Just got out of a group session. No, not THAT kind of group. Every so often when there's a shot or two that has a large crowd Matt will come around late Tuesday night and gather up people who aren't busy to go into the sound booth and record us making sounds. Usually it's things like "rabble rabble rabble!" or "peas and carrots!" or "Yeah!" said in a loud but mumbly voice so nothing specific can be made out. We often do the same shot 3-4 times while trying to do a different pitch/cadence/accent each time to add to the apparent total number of people in the crowd. It's fun but surprisingly hard on ones throat. I always come away from one of those sessions with renewed respect for voice actors. That shit is hard.
We're almost done with tonight's episode and it's still dark outside. That's the second time in a row that we've wrapped an episode before the sun came up. I wouldn't mind seeing this become the norm. I think as we age, we're all beginning to realize we don't bounce back from these all nighters like we used to. Counting tonight's episode, that's six down and 4 to go. Normally it would be 1 more to go, but with the schedule changes it's gonna be a long ass month...
In Wanderer news, it looks like the lads from Cadenza have hit the limit of what they can do without day jobs. So, they're putting a pause on further Wanderer development for the time being while they all find gainful employment. It's a bummer, but understandable. Can't feed your family and pay rent with ambition alone. Alas, this also means that I am finding myself with a ton of free time again. I need to find a new project to spend my time on. Maybe a space sim this time? I guess I'll have to start poking around the usual forums and see if any project spark my interest. Whee...
We had a bit of a kerfuffle last week. Over the years, one of our biggest technical production concerns was the impact of things beyond our control on our ability to deliver an episode. One of those things beyond our control is electricity. We depend on LADWP for that. And usually we can count on them. There's always that fear of "What if..." though. I was asked many years ago to come up with a game plan for how we could protect against such things. Alas, the only real way to protect from a long term power outage is a generator. Getting our entire facility wired and ready so all we would have to do is have a large scale generator dropped off turned out to be very very expensive. So much so that the executive producer decided it was prohibitive. I made sure everyone understood that if we ever lost power for more then a couple hours on a Tuesday night, we would quite possible miss airing the episode in production.
Enter last Tuesday night.
We lost power. For 3 hours. Our UPS systems were able to hold out for 90 minutes, but they of course have their limits. So, we had to go dark. The day before an episode airs. With about 60% of the episode in the can. LADWP was telling us it would be many more hours before they could get power back. So the decision was made to cut the crew and miss air. For the first time ever. After over 250 episodes. Not a bad ratio considering how ridiculously close to air we usually deliver our episodes.
Our production schedule had us taking a week off of production after the 4th episode anyways, so we had the crew come in on weds and thurs to wrap up 1704, the episode that missed air, then we took the next 6 days off. I came in a few days earlier then the rest of the crew since there are still some people working in the studio and they might need IT support. But it's nice and quiet here. Which is more then I can say for my apartment complex.
Every 6 months they have to test the fire alarm systems by going into each apartment and testing the alarm system. Of course, when you test the alarm system, it triggers the alarms for the entire building. Which means the alarm in my apartment goes off hundreds of times. My dog really really freaks out when he hears the alarm. For a damn good reason as it's ear shatteringly loud. So, I've been bringing him into work for the days they are testing. He's an older dog at 13 years old and dealing with progressively worsening arthritis so the vet has him on 12.5-25 mg of tramadol, a low grade partial-opiate pain killer. It makes him kinda stoned. See for yourself:
Just finished episode 3 of 10. One more episode and we get a few days off. I am already so fried I've spent the last hour staring at a blank browser page. <sigh> On the upside, I have a lot of free time during the crunch. The downside is I end up so brain dead that I end up doing nothing of any consequence and instead just watching bad action flicks (like the latest die Hard movie... Dear god that was bad...), bad anime (and good anime), or SyFy shows (they are by definition expected to be bad...).
I have managed to get a bit of work done for The Wanderer. The lads are re-writing the animation engine to make it easier for me to generate content which has given me license to clean slate the animations I did for the PAX demo and start anew. I am liking what I'm coming up with when I am able to concentrate enough to do them, so that's a good thing. Just have to make sure I get everything done in time for the Alpha deadline. Need more coffee...
This was an interesting week in production. Here at the Park, we finally have decided which episode is going to be the first one we air. And we still have almost 5 full days before it airs! No problem! Heck, we even have an entire 2:57 of the episode approved! What could go wrong?
On the wanderer front, things are pushing ahead. We had a rather dramatic design meeting this week which really helped us refine and focus the vision of the game, but it also brought to the fore the fact that we don't have nearly enough time left to give this game the time it deserves. We had some tough conversations and made some tough choices. I really hope we are able to deliver on this game. It really does have some great promise.
