Saturday, May 12, 2018

Living In Japan...

I lived in Japan for almost 15 years from 1987 till 2001.  I've now lived in Australia for 18 years, so quite some time has passed. It does put a different perspective on it all.

If you google "Living in Japan" you will mostly find articles from young single Americans who went there as an English teacher for a company like NOVA.  And that probably impacts how they are seen and expected to behave when there.

I went as an Electronics Engineer who had already done something quite famous, the Fairlight Instruments CMI II and Series III.  I also had a Japanese wife and a young son, that meant I didn't need to be looked after the same way by the company.  I also went to work for The Roland Corporation in Hamamatsu Japan, an electronic musical instrument company. The field I was already in.  Roland was also the company that's gear I personally bought and used and always considered them to have a great ability to come up with mostly the right thing at a great price. What I wanted to be involved with.

I also went when Japan was on a roll and doing great, a year or so before Australia fell into a economic hole, so I was in the right place and the right time.

Others will talk about discrimination, but you get both positive and negative treatment because of not being Japanese.   It isn't all bad at all.

Canadians and Australians probably have an easier time with Japanese culture than Americans, just due to their own cultural upbringing.   We all bring good and bad baggage to the gig. 

I could go on at length with many anecdotes,   but I will keep this short.

There was an economic decline in Japan over the time I was there, that made some people in the company become less agreeable to the extent I decided I needed to leave the company.  I didn't actually want to leave Japan though.  Ended up that just being the easiest solution with a family to come back to Australia. Made my kids learn to speak English, and see another side of life.

Coming back to Australia after all those years makes you see where you are from in a completely different light too.  I mean was service of any kind always so poor?  Why don't stores actually carry anything I want?  Nobody turns up on time! You mean nobody here does any electronics and software development, or practically any other field, now?

We are now on the Australian NBN so our Internet now fails about once an hour for 5 minutes, as does the telephone.  And the complaints about the system are breaking records.  A pity that isn't fixing it though.  THAT wouldn't happen in Japan!

In Japan, in everything there was always an air of "I will do my best".  I really miss that, but it is also a source of pressure on everyone.

So working in a Japanese company isn't easy.  But it completely opened up my work life with the yearly overseas conference and other business trips I was involved with.  There was real career development for me.

General life in Japan is very good, it is the corporate side that makes it tough.

If I was someone that loved sailing or went to the beach and surfing, then Japan wouldn't be the place for me at all. I am not that person though.

If I didn't have to work other than do my own freelance illustration thing anymore would I live in Japan? Yes!  I was in Japan when I got my first freelance gig, and the Internet has just made all that even easier over the years.

Maybe more at some other time...

Friday, April 20, 2018

SF2D&I - Science Fiction Design & Implementation

From 1995 till 2001, I built and maintained my first presence on the Internet:

SF2D&I is a gallery of original science fiction fantasy concept art, illustration, miniatures, sculptures, special effects, soundtrack music, computer graphics, movies, animation, how it was done material, and other aspects of original Desktop Production, Pre-production and design.

Original designs are inspired by the works of Ron Cobb, Syd Mead, Jim Burns, Chris Foss, Jeff Burg and countless others involved in everything from 2001, Babylon 5, Star Trek, the worlds of Gerry Anderson , George Lucas and the designers at ILM. There is also material of a wider application than just the SF genre. "

I also published a series of related articles in magazines, the UK's: Science Fiction and Fantasy Modeller, and the Australian Science Fiction Modeller, even though, at the time I was living in Shizuoka Japan.

Through those efforts, I got in contact with quite a few different people in various countries around the world that had similar interests, and it was a great distraction from the daily grind at the time.

It was also a very creative time for myself in the new field of Computer based video production.

All of these years later, as I rapidly approach 60, and most of the planet is on the Internet, and there is a YouTube video on just about anything,  I haven't found the same sense of community I got with the letters and emails as there should be with Facebook or other sites.

I could just be getting old...

The comic/ manga I'm working on Terraform, is a return to that period for me in many ways.  Nostalgic feelings,  Natsukashi, as you say in Japanese, for SF production.  Manga do offer most of what you can do with cinema, and I want to continue to explore that.

