Production Update 79 (an Audio Edition)

It has been a pretty good week behind the scenes. First off, one piece of big news, is that I found 2 music groups that are willing to let me use tracks in Cosmic Rage. One of the bands is Valkyrie Kiss. They are letting me use their track titled “Set Me Free” which can be purchased on iTunes.

The track is the first one for the band which labels themselves as a “JRock-inspired, culture-bridging power rock band from the SF Bay Area”. According to their facebook page, a new track will be released in late February.

You can also check out the band on bandcamp. I am really looking forward to putting their track to good use and possibly working with them again in the future. Make sure you check them out!

In the near future I will release information regarding the second group that will be contributing to the project. It has mostly been an audio kind of week. I downloaded sound effects to be used for the first scene which is comprised of about 8 shots. I have started to do some light audio mixing.

All of the audio work was inspired by the fact I was in the process of recruiting music tracks to be used for the last batch of scenes I rendered out in 3D. While I was gathering audio, I was also able to get another scene rendered out as well. I currently have about 4-6 3D scenes that need compositing, so a nice little backlog of things to work on.

On the agenda for this week might be a little audio work, so I can get to a point in the rough edit where I need the music tracks to sync visuals with. I am not sure what else I will get done since… I am getting my apartment this week! Which means I will be getting all of my supplies and even a couple new things for my place as well. I am excited to get my workspace the way I want it and with all of my things on hand! Might even get some pictures up too.

New Direction

I have been doing some thinking lately and I have decided that I will be limiting my review posts that I have been doing in regards to anime, manga and films. Instead, my regular Thursday posts are going to be even more freestyle than the Production Updates.

They will still involve some manga, anime and films but it will just be less formal. I think they will also cover what ever I am in the mood to write about as well. I don’t really have a plan for them, which is the point.

I had a series of reviews for all of the 8 volumes of The Flowers of Evil that are currently available from Vertical. I am not going to release the rest of them, but if you haven’t gotten the hint yet 😉 you really should be reading this series. The character development is great and the artwork is simple yet so emotional. I believe volume 9 and 10 are available for pre-order in case you are interested.

I will also be signing for a new apartment next week too 🙂 My own apartment for the first time in a couple years. I have been getting more nervous about it lately, which is why the blog post went up to late today, can’t sleep haha. That means I will get all of my movies, art books and art supplies at my disposal again; can’t wait to rediscover things I forgot I had. Once everything is set up, it might be time to post some pics of the new crib.

I’m really excited to see how these new posts will go and be sure to check back Monday for a big announcement!

Production Update 78

No production art update this week, my apologies. This week has been a little hectic. First off, I will be moving again at the end of the month to a more permanent location. That means I will be able to get all of my art supplies and gear for my new space. The last several months I have been operating with a pretty minimal selection of tools, I don’t even have my light able for doing any animation, no animation paper, not even a marker board for planning potential plot points. The good thing has been that the last couple months I have completed some freelance projects and also been working on animating in Adobe After Effects so I haven’t needed the drawing materials too badly, although I fear I may be a little rusty when I start back up again soon.

Not all was lost this week. I did some research on some bands that I like and think their music will go well into the Cosmic Rage Universe. I am hoping to reach out to a few of them this week and see if they would be interested in sharing some music for the project. I’ll provide an update on this as I learn more. The shots I am working on now will be timed out to the audio tracks so I need them to continue with them. I need the music for 4 scenes, which I have started compositing and laying some rough keyframes. Once I have the music I can go in and adjust the keyframes to be timed to the music better.

I have also started working on the scenes after these 4 in the story. That way I won’t be hung up waiting for music. Currently, I have one scene I have animated, I just need to render it out. Rendering had to take a slight break since I have a small freelance project to finish up this week.

Finally on the Cosmic Rage front, I found some solutions to issues with the i-book authoring for the project. I am really excited to continue to experiment with this as a possible way to distribute Cosmic Rage when the time comes.

On a personal note, I have reached the 10% completion stage in my online coding class as well. The courses I am going through now are based in html and css, 2 languages I have some experience with so they are a little bit of review but I am learning some new things as well. It is especially helpful to see how the teacher works, which is a good way to learn how to organize and structure things in a professional manner.

