This is the main page for information about the making of Seconds and gives a general overview of production cycle. The other additional pages detail specific topics, such as: Crews, Working in groups to make webcomics; Sourcing, Finding things for your production; Characters, How to make multiple characters easily; Locations, Finding places to shoot in; Sets, Building and deploying sets; Shoots, Making, and editing images for the webcomic; Props, Making and modding props for use in shoots; Join in!, Come help make this webcomic.; Credits, Who did what; and Links, Hyperlinks to other resources and interesting sites.

The Production Cycle

Telling a story in Seconds involves (roughly) the following cycle of steps for most chapters:

  1. Pre-production

  2. A rough script is written for the chapter.
  3. More detail is added to the script and it is broken into scenes, each of which features a different location or set (though sometimes these are reused) from the scene before and after it. Organise a crew to work on this chapter.
  4. A list is made for each scene of the characters that appear in that scene, and what they are wearing. Are there new characters appearing in the scene? If so, those characters will need to be created using different body parts, clothing and attachments (See Sourcing).
  5. Locations and sets are noted for each scene, with details about any changes made between scenes. Can the location or set be used in situ, or do screenshots need to taken of them for later use as backdrops? If a new set is needed for a scene, it will need to be built before it can be used (also see Sourcing).
  6. Wait until new characters, gestures, outfits, new sets, and other items are either bought, created, or shared, for the scenes in the chapter by the appropriate avatars. Sometimes duplicates of these must be created or bought or shared by several avatars, so that each can share playing the role of that character, while other avatars play more unique roles.
  7. Check sets/locations in a dry run to block out the viewpoints used to create snapshots, and plan the positions of the avatars/characters for each panel. Check the look of the new characters and make corrections if needed.
  8. Organise a date and time for each shoot needed to create images for one or more scenes (sometimes the same set can be redressed for a later scene). If avatars used by other people are involved in that shoot, contact them and negotiate when they're available for the shoot. Hope they turn up on time.

    Production

  9. Execute photoshoots at the set/location on the date/time arranged for each shoot. This will involve avatars being posed for long periods of time, and and one or more snapshots or screenshots being taken from one or more viewpoints. If an avatar is playing more than one role in a scene, extra snapshots or screenshots will need to be taken from the same viewpoints, so that the character can be pasted into the scene in the editing stage. Repeat until all chracters for all viewpoints needed have been shot.
  10. Perform extra shoots using other materials, such as stock images and photos, as needed. This is the secondary material that might be needed for the editing stage.
  11. Repeat steps 8 to 9 for all scenes, until enough images and shots are collected for the next stage.

    Post-production

  12. Using editing software, the images collected by the above process are composited together to create individual panels on comic pages. Special effects and dialogue/balloons/sound effects are added to complete the page where necessary.
  13. Complete pages are exported as flat reduced images for uploading to the webcomic. A review is made for potential mistakes so they can be corrected.
  14. Pages are uploaded an an even publishing schedule (usually 2 days apart). Author's notes are added to the page.

    Rest Time

  15. Do other stuff.
  16. Start the cycle again for the next chapter with step 1.

My Production Rules

Creating webcomics via virtual worlds has a different aesthetic than creating one manually by either drawing something in the Actual World, or with a computer graphics editor like GIMP or Photoshop. But this also mirrors the difference between old style comics and photo comics in general.

For my own purposes, I have certain rules about using a virtual world to make a photo comic. There are:

  1. Taking snap shots or screen dumps of the virtual world as displayed on its browser or viewer is always the primary source of images for the comic;
  2. Images from the actual world, from other comics, or from programs that are not virtual world browsers or viewers, should only be used when the plot of the current story requires it (e.g. signs, images that appear on an in-world tv or film);
  3. Other programs that design or generate 3D images (such as Sketch-up, Blender, or Poser) should not be used, unless in doing so generates in-world content for the virtual world used as a primary source of images;
  4. It is preferable that props, body parts, gestures et al, be sourced (either built or bought) in-world were possible. Failing that they can be built outside and imported in-world for use;
  5. The use of post production work (after the initial shoot) in graphic editors should be restricted to compositions, lighting, special effects, text elements, and placing elements allowed under rule ii.;
  6. Taking a shot of an avatar, building, background or prop and later cutting the avatar/object from that and pasting it into the final image is acceptable, provided the initial shot was taken in-world. Finding the same via the net is not acceptable, unless it is the only way of including such;
  7. Where screen shots and snapshots involve avatars that are not in the production crew (for example, in the background just passing through) the image should be taken in such a way or altered so that their identities remain anonymous;
  8. Not shooting at locations where this is forbidden or unwelcome. When in doubt ask first; and
  9. Where possible, credit the use of location, list the SLURL of locations, and any special props that were made especially for the comic. This should be done either on the page where such appear, or at the end of a chapter (ie. as part of a Virtual Tourist page).

Mind you, I do break these rules from time to time. The reason I have them is that it makes finding the right setting and look for the actors, more challenging and more inventive. Much fun can be had in either building a prop or clothes yourself, or in tracking down a commercial version of the same in-world at a bargain price (if not free). The rules make the process more interesting in-world.