Lunatics Web TV Series - Community Portal
About the Story
The concept for Lunatics came to Rosalyn and I about seven years ago, as a result of a discussion about what a space settlement would really be like, considering that it would be settled by the same kind of people who we knew as space advocates then. The truth is, the first settlers will be fanatics about space, because no one else would be able to get that opportunity. And this is something we felt was missing from most of the science-fiction narratives on the subject.
We got kind of tired of "angsty everyman" characters "thrust into the thankless task of settling a new world" or some such nonsense. This just isn't true to the character of the people who'd actually wind up in that situation. They will have to be extraordinary people, not just in ability, but also in outlook. It takes an incredible optimist to take on a task like this seriously. And we knew those people. We'd met them in conferences, and to one degree or another, we'd been those people. So we could really get inside their heads, and that was the beginning of the characters -- and this is a story that starts with the characters.
The more we talked about these characters, the funnier the idea became, and we quickly worked our way towards a set of caricatures of "crazy space advocates". After a while, the characters mellowed a little as we added more depth to them. By now they're much more believable, though I hope still funny.
Then we added to that a realism of setting based on much more up-to-date ideas about settling on the Moon. There are real problems with making a habitable settlement on Luna, and we didn't want to magic them away by ignoring them and pretending that it would all "work out somehow". That's okay in some science fiction, especially in the far future, because we really don't know how "transporters" or "warp drive" would work (or if it would work), but what's the excuse here? We know how to solve the problems for a Moon settlement -- or at least we have a pretty good idea, so ignoring them would just be a cop out.
We also wanted to challenge some of the orthodoxy on space settlement, which we've often found to be lacking. There's a lot of people in the space community who are trying to fool themselves about their motives, and then trying to fool the public into following them for those false motives. I don't think it works. Telling people you're going to settle the Moon "for the money" is just absurd. There are far easier ways to make money that don't involve going into space at all. And I think it's valuable to address the nature of the spiritual pull that space development has for many of us in more honest terms -- to admit that really, we're doing it "because it's there". There's a little bit craziness there, and I want to embrace it.
There are also a lot of human issues that just haven't been addressed in prior science fiction about space settlement. Raising children in space is going to be a particular challenge not only in terms of time pressures and other basic parenting problems, but also in terms of ethics. Even our pilot episode will raise some of the issues that are likely to be raised about taking children out on this "greatest adventure". Because adventures, as you know, are very dangerous. We've become a very risk-averse society over the decades -- are we ready to cope with the hazards of a frontier again?
Again, we were a little tired of seeing rather tired cliches of what a Moon settlement would look like -- especially designs that just didn't make any real sense on the real Moon. Every time we found ourselves falling back on cliche in developing the plot for Lunatics, we've challenged ourselves with the question, "Well, what would really happen?"
And the answer, though it sometimes took quite a bit of thinking to figure it out, was always much more interesting than the cliche.
Finally, for some reason, space settlement and space exploration never seem to be a satisfactory subject for Hollywood. Big-budget science fiction movies about space can't seem to divorce themselves from the mythology of UFOs, ancient aliens, and other such nonsense. I don't mind such fantasies in fiction, but I think they detract from a story like ours. We don't need "magic" of this kind to make our plots go -- we think there's plenty of drama to be had in just living on a space frontier, and that's what we want to write about.
So, to some degree, Lunatics will be "small cinema" about the drama and comedy of everyday life. In that way, it's almost a "sitcom", although I hope you'll find it's a little more than that.
About the Production Model
Lunatics is being produced independently on a "free film" model -- that is to say, we are using a free-culture license (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0), and it will be mostly "open source" in that we will release as much of the source material as we are able to do. The project is nevertheless, intentionally "commercial" in that we at least hope to make enough money from it to sustain the project and pay the artists for their time. Models for that have been pioneered by other free-licensed movies like "Sita Sings the Blues" and the Blender Open Movies ("Sintel", "Big Buck Bunny", and "Elephants Dream"). Using free-license open-source software for that is a natural outcome of the desire to be able to collaborate with the community on the production (anyone can acquire the software tools to participate in our project).