Recent Reading: The Flowers of Evil Volume 3

My review of the series The Flowers of Evil from Vertical continues with volume 3. When we left off with volume 2, Kasuga and Nakamura were becoming closer and Kasuga was developing behaviors and thoughts similar to Nakamura’s. Especially the idea of being trapped in a dead end countryside city, full of people hiding their true selves.

The volume opens with the entire school abuzz over their discovery in school. Meanwhile, Saeki starts to learn of a deeper bond between Kasuga and Nakamura than she ever imagined. With suspicion mounting, the relationship between Kasuga and his dream girl, Saeki starts to get rocky.

Kasuga is torn between the two lives he feel he has and struggles to choose which path is the correct one for him. While Kasuga is battling within himself, Nakamura and Saeki start to interact with one another leading to a glimpse into the rivalry these two feel towards one another.

As Saeki tries to pull Kasuga down her path, Kasuga panics and flees towards where he feels safe, with Nakamura. Nakamura is able to persuade Kasuga into attempting to leave the countryside together. What Kasuga doesn’t know, is that Saeki is franticly looking for him back in the city, until she finds out the two of them were leaving the area.

The end of volume 3 features all three classmates on the mountainside pouring their emotions out while it storms. A fitting scene for the mixed emotions each character has within. It is during this exchange that we get to see more of the characters, in particular, Kasuga and Saeki.

The artwork keeps up with the rest of the volumes thus far. The facial expressions in the series; simply beautiful. The simpler art style allows for more emotion to come through since the artwork isn’t darkened up with a heavy use of tones.

Production Update 77

This year is starting off with some good progress being made towards episode one. I am very excited to be sharing more production art with you all. Below are a couple screenshots of the progress I made this past week.

starting crowdThis was the first screenshot I took when I was first starting in this scene. I was generating a crowd for the shot and began by duplicating a couple members in the crowd so I could get the proportions and scaling correct. I would later go back in and footage replace the crowd members with different ones so there would be more than 2 types of characters.

Fenix titleThis is what a draft of the final shot looks like. I am quite happy with the results and how the 3D modeling of the environments is working out so far. I have more background renders down for more shots and I am setting another one up tonight. However, I am looking for some music from a rock band to include some of these shots so I am currently looking for some artists that are willing to contribute a track or two to the project. I need to create some animations to go with some audio so that is why I need to wait for the tracks before starting those shots.

The first part of the week I have a render going for another scene. After that I will work to set up another and start compositing. I also need to do some research on possible musicians and may work on some other things this week as well. Looking forward to another great and productive week.

Recent Reading: The Flowers of Evil Vol 2

This week we continue our review of The Flowers of Evil series, volume 2 in particular from Vertical. If you haven’t checked out the review of the first volume, you can see that here.

Volume 2 sticks close to the anime series if you watched it online via crunchyroll. The contract between Kasuga and Nakamura continues, only things get a little complicated since Saeki starts to play a more pivotal role in the series. Saeki and Kasuga go out on a date and begin a relationship all while Kasuga is hiding his secret of the gym uniform from the first volume. Nakamura starts to interact more with Saeki as well playing the role of a potential instigator by telling Kasuga something about Saeki that may turn out to be a lie. In a way, Kasuga starts to develop a second life. His first being the book nerd student at school who is dating Saeki, one of the prettiest girls in school. The second life involves him sneaking around with Nakamura and keeping his secret buried. A secret that plants the seed of an inner struggle.

As the story progresses we can see more and more of the characters dynamics intertwine and how they are starting to develop for the rest of the series. We get more of an insight to the dynamic between Nakamura and Kasuga that begins to show deeper layers than just the contract that was agreed upon that I can only assume will get deeper as the story evolves. The relationship between Kasuga and Saeki is just starting to get underway and should start to be expanded on in future volumes.

Kasuga and Nakamura have their own inner struggles and we catch glimpses of each. Kasuga is torn on what type of person he is and the battle is played out over his choice of which female classmate he wants to be with. Nakamura feels trapped and suffocated in the countryside town the characters live in. This trapped feeling is something that Nakamura feeds to Kasuga and he starts to feel suffocated by the countryside.

The second volume closes on a notable scene with some great artwork. The scene is beautifully animated in the series and plays an interesting dynamic in the future of the story (at least it did in the anime series and assuming the manga and anime continue to parallel one another). The scene is important for more than just the beautiful artwork, in a way it solidifies Nakamura and Kasuga as a unit instead of two individuals.