In the meantime, I'm sitting here, twiddling my thumbs and drinking a w00tstout. Yes, my job is better then yours. Cheers.
Here we are, once more into the breach. Today is the official first day of production crunch for Season 17 of South Park. Whee. Hence begins the 16-20 hour days, with enforced desk veal mode. And of course, this is when the new file server, which we've spent the last 4 months testing and verifying starts acting like a psychotic ex girlfriend. Little bitch is acting up for no apparent reason whatsoever. Seeing massive load spikes and latency and there's nothing going on that we can tell to cause it. And it's completely random. Only thing we know for sure is it has something to do with our workflow as it only seems to happen while people are here and working. Hopefully HDS will be able to help us track down what the heck is going on.
On the Wanderer front we are now officially working towards Alpha. We had some fun last week brainstorming items to put in the game. Somehow I ended up modeling all the weapons. No idea how that happens, but it's fun so no worries there. Hopefully once we have something more polished I can get permission to start posting images of what I'm working on. We'll see. That's it for now. Cheers!
I survived PAX! Mostly. I think my feet may need another week to recover. I was amazed at just how huge PAX has gotten. Over 100K gamers invaded Seattle and packed downtown. Most impressive to me was just how smoothly everything ran. They really do have things down tight up there. Very smart crew running things. I was also rather surprised at just how large the indie game scene is up there. Makes me wonder if there's a similar scene down here that I just don't know about. Gonna have to do some looking around to see if there is.
On the Wanderer front, we had a good show, showing off the game at the Logitech booth. It was very cool of them to give us this opportunity and I really appreciated it. Makes me love their gear even more. My aging Illuminated Keyboard is due for replacement, so perhaps that G19s will be finding a home on my desk soon... Anyways, everyone who played the game gave good feed back and when they found out the game was only 2 months old, they were all duly impressed. The Cadenza lads are taking this week off for recovery and then next week we do a postmortem to go over what players liked and didn't respond well to in the demo and start the actual production phase were we focus on creating actual final assets instead of a lot of placeholder or temp stuff. That's the phase were things get really intense as that's when features and mechanics really have to prove their worth or meet the axe.
I really wish I could take this week off to recover as well, but this week is the first week of production for SP's 17th season. Needless to say, taking time off won't be an option for me for the next 3.5 months. Whee! I just have to take advantage of the fact I'm being paid rather well for essentially sitting on my thumbs for the vast majority of the time by doing animation for The Wanderer as well as digging further into designing my own iPad game. Easy, right?
Yeah, it's been quiet here. Been in crunch mode on The Wanderer. We're going to be at PAX at Logitech's booth. They are kind enough to let us setup and demo the game there so we're making sure we have as much in and polished as possible. And I'll be going to PAX this year. First time ever and I'm very excited. Should be quite the adventure. I'm kinda bummed my wife can't come with but she has to work and someone has to take care of our elderly pets. I guess I'll just have to have enough fun for both of us! :)
It's been busy here at the 'Park with all the crew in. We are grinding to get both the new intro and the work we still have pending for the RPG done in time to get everyone a few weeks off before we start Season 17. Since this will be the first time we've tried to do 10 episodes in a row, everyone's a little stressed at just the thought of doing the run this way. Gonna be interesting times.
On the Wanderer front, we've started teasing the game here:
The prototype/pre-Alpha is really starting to come together. Makes me wish I could be working on that full time instead of the fairly mindless work I'm doing here. But since they can't afford to pay me, I kinda have to be here. But at least I have enough free time to occasionally do some work for them. Best of both worlds I suppose...
Spent the last 2 days reminding people how to log into a computer. Dear. God.
Spent the last couple days modeling a bad guy for a game that the lads at Cadenza are in preproduction on. I can't show it since it's theirs technically. And that's fine as it's very very rough, not textured, or anything like that. But it looks OK for all that. Today we had Sony drop off their new 84" UHD (4K) monitor so we could see what our show would look like at UHD. Because of how we make the show, it was very easy to just change the render settings and re-render to get a UHD version of the same shot. The difference just in the amount of data is silly. 6 MB per frame for a HD image. 30 MB per frame for a UHD image. Good grief.
But it looks sharp. Really really sharp. But our pipeline is NOT optimized for that level of data throughput. We'd have to amp up our entire infrastructure to handle that. We'll be showing it to the creators on Monday. We'll see what they say. If they want it, we'll have to find a way to make it work... Whee?