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 Post subject: Ask Questions Frequently
PostPosted: September 24th, 2006 06:31:27 am 
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Ben and I are going to add a Frequently Asked Questions section to the site. This thread is a good place to ask some questions frequently.

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PostPosted: September 25th, 2006 22:28:39 pm 
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Yay?

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PostPosted: September 26th, 2006 02:20:40 am 
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Do you have any questions, Loki?

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PostPosted: September 26th, 2006 04:02:38 am 
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Q. What advice did Scott Kurtz actually give you in regards to your so-called "little photo-comic thing"? Also how do you make the strip, advice for aspiring gamepiece photographers, etc.

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PostPosted: September 26th, 2006 09:30:21 am 
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Blade wrote:
Q. What advice did Scott Kurtz actually give you in regards to your so-called "little photo-comic thing"?

If memory serves, the bulk of his advice was given to Lewis while I was in line to see George R.R. Martin, so I'll let Lewis "field" this one.

Blade wrote:
Also how do you make the strip, advice for aspiring gamepiece photographers, etc.

Here's our process, carefully presented in such a way that "Art" is divided into three of the five steps:

Step 1: Writing
We start by working out the basic premise and then writing a loose script over AIM. Storyline ideas are worked out months in advance, but without very many details. We bounce ideas off one another until we get something we can agree will work, then try to fit it into four panels. The punchline usually comes last, and often changes during the later steps.

Step 2: Staging
Next, I take the characters the strip needs, as well as whatever props we're using, and set them up on a nearby surface. This can be as simple as "Sid and Stephen standing next to each other on a table" or as complex as Jame's restaurant, where I had tables to arrange, a hat to make, lights to position, &c. Even that wasn't all that intensive, though, since I don't spend anywhere near as much time on this step as a professional-type photographer probably would.

Step 3: Photographing
This is the simplest step. I take a few pictures (generally 10 per panel), moving the pieces in between as required by the plot. I try to keep in mind where the speech bubbles will end up being, so that the composition doesn't get too messed up, but as you may have noticed, I don't focus on this too much. The dialogue tends to change from the initial script anyway.

Step 4: Photoshop
Once I've chosen the pictures that I'll use for the strip, I open them in Photoshop, add text and speech bubbles, scale them down, crop as needed, and put them on a template consisting of a white background with the URL and copyright. Most of the time during this step is spent tweaking the dialogue to be more ellipse-shaped.

Step 5: Webmastering
Once I have the completed file, I send it to Lewis. He lets me know if he sees any problems with it, and then I fix them. We think up several ideas for title text, pick the objectively best one, and then write our comments. Finally, Lewis goes through some process that puts the strip on the website. I'm not sure how that's set up.

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PostPosted: September 26th, 2006 10:01:30 am 
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As for advice to aspiring gamepiece photocartoonists, I suppose the most important issue is which gamepieces you use. Lewis and I use pieces from a wide variety of games, but we mostly restrict ourselves to nonrepresentational, fairly abstract shapes. Chess knights, Candyland children, and the Clue pieces that look like people are all ruled out. Also, I try to keep the pieces' colors from being too similar. You could easily go in a completely different direction: use the dog from Monopoly as the main character's pet, make all the characters (or a meaningful subset of the characters) blue, that sort of thing.

Another possibility would be to use pieces from a common origin. Iceland (not a photocomic, but gamepiece-based) mostly focused on Icehouse pyramids of various colors. Irregular Webcomic (not quite a gamepiece photocomic, but really close) mostly uses Lego figures. This is a great approach, because it can provide a huge range of options within an immediately recognizable theme.

So basically, plan out what sort of pieces you'll be using from the start. This will initially be limited by the games you already have access to, but you'll eventually want to expand your stock. Garage sales are a good way to do this. You can buy unpopular board games and strip them for parts. Sometimes people will even be willing to sell you a shoebox full of miscellaneous gamepieces. (The shoebox I got was mostly boring chess pieces, but it had a few oddities as well.)

Also, think about whether you want the gamepieces to appear in the comic as gamepieces. We don't do this in Terror Island, but it could be a pretty good idea.

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PostPosted: September 26th, 2006 10:02:47 am 
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Lewis, did you mean for this thread to just be questions, or can we put answers here too?

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PostPosted: September 26th, 2006 12:07:08 pm 
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You went to a George R. R. Martin signing? Was he as awesome as Tyrion? Was he enormously overweight?

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PostPosted: September 26th, 2006 13:33:17 pm 
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Ben Heaton wrote:
Lewis, did you mean for this thread to just be questions, or can we put answers here too?


I was thinking that the answers would go on the FAQ page, but whatever makes the folks happy.

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PostPosted: September 26th, 2006 20:56:47 pm 
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Lewis Powell wrote:
Do you have any questions, Loki?

Yes, but no frequent ones. :\

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PostPosted: September 26th, 2006 21:46:27 pm 
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Ben Heaton wrote:
Blade wrote:
Q. What advice did Scott Kurtz actually give you in regards to your so-called "little photo-comic thing"?