Meanwhile the development process of the free software community has also given us much of the tools for collaborating on the project, and the use of a "free cultural works" license means we have access to the commons of other free-licensed work to incorporate in our project. Both bring down the cost, especially the real "dollars and cents" capital costs of the project, hopefully to the point where it will be feasible to do this project on a "community-funded" basis through what are essentially pre-sale fundraisers.
This model actually favors series work over stand-alone movies, in my opinion (if you think about it, the rising complexity and budgets of the Blender Open Movies -- viewed as a single series -- validates this). People are more willing to contribute to a project that has shown it can produce good work. Of course, we haven't done that yet, and that's why the production roadmap for Lunatics is based on a "bootstrapping" model, with successively more complex hurdles to clear, each providing the credibility for the community-funding and community-sourcing on the next. We figure we owe you some evidence that we can do what we propose before we pass around the hat to actually finance it.
This model offers us the kind of independence that is needed to tell a story like this for what is most likely a niche audience, in a way that probably wouldn't be very easy to sell to the conventional film or television industry.
I honestly don't know if this will work -- whether we can make enough money on the goodwill of fans to sustain the project or justify the thousands of hours of effort it will require from dozens of people to see it through. And therefore, I don't know how long we'll be able to keep it up. At least we will try very hard to complete the pilot. Hopefully, we'll get enough interest to see us through a season. If things work out well, we have excellent story arcs planned all the way through to a third season, and some ideas for beyond that. But that really depends on your support, and that unquestionably depends on how well we do our job. In any case, I'm pretty sure it's going to be fun!
- Creating a moving story-reel shot with Inkscape and Blender - example 1
- Moving shot for story-reel, with framing markers included. Created in Blender by panning the camera across a background plate image. Illustration for my column "Creating a moving story-reel shot with Inkscape and Blender". The background drawing of a "Platz-Cart" train car is derived from a diagram by Glucke@Wikipedia (Wikimedia Commons), licensed CC By-SA 3.0. See the associated article in my column: http://freesoftwaremagazine.com/poster/5
- Creating a Moving Story-Reel Shot in Blender
- Video demonstrates a single shot from the "story reel" animatic near the beginning of the pilot for Lunatics, "No Children In Space" for a moving shot.
- Creating a moving story-reel shot with Inkscape and Blender - result
- Here's the final result of the pan and zoom background plate shot for use in the story reel for "Lunatics/No Children in Space." Created using Inkscape and Blender. See my column at Free Software Magazine for how it was made: http://fsmsh.com/3477 The train drawing is from a diagram by Glucke@Wikipedia, licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike, Version 3.0 ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), as is the whole clip, which was created by Terry Hancock and may be attributed simply to "Lunatics | http://lunatics.tv" ) There is no sound in this clip.
- Sound Effects with ARSS and Gimp
- What do sounds look like? The command-line tool ARSS allows you to convert sound spectrographic images into the sounds that would create them. It's an interesting tool for making unusual sound effects.
- YouTube Channel
- You can also link directly to our YouTube channel.
- Character concept sheet for "Georgiana Lerner"
- Character Concept Art for "Georgiana Lerner" by Daniel Fu.
- "LTS Moon Shuttle" Lo-Fi Model Fly-Around for "Lunatics"
- This is a lo-fi model of the "Lunar Transportation System"/"Moon Shuttle" to be used in creating storyboards and animatics for the pilot episode of "Lunatics", "No Children in Space". (The production model will include more detailing and textures. There may also be some minor design alterations)
- Hiromi Aoki Lerner - Concept Drawings by Daniel Fu
- Concept drawings of "Hiromi Aoki Lerner" by Daniel Fu
- "Sarah Allison" concept drawing by Daniel Fu
- "Sarah Allison" is the colony's resident geologist, and already one of the most experienced Lunar EVA specialists in the field due to her previous research assignments. Concept art by Daniel Fu for Lunatics: http://lunatics.tv License: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike, version 3.0 ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 )
- "Joshua Farmer" character concept by Daniel Fu
- Josh is "what it says on the tin" -- a farmer. Technically, he's an agricultural scientist, but what he does is keep food growing for the colony and study how to do it better.
- Pre-Production and Character Art Kickstarter
- We're starting a Kickstarter campaign to fund the model/design sheets for the characters from character design artist Daniel Fu. The Kickstart will also include technical design work and finishing work on the script for the pilot episode, "No Children In Space".
