The Charitable Anthology Is Now Out!

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"Cover C" for the Charitable Anthology

“Cover C” for the Charitable Anthology

The Thunder Frog Studios Charitable Anthology, featuring the 10 page Voyage Trekkers comic, is now on sale!  We’re proud to be apart of this amazing project, which feature stories from other cool web series, because all profits benefit the Children’s Hospital of Seattle.  So not only do you get to have a physical Voyage Trekkers comic in your hands but you’ll be helping out kids in need as well!

Check Out The Charitable Anthology with the Exclusive Voyage Trekkers Cover!

Sample Page:

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Interview with Voyage Trekkers Comic Artist Mimi Schuy

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The ten-page issue of the Voyage Trekkers comic, which is part of Thunder Frog Studios’ Charitable Anthology (for more info you can read the previous ‘Info on the Voyage Trekkers Comic’ post here), is almost here!  We talked with artist Mimi Schuy who drew the Voyage Trekkers issue.


Mimi 179773_10200706201203126_1316186890_nFirst, tell us a bit about yourself — who are you and what do you do?

I’m a recent graduate at Western Washington University. I majored in Design with a focus in New Media. I also have a love for illustration though, digital illustration in particular, so I’ve taught myself how to draw and paint in photoshop through observation and various tutorials on the web.

How did you get involved with this project?

I had a booth selling art at Emerald City Comic Con with a couple of my friends, Carmela Yu and Taylor Anderson. Woody Arnold from Thunder Frog Studios was going by the booths introducing the Charitable Anthology project. We got in contact a couple weeks later and he paired me up with Voyage Trekkers.

This project introduced you to Voyage Trekkers. Now that you’re familiar with the show what’s your favorite part about it?

Voyage Trekkers is an impressive web series. It’s funny, has good acting, and the sets are well made. The production has increased a lot from season one to season two. I find it enjoyable not only to watch VT for it’s humor, but to also watch as the series changes and improves.

Do you have a favorite episode?

If I were to pick a favorite, I think Language Barrier is my favorite episode.


Was there a character that you enjoyed to draw the most?

Lt. Jayda. I enjoy his character and there’s something about his sad face that I find endearing.

Where can people check out your work?

You can find me at Mimischuy.com or on my tumblr at mimisketch.tumblr.com

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Voyage Trekkers – Season 2 Finale

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The Season 2 Finale is finally here! We really through the kitchen sink at this one, we wanted to make it as epic as possible. There’s literally four times more CGI ship effects in this single episode than in the entire season combined … we recorded the score with a live orchestra (the NAU Wind Symphony) … and we wanted to put the characters in a situation which they’ve never been in before, where they were genuinely in trouble with no way to escape (as they almost always do).

Voyage Trekkers Websitehttp://www.voyagetrekkers.com

Info on the Voyage Trekkers Comic

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Comic portraits

Voyage Trekkers is getting it’s very own comic and we’re sooo excited!  The single issue, which is part of Thunder Frog Studio’s Charitable Anthology (Volume 3), will be joining other web series and stories in a collected work where 100% of the profits benefit charity.  Here’s some info on the project:

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What’s the story of the comic?

The issue, which is 10 pages long, features a failed rescue mission to save Commander Powell.  A second rescue mission is then launched to save both Powell and Sunstrike before they meet their demise at the hands of a death device.

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Black and white version with temp lettering. Art by Mimi Schuy.

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More about the Charitable Anthology

The anthology will be a large collection of issues from several web series and other web-based productions.  All proceeds will benefit the Children’s Hospital in Seattle.  This is actually the third volume of the Charitable Anthology.

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What’s in the book?

The anthology will feature a collection of other great web series, I recommend that you check them out with these links, such as Gamers, Standard Action, Glitch, Gamer Chick, and another Squishy Studios property … there’s also an issue based off of our 1940’s Cliffhanger Serial Masters of Daring!  If you haven’t seen the short film yet, you can watch it at the bottom of this blog post, you’ll recognize some familiar faces!

From the finished Masters of Daring issue (it's gotta be in black and white, it's a B&W serial after all!).  Art by Tayson Martindale, Lettering by Marx Blum.

From the finished Masters of Daring issue — it’s gotta be in black and white, it’s a B&W serial after all! Art by Tayson Martindale, Lettering by Marx Blum.

