Thinkin' about bears
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: buried in the cellar
Tips for the unwashed masses
As suggested by Xanatos, and because I like stroking my ego. (Ego: <Purrrrrr>):
This is going to be a guide towards creating comics from your own COH screenshots, what works, what doesn't, various suggestions, etc.
First off, it's both harder and easier than it looks. You'd think cutting people out of screens and pasting them together would be spectacularly simple, but it's actually the most time consuming. Not only do you have to find the perfect position for each shot, but if you don't have the right shot when you're in your image editing program, you have to quit out of that program, boot up COH, get your character there set up, find the right light and go through all kinds of crazy poses and camerawork. I average about one useable shot from 5 screenies.
On the flip side, it's not that hard to do expressions once you know what you're doing. That mouth-open-talking thing that I do on so many panels is on so many panels precisely because it only takes me about 30 seconds to do. Body positioning, that's another thing...
1. Obviously you need an image editing program. I'd suggest a very good one. I use a student copy of Photoshop. I assume there is some way of obtaining Photoshop without paying $3000 to get it. If so, I'd look into it. I can't imagine doing this with a lesser graphics program.
2. A lot of the other screenshot comics I've seen involve getting other people on screen instead of using your own guys and cutting and pasting. I strongly suggest that you not do this. Getting your screenshots right is a lot like directing a movie. Each additional character that you would have to add to a shot would increase the complexity exponentially. And since you are your own cameraman, you're already at x^2. Also, your buddies are probably not going to be as into this as you are. So if you miss a shot and need to get them together again, or didn't think that things came out quite right, you're probably screwed.
3. When you first start out, you're going to be taking all your screenshots specifically for certain shots. Once you get further in, you'll have a library of shots to pick and choose from, although you'll still have to go into COH and take specific shots. Put all of your old screenshots into an archive. Then create folders for each of your characters, for specific locations and for filler characters. I should probably have all of my cutouts stored in one document, or subdocuments for different stances/expressions, but I'm really not that organized. However, those folders are an absolute neccesity. You're going to have too many screens, and none of them are named very intuitively.
4. I've found that with the screenshots, you can get about 4 vertical panels on an 8.5 by 11 page before you start to lose too much detail. In real comics, the artists can caricature the characters so that the basic colors and expressions are clearly visible. In COH, the resolution just isn't there. Everything starts becoming kind of blobby. I think you could get down to 5 or 6 vertical panels with selective editing, but it would have to be all lips and eyes. I've got mine formatted like a "real" comic, so the borders are at, if I remember correctly, 1/4" with the space in between panels at 1/8#. Bottom border is at 3/8" for graphic design reasons. The eye sees it funky otherwise. Seeing as this is all seen on a monitor with vastly different proportions, you could go way unconventional, however.
5. Before you do anything, you need to storyboard the entire comicbook on paper. Don't just do it as you go. You may have a very clear idea of what you're doing, but it's not enough. Almost everything that's wrong with my comic at present state can be attributed to not planning it out all the way ahead. Things are going to change. You may not be able to do a certain shot right, and the story may change when you start doing things graphically. Also, you need to be able to set atmosphere, which you can't do one page at a time. Atmosphere is arguably what makes comic books so much different from any other format, and it has to be done holistically. Writing and graphicing are using opposite sides of your brain. Plan accordingly.
6. Realize that if your auras play a significant part of the story, you're boned. You can't cut and paste those very well by any technique I know. I'm working on some stuff, but right now, if you're using fire effects, stick to the original screenies.
7. Make sure you know what the graphics engine in COH does before you start writing. For instance, I was sure that most large objects in COH cast shadows, so I made a character whose ability to move through shadows (ala Cloak or Silhouette) was fairly integral to the plotline. Then I get to the part where I first send her through some shadows, and I realize that the only thing in COH that cast shadows are trees and overpasses. So now I've got to edit in shadows from here to eternity whenever I need Blackbird to use her signature powers.
8. Fitting conversations into panels in these things doesn't work inuitively. My initial instinct was to put one blurb per panel, but that doesn't really work. It just results in a lot of panels that look the same. In real comics, you control the colors of those panels and make it so that it's not so visually monotone. You don't have that kind of control for the most part. What I do is I try to switch panels everytime a character changes expression or the conversation changes tone.
9. Each panel is the peak of the action or emotion. You're cutting out all the crap in between to get to the part that matters. It's that two hour long conversation with your high school girlfriend reduced down to the three or four lines and expressions that actually made any sense. It's what you remember when you wake up with a hangover and missing articles of clothing. It's a little surprising what can come out of that. An image of a kiss, for example isn't near as powerful as the right before of a kiss or the right after.
10. You can, surprisingly, make it look like people are walking. There are about two to three frames in the running animation where characters don't look like Action Man. If it weren't for these, you'd have a hard time of it. It takes a quick screenshot button to get em, but it means you won't have to be doing crazy edits to get characters to "relax."
*City Watch comic not actually coming in February, nor in any other month.