- Principal Voice Cast for Pilot
- Revealing our principal voice cast for our pilot episode, "No Children in Space".
- Animation Team Presentation
- Portfolios from core animation team members for Lunatics.
- FundIndieFilms.com Interview
- Rosalyn Hunter and Terry Hancock were interviewed by David Jordan of FundIndieFilms.com! In fact, we were the first interviewees for this promising new site!
- April 2013 Animation Tests
- This is a small collection of shading, rendering, lighting, and animation tests I've done recently on the "Lunatics!" project.
- Site News
- And we're back!
- Well that was an interesting experience. Yesterday, we joined thousands of sites in what was apparently the largest Web blackout protest in history to oppose two very dangerous bills in the US Congress: the "PROTECT-IP Act" (PIPA) in the Senate and "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) in the House of Representatives. This seems to have had a useful effect, as a dozen or so people in Congress have reversed their position, and Obama's administration released a statement in opposition to the bills. So now we're back to the business of making new media content work!
- Animatic is Posted
- As you can see, we've revised our website and we have just posted the animatic version of our pilot episode, "No Children in Space". This is the "International" or "Original" version with English subtitles. We are also rendering an "English-dub" version which is very similar, but has all of the dialog in English.
- Announcing our Core Animation Team
- We are pleased to announce our core team of seven very talented artists for modeling, rigging, and animation: Andrew Pray, Cosmin Planchon, Guillaume Côté, Sathish Kumar, Vyacheslav Yastrebcev, Timothée Giet, and Gorka Mendieta. They will be working on the "teaser trailer" for "No Children in Space" and some animation tests, all of which will be released during our Kickstarter campaign (which launches THIS FRIDAY - JULY 20TH - "MOON DAY").
- Artbooks Are Finished and Off to the Printer!
- We have just (finally!) finished the "Pre-Production Artbook and Writer's Guide" book layout, and it's off to the printer to print the first batch!
- Auditions for Voice Cast and Artist Internships Ending June 30th
- A reminder to any of you who are thinking of applying for an internship or auditioning to be on the voice cast for "Lunatics" / "No Children in Space" (and additional series regular parts): the submission deadline is this Saturday, June 30th. We'll try to make the decisions on principal casting by July 2nd and finish both casting and internship decisions by July 7th. We also may be interested in commission proposals for certain major modeling tasks, especially character mesh modeling, where we may need an experienced modeller.
- Casting and Internship Submissions are now closed
- Casting and internship applications are now closed. If you have already contacted us and we are waiting on a read from you, please go ahead and send it in. We'll be trying to make our decisions on principal cast for the pilot episode (i.e. Georgiana, Hiromi, Rob, Anya, Josh, Tim, and Sergei) by the end of the day tomorrow (Monday). We'll then try to settle on the animation team and supporting cast before next Saturday (July 7).
- CASTING CALL for "LUNATICS" Pilot: "No Children in Space"
- Rosalyn Hunter has finished up the reading scripts, so we are now ready to start taking auditions for voice acting in "Lunatics" / "No Children in Space" -- especially for the principal parts.
- Changing Our Fund-Raising Strategy
- Later today, we'll be announcing a new (replacement) Kickstarter campaign, which will fund just the next step production, which is making an animatic and a full-cast voice production (i.e. we're going to focus on the sound production first). Check here at lunatics.tv for the link!
- Check Our Kickstarter Updates!
- Since we've started our Kickstarter campaign, I have been posting updates there.
- Colonist Modelsheets Finished
- We've crossed a pre-production milestone -- the modelsheets for the eight colonists (our main characters) are completed. Daniel is now moving on to the artwork for secondary characters. This puts us on schedule for our (recently slipped) delivery goal of early May.
- Concept Art Sheets and Modeling
- This week we've started get character design concepts from Daniel Fu. I've also been working on modeling the Soyuz "Transporter-Erector", which will appear early in the pilot episode.
- Currently counting beans for 2012
- Well. I'm in bean-counting mode today. Have to itemize all of the expenses for 2012. I'll finally find out how much I actually spent on Lunatics and Lib-Ray and miscellaneous overhead costs. Just looking at all the line-items, I have a feeling the number is going to be pretty staggering.
