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< Piro >

Pochiyama-san (by Yoshitoshi Abe)


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 >

"AX Stories: Welcoming the NHK"

Monday - July 14, 2008

[Dom] - 20:22:47 - [link here]

Sometimes, it's a liability to know Japanese at an anime convention. People keep asking you "what'd (s)he say," you start nitpicking interpreters, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. When you're staffing a convention and are the only person in your department who speaks Japanese, it gets interesting and fun again - and when you're the only person in TWO departments who speaks Japanese, like I was at AX, it turns into a roller coaster ride.

While I was working the press and industry registration booth, all Japanese-speaking people were booted over to me with the speed of someone else's problem. One of the groups that came to me looking for their badges was a camera crew from the Japanese TV network NHK, who looked incredibly relieved when I answered their stilted English with conversational Japanese.

"Are you Japanese?" they asked, apparently mistaking my usual mumble for fluency.

"No, I'm Vietnamese." came my reply as I read their names from their passports and entered them into the database.

"You're Vietnamese? And you can read our names? Wow..." they marveled. They didn't have particularly hard-to-read names, but then again, I've spent the last three years being quizzed on Japanese names by Seiya over in Nagoya, who likes taunting me with how horribly arbitrary Japanese readings for kanji are.

"I studied in college for a while." was the half-truth that came out of my mouth, since I didn't want to tell them "Yeah, I learned your language from comic books and video games."

A few seconds later, I handed them all of their badges and started to tell them where to go for events, but as I was telling them where to pick up program guides and schedules, I brain farted on how to say "Please pick it up" in polite Japanese. As I stumbled through the various words I could think of and discarded them because most of them would have made me sound like a gang member, I looked up and realized that they were clenching their fists and pumping them in support.

"You can do it, Vietnamese guy!" they urged, hoping to cheer me into a greater competency with the Japanese language like an ouendan.

With the four Japanese guys leaning forward looking at me like I was Santa Claus and about to give them presents, I stuttered a bit and eventually spat out the right words, which met a raucous cheer. They walked off saying "Thanks, Vietnamese guy!" and I chuckled to myself, since the last few seconds had been utterly surreal.

They saw me again later that night, and it was as if I was an old friend. "Hey Vietnamese guy, how're you doing?" they asked, and they told their friends about how they'd met me at the registration desk. We talked a little bit, and after that, I didn't see them for the rest of the weekend.

Afterward, I went around telling people the story, and they too laughed at the guts poses and cries of "Ganbare, Betonamu-jin!"

Next time: Working in the cosplay office


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