The New Year has come. I just finished a retrospective on what I got done in 2023, if you’re looking for that. It went okay, though not quite as well as I hoped. This is about what goals I’m setting for the new year of 2024. I’m pretty optimistic about it, and I have quite a few things lined up already.
First, I’m planning to take care of business: I have some reports to write, and I need to collect my annual project archives, which I burn to M-Disc Blu-Ray media to keep long term.
I also plan to do some cleaning and upgrades for the computers, including “Sintel”, my production workstation, and “Lum”, my test “home theater personal computer” (HTPC).
The Mouse is Finally Free!
For free-culture advocates and copyright reform advocates like myself, this particular IP has taken on mythic proportions. It’s not really anything to do with us wanting to use Mickey. It’s more about the decades long fight, supported largely by Disney, to extend copyright out of all reasonable proportions, effectively stealing 40-odd years from the Public Domain. It’s been a huge cultural loss. Whether it’s strictly true or not, the myth is that Disney has been specifically trying to keep “Steamboat Willie” — the debut performance of Mickey Mouse — out of the Public Domain.
So, now this video on PeerTube (courtesy @email@example.com) is completely legal to share and/or modify, as broadly as you like:
The threat is finally over.
Or more precisely, it is no longer growing. We are getting things into the Public Domain, and that feels really good!
But there’s also a twinge of resentment over what might’ve been, but wasn’t. We have not yet begun to reduce the behemoth that copyright has become — only to stop it from growing. When do the tables truly turn? When will we actually start turning copyright back into something productive. Or eliminate it entirely, in favor of other means of supporting creative arts?
I still cannot guess.
And of course, the corporate world could try to extend copyright again. They could even pull works back out of the Public Domain, as bizarre as that is (but they’ve done it before). But I feel like the public consciousness has turned very much against this — probably the legacy of aggressive policing of online video platforms like YouTube, more than of any deep philosophical commitment.
I’m still processing my feelings about this. But I think I mostly feel good about it.
There are, of course, many other wonderful works from 1928 that have entered the Public Domain this New Years Day. You should probably check some of them out!
2024 Q1 Goals
I have three big projects that are nearing completion that I hope to finish in the first quarter of this year. And like last year, I made a little motivational graphic to keep on my desktop as a reminder to stay on track:
Lunatics S1E01 Pilot, “No Children in Space”
Obviously this is the important one for this blog. I feel like I’m really close here, but there is still a fair amount of work to do. I need to do some revisions to the audio to match up with the pacing changes I decided to make. And then I need to adjust some character animation files to match that audio.
I also have some new character animation shots that need to be created, and some that need to be recreated, based on old reference footage. But these are really similar to the work I just finished up in December 2023, so I don’t think they will be very time-consuming.
If I had nothing else to do, I suspect I could finish this work in January. As it is, I think maybe this will be main work in February.
Virtual Studio 2024
This goal is also carried over from 2023, but I’ve made it more specific and therefore scaled it down a bit: it’s simply to finish migrating the YunoHost-based Virtual Studio site onto the new dedicated server, and get it into a datacenter.
Likely, I really can get this done in January, even with the other stuff that’s going on. That’d be nice, so I don’t have to worry about it later.
Getting the Virtual Studio to be viable again is an absolute requirement if I’m going to ever bring more people back into this project. And bringing in more people is an absolute requirement if it is to go on. I obviously can’t plan on single-handedly producing a half-dozen more episodes at a decade per episode. I wouldn’t live long enough.
Actually getting help to work on it may be a challenge, but that will change if the release of episode one goes well. Still, it could fail even if S1E01 is a huge success, if there is no studio infrastructure in place to support an expanded project.
I know you don’t really care, but I really have to get this one done for my domestic tranquility! I expect that I’ll be spending a fair amount of January on this, so it might cut into the time for production work, I’m afraid. But I’ll be in a lot better mood, once it’s done!
That’s basically just clean-up, though we need to do a lot of it. We’re having a yard party at our house on April 8th, because we are right in the middle of the eclipse track. If the sky isn’t cloudy, we should have a great view, with about 4 minutes of totality. Obviously, I cannot shift this goal!
Goals for the End of 2024
Assuming that all goes to plan, I have four more goals for the end of 2024, also with a nifty graphic I can keep on my desktop to remind me to stay on track:
Expanding the Studio Space
Once I get my personal construction projects out of the way, I’ll be able to focus again on improving the physical space available for our studio.
As I have mentioned, our current studio is built into an ocean cargo container. We actually have two of these, sitting side-by-side on our land. The obvious next steps include:
- Building out the interior of the 2nd unit (currently just storage).
- Leveling and aligning both units on piers.
- Building a connecting roof across the two, eventually enclosing the space between.
