SAN DIEGO POST MORTEM
I did not attend physically, but I was glued to Twitter and CBR for all the breaking newsbits. It’s a long morning on the East Coast before the show begins in the afternoon, and then you’re getting news until prime time. It’s lots of fun, though my thumb is tired from sliding through the tweets.
HALL H: THE LINE
I’ll save you the 700 words I had originally written here and sum them all up instead: I don’t understand what possesses people to spend nearly 24 hours in line to see a presentation in Hall H. And as great a job as the convention does in managing that line, it’s never completely perfect. It’s a powder keg waiting to explode. There’s no perfect solution, and the better the solution, the bigger, more expensive, and more headache-inducing it becomes. (Lottery for tickets for specific seats in Hall H?)
THAT ALL SAID…
- Hollywood upped their game this year. The Star Wars concert/fireworks was a stunning bonus to the day that started out with free Dunkin Donuts for the line-waiters. Isn’t Dunkin Donuts new to the west coast, though? Was this a Star Wars promotion, or a DD promotion?
- DC is doing a “Killing Joke” animated adaptation. Given what I wrote about that infamous “Batgirl” cover flare-up a couple of months ago, you’d think I’d be against this. But I’m not. The animated stuff in this format has moved in a darker direction, where “The Killing Joke” fits right in. It’s not like “Teen Titans Go!” is doing a special “The Killing Joke” episode. (Or “A Death in the Family” DVD, complete with crowbar keychain exclusive at Best Buy stores…) It’s the tonal mismatch problem which made that comic book cover a bad idea. As a standalone animated movie, DC is positioning it fine.
- DC is in a weird place, though. They have this new line of female friendly/all-ages comics on one hand, and some of the darkest video games and animated movies on the other. Even the live action movies trend towards the older customers. And there’s also “Teen Titans Go!,” which probably brings more people into comics than the rest combined. But it isn’t all about comics, is it?
- Hugh Jackman, in promoting the new “Pan” movie: “We’ve got real sets. Practicals! Models! Green screens suck.”
That presentation was followed by a Zack Snyder movie…
PUBLISHING BITS AND PIECES
MANGA STUDIO 5 IS AWESOME
As much as people say that computer lettering threatened to kill original art, that was nothing. Shortly after that, more professionals began sending scans of their pencils to their inkers, who would print out those scans in blue line and ink over them on separate pages. It saved a ton on FedEx bills, but created twice as much artwork that left the original art collectors to debate over what the relative worth of the pages was.
That was only the beginning, though, as two more key pieces of technology have since come in to up-end the traditional pen-and-ink comics making process. First, there is the Wacom Cintiq, the amazing monitor that lets you draw your pages by running a stylus across the screen — drawing on glass, turned into perfect pixels. Wacom has been showing it off at San Diego’s big convention for about a decade now, and it’s always well received. (The animation industry seems to have converted to Cintiqs almost 100% from all accounts.)
Drawing on a Wacom tablet is a little trickier. I use one; I know. (I replaced my mouse with it a decade ago. I’m committed.) The disconnect between where your hand is drawing on the desk and where the lines are appearing on your screen can throw you off. It still feels like technology is in the way. Drawing directly onto the screen isn’t perfect (there’s speed issues and a minor bit of a gap between where your pen tip is and where the pixels get colored in), but it’s 100 times better than the tablet ever was.
You can also create your own brushes, giving you the ability to mimic your analog art style pretty closely, if you don’t mind futzing with some settings. If you do mind, there are third parties who will sell your brush packages fairly cheaply. I use Frenden’s pack of brushes and pens, along with some I’ve borrowed from friends. It’s amazing how closely drawing with one of those brushes on a computer feels to drawing on a page of page with an ink brush or pen.
I reviewed Manga Studio 4 a couple years back and much of that awe and wonder still holds, but I’ve been playing with the fifth edition this year. If you look at the feature list, you can see where many things that were pro features in the fourth edition now come standard on Manga Studio 5 today.
Where the fifth editions gets stingy is in the ability to create a comic book project and make some pretty specific configurations with it, such as starting on a left-hand page or numbering pages or creating double-page spreads. As long as you aren’t preparing an actual full-fledged comic book, you’ll be OK with the standard edition. When you do want that convenience, you need to upgrade. If you’re doing single illustrations or a web comic, those EX features may not be necessary right away.
Manga Studio 5 has one immediate and obvious change from its predecessor: The initial tool layout and user interface is radically changed. I think it’s for the better. Basically, it starts you off with a column of tools down the left and right sides of the screen, with your art taking up the bulk of the screen in the middle.
The entire interface is malleable. You can move those tools up and down, get rid of them, float them out over your art, add new ones, and more. So while the suggestions Manga Studio gives you are strong, your personal use of the program might lead to certain tools gaining higher relevance that you’ll want to have in a stronger spot.
Once you have a tool layout that you like, you can save it as a workspace. If you use Manga Studio for different things — storyboards, gag strips, comic books, what have you — you can save the different layouts you do for each and return to that with the click of a menu option. Keep the tools most prominent in each that you use. Very handy.
Below the main tool bar is an area where you can mix and match your favorite tools. I’ve thrown the tools I use the most into one cluster, including the direct draw tool to make shapes, the bucket fill, and the text tool. (I do my lettering afterwards in Illustrator still, but Manga Studio gives you enough tools to do a decent enough job on its own.)
I also have the ruler in there, which is one of the most amazing little helper tools. You can draw a guideline with it, and every line you draw after that will line up to be perfectly in parallel with that guide. Or you can draw a guideline and use it to be a steady line while you draw over it concentrating more on the weight of your line without worrying about perfecting that curve or straight line. It’s impressive.
The ruler tool also has the perspective ruler which, with a little training from an on-line tutorial or two, will help you draw single or multi-point perspective backgrounds. It’s an amazing tool.
All of that helps to replace the bulkier ruler tool thing Manga Studio 4 had.
The basic parts of the interface will look familiar to you if you’ve used Photoshop before this, or any of the numerous drawing programs that are out there. You can zoom in and out, select from a tool bar, rotate a page, add layers, etc. The layers also come with some new Photoshop-like filters that’ll give you new tricks to use with your art.
There are two available editions of the program. The full featured version is called “EX” now, and includes extra features that professionals might need, such as the ability to make story projects, do two page spreads, and number your pages. If you’re just doing illustration work or can compile a bunch of individual files into a single package later in your tool chain, you can likely go without the EX version and save yourself a bunch of dough. You can always upgrade later.
There are more differences between the fourth and fifth generations of MS, which you can in see in part on Smith Micro’s YouTube channel.
I use a very very small portion of the available tools in the program, and feel like I’ve more than gotten the sticker price on the package worth out of it.
Now, for the reason this review is appearing today: If you’re reading this on Tuesday, July 14th, today is the last day of an incredibly generous sale on Manga Studio 5. It’s only $15 if you buy it right now. If it’s Wednesday already, I’m sorry. Keep an eye out for their website, though, as there are sales fairly regularly.
Version 5 has been out for a couple of years now. Part of me wonders if this new low sale price is an indication that version 6 is on its way.
If you want to get the full pro edition afterwards, you can get the $70 upgrade and still pay less than half price, in the end.
One final note to avoid some possible confusion: Clip Studio Paint Pro is Manga Studio 5 with a silly rebranding to make it sound less comic-like. Clip Studio Paint EX is Manga Studio 5 EX. Again, same thing with a different name for marketing purposes. Manga isn’t as hot as it once was, I guess.
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