Also, "spoiler alert" obviously..
Hey, I'm doing a pause today to share with you where I am in process of the production of Episode 38 and also look back in the mirror of what happened so far since summer 2022, the last time I published an episode of Pepper&Carrot. I'll try to explain all the process of what happened for me to take so much time on this one.
You'll find that the big bottle-neck was mainly at the step of the scenario.
My original plan for episode 38 was the second chapter of a trilogy − The Phoenix Arc − that I wrote last year. On the paper, it was ready in spring 2022. Unfortunately, after I published the first part of this trilogy, I realised the second part I wrote was problematic because too dark and depressive. I wasn't connecting with it anymore.
Because it was hard for me to detect what was wrong about my script, I decided to send it to professional scenarists around me. One helped me to identify the issue: the story was a bit too dark without a valid motivation, and my arc turned to be about how the Phoenix turns from a moron into someone respectable, and Pepper wasn't the central character anymore of the story. Pepper was in this arc a Mary Sue that influenced with her inherent goodness a bad creature to be a good one. It wasn't that problematic in itself, but it was static for Pepper, and... who care about the Phoenix? I probably wrote that to flee the responsibility of changing something to Pepper.
I then started a laborious work to rewrote the story. With a fear of not connecting it anymore and become bored about it only a couple of week-later. Many scripts were wrote; some that turned into long boring dialogs with Shichimi and Torreya in a shelter offered by Queen Coriander, some other more goofy with a Pepper changing all "Wanted" poster in Hereva... manually. Always same feeling: I got bored after two weeks about them.
I then started to post single panel of a new story from scratch; "posting while I was connecting and motivated". That's how you got a mini series of illustration with a dragon and a blond magician in October. I then decided to stop to worry and focus on my painting technique and maintain my tools: I was convinced that good ideas will come back at a point. That's how you got the "In the midst of experimentation" blog post where I announced "I have no idea when the next episode 38 of Pepper&Carrot will be released".
I then took care of triaging my brushes and worked on my technique in November and December. I learnt so many new things and got many new skill. I was in a sort of "closed for works" state. Thanks to extra incomes coming from new publishers of Pepper&Carrot, I wasn't into an emergency financial situation and I could afford taking this time.
With time, I finally found back motivation to write a new story. The story is simply put about Pepper quitting everything. This is a theme I feel in me and around me: the desire to leave everything and start "new". So I thought it could be cathartic to write about that in a story.
Once I had that deep problem identified, it was possible to work on a solution. It came on a golden plate during my holidays in end December, a time always here to remind me my roots: "Lorsque tu ne sais pas où tu vas, souviens-toi d'où tu viens." a proverb I can translate with "When you don't know where you are going, remember where you came from.". So, I worked on that.
In my case, it was a multidimensional solution. On a technnical level: it meant "cinematic", "shot", "painting" and "Blender". And on a scenario level for Pepper, it meant Fantasy, witches, monsters, and ... Pepper going back to her family. Once I had all this piece in my bag, it was easier to write a scenario My feelings were now more in sync with this new story and I think the problems and solutions I'll storytell with this fable are sincere. Hopefully, readers will relate to it.
The storyboard followed really quickly within the same week, I made a photo about it when I shared in end January, I extended it to 8 pages later to get a better introduction.
The story happens into an abandoned part of Hereva, the world of Pepper&Carrot, that I code named "The Forgottens". Ancient civilisation ruins plunged in the dark, haunted with magic and creatures. The playground of many groups of mercenary adventurers trying to progress on these area to reclaim the area, and/or find treasure. It's not explicit in the 8 pages of episode 38, but I hope the architecture and ambiant will convey all of that without needing to get a character or a narrator telling this.
Here is a concept art of "The Forgottens", a part with a network of bridges that pushes adventurer into a linear path, and without escape on the side.
And here 3D blender screenshot. For this episode I'm using Blender a lot; it helps me at setting camera view angle and I also learn a lot about controlling the "Field of View" (fov) when I storyboard. A key to get a sort of cinematic look, is to mimic the perspective of a camera.
Pepper joins a group of mercenary adventurers. And she must look like a healer, but still look like Pepper. When I received the Cinema team of LentCine at home for a documentary interview, I was right in the middle of designing this.
I finally went for something a bit more pragmatic; I has to be compatible with all actions Pepper does on this episode:
About the group on my scenario, they were not really defined; but I quickly saw it was interesting to invest a bit of time on their design since I want to keep the possibility to reuse them later. They are mercenaries only temporarily together to complete a quest, and they have to look a little bit untrustworthy. Erik Mondrian found them good names: the halfing white wolf "Fritz", the archer "Vinya" and the warrior "Brasic". Only Brasic is explicitly named on a speechbubble in episode 38 (for now).
Monsters appears on panels, but because they are just single appearance, I'll design them "on the fly" while drawing the comic.
For the production of the episode, I decided to use the technique I described in this video.
▶ Peertube: https://peertube.touhoppai.moe/w/6GetvC3grjMRdFooDDMe62
▶ Youtube: https://youtu.be/kisT96h5h80
I'm using a very thin and "not clean" pencil line for this episode. This contrast a lot with my habits, but I know this way I'll not be tempted to keep the line in the process. They are only guidelines made to go to the trashcan. On the eight pages, seven pages are done 100% with this step. I'm redoing the last page this week because, thanks to the 3D model of the landscape, I had ideas of better view angles.
Once I have my sketch, I setup my 3D scene to match the panel, and I render it. I put the renders into background layers. Blender has a lot of good option on the camera to put a background image, so I don't have a lot of difficulties to match the view angle. The background was reused more than 12 times so far. I'll paint-over them a lot at the final step. I have 3D backgrounds done now for all the 8 pages.
It's a new step in my process: I paint the characters under a neutral light. I'm not 'flatting' the color as a comic artist would do; I still do modeling of the shapes, and even crease contact shadows here and there. But I have this intermediate step that help me to maintain the color palette of a character consistent across panels. I have the Color-Flat in progress on page 4, I'm at the midway.
On the top of the Color-Flat, and often inside a group and with Alpha-Inheritance, I'm shading the characters. This way, I can make the same offset of color palette from one panel to another and experiment where I place the light on my set. It's a creative process that I really like. I try to not be too clean at this step because I want to feed the canvas with get a rich texture and painterly feeling. I work this step in parallel with the previous one. I have the two first page ready this way so far.
To be continued...
The beta testing of the episode with the contributors will happens once I finished to do all the color flat and shading on all the episode. It might still take me two weeks. 🥲
Unfortunately, I made slower progress than what I thought I would be able to do, because I was three time sick and had many appliances at home out of order. Also mold in wall issue, and roof leak issue. You know, this type of time when 'all happen at once'... I wasn't really lucky in February/March so far. And my time is often stolen with random events I can't escape.
After the beta? I'll still need to spend a full day of work to paint-over each pages in order to "break" the 3D aspect of the background (then need to be a bit more painterly, and in ruins). And I'll details characters for crisp details, and push the pages rendering until I cannot do more progress.
I hope to get a release around mid-April. I'll certainly show on social media first renderings before the release, or even post a (shorter) production report part 2 🙂.
Thank you all for reading, for your patience and for your continuous support. Clearly, this project would not exist without you, I'm keeping this in mind all the time, and be sure I'm doing my best.