Megatron the Stinkbutt: A Digital Story

I have finally finished the digital comic that I had set out to do nearly 12 weeks ago. The following is the reflection on the process, and this post also functions as my masterpost for where everything is, for easier submission. Jenny and James, when you start reading this, please click on the prompted links below to be taken to the final products. You have a choice between two platforms, but please look at both!

Megatron the Stinkbutt on Tumblr

Megatron the Stinkbutt on Medium

As mentioned previously, I had been debating on whether to publish the comics on Tumblr, or on Medium. Then, as the wise Old El Paso said…’por que no los dos’? I was hoisted upon the shoulders of my ambitions, and I proceeded to publish on both platforms.

Platform

In my ‘Hosting Issues’ post, I talked about how Tumblr has ‘built in’ gutters, but Medium didn’t. To combat this, I had to separately upload differently edited products onto Medium in order to get the same feeling. I created one comic with gutter, and one without: ultimately I prefer the one without the gutter, for even though it doesn’t look like a traditional comic, it went well with the aesthetics of the rest of the comic, which also didn’t match traditional comic style.

Drafting

Speaking of which: I tried a rough cut of my project a few weeks ago, to which I received the feedback: Do you want your audience to know immediately that it was an edited photograph?

This was a major point of concern for me, for it was the reason that I chose to take on the project in photo form, rather than draw it. Yes, I do want the audience to know that it was a photo, because the focal point, apart from the story, is also Meg’s appearance. But I do not want it to simply BE a photo – that would look a little boring.

In the end, I opted to edit the photos with high contrast, then use a filter Poster Edges to further posterise the colors. That way, the image has a cartoon feel, without losing the aspects of the subject. Then, taking on board some advice from Jenny, I overlayed the photo with a gradient filter, creating a (dare I say) CSI Miami look.

Collaboration

I must say, working with myself has been a joy. Even though I did not hit the target dates that I strictly told myself to keep, we still came through in the end.

That was a joke – the reflection criteria mentioned collaboration for group projects, but I went solo.

I will talk about working with animals, though. I haven’t worked with a professionally trained dog before, I have worked with unprofessionally trained humans, and now that I’ve worked with an unprofessionally trained dog, I have to say: the dog is still better than people.

When it’s the dog, every mistake; every bad photo; every useless material, it’s all my fault. There is no ‘but’, the bottom line stops very quickly with me. With humans, you can always blame a lack of cooperation or communication, but with a dog, it’s literally “I didn’t plan, and now I stuffed up”. This was the case with my first photoshoot, where I didn’t bring an auto-focus lens. Meg was fantastic, she grinned, she panted, she sat, she begged – I just didn’t catch any of that in focus, because I stuffed up. So, when it was time for the 2nd photoshoot, I made sure I had every setting just right, before I even pointed the camera at the subject. As a result, the photos were much better. Plus, I learned a lesson in taking responsibility when things go awry.

Social Media

I used Tumblr and Medium for the reasons I listed in “Hosting Issues”, but my plan was to also let people know about the project through other means. I shared a Medium post onto my Twitter:

And I also shared the Tumblr posts and Medium posts to my Facebook, where the largest portion of my most likely first readers will be. (My Facebook is set on private, so there’s not much point in my linking here, but you can extrapolate from my Tweet what it would have looked and sounded like.)

I also tagged the projects on Tumblr with popular and relevant tags, such as #cute #puppy #digital comics etc. However, I believe that my active linking on social network brings more traffic than the hashtags.

Critical reflection

I feel that the end products were a mix bag of success and mediocre. The one of Meg in nature was my favorite – the dialogue was on point, and the images were engaging to look at. My least favorite was perhaps the bath-time comic, which went well in planning, but was executed poorly in terms of the lighting in the original photos. Finally, there was the issue with the online dating comic, where the 2nd image appears warped on Tumblr, but when clicked on loads perfectly. I could not fix the issue.

