Production

Lunatics is being produced independently on a “free film” model — that is to say, we are using a free-culture license (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0), and it will be mostly “open source” in that we will release as much of the source material as we are able to do. The project is nevertheless, intentionally “commercial” in that we at least hope to make enough money from it to sustain the project and pay the artists for their time. Models for that have been pioneered by other free-licensed movies like “Sita Sings the Blues” and the Blender Open Movies (“Sintel”, “Big Buck Bunny”, and “Elephants Dream”). Using free-licensed open-source software for that is a natural outcome of the desire to be able to collaborate with the community on the production (anyone can acquire the software tools to participate in our project).

Meanwhile the development process of the free software community has also given us much of the tools for collaborating on the project, and the use of a “free cultural works” license means we have access to the commons of other free-licensed work to incorporate in our project. Both bring down the cost, especially the real “dollars and cents” capital costs of the project, hopefully to the point where it will be feasible to do this project on a “community-funded” basis through a combination of:

  • Pre-Production Crowd-funding
  • Post-Production Pre-Sales
  • Post-Release Creator-Endorsed Sales
  • Subscriptions & Donations
  • Ancillary Sales
  • Advertising

This model favors series over stand-alone movies, because people are more willing to contribute to a project that has shown it can produce good work that they like. Of course, that leaves the challenge of getting started which is why the production roadmap for Lunatics is based on a “bootstrapping” model, with successively more complex hurdles to clear, each providing the credibility for the community-funding and community-sourcing on the next.

This model offers us the kind of independence that is needed to tell a story like this for what is most likely a niche audience, in a way that probably wouldn’t be very easy to sell to the conventional film or television industry.

Format

The series is structured around 2 or 3 act episodes, from 30 to 45 minutes in length, after completing the pilot episode.

Due to the large amount of up-front worked needed for 3D animation methods and our transition to the per-episode funding model through Patreon, we’ve broken our original hour-long pilot, “No Children in Space,” into three shorter episodes of about 20 minutes each. At the moment, we’re just calling these “Part 1”, “Part 2”, and “Part 3” of “No Children in Space”, though I’ve considered calling them “Prologue”, “From the Earth…”, and “…to the Moon”, as they tell the story of the youngest colonist, Georgiana Lerner, arriving at the colony as a kind of hard-science-fiction fairytale.

The series will follow a “braided” narrative, with each of the principle characters becoming the protagonist for certain episodes, while others act as supporting characters. Occasionally we will have an “ensemble” episode in which all of their storylines are balanced. It’s a little bit like how the Marvel Cinematic Universe stories are structured, if you think of each movie as an episode.

Once we get three full episodes (or five if we count each part of “No Children in Space” separately), we’ll have our first “Volume”, which we intend to release as an “OVA” DVD volume (also with a digital HD version).

We initially had set a goal of doing 18 episodes a year once we got up to a fully-sustainable state. We’ve revised that goal to 12 a year, partly because that would average once-a-month. Of course, we’re still working on the first episode after several years of work on the project, which partly reflects the almost non-existent funding, the resulting very small team, and our still being pretty new at this. In any case, the story will be structured around 12-episode “seasons”, however the timing works out.

With all this in mind, our goal now is to try to get “No Children in Space” completed in 2018 (all three parts), and gradually accelerate our production rate. However, that’s dependent on getting a good fan response and funding, so we’ll just have to see how it goes.

The Future?

I honestly don’t know if this will work — whether we can make enough money on the goodwill of fans to sustain the project or justify the thousands of hours of effort it will require from dozens of people to see it through. And therefore, I don’t know how long we’ll be able to keep it up. At least we will try very hard to complete the pilot. Hopefully, we’ll get enough interest to see us through a season. If things work out well, we have excellent story arcs planned all the way through to a third season, and some ideas for beyond that. But that really depends on your support, and that unquestionably depends on how well we do our job. In any case, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be fun!

Infrastructure Development

The focus from 2016 to 2018 has been infrastructure development, in the form of a “virtual studio” system that will allow team collaboration on the project. In early 2016, it became clear that the lack of such a system was holding us back, and a great deal of work has gone into this since then, as partially documented in recent Production Blog posts (particularly: “Studio Progress and Development Plans“, “Virtual Studio Addendum“, “TACTIC Replication & Backup“).

This is also one of the things we are doing that may have more community impact as we are document our entire studio effort and releasing any software we produce under open source licenses.

We’ve also been working on physical infrastructure, including a on-site server and render cluster.

Infrastructure credits:

Elsa Balderrama – 2015 Website conversion to WordPress (including creating our current WordPress theme, which was meant to keep the design similar).

Katrina Niolet – 2017 KitCAT TACTIC Qt/Python client development with creative app integration.

Terry Hancock – Hardware buildout, installation, scripts, etc. Also working on KitCAT, particularly the plugins for integration with authoring programs like Blender, Inkscape, etc.

Production Team

Project founded and conceived by Rosalyn Hunter (Writer) and Terry Hancock (Producer/Director).   Characters were designed by Daniel Fu.

2017 Modeling & Animation Team: Chris Kuhn, Keneisha Perry, Terry Hancock.

Past Modeling & Animation Team: Andrew Pray, Cosmin Planchon, Gorka Mendieta, Guillaume Cote, Vyacheslav Yastrebcev, Timothee Giet, Sathish Kumar, Bela Szabo.

Sound Team: (Not currently active — most sound design work so far was done by Terry Hancock).

Voices: William Roberts (Rob),  Karrie Shirou (Hiromi), Veronika Kurshinskaya (Anya), Paul Birchard (Josh, Allen), Lex Quarterman (Tim), Ariel Hancock (Georgiana), Melodee M. Spevack (Narrator), Sergei Oleinik (Sergei), Kristina Ponomarenko, Miki Kuroki, Jami Cullen, Karen Jagger, Sophie LeNeveu, David Jordan, Sylvan Hancock, Nicholas Hancock, Janet Hancock, Terry Hancock, Rosalyn Hunter, Nadezhda Dmitriev, Shamil Aminov.

(See Episodes for Additional Credits)

Production-Related Blog Entries

"No Children in Space" Production Status

Scene-By-Scene Status of “No Children in Space” Pilot Story

We’ve gone through many revisions of the episode structure and requirements for our pilot episode, including breaking it up into three episodes instead of one, at least for the initial release through Vimeo and Patreon. As this is no doubt confusing, it seems like a good idea to make a chart. It’s also an opportunity […]

Compositing Technique for Freestyle Transparency and Proxies

The last couple of weeks, I have been very happy to get back to some blendering! I’ve been working on the materials, lighting, rendering, and compositing setup for a set and the associated scene in the pilot episode. This is the “press conference” scene which includes most of the “true dialog” in the prolog. Since […]

Central Market Build-Up ("Lunatics!" Project / CC By-SA 3.0)

Central Market – Layered Set with Backdrop

We don’t want to waste our effort modeling every detail possible in every set. Some are only used briefly in a single episode, shot from only one angle, and therefore don’t need to be as versatile. In this situation, we can create an impression of greater realism and complexity by using simple models in front […]

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