We can be contacted at: Art & Technology

Sunday, April 1, 2018

My Process, Designing stuff - From Scribble to a Thing

A visual representation of something is more useful to me than a slab of text.  Others are the opposite, and I would think for others again, nothing helps ☺

So when I'm working on something I usually scribble notes and symbols on paper. This isn't something that means anything to anybody else, even if they can read it.  I have just naturally done this as a way of building up the design of something in my own mind and the 2D representation helps my own understanding.

Done it this way for electronics, illustrations and most things. My Process also involves roughly sketching out things, then coming back multiple times to flesh out and refine the details.

The above is a sketch out of the notebook I used designing the 16bit Digital and Analog back end electronics of the Fairlight CMI III .

When I make my music, I don't write anything down, but do make sketches, "my riffs and melodies" into my DAW then rearrange things, then come back when something takes shape and add details, or redo bits that would be more appropriate. In Reaper, my units of music are blocks that can be moved around in 2D space and rearranged.  My Process doesn't change.

And this track here is Dream ... something with actual words in it... which isn't what I usually do.

So far, working on my manga, my process has been the same too. The term mangaka can describe some one single handidly making a manga, and that is what I'm learning by doing. As this is the project I am currently working on, I will flesh out some more examples of My Process I've seen so far.

The above shows my note book full of scribble, and how a finished page ended up made in Clip Studio Paint. There were a few more steps in it though.

Like I had to come up with what the characters were to look like in this story, such as this guy

And I do that with Copic markers and pen.

The first Terraform 16 page story was all put together in CorelDraw. I had scribbled panel ideas, but when it came to the actual text, I was using CorelDraw for Visual Scripting

The above shows early planning of the last 3 pages of Terraform . I needed to do this to get the flow of text, and how much space it took up on a Panel, before I could draw the final panels. I can move things around in 2D, and it fits My Process.

I just made up this approach as I went along, as it seemed natural to do, as the comic fonts take up variable amounts of space, and you can trade off text for what is actually in the image. As much as possible you want to show and not tell, in a comic. And you can not just move text around in a notebook the way I can change a scribble.

The books of Scott McCloud, particularly "Making Comics" have been very useful, but he doesn't mention this Visual Scripting approach I started using some 5 months or so ago.  I discovered the,  Jessica Abel  blog a couple of days ago talking about it.

This  re-enforces my belief that most inventions, "ideas", really are "a dime a dozen" and someone somewhere will come up with the same thing when the need arises. It is just far more difficult than Sales Guys think..... but that is for a different blog..

What I haven't had great amounts of experience with as a process has been writing and finishing fiction. And just like most other new things I do, I've had to go off and do research and study the field.  I have had Syd Fields "The Screen Writer's Workbook" since the early 1990s.  But I want to write/draw a series of short stories that join together to form a larger whole.

For this longer serialized story, specifically how you do a long running manga series, I've recently read  "Write! Shonen Manga: Your Complete Guide to the Secrets of Japanese Comic Book Storytelling"  and "Manga in Theory and Practice: The Craft of Creating Manga"

The reason I've read those last two is my last manga,  Terraform - The Sales Call  has a few issues I want to address. And the serial story aspects were not covered in "Making Comics".   

I found both of the writing manga books useful for what I am trying to achieve and now have a strategy and a format, a variation of the Battle Manga, and the areas of character motivation and story structure to move forward with.  Still have to work out the actual story points though.

"Write! Shonen Manga" also introduced me to an inexpensive Writers tool, called Scrivener, that  works the way with stories that fits My Process.

The above shows the script for Terraform - The Sales Call as it stands now.  I've entered it into Scrivener to learn the way it works.
The Green and Pink cards on the corkboard are bits of the story, and Scrivener allows you to move these around, and work with scribbled ideas. Colors can be assigned to metrics.  It actually allows you to bring in a scan of a scribbled idea as part of your research. Even audio and tools to transcribe it. It gives you a view into a longer work you don't get with just a word processor like Word.   It is here I will focus on correcting our Protagonist, Antagonist and Ally's interactions and story structure.
It will not replace the Visual Scripting or the note book in producing the manga though.

