the closeup. Poison apple?

Idea 3 
Frame of an apple, close up, or alternatively an establishing frame of the character and the apple apart.
Frame of a hand moving towards an apple. 
Frame of a character (with a matching hand) eating the apple.

This is fairly effective and can be made more effective by use of color on the hand or by perhaps giving the character a long-sleeve shirt or unique identifiable quality that's visible in the last two frames.

Idea 4 
Frame of an apple, close up. 
Frame of a hand reaching towards the apple. 
Frame of a character matching the hand from frame 2 looking at the apple. 
Frame of the character blowing on the apple. 
Frame of the character wiping the apple on their sleeve. 
Frame of the character looking at the apple to make sure it's clean. 
Frame of the character eating the apple.
While intentionally extended to 7 frames for emphasis, you can see how this sequence of events could easily detract from the main story... Unless the point of the scene was to imply that life is moving slowly, or to give an internal monologue, or perhaps to make a seemingly important statement about the character's nature that couldn't otherwise be presented in a different scene. The point here is that this example wastes 7 frames, possible 2 full pages (pages = $), to show something that doesn't progress the plot, doesn't make a statement, and is possibly boring to look at. This isn't to say that you can't add other elements like the aforementioned monologue, or perhaps to use this as a visual dynamic while a conversation is taking place, but on its own this is probably excessive framing.

So this week's post ends with the sort of joke you'd find in an action film.

Frame 2: Anarchist: "What's the password?"

Frame 3: Glasses Guy: "Huh?"

Frame 4: Gun: JAM*
Frame 6: Gun: click click

Frame 7: Anarchist: "Nice joke, eh?"

Frame 7: Text Box (bottom of frame): *There are few things more upsetting in life than a gun jam.

No comments:

Post a Comment