Creating a Web Photo Comic




So, you want to create a photo webcomic in the tradition of Warning: Buckets of Blood, eh? Don't know how? Well, you've come to the right place. Here is a guide to assist you in your endeavor.

Tools of the Trade

You will need the following, if you want to make this happen.

1) A Camera. Digital is preferred.

2) A Storyline. Required

3) Actors. Can be what you will. Humans are best.

4) Props. You're gonna need stuff that does stuff, right?

5) Suitable locations. Scout these out after you come up with your plot

6) A good digital photo editor. We recommend Photoshop, but Paint can do in a pinch. You can always download a photo editor off of the internet for free.

7) Backup materials, like a CD burner with blanks, a backup hard drive, or a web storage slot, or an anonymous underground server. Trust us, you don't want to lose your work.

8) A web page generator. You can use MS Word, but it bites. Get a real site builder. This page was done on Dreamweaver MX.

9) A place to host your sites. Keenspace is good for those that are cheap, like us. There are a couple of others that host specifically web comics other than Keenspace, but that is not your only option. There are others out there which you pay for. You can have it hosted anywhere, really. If its porno, then you may have to go somewhere specific, because some hosts won't have any of that.

With these tools at your disposal, you're all set. Now, with the phases.

Phase 1: Synchronizing Story With Reality

Write your story in such a way that it can actually take place in the physical reality and with the reality of our situation. Don't write parts for more characters than you actually have actors for, unless you are either planning on doing CGI or making/buying masks. If you are working with toys or such, then the number of actors is dependent upon how much you want to spend on toys and such.

Write your story according to the locations that you have available. Don't write in a battle on an iceberg if you don't have one you can get to. Also remember property rules and regulations apply. If you want to film on the roof of a skyscraper, ask the manager first. The worst they can do is say no. If so, try another one, or re-write the scene. See, that wasn't so hard.

Include input from your actors when writing storyline. After all, what you put down in the bubble by their head will be associated with them for a while. You wouldn't want to have someone take a picture of you and have you say you smell like horse crap, now would you?

Props and costumes are of the utmost importance. Judging from ours, you can see that we were thinking in terms of cost and effort. In your case, you must determine it based on your budget. Do you want each character to have an extravagant costume? If so, either be a seamstress or be prepared to shell out the dough. Keep the actor's feelings and sensibilities in mind too. Not everybody feels comfortable wearing a bathing suit. Props can be built, bought, or obtained from friends and associates. Treat them with care, because you might have to return it, or you might need it for the whole comic.

Phase 2: The shoot

Take everything you need with you to the shoot. Inform your actors, if any, of the time and place and what to wear. If possible, bring them with you. Once there, take a look at your script and compare your mental notes with that of the location. Is it really suitable? How is the lighting in the area? Let's say you're shooting a romantic scene by a bench in the city park. You might want to keep the following questions in mind.

1) What time of day works best for your scene? If at night, are you close to the lamp, or will you need additional lighting?

2) How 'shy' are the actors? Can they handle being around people who are going to be staring at them while they work?

3) How many shots will you be taking? Remember that sunlight changes thru the day, so the angle and intensity will vary.

4) Do you have the proper filters with you? What image adjustments should you plan on during post-production (like blurring, red-eye, etc)?

5) Is there a lot of foot traffic in the area?

6) How clean is the area? Do you need to remove bottles and bums off the bench so you can shoot? If so, you might want someplace cleaner to shoot.

7) Dramatic backgrounds, like a fountain or a light, are they there? Are they needed?

8) What are your angles to shoot from? Can you get to them? Not every shot will be a head shot, so you need to be able to be flexible and understand the dynamics of the area.

9) Did you remember to check the weather the day before? Unless your scene calls for rain, plan for days in which rain is not expected. Another issue; sprinkler systems. Be aware that they can pop up anywhere, anytime, regardless of whether you want them to or not.

10) Has makeup been applied, if necessary? Did you bring some in case the actress need to touch-up between scenes. Usually they bring their own, but ask.

11) Temperature is important. A romantic scene involving 30 shots will take a while. For instance, shooting a romantic scene in 100° weather will leave your actors looking less than romantic.

12) How much post-shot work do you want to spend on each shot? Do you want to add special effects to the image? Is the background and foreground suitable to the effect you want to add? For instance, floating red hearts will look good, unless there is a red wall or backdrop in your shot.

13) Is there a bathroom? Will the actors need to change clothes for each scene?

With these questions in mind, you should be able to handle most situations that you will encounter when filming.

Phase 3: Post-Production; Image Editing

This is where the bread meets the butter. In your computer, you and you support staff must assemble the jumble of photos into a working comic. We have found that putting pictures in order according to their scene is most helpful in arranging the comic. Shots with dialogue will need the talking and thought bubbles drawn in, depending on what style you want to use. Storyline images will need to be generated. GFX and SFX will need to be added. So, look back at your script and your mental notes, get your coffee ready and start burning the midnight oil because this is going to take a while.

