Cosmic Rage Unplugged: A Year in Review (and a Glimpse into the Past)

As the new year gets underway, I want to take some time to reflect on the past year of Cosmic Rage. I want to be up front with what I think worked, what didn’t work, and I’ll also discuss the direction in which we are headed for 2014.

The Origin of Cosmic Rage
Before I recap 2013, let’s take a look at how this whole thing got started. As some of you may know, I had the initial idea for Cosmic Rage almost 10 years ago, when I was still an aspiring art student in high school. Over the past decade, the story and characters have evolved and have taken their current form. Cosmic Rage didn’t really get started until after my college internship, when I became a freelance artist. Characters such as Zeth and Jani (whom you have only seen images of so far) spent some of my college years toiling in various stories that were inspired by other things I had seen and liked; no doubt they were cookie-cutter story lines, such as a space odyssey inspired by Outlaw Star or a world of teleporting to locations as in Dot Hack.

I began to realize that these were not stories I wanted to tell; rather, they were things that I liked—two vastly different concepts. One of the initial launching points for Cosmic Rage occurred when I was first unemployed. I had just completed a college internship and was in the real world without a job. The year 2010 was the first time I hadn’t been working since I was 14. The tanking of the economy had finally reached the Midwest as hiring froze and people were let go from work. I headed south to my sister’s, where I spent the days searching for opportunities to showcase my skills and talented people to work with. However, I spent my nights working on Cosmic Rage, getting years of ideas and characters out of my head and onto paper.

After three months, I landed a job and relocated to Minneapolis. This marked another major turning point in the evolution of Cosmic Rage. I started shaping the Cosmic Rage universe into a story of my own, completely scrapping the aforementioned plot lines and universe influences from other shows. I began to create original story lines and worlds, which was a goal I had committed to while I was at my sister’s, back when I was redesigning my character art and removing other obvious influences.

It wasn’t until some spirited conversations with a friend that I really decided to commit to finding a way to tell the story of Cosmic Rage. Over the years, I had tried to find the right medium, but from dabbling in just writing a text-only version of it to developing a graphic novel to navigating the logistics of animating it, nothing seemed to stick as a viable solution.

Production Influence
I tend to be a night owl, so one night while in Minneapolis, I stumbled across a show on FX called Archer. I had seen commercials for it, but never paid much attention to it. After a couple minutes, I was sucked in by the witty dialogue, interesting art style and the limited animation in the show’s early seasons. This lead to a late-night hunt for information about the show’s animation production, and eventually I stumbled across this gem.

I now had an idea of how to carry out the Cosmic Rage project, so I started researching motion comics in general to see how other limited animation stories were being made. After a few rough animation tests, I decided to roll with it.

Production Starts
In January 2012 I decided to start blogging to share my work and ideas with potential fans. I left the start-up company in Minneapolis where I had been working and returned to freelancing. All of the production work—the nights of storyboarding out the scenes, drawing the artwork, and coloring and shading everything— is a blur to me at this point. It seemed at times that I could never get into a groove. Since I was moving around a bit, traveling for freelance work and recruiting new clients; it felt like as soon as I gained momentum, I had to put Cosmic Rage production on hold for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I have great clients and enjoy working with their brands and helping solve their problems and needs. However, I felt that in both cases (client work and Cosmic Rage), I couldn’t get into a good routine because the work was inconsistent, which is the nature of the freelance business at times.

2013 in Review
The year 2013 was interesting. I started off by continuing freelance work. In terms of Cosmic Rage, I worked on the trailer and wrapped up drawings and shading for the first episode. I even started to spend some time writing anime reviews. Throughout the year, I posted a few entries sharing my advice on things like story structure, character design and storyboarding. I also had a great opportunity to work in a studio again, so I made that change and spent some of the transitional months finishing up freelance work and getting some funds for future Cosmic Rage assets. Things have mostly settled back into order in the last month or so.

Reflection
So, up to this point, that is the story in a nutshell of Cosmic Rage. The end of the year is a great time to reflect on what worked well in 2013 and what didn’t, what areas I grew in, and what changes I could make to have a smoother production in 2014. First off, I didn’t get the response I thought I would from the trailer that I spent most of 2013 working on, which I think can be attributed to a couple things. The first was my original idea to do character-based trailers leading up to the release of the first episode. However, after production began on the first trailer, I could tell that it would be a bigger time drain than I had anticipated, so the three or four planned trailers were scrapped in favor of just one, which would provide teasers for the Cosmic Rage universe and its potential fans. Although the trailer is a little abstract since there is no narrative context yet, I learned a lot solely from that project.

I didn’t storyboard out much of the trailer, which became a problem later when syncing things up to the VO. Wasting time on that was a mistake I don’t intend to repeat. But the effort wasn’t a total loss: During the time I spent working in 3-D, I learned more about modeling, lighting, texturing and so many other things. I am only going to get faster as production continues. I felt I grew quite a bit in 3-D too, and look forward to doing more and continuing to learn.

I also played around with the art style in terms of texturing the 3-D work. I decided whether it should look more CG, hand drawn or painted. It was a good thing to work out while creating the trailer because it ensured that the art style didn’t change during the series.

Moving Forward
With my feelings about the past year now explained, it is time to look forward to 2014 and things that I hope to accomplish. The first goal is of course to have episode 1 released and ready for viewers. I am not sure if it is possible, but having recently worked on the first scene, I am very pleased with the process of building environments and moving cameras around to get my shot. In December alone I have been able to render out work for three scenes, despite freelance work, the holidays and traveling. I hope January turns into a good month of production.

Additionally, I want to continue to develop my 3-D skills, and Cosmic Rage is a great platform for doing that. I have a few other scenes to work on that will give me a chance to do so. I have found some great help on forums and other online sites where I can connect with artists who are willing to share their knowledge.

As production of episode 1 continues in 2014, I aim to get more artwork done for episode 2 as well. There will be nights where my computer will be rendering out scenes I need, and I can be productive during those nights by working on the next episode, which is already storyboarded. I am also hoping to add additional animation and raise the production quality even more.

A different but related goal is deciding how Cosmic Rage will be viewed by users. Though I have a couple potential paths in mind so that users have viewing options, one idea is publishing an e-book. I have experimented a little bit with an e-book publishing platform to see if it can support video files or movies. Otherwise, I may have to put everything into one video, but the downside is that there is no user control over the reading portions, which would alienate some potential viewers. I definitely want to create the best user experience possible.

Some other skills I want to expand my knowledge on is being a better writer. While I intend on the production blogs to still be pretty loose and spontaneous, the Thursday posts I want to get better at through editing, word usage and making my ideas clearer. The next skill would be coding; which has become a valuable skill in the professional world. I have started learning html and CSS, but want to improve at using them in an actual working environment.

Finally, I need to do a better job of posting work-in-progress images for you all to check out. I love seeing behind-the-scenes work of productions that I like, so I need to offer more insights for you all too.

I also want to thank everyone that visits the blog and keeps up with the production! I love creating, and I am really looking forward to telling the story. In case you missed it, here is the trailer/prologue for Cosmic Rage. Let’s make 2014 great!

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