- Currently mixing voices for the pilot episode
- Terry Hancock is currently busy mixing voice recordings for the dialog in "No Children in Space". This is mostly a matter of fitting all of the lines together and making sure the levels match and the lines will fit reasonably well together. Last week we shipped the artbooks and posters from our first Kickstarter -- hopefully backers have either already received these by now or will in the next few days. Of course, we are still waiting a little longer on the data disks, as we hope to include the audio/animatic production that we're working on now.
- Excerpts from the novella
- Rosalyn Hunter recently wrote an initial draft of the novella version of "No Children in Space" as part of NaNoWriMo. We're planning to offer print and e-book copies as part of our upcoming crowd-funding campaign. Here's a couple of brief excerpts from the story.
- Final voice edit - Blender Progress - Effects
- Although we may replace some of the voices later on, I have now completed assembling the voices for the pilot episode, and I have now started working on the full sound mix with effects and sound. I have also spent a considerable amount of time refactoring the Blender source files for the project -- there is a lot of scaling, matching, and linking work that needs to be done. I also recently found a problem with my system that may explain some of my frustrations with Kdenlive.
- Finishing up the Pilot Animatic
- A famous filmmaker once said that "a movie is never finished, only abandoned." Lately I've been trying to decide just when the animatic is ready enough to be "abandoned" by freezing a copy on DVD for our pre-production backers. Of course, it's not really abandoned -- I'll being going right back to it over the holiday break to make additional improvements. But it will mark a significant milestone as this will be our last reward product for the people who backed us in pre-production.
- Pre-Production Kickstart
- We're getting everything ready to start our first Kickstarter campaign. This will cover pre-production artwork, some 3D modeling necessary for the pre-production phase, and an animatic of the pilot episode with a temporary soundtrack.
- Good News and Bad...
- Well this is one of those "good news/bad news" posts. The good news is that Daniel is producing some truly awesome model sheets, and I want to share some previews of them. The bad news is that they aren't going to be done on time. So, I'm slipping the pre-production schedule by one month to accomodate (i.e. Kickstart rewards should go out in May, now).
- Just finished a test teleconference with three of the principals!
- We just tried our first teleconference with three of the principals for "Lunatics", I plan to meet the others on Friday for another test call, and then we'll be all set up to work on Saturday morning when we do our table read for "No Children in Space". Our Kickstarter is currently at 40%, with just over 2 days left: http://kck.st/RTCwZs
- Lib-Ray DRM-Free HD Video Format Project and Lunatics - Just 5 Days
- Pretty soon we'll be fund-raising for the pilot for Lunatics, and we'd like to be able to offer both a standard definition version on DVD and a DRM-free high-definition version. Since Blu-Ray is a very, very closed format, we decided to try to create a new option with "Lib-Ray". We're about 74% of the way to funding that development on Kickstarter, but we've just got 5 days to make our Kickstarter goal (or we won't get any of that). So we could really use help, either directly, or by telling anyone you know who cares about free-culture, independent film, and/or user freedoms with multimedia. ...
- Lib-Ray Editions of the Animatic
- As mentioned in my last update, Lunatics is on a hiatus while I work on Lib-Ray goals. In the process, though, I'm finishing up the last Kickstarter rewards for Lunatics as well, which are the three copies of the animatic in prototype Lib-Ray format. They're basically done, but there's a couple of minor problems I'm sorting out with the menus and the packaging. After some analysis, I've also got some (hopefully much more realistic) predictions about Lib-Ray and Lunatics schedules for 2013.
- Looking for a New Character Modeler
- Sadly, Andrew Pray, who created the character model for "Georgiana Lerner" that we've been using in our animations up until now, is no longer with the project. He's an art student, and is no longer able to commit to the amount of work that the character modeling for "Lunatics!" represents. This is a bit of a blow for me as a producer and for the project. It means we're going to have to take some time for re-grouping. Certainly we're going to have to find someone new to do the character modeling for the project.