Interestingly, Scrivener is structured just like a software developers IDE. You even Compile you text fragments into a finished document.  That isn't the way the developers present it, but what makes it very familiar to me.

Though Terraform is Sci-Fi, a longer term goal is multi page Car-toon Magazine stuff.

As the last example of My Process, here is a recent early stage of an illustration:

The first quick sketch, and a later vector wire frame with some of the rendering for a simple (as in not highly detailed, time consuming and so not expensive to the customer)  car caricature.

Not that I'm saying that any of this is original.  Just that starting with something very rough is the first step in the journey to a finished thing.  Probably like this Blog Post.

We can be contacted at Art & Technology

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Vanishing Magazines

I used to always check out what new magazines were at the newsagent/bookstores and there was always something new to get involved with.

At one point as a kid I found "Model Car Science" and "Model Car" magazines. Later it become Autosport , Road & Track  and a things like HOT ROD,  Custom Car and Drag Racing. Later again Hi-Fi, Electronics, Audio, Mix, Keyboard, Electronic Musician, Electronics & Music Maker, Home Studio Recording, BYTE, Guitar and music equipment and music production things like Sound On Sound.

Things are very different now. The magazine sections of most Newsagents have been  reduced to a very small selection at the back somewhere. Many magazines have gone out of business completely.

In fact I stopped buying the last 2 monthly magazines "I had to have each month"  the later half of last year.  I now don't miss them.

The Internet has had a lot to do with that. Much of the interesting content that you could only find in the magazines I liked is now self published on websites, forums and blogs directly by the authors. I've done that myself. Advertisers also have many avenues on the focused sites or forums as well.

The magazines with reviews eventually become irrelevant to me, as a magazines income comes from their own advertisers, and the stuff they will review. The aim of the magazine is to sell stuff. Independent opinion from knowledgeable and not paid in anyway by the supplier of the thing is much more useful if you are actually after something.

Over the last few years I've been throwing out many of the magazines I collected for decades. They were once  the only way to get the news or practical knowledge you needed to do a whole raft of things. Some still have nostalgic value as they made a contribution to who I am now, but many don't  in the current world. I have to ask myself, "have I looked at this in the last 15 years, and would I in the future?".

I'm getting to the stage I don't need all the bookshelves I have.  The magazines ARE vanishing...

Have also been getting rid of "technical work" related books. Some of these could have value on eBay, but because we are in Australia, and not a "technical" place, postage make most of them more trouble than they are worth to sell. I bought most of them overseas or from Amazon.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

DARK MATTER - from Comic to TV Screen

If you have read this blog before you will have noticed recent comic book related posts.

Particularly my own Comic. And this is the trailer:

Earlier today I've put finishing touches on story 3 in that universe. This one being a short 6 page Manga (black with tone) styled side/sub story done in Clip Studio Paint.  As much to learn CSP and maybe focus more on the longer manga style comic. Having now tried black only and tone, it does dramatically reduce the time to do a page with reasonable detail.

So I recently discovered the TV Series DARK MATTER. It lasted 3 seasons before it was cancelled, and so I didn't notice it till it after it was cancelled, and the DVD boxed set arrived at a local store.

I like it and in finding out about the show and the creators behind it see they have been influenced by a lot of things I like. It was made by people that brought the world the TV STARGATE. Now TV is a conservative place, where it is difficult to sell new, unknown characters and settings, so these guys did the first scripts as a 4 issue Dark Horse comic book to have "established IP" before starting the TV pitches.

Well it seemed to have worked.

So I've also  read in the last 2 weeks DARK MATTER: Rebirth.  The story is a little different from what they did years latter for the TV series, but pretty much the same thing with the same attraction.  My only comment will be the artwork is sketchy and looks very rushed to me.... characters in the background will have no detail... like faces for example!

The other thing about the TV Series Dark Matter I really appreciate is the soundtrack music. That music stuff being another interest as you may have noticed.   Mostly rhythmic, sequenced synth  riff based  rock...   I could do more the Comic + Synth Rock Music thing... what do you think?

Anyway, DARK MATTER reminds my of Firefly and a few other things and I think it is worth checking out.