We get more of an inside glimpse into the characters in volume 2 and each of the characters are becoming deeper, meaning we are allowed to see more of their character and what drives or frustrates them, and the few things that make them happy.

Production Update 76

Our first production update of 2014 and it has been a solid week. First off, all of the characters I had to finish up coloring and shading are completed. These characters took a little longer because I wanted to layer them based on colored sections. This way I could generate more characters by adjusting clothing and skin colors to get more combinations of characters. With these different color schemes, I could create a crowd of fans ready for the match.

That’s not the only thing I was able to get done. I was able to place all of the fans into the desired shot and get their alternate colored versions dropped in as well. In the same shot, I created animations for the video board above the ring entrance and was able to finsih off the shot. So that is one more shot down for episode one.

The establishing shot provides the viewer with an overall idea of the space that the scene is taking place in. I wanted to give the viewer a detailed point-of-view at the environment since it is the main space for the first episode. There were also some detailed areas I had to get right for the shot since it is an overview of the whole space. Check out the production art below.

4-2 Arena establishing shot depth

I also signed up for some online courses on my goal of getting better at web development. I completed a couple so far but it will most likely be sometime this summer when I get it completed. Just depends how all my projects go. On deck for this week is getting some more animation work done on episode one. I do have some renders done for the next couple shots. Be sure to check back next week on an update.

Cosmic Rage Unplugged: A Year in Review (and a Glimpse into the Past)

As the new year gets underway, I want to take some time to reflect on the past year of Cosmic Rage. I want to be up front with what I think worked, what didn’t work, and I’ll also discuss the direction in which we are headed for 2014.

The Origin of Cosmic Rage
Before I recap 2013, let’s take a look at how this whole thing got started. As some of you may know, I had the initial idea for Cosmic Rage almost 10 years ago, when I was still an aspiring art student in high school. Over the past decade, the story and characters have evolved and have taken their current form. Cosmic Rage didn’t really get started until after my college internship, when I became a freelance artist. Characters such as Zeth and Jani (whom you have only seen images of so far) spent some of my college years toiling in various stories that were inspired by other things I had seen and liked; no doubt they were cookie-cutter story lines, such as a space odyssey inspired by Outlaw Star or a world of teleporting to locations as in Dot Hack.

I began to realize that these were not stories I wanted to tell; rather, they were things that I liked—two vastly different concepts. One of the initial launching points for Cosmic Rage occurred when I was first unemployed. I had just completed a college internship and was in the real world without a job. The year 2010 was the first time I hadn’t been working since I was 14. The tanking of the economy had finally reached the Midwest as hiring froze and people were let go from work. I headed south to my sister’s, where I spent the days searching for opportunities to showcase my skills and talented people to work with. However, I spent my nights working on Cosmic Rage, getting years of ideas and characters out of my head and onto paper.

After three months, I landed a job and relocated to Minneapolis. This marked another major turning point in the evolution of Cosmic Rage. I started shaping the Cosmic Rage universe into a story of my own, completely scrapping the aforementioned plot lines and universe influences from other shows. I began to create original story lines and worlds, which was a goal I had committed to while I was at my sister’s, back when I was redesigning my character art and removing other obvious influences.

It wasn’t until some spirited conversations with a friend that I really decided to commit to finding a way to tell the story of Cosmic Rage. Over the years, I had tried to find the right medium, but from dabbling in just writing a text-only version of it to developing a graphic novel to navigating the logistics of animating it, nothing seemed to stick as a viable solution.

Production Influence
I tend to be a night owl, so one night while in Minneapolis, I stumbled across a show on FX called Archer. I had seen commercials for it, but never paid much attention to it. After a couple minutes, I was sucked in by the witty dialogue, interesting art style and the limited animation in the show’s early seasons. This lead to a late-night hunt for information about the show’s animation production, and eventually I stumbled across this gem.


I now had an idea of how to carry out the Cosmic Rage project, so I started researching motion comics in general to see how other limited animation stories were being made. After a few rough animation tests, I decided to roll with it.

