Finishing up the Pilot Animatic

A famous filmmaker once said that “a
movie is never finished, only abandoned.” Lately I’ve been trying to
decide just when the animatic is ready enough to be “abandoned” by
freezing a copy on DVD for our pre-production backers. Of course, it’s
not really abandoned — I’ll being going right back to it over the
holiday break to make additional improvements. But it will mark a
significant milestone as this will be our last reward product for the
people who backed us in pre-production.


Animatic Status Now

Right now, the animatic consists primarily of hand-drawn storyboard
sketches.  I draw in a very fast, impressionistic style which is
intended for a simple practical purpose: to explain how a shot is
composed. Sometimes it gets pretty blobby. For what it’s worth, yes I
can draw “better” than that, but not very quickly, and my goal here is
not to create the best drawings, but simply good enough drawings fast
There are a lot of inconsistencies, because I started
storyboarding well before we finished the concept art phase. So there’s
at least two (and maybe three or four) different designs for the moon
shuttle in the storyboards. And I played around with several different
methods for making storyboards, including a couple of different
sketching styles and photo-collage.

The current animatic also has a little bit of low-animated shots that I have created as samples over the last year or two.

There’s also about 25 minutes of black screen in the second half. These are
shots I had intended to compose in Blender all along. They include some
interior shots of the colony and a lot of exterior shots of the shuttle,
the landing site, and so on.

There are a few weird spots on the soundtrack still: I’ve found a few things
that need to be fixed in audacity — some sound effects and even a couple of
lines need to be time-shifted a little bit to make more sense.

As a matter of interest, the pilot episode is currently 53 minutes long, including titles.

Goals for Finishing the Animatic

The first goal, of course, is to fill in all of that black space. My plan includes the following:

  • Create the Earth and Moon shots for backgrounds and some key shots.
    These few shots will be “final animation” shots, since they are
    particularly easy to compose and animate.
  • Updating the Blender shuttle model that I currently have to make it
    more animate-able (pretty easy: I just need to group the stages and
    parent empties to them). I’ll use this to create the missing exterior
    shots in the second half and to replace the confusing sketches in the
    first half. These won’t be final, because the shuttle hasn’t been
    detailed or textured yet.
  • Sketch the remaining shots inside of the colony. (I decided not to
    attempt to do these with the blocking model of the colony, so that I
    don’t have to have that done yet).
  • Replace some of the sketchier storyboards with composites made from concept art.
  • Fix the remaining sound issues to match the improved animatic
  • Master the hybrid DVD with the animatic and pre-production art data
    for our backers (and also for the people who participated in creating

I’ve decided to eliminate the fly-through of the blocking model of
the colony as a goal for this animatic. Instead, I’ll be working on that
over the holiday break — the extra shots will be added to the animatic
in early January when we’re setting up our next fund-raiser. This
blocking model won’t be particularly hard, but it will be very
time-consuming. And I don’t want to make people wait forever to see the
animatic! So in this first release, the animatic will use storyboard
sketches for these shots.

Then What?

Next week I plan to mix the soundtrack for episode 2, “Earth”. I’m
going to do this one as sound-only, because I think it’s very
dialog-driven and will probably be easy enough to follow. I’m also
planning to do this one “on the clock”. My goal with that is to see how
fast I can work, now that I’ve worked out the technical problems and
have a good workflow. Ideally, I should be able to complete an episode
sound mix in one week if I work steadily at it. I estimate that this is
what would be required in full-production mode for the Lunatics series.
So I’ll be keeping track of this time and using it to make projections
for our schedule.

This is all part of making our project more credible. We really need
that if we are going to get the funding to proceed. From here on to the
end of the year, I’m going to be pressing to get all of the materials we
need to start a new Kickstarter fundraiser in January.

Part of the reason we failed in the Kickstarters we ran this last Summer is that
we simply were not ready, and we did not present a compelling
demonstration that we can deliver on Lunatics. So, I’m not committing to
a specific launch date for the Kickstarter this time. We’ll start when
we are sure we’re ready.

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Terry Hancock is the director and producer of "Lunatics!" and the founder for "Lunatics Project" and the associated "Film Freedom" Project. Misskey (Professional/Director Account) Mastodon (Personal Account)