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, “No Children in Space” (which will be about 50-60 minutes in length, initially released in 3 segments of about 15-20 minutes each). Episodes are also grouped into “Volumes” (typically 3 episodes) which would fit easily on a DVD video release, “Blocks” of two volumes, and “Seasons” of three blocks (or six volumes). Initially, the idea was to do one “Season” per year, of about 18 episode, but we’re starting out much more slowly than that. Funding will determine whether we can do full seasons and how quickly we can do them. We are also have limited by the availability of voice actors, obviously, although we have made an effort to make this easy for them to keep up with.

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 for 2016 and 2017 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

Press Conf Test Cam2/2499

Final Assembly of the Press Conference Sequence

After many months of neglect, I am finally putting together the pieces for the “Press Conference” scene. In my previous post, I showed how the compositing works. I’m not done with all the IT and hardware work, but I decided to take a break and do some of the creative work, partly for my own […]

Fully-composited render of "Aquarium Room" set with Press Extras in the gallery, showing the handling of ink lines for foreground and through-transparency objects, toon shading, and base room lighting.

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 […]

Drawer Faces for Render Cluster (Terry Hancock / CC By 4.0)

Beginning 2017 Asset Review

For 2017, I’ve decided to set a goal of updating this production log much more frequently. I’m hoping to get at least one post a week, and possibly 3 or 4. Most of these will be much shorter and less formal posts.   What’s Old: The technical infrastructure project continues, albeit interrupted by various things […]

KitCAT UI Mock Up screen capture

Prototyping KitCAT

As I described in a video last month (A Virtual Studio for Anansi Spaceworks), I’ve decided to adopt the TACTIC project management suite. This will require me to develop a Blender-TACTIC integration Add-On, and today I spent some time learning more about the Blender UI scripting API, as well as starting a mock-up of the […]

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