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When will it come out?

There’s not an exact release date yet, but it should be available in September or October.  The plan is to have both electronic and physical versions of the anthology available for purchase, which we’ll make available on our site.

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Who is Thunder Frog Studios?

They’re an independent comics company based out of Seattle.   Just like us they’re passionate and poorly paid artists who want to make something that excites them.  We’ve been working with the great Managing Editor Woody Arnold, the issue was drawn by the talented Mimi Schuy, who we’ll interview in an upcoming blog, and was colored by Alexius Poorman.  Check out Thunder Frog Studios on Facebook right here.

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Color version without lettering. Art by Mimi Schuy and color by Alexius Poorman.

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Voyage Trekkers 2 Year Anniversary!

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Today is the 2-year Anniversary of the premiere of Voyage Trekkers!!!

Instead of looking back on the whole damn thing like some sort of clip show, I thought it might be fun to include some of the oldest archival stuff I could find:  the very first note from the project, the treatment I sent to cast and crew to convince them to get involved, some early photos, and a shot sheet from the second day of shooting.

  • The First Note:
The earliest note I could find on the project, dated Sept 2010 -- Only three months before we filmed!

The earliest note I could find on the project, dated Sept 2010 — Only three months before we filmed!

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  • The Treatment: Click here to download or view the PDF.  One thing I want to stress is that I was really trying to sell the whole thing as a fast, fun, and easy project.  The truth was, we were already busy working on a whole bunch of other projects, so the idea of adding a brand new project was a bit crazy.  I hope you appreciate the irony of the line:  “no big series that ties up all of our free time.”

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First draft of the costumes and colors.

First draft of the costumes and colors.  Nov 2010.

First costume test.

First costume test.  Dec. 6, 2010.

Storyboard from Episode 1.

Storyboard from Episode 1.

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  • Shot Sheet of Day 2 So here’s the definition of insanity … three episodes in one day.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19th, STARDATE 2010

EPISODE 5 – “FABULOUS TECHNOLOGY” (10 AM)

  • — Location: Green Screen/Stage
    * SETUP 1 – 3 Shot, Open to “Slightly warm.”
    * SETUP 5 – Tighter on Logan at door, tries panel
    * SETUP 2 – Doctor & Powell
    * SETUP 4 – 2 Shot of Captain and Rena.  They watch as Powell tries to bypass the door.  *Blocking of Captain has to match with Setup 3
    * SETUP 3 – Captain Single, enters with gun up* SETUP 7 – Powell falls into frame (digital pan up??), Others gather around him
    * SETUP 6 – INSERT of Powell’s hands being electrocuted.* 1 PM – LUNCH *

    EPISODE 6 – “BIRTHDAY SURPRISE” (1:30 PM)
    — Location : Hallway
    * SETUP 1 – Action of Captain and Powell in hall (CUT THIS SHOT??)
    * SETUP 2 – Captain enters frame with gun, Powell check communicator.
    * SETUP 3 – C.U Of Logan looking at communicator.  Blue light.
    * SETUP 4 – The “heroes” turn the corner and shoot.  And shoot again.  Captain says line and moves forward.  May need to break into separate shots??
    * SETUP 5 – Special TRIPOD DOLLY SHOT.  2 Heroes and 2 Barbarians.
    * SETUP 6 – Captain Powell walks over the smoking, dead Cassigar as Powell investigates.  Smoke machine.
    * SETUP 8 – Closer of Powell as he sits over body.  8A, 8B.
    * SETUP 11 – Wide of Powell, Captain, and body.  11A (shoots, winces), 11B (Heroes escape)
    * SETUP 9 – INSERT of B-Day Card
    * SETUP 7 – Captain investigates corner – 7A, B-Day Cassigar killed – 7B
    * SETUP 10 – Captain steps into single – 10A, Captain turns back – 10B

    EPISODE 7 – “PHONING IT IN” (4 PM)
    — Location:  Stage
    * SETUP 2 – ** 2A (Long take; maybe split up), 2B (after killing Cassigar, throws gun)
    * SETUP 4 – “And now you die!”  Smoke machine from damaged ship?
    * SETUP 1 – ** 1A, 1B, 1C (Reaction shots), 1D, 1E
    * SETUP 3 – 3A (Long take), 3B (Ending tag)

    VOYAGE TREKKERS PHOTO SHOOT

    Yay!