If memory serves, the bulk of his advice was given to Lewis while I was in line to see George R.R. Martin, so I'll let Lewis "field" this one.



Scott Kurtz gave us some non-comittal feedback the first time we spoke with him. Later, when talking with him again, I asked for clarification on some of the feedback he gave us earlier. He said that, not to mince words, the comic was kind of sucky. I am pretty sure this was not a comment on plot or characters, but purely on the visual aspect.

Kurtz found it hard to get engaged by the art because the characters lack expression or really any other dynamic features. Further, some of the photos have objects like a scanner in the background, which Kurtz felt sent the message that we weren't invested enough in the aesthetic of the comic to, say, get up and take the photos away from the desk.

As an aside, I will note that Ben actually went to a desk that was not his own for that photo.

Kurtz's advice by the way was that it would be good if we were the first photocomic to "do it right", by which he had mind something like, getting actual people into costumes and posing panels of the comic. An idea which did not strike me as very appealing, and also not what I'd want to be doing.

A less radical suggestion than that, which kurtz had, was that we should have used a knight rather than rook, (for example) as Knight pieces in chess usually have more personality (my word for it, not necessarily his). This revealed to me that some of his advice was coming from a radically different position than I had. What I liked about the rook was that it didn't carry with it the personality of a horse or a castle. It was much more abstract, and thus, wouldn't have incidental features (like looking like an angry horse) that would cast some shade on whatever scene he was in. Ben and I exclusively choose pieces that don't have a "face" per se.

However, and this was a point made by Bill Barnes when critiquing our comic, the virtues of the comic exist in spite of our artistic aesthetic to some extent, rather than because of it.

You look at a work like "A lesson has been learned but the damage is irreversible" and you see the art being put to enormous use. You take another strip, like "Nine Planets without Intelligent life" and the artistic choices (in terms of what is in the panels; panel arrangement is a whole separate issue), while arguably less essential to the comic than in "Lesson", still cast a very particular mood over the strip.

Some are of the position that the choices that Ben and I made are at best neutral, and at worst make people less likely to engage with the strip. I at least agree on the following with those people: the virtue of our strip is centered more on the scripting than the art. But, part of the reason I feel that way is that I am much more involved with the writing than the photography (though, on occaision, I do have some input into photo composition).

Back to your question, Kurtz's advice (apart from making the comic a photographic storyboard of people engaged in the relevant actions), was to add more expressive capacity into the subjects of the photos (i.e. Knight over Rook). I don't like that because I don't want to tell a story about the horse-looking thing, I want to tell a story about Sid and Stephen.

Kurtz also suggested, in tandem with that, a greater variance in features of the shot like distance/zoom and perspective etc. And we have been slowly experimenting with some of that, in panels that are more tightly focused, or pulled farther back.

However, I am pretty sure that there is a fundamental divergence between how I would ideally like the strip to look and what Kurtz might find visually engaging, and that's fine by me.

I'll also note that while Kurtz's remarks were highly critical of the strip, I didn't find him to be in any way malicious. He has a vision of what makes for a good comic, and he was honestly trying to help us improve our comic relative to the standards he had in mind, and he didn't want to couch his criticism under some false praise.

That last bit is just because I know that in a lot of discussions where Kurtz comes up, people get all whatever about some personality issues or whatever, and I have no complaints on that front. I appreciate that he gave us/me his sincere but harsh opinion rather than some meek hedging. I have some disagreements with him on the substance of those comments, but no complaints on the way he presented them to me.

Oh, except the part where he said he wasn't a fan during the 102 panel, which wasn't a problem in and of itself. I just kind of wish he had said the name or the url, so people could say to themselves "I'll check out that strip that Kurtz wasn't a huge fan of."

That is my long winded response.

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PostPosted: September 26th, 2006 23:09:43 pm 
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Ben Heaton wrote:
I was in line to see George R.R. Martin,

Oooh! That's the advantage of living in the USA! (I knew there had to be one, what with the centuries of fuss and all.)

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PostPosted: September 27th, 2006 00:25:09 am 
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Lewis Powell wrote:
Kurtz also suggested, in tandem with that, a greater variance in features of the shot like distance/zoom and perspective etc. And we have been slowly experimenting with some of that, in panels that are more tightly focused, or pulled farther back.


This always struck me. I mean, the long, overhead shot traditionally is meant to create emotional distance from the scene and the subject. And it's weird when basically every shot is that shot. I guess close-ups would be pointless, but I always thought more "eye-level" stuff would be nice.


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PostPosted: September 27th, 2006 04:15:02 am 
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Thank you for those voluminous answers to my (admittedly infrequently asked) questions.

I didn't mean to sound like I was getting ready to bash Kurtz or anything. From my extremely limited experience he seems like a pretty reasonable guy, which is why what sounded like his expressed loathing for this strip made me wonder. Mixing up the angle/magnification/etc. of the panels is actually a really good idea, and I can tell you've been trying that out more in recent strips. I guess you can't really take pictures of a tiddlywink from a worm's-eye perspective or whatever, but when it works it does add a lot to the way the strips read.

