Archive for November, 2012
Thanks to all the people who contributed transcriptions to the Oh No Robot search database for Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, and apologies for the delays in getting them processed and approved. For some reason, Oh No Robot has stopped sending me notices when a new transcription is added, so I never noticed that these new transcriptions were there. I'm now caught up, though. Thank you so much! Those 70-odd extra transcriptions will improve searchability for Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan and bring new readers to the site at a time when I need them.
Just testing something. This is a work in progress, and I need to see how it looks on the Web after flattening, exporting and going through Tumblr processing, before I do all the stuff that still needs to be done.
The Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan storyline Sauna Opera has been remastered. Read it starting with this episode: Finnish and Clwydian bathing cultures meet.
I expected this remaster to be very straightforward: 20 pages that were already in the can from my first attempt at revising it in 2006. All I needed to do was flatten the pages, export at a size where the width was 648 pixels and the height was whatever it came out as, run the pages through pngout and upload.
Of course it turned out to be anything but straightforward. Some master files were missing and I had to dig into some very old back-up CDs to find them. Then some were in different file formats, and different master image sizes, and there were a lot of issues with ragged boundaries and sloppy inking that were pretty much invisible in the original publication, but which had to be fixed before the images could be shown at the much larger size they are now. And this was actually one of the better-organized of the older stories. The others from the same year are a lot messier.
Back in 2001, I decided to write Sauna Opera as a tightly-scripted story of exactly 20 pages, draw them at a larger size than before and scan and process them with the possibility of print in mind. The black and white line art was scanned, as best as I could, at 600 DPI. However, I did not have the computer capacity at the time to colour and letter images at that size with multiple layers. I used GIMP and Paint Shop Pro at the time, and both were big memory hogs that couldn't handle larger images well. So the colour versions and the lettering were done in GIMP at an intermediate size, roughly 1100 x 1600 pixels. What's more, I only coloured some of the pages. Colour at the time was a bit of an extra for me. I took the time if I thought the art was worth it and would be reused for promotional purposes. Finally, I replaced the hand-drawn borders with straighter borders done in GIMP before final export.
In 2006, I made my first attempt at remastering the story. I used Photoshop to colour all the pages that I had originally left in black and white, and did so at full resolution using a layering approach that I'd learned in the mean time. I intended to export at 550 pixels wide, because that was the image width for The Rite of Serfdom and Feral at the time, and in a change of preference, I decided to go with the original, hand-drawn panel borders because they looked more natural with the contents. However, for the pages that I'd coloured in 2001, I used the GIMP files to master directly from, without further conversion. I exported the files at 550 pixels wide and used those on the Drunk Duck mirror, but never got around to uploading them to the main site.
So here we are, almost seven years later again, and the time has come to fix up the 2001-era archives after working on remasters for The Corby Tribe, The Rite of Serfdom and Feral for four long, frustrating years. During those years, however, the archives for those stories that were in the same basic format (vertical pages, six-panel grid) have had yet another size upgrade, and now the target width is 648 pixels. Oh, and I have fully standardized on Photoshop and only use GIMP to convert files in GIMP's native format, XCF, to PSD. So I had to do that, and then fix all the mistakes that were mostly invisible at 418 pixels, but seriously distracting at 648. In the end, the remaster work took two days: one Sunday and the Saturday after that.
And while the final result is a lot more consistent and is pretty much a textbook example of what I do these remasters for—eventually, all comics made after 2001 should be in colour, and all of them should be in one of three formats: 648 pixels vertical, 800 pixels horizontal or 850 pixels vertical with text captions in HTML—I will still have to do more work on these if I ever do prepare these episodes for print.
Plus, in 2012, the type on these comics looks huge. Then again, that is probably an advantage on tablets.
...nor are these proper product photos of the Rite of Serfdom book. Instead, these are snapshots of the proof version of what will one day be the Rite of Serfdom book. We are pretty much learning how to do this as we go along, and there are many things that we still need to fix.
For example, the title font looked correctly aligned when we were looking at it on the screens. Turns out that when you cut off the margins, it doesn't always work out that way.
We're working with a printer in Egypt. They can give us excellent printing quality for the price. The downside is that we won't be anywhere near them when they print the book, and because this is their first comics project, they don't necessarily always know the expectations. Here you see the interior, with extremely large outer margins and very small inner margins. The reason is that they didn't count the pages as we intended: they started with a left-side page instead of a right-side one, and so all pages that were supposed to go on the left side of the book ended up on the right, and vice versa. Lesson learned: make it really clear where your first page of content is going to go. This is our responsibility, not theirs. On the plus side: the colour accuracy is pretty good—see the first of these two pages on the website for comparison.
The book is not very large, but it is very thick, making for an imposing physical object. We do need to double check with the printer that they're going to use a stronger binding than on this first proof, because we need to be sure it won't fall apart when the reader cracks it open.
The proof copy arrived with a larger shipment of printed goods from Egypt, which was held up at customs for a while. This is annoying but unavoidable as we do not have a huge budget for the book, though if we'd realized the extent of the delay in advance, we'd have ponied up to have it mailed to us instead. Another lesson learned.
This weekend, our original plan was to go through the book page by page to look for layout issues, typos, colour problems and other issues in greater detail. Unfortunately, Aggie was ill this weekend, which meant that we had to change our plans—she spent two days in bed while I did a modest amount of work on other ROCR-related things. At this point, I'm not convinced we'll have it ready for Christmas, especially if the final version gets delayed like that again (please note that the delays are unavoidable as we're doing this on a shoestring budget); however, when it does come out, we will probably be selling it at conventions and events for a year, so Christmas is just a blip in the schedule.
The last time I put out anything in print, it was black and white, photocopied and stapled, and only 48 pages. Even at this early stage, it amazes me that we can do a book like this now.