The most important part of the comics relied on my writing – there were times when the writing were not punchy, but as stated before, the nature comic was strong, and I felt that the treats comic had a good premise.

I’m glad that this project is finished – and I feel that some of the ideas and skills I learned in this can be used in future, similar premises. I will never stop loving and wanting to show people photos of Meg, so I will always have material!

Alex.

That One Time We Were Ramsay Street

My street isn’t anything like those on TV – we don’t get together every other week to do a BBQ. We don’t share a perpetually connected backyard where anyone could waltz in and have a cuppa. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t even know who my neighbors are, and I’ve lived on this street for almost a decade.

The thing is, we’re not the other end of the spectrum either. Apart from some unpleasantness a few months back concerning some idiots down the street, a carton of eggs and my front porch, we all leave each other well alone. If we pass each other, we would nod, or pretend it didn’t happen. I suppose, of course, that everyone had the same thoughts I did: What will it take for the street to get together?

Then, one morning a couple weeks back, there were sirens. I crawled out of bed, in time to see billowing smoke rising from the roof of a house three doors down. A quick glance around, and sure enough, the entire street population was also billowing from their houses, rubbernecking at the site of what could very well turn out to be a massive tragedy. Some of us (myself included), started patting our hair consciously, in case TV crews turned up.

Fortunately, I guess, no one turned up but two fire trucks and a couple of police cars. Turns out (and this is just whispers passed from one lips to another) that the tenants had left something on in the kitchen, and it in turn burned half the house down. The people were all out, thankfully, so all the only hurt was on the wallet.

So, several weeks on, the chicken wire fencing is still up, and the workmen have been doing their job to fix up this house. But even as they clear away the burnt out wall, I realized that the wall between neighbors still hasn’t come down. We’d all stood there, gaping at the smoke, mutually coughing at the fumes, and acting like this was a blow on us all, but no one had asked for each other’s name. We recognize the model and make of the cars, but if we had to connect a face to those, much less a name, we’d be at a loss.

Is it even possible to be as neighborly as the houses on Ramsay Street? Is there even a point? Surely, people know when something is wrong, and will do something, right?

Except no one would notice if an elderly couple hadn’t surfaced for a few days. No one would see bruises covering someone’s arms when they go out. Aren’t these the things that neighbors should watch out for?

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I could not get the permission from the builders to walk inside the location (beyond the chicken fence), and I definitely didn’t want to do something illegal like sneak in after hours.

The QR code will work perfectly with a decent scanner. I used the Barcode scanner Android app, but you Apple people out there should be able to find one just as good.

Focus on auto-focus

Having finally found the time (and good weather) to do my proper photoshoot of my subject Meg, I thought that my project would be at the 75% mark: get the photos that I want, then it’s off to creation.

I had a whole list of photos that I wanted based on the rough scripts that I’d outlined for the different strips that I wanted. I’d purposefully written them simple and repetitive, using poses that I’ve seen Meg do before.

On the day, I brought my 50mm prime lens. They have manual focus only. I’d been predominantly using this lens for all my previous photos, including the photo project that I’d uploaded earlier.

I also have shortsightedness, and can’t take photos with my glasses on.

What I’m building towards is that, for my first photoshoot, 70% of the images were nearly unusable because they were out of focus.

Nonetheless, I did manage to get some gems. which are usable:

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So the next time, I brought along my 18-55mm, and was able to use its autofocus to take many better photos.

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The only issue is, I hardly managed to get any of the photos that I’d planned for, meaning that most of the scripts that I’d written are entirely un-executable.

This leaves me with a conundrum, which I think I can solve rather easily.

Most of the photos that I took are still natural poses for dogs, so now it becomes a fact of writing a script around the material that I’d procured. Perhaps this should have been my plan from the very start, which would have freed me up to many more photos during the photoshoot.

In the next few days I’ll create a mock up of one of them comics, based on the first image that I uploaded. I’ll also attempt to create it with my publishing format in mind – Tumblr and Medium – to see and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

Here, have another Meg:

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Alex.