…That “Yay!” at the bottom was in fact actually on the shot sheet  🙂

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And finally the first episode that started it all!  Thanks so much to all our cast and crew, our fans and supporters, you guys have made this a fantastic two years!  Yay.

Visual Effects From Episode 7

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I thought this would be a great opportunity to delve into the visual effects that go into making Voyage Trekkers since Episode 7 of Season 2, while it doesn’t have the most visual effects of any of our episodes (muahahaha, that’s our Season Finale!!), it does have the most diverse range of crafts and techniques in it, which made it both fun but extremely challenging.

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Model Making

We didn’t HAVE to make a physical model for the freighter … but we WANTED to!  It was a personal goal of mine to go old school for this shot, plus an added bonus that we had the grand master, David Stipes, was our Visual Effects Supervisor and shooting models was his wheelhouse on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager just to name a few.  Model maker Mark Worley was kind enough to donate his time and create the model, and the talented students of the Art Institute of Phoenix, where David teaches, helped shoot it.

If there’s one thing I want to convey in this blog is that communication is key.  As a director you’re going to have to really communicate to all the people involved on what the shot is and  how it’s supposed to look like.  Storyboards and concept art are key for this communication.  The more you can give your artists the happier everyone is going to be.

Storyboard of the sequence, by David Stipes.

Storyboards of the sequence, by David Stipes.

Mark's model lit by the students of the Art Institute of Phoenix

Mark’s model lit by the students of the Art Institute of Phoenix

Me and David.  Yes this is the dorkiest picture we took that day.

Me and David. Yes this is the dorkiest picture we took that day.

Final shot of the model freighter and the CGI Remarkable, with added engine glow.

Final shot of the model freighter and the CGI Remarkable, with added CG engine glow.

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CGI

CGI is not easy.  It’s tough, very tough.  But we were lucky to find another talented volunteer, this time with the amazing S.E. O’Brien of Sigil FX.  Actually everyone on the series is a volunteer … ha ha, and not only does the director not get paid but he LOSES money! 🙂

Again with the importance of communication, animatics (which are crude versions of the final shot) are key in determining the motion and animation of the final shot.  That’s when you want to change things, when it’s an animatic, and before you go and render out the real thing, and for an 8 second shot that could take nine hours.

Early version of the transit pod.  We felt like it needed to be more "retro."

Early version of the transit pod. We felt like it needed to be more “retro.”

Scott's animatic of the transit pod leaving the ship.

S.E. O’Brien’s animatic of the transit pod as it leaves the ship.

Final shot, by Sigil FX.

Final shot, by Sigil FX.

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Compositing

Compositing is about combining  different elements together, such as green screen’d actor and a background.  Now a bit of back story, this green screen shot was filmed in a panic.  It was literally one of the hardest days of filming in my life.  Not because of any one person, or anything scandalous, but just because of the sheer volume of technical hurdles and the amount of shots we had to get on the day.  It was just crushing.  We almost forgot this shot and we had to grab it quickly before we relit the entire set.  Notice how there’s a C-stand intersecting with Adam’s arm?  That meant whenever he moved his arm had to be rotoscoped (frame by frame animation that follows the outline of the actor’s arm to remove whatever it comes in contact with).  This was David Stipes’ shot and the poor guy spent six hours rotoscoping Adam’s appendages.  Sorry, David, my bad.

Before.

Before.  A compositor’s nightmare.

After.

After.

This shot also combines a digital matte painting from Ryan Quackenbush, animated graphics from S.E. O’Brien, and the model by Mark, and then I went in and added digital panels to the consoles.  I think this was the single shot that pretty much everyone was involved in!

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Matte Painting

Speaking of matte paintings, we had a great digital matte painter, Ryan Quackenbush, on the project.  He did the shuttle bay shot and door from Episode 1, and from Episode 7 the view screen, landing pad, and colony lobby.  For the landing platform shot, I created crude concept art to not only convey the shot to Ryan, but to also figure out what I actually wanted to see in the first place.

My mock up for the perspective and angle of the shot.

My mock up for the perspective and angle of the shot.

My crude concept art to convey my idea of the shot.

Then my concept art to convey my idea of the shot, as I traced over the photo above in photoshop.

Ryan's color sketch, to convey the tones and lighting of the shot.