The first two steps are what I have planned for 2024, the third is a more ambitious project that will probably have to wait, but we might get a windfall to support it. An even more ambitious goal would be to make that connecting roof a solar array, and power a render farm with it. There are supposed to be grants or rebates available under recent legislation to make this easier, so it’s not completely out of the question. I plan to research it.
This will give us a larger (although still small) sound recording studio which will also serve for screenings and foley sound performance. It’ll also take care of some practical problems, like avoiding the whole studio slowly sinking into the clay or listing off of level, by getting it on a proper, leveled foundation.
Completing the Lib-Ray Project
This project has been on the back-burner for an embarrassingly long time. If I can get the pilot for Lunatics finished, though, I believe I’ll have the breathing room to focus on this. A lot has changed since 2012, so it probably won’t end up quite as I originally planned, but I can break this down into multiple targets to achieve:
- Finish “Bunsen” disk duplicator control system.
- Finish a minimum-viable Lib-Ray software player.
- Write a suite of utilities for evaluating the quality of a Lib-Ray video transfer.
- Write tools for mastering a Lib-Ray disc.
- Master the selected Lib-Ray movies.
- Produce the physical discs and packaging.
- Write a book documenting all of these elements.
It’s really quite a lot to do, and some of it I remain uncertain about, but I can make this a top priority and at least make significant progress on these steps.
Write “Film Making for Lunatics”
This is a large, complex, and risky task. I want to make sure that I put significant effort into it, but I won’t be heartbroken if there just isn’t time to complete it in 2024. Still, it might be possible. The “Project History” series I’ve been writing here on the Production Blog is meant to be draft writing for parts of it. Some of the targets for this project are:
- Finish the “Project History” series, here on this blog.
- Write “Meet the Software” shorts for the main software packages I use.
- Fully-document the Virtual Studio 2024 and the development process from 2012.
- Document (and screencast) some key production tasks to illustrate using the tools.
Produce Lunatics S1E02, “From the Earth…”
The second episode of “Lunatics!” should be objectively easier to animate, due to all the free-fall shots. I also have learned a lot of tricks for simplifying animation and generally learned a lot about how to do it. I’m hoping I can leverage all that to make the project go faster.
I will have to make a number of new set and prop assets for it, though. Others are already completed, though. I haven’t been publishing much about those, but the “Lunar Transportation System” exterior models and one interior model are mostly in a usable state. I may have to do some detailing. And there are interiors required for “Space Station Alpha”.
Still, getting it all finished in 2024 is kind of a “stretch goal”. We’ll just have to see how that goes.
I’ve made a lot of recent improvements in my daily workflow. 2023 makes the fifth complete year that I have recorded my work with screencast worklogs (the first was 2019). This task has varied in complexity, and I’ve had to adjust the process to make sure it doesn’t get out of control, and yet remains useful. But useful it has been: I’ve recovered from about two or three crises in each year, simply because I was able to use this as a documentation source. So, although it costs time, I think it really pays for itself.
I first set annual goals (along with the goals poster for my desktop) in 2023, and while I didn’t quite reach them all, they were a huge motivation and kept me much more on track than in previous years. So I feel like continuing this is a good idea, though like the worklogs, they need some tweaking.
The Fediverse has been a great experience so far, with only a few exceptions. I have a personal account on a Hometown server run by a friend (Hometown is a fork of Mastodon, with only minor changes). And I have a professional Misskey account that I’m hosting on this server, and plan to migrate over to the new dedicated server. I was preparing to migrate from there to Calckey, which became Firefish, but now Firefish is having problems, so I’m not sure what I’ll be replacing Misskey with. Perhaps I’ll just keep using it? The main attractions of Calckey/Firefish for me were:
- Continuity with Misskey (they are forks of it).
- Better instance migration tools (Misskey doesn’t do account forwarding. Neither Misskey nor Mastodon migrate previous posts — but Firefish does).
On the other hand, there are some downsides to it:
- Not compatible with many tools written specifically for Mastodon.
- Does not access the “wider Fediverse” (i.e. protocols beyond ActivityPub). For that I could choose Friendica or Hubzilla.
- Actually migrating in-place from Misskey to Calckey did not work. Presumably migrating to Firefish wouldn’t, either.
So, at this point, I don’t know what I’m going to do there.
Beyond the goals stated above, I don’t plan for 2024 to be deeply disruptive, but some of the changes I’d like to make include:
- Moving to a more-powerful server, and attaining a viable “virtual studio” platform.
- Closure on existing projects (Lib-Ray and Lunatics Pilot).
- More experimentation with new animation workflows. I’ve not gone much beyond key-frame animation, despite researching motion capture, puppetry, “machinima” workflow, “vtuber” workflow, etc.
- Promoting the project through film-festivals and convention/conference appearances and showings.
- Getting more help, by expanding the project, after releasing the pilot.
I’m entering the new year with fairly high hopes, but an acknowledgement that not everything will go as planned, and that’s all right!