Monday, January 26, 2009

THE BEST OF 2008: First Place

"Draconic Support, Episode III"
Originally posted: 12 December 2008

While I considered this one of my favorite episodes from last year, I was still quite surprised that it pulled out the big win for the favorite of the Lair's readers. This particular episode was the original inspiration for the three episodes of "Draconic Support" which let us in on the support group of my wife's dragons.

In keeping with my promise to offer some "behind-the-scenes" material for the "Best of" episodes, let me show you how I created the shot of Waffles munching away on his favorite food.

I started with the two shots above: one with just the dragons in their places and a second picture with me holding the waffle in front of Waffles. You'll notice that I cropped out a lot of these pictures for the shot of Waffles eating. Over the years, I've learned its better to shoot wide and use a very high resolution on my camera. Each image I take usually has a resolution of 2272 by 1704. For those who don't speak in "pixel," that's pretty freaking big.

From here, the real graphic artwork begins. My art program lets me create layers to images, so what I did was position the picture of Waffles with me and the waffle over the image without me and the waffle so that they were perfectly aligned. From there, I just erased the portion of the picture where I am so that you can't see me holding the waffle. I even erased parts of the waffle to make it look like Waffles is really holding it in his hands and to give it the illusion of being partially eaten.

After I did that, I realized it still needed a little something more: crumbs. Call me crazy, but I think Waffles would be a messy eater. So I copied a really small piece of the waffle and pasted it several times over the picture in the appropriate places around Waffles' mouth. I used the eraser to alter each crumb so that each one would be a different size and shape.

After that, it was just a simple matter of adding the words and the word balloon.

There were a lot of little touches to this episode I could detail. For example, there's the fact each dragon is sitting on a book either written by Naomi Novik or Anne McCaffrey, both women well-known for their dragon-focused series (this gave each dragon a flat surface to stand on). There's also the way I made Shasta look like she'd been scorched by Waffles. Perhaps funniest of all the images is when Waffles flips out, leading to what might well be the first time I've ever let the dialogue go beyond the frame with Waffles screaming his signature catchphrase. Depending on your computer's settings, some of you might never have realized that this is what the complete image appears like. On my old computer (pre-laptop), a good portion of Waffles' scream to the right of the off-balance frame was cut off, which irritated me greatly.

Perhaps the most surprising thing to consider about this episode being last year's favorite is that neither Frank or I are in it. Where's the love, people! (just kidding)

I hope you enjoyed seeing the readers' favorites from last year, and my little insights into those episodes. Thanks to all of you who took the time to pick from all of last year's offerings.

Coming Up on Wildcat Wednesday: "Foreign Aid"


Big Mark 243 said...

"... for those of us that don't speak pixels ..."

I don't speak any of the technical jargon, I do know that your strip is pretty darned funny, and would make a great program for 'Adult Swim' on the Cartoon Network.

Beth said...

This was fascinating, Bill, and I loved seeing how you do some of this stuff. Amazing! And it shows how much love and work you put into these. If you don't hear it often enough, you are very much appreciated, especially in our household! Both Ken and I always know we can count on you and the gang for a laugh. :)

I was also kind of surprised that the dragons won the top spot, although they're very funny. I guess I'm just partial to cats, so I'm a Frank fan.

Thanks for the "best of" series. I hope you'll consider sharing a few more insider tips once in a while in the coming year. I really enjoyed seeing how you do some of these!

All my best,

Just Bill said...

Bill, I think your readers made a great selection for the year.
Thanks for sharing some of your tools and approaches. You blew my mind with those mega pixels. Bill

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Thanks for sharing the insights. I am looking forward to seeing Frank get rid of his virus :o)

Karen said...

I send your blog out to my sister who lives in Richmond. She's not a techy, so I share what I find...and this is a winner! Thanks for taking the time to tell us how you do it...