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< Piro >

Pochiyama-san (by Yoshitoshi Abe)

"Pochiyama-san"

Tuesday - May 6, 2008

[Piro] - 12:37:44 - [link here]

You probably remember back in February when, after a few months of settling into the new reality of being a dad, I shook myself out and tackled the task of getting back to work. I wanted to find more reliable and efficient ways to produce better work, since my old methods were not what anyone would call ‘efficient.’

It’s been much easier said than done. As so often happens with ventures into the new, I found myself turning back to old ways of doing things just to get them done. What I’ve found, however, is that with some perseverance and some fortuitous equipment failures, the old ways of working can be put away for good.

One of these new ways of working that I’ve pursued vigorously in the past month is going fully digital with my drawings. You can judge my success with this by the fact that every comic since 1110 has been drawn entirely on the computer. There are a lot of benefits to this method - no clean up, the ability to work with layers of rough sketches and underlays, the ability to move things around and scale them up and down, etc. The more I work with it, the happier I am with the potential.

My first experiments with drawing digitally were actually back in Febuary last year, right after I got my Cintiq. I did a few comics using Alias Sketchbook Pro, which had a very natural feel to it (unlike Photoshop, which to me had the sensitivity of drawing with an ink bottle). The program crashed a lot, and in the end the process was actually taking longer to do than by hand.

A little over a month ago, I started poking at the idea again, which was natural given the fact that I was experimenting with digital hatching. The fact that most of the recent comics have not been hatched is because I was still trying to figure out the best way to get the look and feel I wanted. The search for this had to go on the back burner as I tried to get comfortable with the drawings themselves. The hatching methods would flow from whatever drawing method I settled into.

At first, I was using Painter IX to draw, which was giving me reasonable results. After a while, with a little practice and a lot of tweaking, I was getting more and more satisfied with the results. I was working on a fairly slow computer, which caused me much grief sometimes, but it worked, and as long as kept the load off the CPU, my old 1.25ghz G4 Power Mac was doing fine.

That was until two weeks ago, when Reki, that G4 Power Mac I’ve been working on since February 2003 started throwing up some signs that she was thinking of taking her day of flight.

I’ve been having some odd problems with some of my external hard drives not mounting properly, but I was more than a little puzzled when the main hard drive, the one I boot from, was ‘missing’. Everything ran ok, and I wasn’t keeping any data on it, but there was something spooky about not being able to access any of the files on the hard drive that the system was actually RUNNING off of. I had planned at some point to get a new drive and do a fresh upgrade to Leopard, and it looked like that time had finally come. The main drive is original to the machine and I’ve never done a fresh install (all upgrades) so i'd say she's due. Says a lot about how nice OSX is to work with. Try that with Windows :P)

As I set off to get a new drive and purchase Leopard, Sarah asked me how old the machine was, and wondered if maybe it was time to upgrade. I wonder if I looked forlorn or just sad as I shuffled off to the computer store... She took pity on me. After a trip to the local Apple store, I came home with a brand new dual 2.8 Ghz Mac Pro G5. I have called her Pochiyama (a rather quirky character in a doujinshi by Yoshitoshi Abe who runs a pharmacy and communicates by writing notes on paper rather than speaking :)

It took a while to get things set up, as you might imagine. There were all sorts of little problems, from having to find that DVI-I to DVI-D adapter that came with my Cintiq to get it to work in something other than VGA mode, the fact that I could not just plug my ATA drives into the new machine because it took SATA drives (easily solved, just got a big SATA drive and stuck it with my existing SATA drive in the machine and shuffled files around). I also upgraded to CS3, which resulted in my Canon 8000F scanner not working with my new machine... You get the idea. When you’ve been using one machine for almost five years, replacing it is a fairly major deal.

The thing I’m most happy about is the result of a small glitch in the system that was easily fixed by a reboot, but made me reconsider the use of Painter for drawing. After some frustrations with what appeared to be a non functioning Pan command, I fired up my new version of Photoshop (CS3) and started poking at the brush controls. What suprised me was that I was able to tweak texture and some other settings in ways that gave me a REALLY satisfying pencil brush. What I love about this is that I can draw in an enviroment I am very familiar with and one I LIKE to work with. :) All of the comics since 1114 have been done using these brushes and Photoshop CS3. The Hatching issue is almost solved as well. CS3 is full of much win and love.