- Lunatics Press Kit is Available Now
- We've been very overdue on creating a formal press-release for Lunatics and the pilot episode crowd-funding campaign, which is possibly one reason we have so far left to go. But it's up now, so please come and have a look. If you know any news outlets that you think should cover Lunatics, please feel free to send them a copy of the press release. You may also notice we are featuring our interview with David Jordan of FundIndieFilms.com!
- Lunatics Web Site Is Coming Together
- After a few days work and weeks of procrastination and fretting, the Lunatics website is finally starting to make some sense and become quasi-functional. Yea!
- Mailed first batch of concept art posters out
- Today, I finally got the concept art posters mailed out to the Kickstarter supporters who are getting just the posters.
- More about music, and about this Lib-Ray thing...
- This week I got most of the open questions about the soundtrack music settled. The only problem is that I opened a new question too. I also started a (mostly separate) Kickstarter project for the "Lib-Ray" video format, and I probably need to explain a little how that connects to Lunatics.
- More Animatic Progress
- I made 35 new storyboard sketches yesterday. I'm scanning them in right now. I've also created 10 CG animatic shots for spacecraft exterior shots. This puts me a bit behind where I had hoped to be at the beginning of the week, but I'm still making pretty good progress.
- Music from "No Children in Space"
- Want a sneak peek at the music we are putting into the "No Children in Space" soundtrack? We're putting together a playlist on YouTube with some of the featured tracks (just two tracks so far, but I'll be adding more to this playlist daily). ( http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL70E9944AD49E1D96 )
- Now Fund Raising for the Voice Production and Animatic
- We have just switched over to a smaller Kickstarter campaign to fund just the production of the voice cast (with sound effects, foley sound, and music) and a 2D animatic created by Timothée Giet based on storyboards by Terry Hancock. Find it here: http://kck.st/RTCwZs
- Our Kickstart was a Success!
- Thanks to the support of some very generous backers, we are now able to commission Daniel Fu for the character design artwork. Work will start in January!
- Pilot Episode Kickstarter Launched!
- We've just launched our second Kickstarter -- this is the BIG one: we're hoping to fund the production of the pilot episode for the series! Please come see and support us if you can!
- Pre-Production Kickstarter Launched!
- As you can see from the widget on our front page, we have just launched our Kickstarter campaign to fund pre-production artwork development for the series. This includes the character design and model sheets, the set plans, and plans of the vehicles that appear in the pilot episode, "No Children in Space". It will also support Rosalyn Hunter in making final revisions to the script.
- Principal Voice Cast for the Pilot
- We are now announcing the principal voice cast for the pilot episode of "Lunatics": William Roberts (Rob), Karrie Shirou (Hiromi), Ariel Hancock (Georgiana), Lex Quarterman (Tim), Paul Birchard (Josh), and Veronika Kurshinskaya (Anya). These are the six series regular characters who will be in the pilot episode. There are two more regulars coming in episodes 2 and 3, who we have not yet cast.
- Progress on Animatic and Some Renderings
- There are a lot of exterior space shots in the 2nd half of the pilot episode, and I decided it would actually be easier to do rough animatics of these in Blender than to sketch them all -- and it will certainly look better. So this week I'm doing a lot of quick renderings in Blender. So far it's going pretty well, although I am still a little behind where I hoped I'd be. There's still a good chance I can get the animatic finished this weekend if "real life" doesn't get in the way too much!
- Progress report / Google Group started
- First weekly progress report: Google Group for project discussion. Also: positive response from a character designer, and technical development is proceeding on some important packages for animation.
- Python scripting, model sheets, and some writing
- This last week, I mostly spent getting up to speed with Blender's scripting interface for Python. I have to admit to being a little anxious about this, but it's really pretty simple stuff once you get started (that's always the hard part!). Daniel's working on the model sheets. And I'm starting to write the structural parts of the book we're creating as part of the production process.
- Sending out audition readings for "Lunatics"
- Wow! This is pretty exciting -- we've gotten about 90 demo submissions so far for various parts for "Lunatics" in less than a week, some of them from very talented people. So, I think we're going to be able to put together a fantastic cast for this production.
- Sound Design and Dynamic Range
- I've now mixed the audio for the pre-title teaser and Act I of "No Children in Space" for the animatic version. Although it sounded fine on my studio earphones, I found it didn't sound so good on a TV. I realized I was mixing it too "hot" -- meaning the dynamic range was too high. So I did a little research, and now I'm mixing a more reasonable version.