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PostPosted: September 27th, 2006 04:31:35 am 
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I didn't think you were about to start some drama about it, its just that I wanted to make it clear in my comments that I wasn't intending to start any.

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PostPosted: September 27th, 2006 04:32:21 am 
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Wait, Ben, we need drama, don't we?

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PostPosted: September 27th, 2006 07:11:50 am 
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I frown on that. The only thing more pathetic than relatively unknown webcartoonists trying to cash in on webcomics drama for publicity, is webcomics drama.

Not really a Q: when can we expect action figures of the cast and how many points of articulation will they have?

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PostPosted: September 27th, 2006 07:42:50 am 
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Blade wrote:
Not really a Q: when can we expect action figures of the cast and how many points of articulation will they have?

There might be legal issues there, so we aren't really pursuing it. They'd have articulation on the level of a Lego figure or so.

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PostPosted: September 27th, 2006 09:09:17 am 
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Blade wrote:
I frown on that. The only thing more pathetic than relatively unknown webcartoonists trying to cash in on webcomics drama for publicity, is webcomics drama.

Not really a Q: when can we expect action figures of the cast and how many points of articulation will they have?


so if we try to cash in on it, we're guaranteed that something will be more pathetic than us (namely the drama we are attempting to cash in on)? That might not be so bad.

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PostPosted: September 27th, 2006 09:43:41 am 
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Ideally, I'd like to do better than "second most pathetic thing."

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PostPosted: September 27th, 2006 18:50:39 pm 
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Do the characters see each other as they appear to us, or as people with mouths, arms, and so forth? If they see each other as puzzle pieces and therefore lack mouths, do they communicated telepathically? How do they eat? Why the Great Grocery War?

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PostPosted: September 27th, 2006 19:17:05 pm 
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(Q1)
I don't remember if Ben and I agreed on this point or not, and if not what either of our positions were.

Right now I'm going to say it is underdefined with respect to the fiction how the characters look.

However we do know that changes in the appearance of the representations (such as having a hat or being a different color) do correspond to changes in the way they actually look.

(Q2)
No telepathy has been used so far in Terror Island.

(Q3)
Last time we saw, they went to Famous Jame's and ordered food.

(Q4)
That will be revealed in the strip in good time.

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PostPosted: October 1st, 2006 17:00:17 pm 
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DeathInABottle wrote:
You went to a George R. R. Martin signing? Was he as awesome as Tyrion? Was he enormously overweight?

Yes, at Comic-Con. No, but I only spoke to him briefly, so he probably just didn't have the time to display his full awesomeness. I don't really remember his weight, but I just asked a nearby fan "Is George R.R. Martin overweight?" and she replied "Yes, enormously."

Lewis Powell wrote:
No telepathy has been used so far in Terror Island.

Or has it?

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PostPosted: October 7th, 2006 15:03:24 pm 
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So I'm taking this class on German Idealism, and we're going through Kant. I've never read him before, so it's fun. My prof abbreviates transcendental idealism TI, and you abbreviate Terror Island TI. So two questions:

1) Whose abbreviation is more correct? In other words, is Kant more important than Terror Island, or vice versa?

2) Is your comic of first principles founded on the belief that the comic itself is transcendentally real - that the things in themselves presented by the comic are absolutely and infinitely grounded, just, and true?

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PostPosted: October 7th, 2006 16:13:57 pm 
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Our attitude toward the comic is like Kant's attitude toward math. I don't know if that answers your question.

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PostPosted: October 8th, 2006 22:57:23 pm 
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Frequently Asked Question: What inspired you to make a photographic comic instead of a sprite or hand-drawn one?

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PostPosted: October 9th, 2006 05:23:29 am 
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Actually, I would say Terror Island is in fact a sprite comic. Most sprite comics use "sprites" in the form of images saved on a computer which can be reused from panel to panel. Our "sprites," in contrast, are physical objects, made out of materials such as wood or plastic. When I want a new picture of Stephen, I don't create one from scratch. Instead, I reuse the Stephen sprite, but in such a way that the digital representation is new and different.

To answer your question, we made Terror Island a sprite comic to save time.

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PostPosted: April 8th, 2007 22:56:36 pm 
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I have 2 questions

How do you become an initiate of a faction? I am very confused upon the matter. I would like to declare my appreciation of york

Also if one or other of you are not available for an extended period, would the comic become oriantated towards your prefernce and/or style. Also if you two had a fight resulting in a singular person taking control, who would claim ownership of TI?


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PostPosted: April 9th, 2007 01:49:50 am 
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If we had some sort of fight that resulted in us no longer wanting to make Terror Island together, I don't think either of us would even want to continue it as a solo project. It'd just end, and we might go on to individually start up some other webcomics.

I don't really expect that to come up any time soon, though. (Not until 2008.) We've been able to get through "creative differences" issues pretty easily so far.

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