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<   No. 535   2004-07-14   >

Comic #535

1 {scene: Zeppelin cargo room. The thunderstorm still rages outside.}
1 Prof. Jones: Shall we wake Pop? {Minnesota Jones still hasn't moved since being untied}
1 Monty: No, he'll be safe here. Let him sleep.
2 Monty: {walking} Now, the cargo hold should be this way. We release the dinosaurs to distract the Nazis and take over the zeppelin.
3 Prof. Jones: I really think we should try some other method of defeating the Nazis, Junior.
4 Monty: What other option do we have, dad?!
4 Prof. Jones: Our guns are on that crate there... {pointing at the guns lying there}

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Back in the annotation to #532 I said that cutting the bits out of the windows in the photo to paste in the background was fiddly. A lot of helpful readers suggested I stick a coloured screen behind the windows to make a chroma-key or "bluescreen" effect to make it easier to select the bits I need to cut out in my graphics program.

Well, actually, that's what I do. It's not as simple as it should be because the LEGO windows have a smoky tint, so the screen colour doesn't come through cleanly, and they reflect things that are in front of them (i.e. the characters) as well as light flares and so on. So what I have to cut out is far from uniform. Most of it I can select automatically, but maybe 5% ends up being a similar colour to something in the foreground and right next to it, making automatic selection impossible. Then I have to go around and manually trace the areas I want to cut out, which is what gets fiddly and time-consuming.

Some other readers also suggested printing out whatever I want behind the windows, and just sticking it back there so I don't have to do any image manipulation at all. I did that for some early strips, but it was fiddly to set up and the results weren't brilliant because of the window tint and reflections - which is why I switched to doing it the way I do now.

There were some other ideas, like sticking bits of coloured post-it notes on to the inside of the windows. Which would probably work well, but is going to be seriously fiddly and time-consuming. I really think the way I'm doing it now is the best, all things considered. (If I didn't, I do it some other way, after all!)

But thanks to all who wrote in!

2013-07-15 Rerun commentary: Over the years I would complain about the difficulty of removing background elements to replace them with something else several times. And each time readers wrote in suggesting things I'd already tried and rejected as too impractical.

It's an interesting phenomenon in this modern age, where consumers of creative works have such a direct line of communication to the creators of those works. Whereas in days of yore, people would just read or watch a work of fiction, and keep their thoughts to themselves or perhaps discuss it with some friends, nowadays they can speak directly to the creator.* This opens up the possibility of offering suggestions.

I'm sure any creator who publishes an e-mail address with their work receives mail from people who want to be helpful, or who have suggestions on how the creator should do stuff. People really like to be involved and feel like they're contributing something. And they absolutely love nitpicking any tiny mistakes the creator makes. :-)

If you want to be an Internet content creator, you need to have a strategy for dealing with this. It can be easy to get annoyed and angry, but a better strategy is to offer your thanks, keep smiling, and keep working. If someone appreciates what you're doing, the very last thing you want to do is harbour and show a lack of appreciation for them.

This is, by the way, a lesson you can apply to many other aspects of life, not merely if you happen to be an artist.

* Well, they could sort of do that before by writing a letter to the publisher and asking for it to be sent on. It's just a lot easier these days and a lot more people take the opportunity.

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My comics: Irregular Webcomic! | Darths & Droids | Eavesdropper | Planet of Hats | The Dinosaur Whiteboard | mezzacotta
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Last Modified: Monday, 15 July 2013; 03:11:02 PST.
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