Production Starts
In January 2012 I decided to start blogging to share my work and ideas with potential fans. I left the start-up company in Minneapolis where I had been working and returned to freelancing. All of the production work—the nights of storyboarding out the scenes, drawing the artwork, and coloring and shading everything— is a blur to me at this point. It seemed at times that I could never get into a groove. Since I was moving around a bit, traveling for freelance work and recruiting new clients; it felt like as soon as I gained momentum, I had to put Cosmic Rage production on hold for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I have great clients and enjoy working with their brands and helping solve their problems and needs. However, I felt that in both cases (client work and Cosmic Rage), I couldn’t get into a good routine because the work was inconsistent, which is the nature of the freelance business at times.

2013 in Review
The year 2013 was interesting. I started off by continuing freelance work. In terms of Cosmic Rage, I worked on the trailer and wrapped up drawings and shading for the first episode. I even started to spend some time writing anime reviews. Throughout the year, I posted a few entries sharing my advice on things like story structure, character design and storyboarding. I also had a great opportunity to work in a studio again, so I made that change and spent some of the transitional months finishing up freelance work and getting some funds for future Cosmic Rage assets. Things have mostly settled back into order in the last month or so.

So, up to this point, that is the story in a nutshell of Cosmic Rage. The end of the year is a great time to reflect on what worked well in 2013 and what didn’t, what areas I grew in, and what changes I could make to have a smoother production in 2014. First off, I didn’t get the response I thought I would from the trailer that I spent most of 2013 working on, which I think can be attributed to a couple things. The first was my original idea to do character-based trailers leading up to the release of the first episode. However, after production began on the first trailer, I could tell that it would be a bigger time drain than I had anticipated, so the three or four planned trailers were scrapped in favor of just one, which would provide teasers for the Cosmic Rage universe and its potential fans. Although the trailer is a little abstract since there is no narrative context yet, I learned a lot solely from that project.

I didn’t storyboard out much of the trailer, which became a problem later when syncing things up to the VO. Wasting time on that was a mistake I don’t intend to repeat. But the effort wasn’t a total loss: During the time I spent working in 3-D, I learned more about modeling, lighting, texturing and so many other things. I am only going to get faster as production continues. I felt I grew quite a bit in 3-D too, and look forward to doing more and continuing to learn.

I also played around with the art style in terms of texturing the 3-D work. I decided whether it should look more CG, hand drawn or painted. It was a good thing to work out while creating the trailer because it ensured that the art style didn’t change during the series.

Moving Forward
With my feelings about the past year now explained, it is time to look forward to 2014 and things that I hope to accomplish. The first goal is of course to have episode 1 released and ready for viewers. I am not sure if it is possible, but having recently worked on the first scene, I am very pleased with the process of building environments and moving cameras around to get my shot. In December alone I have been able to render out work for three scenes, despite freelance work, the holidays and traveling. I hope January turns into a good month of production.

Additionally, I want to continue to develop my 3-D skills, and Cosmic Rage is a great platform for doing that. I have a few other scenes to work on that will give me a chance to do so. I have found some great help on forums and other online sites where I can connect with artists who are willing to share their knowledge.

As production of episode 1 continues in 2014, I aim to get more artwork done for episode 2 as well. There will be nights where my computer will be rendering out scenes I need, and I can be productive during those nights by working on the next episode, which is already storyboarded. I am also hoping to add additional animation and raise the production quality even more.

A different but related goal is deciding how Cosmic Rage will be viewed by users. Though I have a couple potential paths in mind so that users have viewing options, one idea is publishing an e-book. I have experimented a little bit with an e-book publishing platform to see if it can support video files or movies. Otherwise, I may have to put everything into one video, but the downside is that there is no user control over the reading portions, which would alienate some potential viewers. I definitely want to create the best user experience possible.

Some other skills I want to expand my knowledge on is being a better writer. While I intend on the production blogs to still be pretty loose and spontaneous, the Thursday posts I want to get better at through editing, word usage and making my ideas clearer. The next skill would be coding; which has become a valuable skill in the professional world. I have started learning html and CSS, but want to improve at using them in an actual working environment.

Finally, I need to do a better job of posting work-in-progress images for you all to check out. I love seeing behind-the-scenes work of productions that I like, so I need to offer more insights for you all too.

I also want to thank everyone that visits the blog and keeps up with the production! I love creating, and I am really looking forward to telling the story. In case you missed it, here is the trailer/prologue for Cosmic Rage. Let’s make 2014 great!