One other thing I did was step back from my two monitor setup and go to using only the Cintiq. Part of this was because I’d need to get an adapter to run my 23” ACD on the new machine, and part because I still have it hooked up to Reki, but what I’ve found is that I LIKE not having that second screen there full of distractions and taking up desk space. Some of my friends thought I was crazy going back to a single monitor arrangement, but since so much of what I use for reference is analogue anyway... Having a more open desk is a bigger benefit.

Reki still works, and I can access the files on the main drive remotely (which is so damn odd) and at some point I’ll use one of these freed up ATA drives to rebuild her, but for now she’s resting happily.

I’ve been working on two other projects during all of this, which has also had an impact on my schedule, but as of today I think things will level off a bit. I’d like to thank everyone for their patience with me and the schedule in recent months, and for my lack of communication on just what exactly is going on. This long and eventful chapter is coming to a close and I’m looking forward to wrapping it up and moving on to an omake.

I have a few ideas I’m working on for that, we’ll see which way I go. It will depend on how off the deep end i feel at the time. (Chuckle)

< Dom >

Henry Lee: Natural Victim

"AX Stories: You Down with ACP?"

Monday - July 7, 2008

[Dom] - 20:07:03 - [link here]

One of the reasons I ended up joining the Press and Industry Relations department at Anime Expo was because it let me see many of the people I've come to know over 10+ years of attending anime conventions, from marketing directors and interpreters to photographers and writers. Another reason I joined was boredom, but that's beside the point.

This story in particular is about Henry Lee, one of my best friends in the cosplay world. We've known each other since we were both silly college students on IRC, swapping costumes at conventions and making jokes about how us Asians all look the same to American cosplayers (our running count of the number of times people called me Henry or called him Dom stopped at around 2 years and 60 times). These days, he's busy running American Cosplay Paradise, one of the biggest american cosplay sites on the Internet, but we still manage to get together every once in a while and prance around like idiots until we hurt ourselves.

Henry was incredibly busy during Anime Expo, running cosplay events for Lucky Star and Guren Lagann for Bandai and an Ouran Host Club event for FUNimation. I didn't see him until Saturday the 5th, when he came by to pick up his badge from me. I was in full Staff Mode, greeting people like I was working for Wal-Mart and giving everyone my best friendly greeting as I processed their badges. I was the model of efficiency, until Henry was the next in line. I jokingly shouted at him to go away, which merely elicited a grin as he walked up to my station.

"You're looking all professional and stuff right now, Dom, but I know you. Behind the smile and the kiosk, I bet you're playing some bishoujo game like Beat Blade Haruka (link safe for work, game not safe) where no one can see it," he smirked, thinking that he had me all figured out. I didn't reply as I filled out his information in the database. Instead, I waited until his badge started printing. Then, I lifted my laptop from its hiding place just out of sight behind the kiosk and showed him the screen, where I was playing FreeCell and Kimi ga Aruji de Shitsuji ga Ore de (the NS4W game, not the relatively S4W anime) at the same time.

"I knew it!" he shouted triumphantly. His grin widened from ear to ear, and I had the vague urge to stuff cookies into his mouth. (Henry's mouth opens surprisingly wide for an ostensibly heterosexual man).

Later, after my turn at the kiosk was done, I met Henry at the cosplay staff office, where we traded some stories about how the convention had gone so far. Our friend Bob the Trout (Tomoyo in our Clannad pics) listened to us as we told a story about how Wayne, Henry's partner in ACP, was quickly turning into a teen idol at the FUNimation booth because he was dressed as Kyoya for their Ouran event. In particular, we had a good laugh at the story of a young girl who hyperventilated at the prospect of meeting him, something that made Henry consider the ACP Dating Simulation - a concept I really do hope he follows up on, because it would be far too hilarious a concept.

Our conversations weren't just jokes and jabs, though. ACP is growing exceptionally quickly these days, and he spent some time talking about the business side of things along with some future plans. But that's a pretty boring story unless you're interested in the workings of a cosplay gallery/gathering website, so I won't really talk about that one.

Instead, I'll just end this rant with a quotation Henry gave me on the last day of the con while in his shirtless Simon costume: "My nipples will pierce the heavens!"

See you next show, Henry.

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