- Starting 2012 with pre-production work
- Well, the holidays went well, and now it's back to work. This week, I've spent on defining the spec for the model and design sheets to get Daniel started, and also working on some additional reference research on Soyuz to support modeling the Soyuz re-entry (and ascent) module which we're going to need for an early animation test.
- Style Issues: Freestyle or Not?
- Today I came across a news report about the status of "Freestyle" in Blender, which reminds me of the animation style issues I've been contemplating for Lunatics since the beginning: just how realistic will we want the graphic style of the series to be?
- Subversion Repository Started (Finally)
- So after much procrastination, some reconfiguration, and a lot of re-organizing, I have finally got a source tree into our subversion repository.
- The Lunar Transportation System Shuttle
- This week I learned a lot of new things about modeling in Blender -- basic stuff like how to properly use edge loops and how to set up path-based animations. And I created a nice fly-around video of my LTS Shuttle model.
- Typesetting Pre-Production Materials
- This week I'm starting to typeset the "Pre-Production Art Book and Writer's Guide" that was promised in our Pre-Production Kickstart.
- Voice Cast Reading
- Despite missing our Kickstart goal, we just completed our cast reading for both the pilot "No Children in Space" and "Earth". This went very smoothly -- even better than we hoped. We'll now be working on recording the lines and putting together an animatic to guide the animation production process. It'll probably be pretty quiet for awhile as we work on this.
- We are now looking for Artists!
- We are now looking for Blender 3D artists (and also some 2D artists) who would be interested in an internship opportunity with "Lunatics"!
- We are VERY BUSY right now
- We're currently doing five things simultaneously: casting voice actors, reviewing applications for 3D artist internships, finishing our pre-production Kickstart work and rewards, training on the software, and planning for our next Kickstarter which will pay for the production of the pilot episode, "No Children in Space". Everything is complicated and interlocked, and I am very busy camper. But this is pretty fun, I have to admit!
- Website clean-up and music licensing
- I took a little time to spiff up the website, which was looking a little neglected. I also sent out queries to some of the musicians whose work I am hoping to relicense under By-SA for use in our soundtrack. So far I've gotten one positive response, and one slightly unclear one. But I'm optimistic.
- Welcome to character artist Daniel Fu!
- This week we've started working on initial character designs with character designer, Daniel Fu, of "Daystorm Productions". Daniel is the author of a webcomic series, "The Retriever" and has an excellent portfolio. Daniel was my first choice on this project, because I've worked with him before, because he has a lot of artistic range, and because his designs have a good sense of volume and 3D form, which will be essential for our designs which will be modeled in 3D.
- Welcome to Chris Kuhn!
- Although we're officially on a short hiatus, I am still doing a little work on weekends, and we have also recently been joined by Chris Kuhn, a very talented mechanical modeling artist who is currently working on the Soyuz launch system which features prominently in our pilot episode. I've also had a chance to do some more tests with character models, shading, lighting, and rendering -- pictures, links, and video after the fold...
- We'll be joining the SOPA blackout tomorrow
- Just quick note today: We'll be joining the blackout protest against the SOPA / PIPA legislation tomorrow (Jan 18th), along with Reddit, Wikipedia, and many other sites. Even Google will be doing something about it, as I understand it. This legislation could be extremely devastating to us, as it targets many of the people who we rely on as distributors, and of course, on viewers. Furthermore, it is unnecessary to create legislation like this as the threat of so-called "piracy" is vastly overblown.
- Working on Animatic DVD Still
- I'm still working on mastering the DVD for the animatics (a Kickstarter reward for the pre-production backers -- in fact, the final one, along with the flash-media versions of the same content). I'm having some considerable headaches with the software, but it's getting done.
- Work's continuing on the Teaser Trailer now
- We have extremely busy working on the Teaser Trailer for "No Children in Space" for the last couple of days and the collaboration seems to be working out. I think we're all learning a lot and getting the team together. And I want to show you this cool model...
- Yuri's Night 2012
- "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by." -- Douglas Adams
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The link address is: https://svn.lunatics.tv/