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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.
Finishing up the Pilot Animatic

Animatic in Kdenlive as of 2012-12/10.

Animatic Status Now

Right now, the animatic consists primarily of hand-drawn storyboard sketches.  I draw in a very fast, impressionistic style which is intended for a simple practical purpose: to explain how a shot is composed. Sometimes it gets pretty blobby. For what it's worth, yes I can draw "better" than that, but not very quickly, and my goal here is not to create the best drawings, but simply good enough drawings fast enough.

There are a lot of inconsistencies, because I started storyboarding well before we finished the concept art phase. So there's at least two (and maybe three or four) different designs for the moon shuttle in the storyboards. And I played around with several different methods for making storyboards, including a couple of different sketching styles and photo-collage.

The current animatic also has a little bit of low-animated shots that I have created as samples over the last year or two.

There's also about 25 minutes of black screen in the second half. These are shots I had intended to compose in Blender all along. They include some interior shots of the colony and a lot of exterior shots of the shuttle, the landing site, and so on.

There are a few weird spots on the soundtrack still: I've found a few things that need to be fixed in audacity -- some sound effects and even a couple of lines need to be time-shifted a little bit to make more sense.

As a matter of interest, the pilot episode is currently 53 minutes long, including titles.

Goals for Finishing the Animatic

The first goal, of course, is to fill in all of that black space. My plan includes the following:

  • Create the Earth and Moon shots for backgrounds and some key shots. These few shots will be "final animation" shots, since they are particularly easy to compose and animate.
  • Updating the Blender shuttle model that I currently have to make it more animate-able (pretty easy: I just need to group the stages and parent empties to them). I'll use this to create the missing exterior shots in the second half and to replace the confusing sketches in the first half. These won't be final, because the shuttle hasn't been detailed or textured yet.
  • Sketch the remaining shots inside of the colony. (I decided not to attempt to do these with the blocking model of the colony, so that I don't have to have that done yet).
  • Replace some of the sketchier storyboards with composites made from concept art.
  • Fix the remaining sound issues to match the improved animatic
  • Master the hybrid DVD with the animatic and pre-production art data for our backers (and also for the people who participated in creating it).

I've decided to eliminate the fly-through of the blocking model of the colony as a goal for this animatic. Instead, I'll be working on that over the holiday break -- the extra shots will be added to the animatic in early January when we're setting up our next fund-raiser. This blocking model won't be particularly hard, but it will be very time-consuming. And I don't want to make people wait forever to see the animatic! So in this first release, the animatic will use storyboard sketches for these shots.

Then What?

Next week I plan to mix the soundtrack for episode 2, "Earth". I'm going to do this one as sound-only, because I think it's very dialog-driven and will probably be easy enough to follow. I'm also planning to do this one "on the clock". My goal with that is to see how fast I can work, now that I've worked out the technical problems and have a good workflow. Ideally, I should be able to complete an episode sound mix in one week if I work steadily at it. I estimate that this is what would be required in full-production mode for the Lunatics series. So I'll be keeping track of this time and using it to make projections for our schedule.

This is all part of making our project more credible. We really need that if we are going to get the funding to proceed. From here on to the end of the year, I'm going to be pressing to get all of the materials we need to start a new Kickstarter fundraiser in January.

Part of the reason we failed in the Kickstarters we ran this last Summer is that we simply were not ready, and we did not present a compelling demonstration that we can deliver on Lunatics. So, I'm not committing to a specific launch date for the Kickstarter this time. We'll start when we are sure we're ready.

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