Make sure your effects are consistent throughout. For instance, blurs to indicate high-speed action, swords cutting thru things, sound effects all in the same color. Nothing freaks people out more than a fire that is green in one scene and red the next.

Maintain a consistent shape for your bubbles. In our comic, we used squares for narrator dialogue, circles for thoughts, and rounded squares for speech. Make sure your dialogue can fit on the page and still be readable. Choose readable fonts, otherwise people can't read what your characters are saying.

The quality of your GFX and SFX will be determined by your level of skill. Remember that practice makes perfect, so go with some trial and error. If a particular effect is giving you problems, consult the manual, the company web site, or a user's forum. There may be someone out there who knows the problem you are having and has a solution or a tip for it. You want to make it look like someone is floating in the air DBZ-style and you don't know how to do that? Ask around; odds are someone has done something similar before.

Finally, save a copy of your work that is separate from your unedited image, if necessary. This will come in handy if you have to remove or change effects. Give it a name that reflects where it fits in the comic, like FightScene002 or something like that. Make sure to save it in a format that your Web Page program can work with. Also make sure to save it according to size and quality guidelines. For instance, we saved the majority of our works in JPEG, but TIFF and GIF are good too. BMP and PNG are also workable, but size-wise may not be what you are looking for. Remember that not everybody has high-speed, and thus will have to wait while your 1.5mb comic image downloads.

Phase 4: Post-Production; WebComic Design

Now that you have your images edited, its time to arrange them on a web page. This is determined according to how your site loads comics. That part is beyond the scope of this paper. By now, you should have already figured that out. Let's say you are using Keenspace. Keenspace loads the comics according to the date of the image you give it. For instance, 20050427.jpg will load before 20050429.jpg and so forth. It will load the images according to the size of the image you set for it, so that is the part we will discuss now.

During the storyline part, you were probably thinking about how many pictures fit a page of the book. Let's say you have 5 shots per page. So, your next step is to arrange those shots into one big page. There are 3 ways you can do this. One way will be to arrange the images on the page according to where you want to place them relative to the position. In this arrangement, each one would load separately at the same time in the frame you placed for them on the page. Another way would be to have one shot load first, then a button that your reader would click to load the next shot. This would mean that each shot would load whenever the reader decides. On Keenspace, neither methods works so we go with option 3. In option 3, you take a blank image set to a size you want, then you cut&paste or drag in each shot you want for that page of the comic. You then arrange the size and shape of the shots according to their readability and presence, then you place them in the spots you arranged for the comic. In the regular style, you arrange from left to right, top to bottom. In manga, its right to left, top to bottom. It's best to arrange according to your target audience. Once that is done, save the image in JPEG or GIF format, to save space and thusly load times and bandwidth, which is more important when running your own site with bandwidth restrictions.

When you have your comics created, the next step is to create a home page. On Keenspace, you get the index.html page from which all the little Keentags pop up. They are also keen enough to provide you with a guide on what to do with them. If you are running your own site, you have a little more freedom to work with. But you have to design your site according to the host's guidelines and your target audience. Keep in mind that people are coming to see the comic, so design your index page according to that concept. Some sites have php and other good stuff, but we don't have any clue how to work with that so we won't go there.

Make the comic the center piece of the page, so use the center tag and put it in the center of the page. Above the comic, you might have your ads and other banners up there. That's fine. Most comic sites put their web comic title above the comic, which we reccommend, so that way people coming to your site know its the comic site. If you are running your own site with the comic appearing as a page elsewhere in the site, make sure the link for the comic is visibile and promiment on the index site so people won't have to look all over for it.

Now onto side pages: Here you have more freedom to work with. Unlike with the main page, you can let your imagination soar a little bit here, but as always, make them readable and relavent to what you want to do with them. Make sure that your links to them are typed out correctly, or your readers will get the Error 404 message. Usually with a comic, you will see the following side pages:

1) Plot/background page

2) Characters bios and info

3) Contacts page (if contact info is not located on the index or main page)

4) Fan art page or Forum page

5) Links page

You can have as many or as few as you want, but remember it's best to arrange according to content. Use a text font and size that's easy to read, and choose an appropriate background color. White on black works just as well as black and white, but please, no light pink on orange background, please.

On the main page, you can decide whether or not to add in notes or accompanying text. Keenspace does this by letting you save a text document in the same name as the comic that loads. If you run your own site, you should create a space for this, usually below the comic is best. Some comic writers use this as their personal blog space, which gets rather annoying at times. Other, like us, put their blogs and such on separate pages. Either way, the choice is yours. Just make sure to arrange the text in the manner that the comic is arranged. For instance, if the comic is centered, make sure your text is centered with it, or it'll look weird.

Well that's all we can do for now. The rest is up to you.

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WARNING: Buckets of Blood is hosted on Comic Genesis, a free webhosting and site automation service for webcomics.