Ryan’s color sketch, to convey the tones and lighting of the shot.

After sketches determining the look of the base we came up with the idea that the base was built into the mountain.

After several sketches we came up with the idea that the base was built into the mountain.

Final shot, with added lighting effects, moving dust, and the CGI shuttle.

Final shot, with added lighting effects, blurring, moving dust, and the CGI shuttle.

One of the things you always want to do with matte paintings is try to add as much life to it as possible to make it feel real.  We added blur and lighting to give it dimension, moving dust elements and a lens flare to make the environment look alive.  Sound effects always helps, of course, as does a cool landing shuttle!

You’ll notice in the following shot, with Sunstrike in the lobby of the colony base, he interacts with the environment as he passes over the sun, blocking a lens flare.  All visual effects are illusions and often you find that you’re trying to draw the audience’s eye with movement (lighting, lens flares, dust, actors, etc.) so that they don’t scrutinize the shot and see how the trick is pulled off.

Ryan Quackenbush's interior matte painting.

Ryan Quackenbush’s interior matte painting.

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The Little Things

While the adage “the best effects are the ones that no one notices” isn’t really true in sci-fi, there are a number of VFX shots in the episode that you really wouldn’t notice if I didn’t point them out.  The make up for Jayda’s hands ended up looking really uneven so I had to rotoscope them blue for every damn close up he had.

I rotoscoped Jayda's uneven make up.  You can see, the hand on the right has already been fixed.

I rotoscoped Jayda’s uneven make up. You can see, the hand on the right has already been fixed.

Pick up shoots: recreating the bridge.

Pick up shoots: recreating the bridge.  Craig Curtis as INFO and Nathan Stipes, the production designer, dressing him.

And the shots of Chief and INFO were all done months later as a pick up shoot and inserted into the episode.  We pulled three flats out of storage and recreated a little corner of the bridge again.

So as you see a lot of different crafts and techniques went into making the effects Episode 7, an episode that in the end only clocks in at 7 minutes long.  But because we knew this was going to be tricky episode, a lot of the work and conversations started 6 to 12 months ago.

But like I said, as tricky as this one was … this episode ain’t got nothing on the Season Finale! 🙂

Making Laser Swords At Dawn

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From Voyage Trekkers Season 2 - Ep. 2: "Laser Swords At Dawn"

From Voyage Trekkers Season 2 – Ep. 2: “Laser Swords At Dawn”

Voyage Trekkers Season 2 – Episode 2: Laser Swords at Dawn” is here!  This was the very first episode of Season 2 we shot, back in January of 2012.  Now, obviously we were parodying the lightsabers from Star Wars, but we wanted to make something that was distinct and different looking for our show.

lightsabers

Star Wars concept art by Ralph Mcquarrie. Copyright Lucasfilm.

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Ironically, the first  ideas came from original Star Wars concept art right above, where the sabers had less of a “pole” looking blade and actually had some sharpness to it at the end and some “energy bulge” (yes, I’m using quotations on that) to the base.

Voyage Trekkers concept art for the laser sword

Voyage Trekkers concept art for the laser sword.

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We now had a direction to go with this little mock up I made above.  We meaning Robert Baum, the animator who would be creating the effect and then painstakingly rotoscoping the blades over our live action versions, and Visual Effects Supervisor David Stipes.

Other visual references included the way that the game Halo did transparent colored energy, less with swords but more with their shields, and the energy weapons that the Transformers used in the very first episode of the cartoon.  So we were moving kind of in the direction of the first Star Wars movie, where the swords were treated more like broadswords and less like katana.

Adam Rini holds the laser sword created by Todd Cook.

Adam Rini holds the laser sword created by Todd Cook.

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On the shoot the actors held their laser sword handles with long orange poles in them so that Robert could see exactly where the blades where supposed to be and could animate the energy beams over them.  It actually took a while to find a distinct look for the laser swords.  Here are just a few examples in the video below (enlarge and watch on HD to really see the variations)

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We  have some nifty behind the scenes videos below, the first being “Season 2 – Day 1”, which follows us on that first day of filming.  There’s no laser sword action, we wanted to keep that a bit of a surprise for the episode, but it’s still fun.  And second is a neat featurette on the making of some of the props by Todd Cook of Todd Cook Designs, including the laser swords.

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