Production Update (Nathan):
This week we put out Episode 4 of the podcast, which I was so excited for people to hear. In addition to getting to work with some new wonderful voice actors, we got to experiment a bit with our writing approach to the show. I also put out a silly little explanation video talking about some of the concepts and math and science of the show. We’re getting some good feedback on it, so we’re looking into doing more in the future. We also did a bunch of filming this week for some projects that we’re announcing soon! I’m stoked to actually announce things so I can start being more specific about what we’re working on, but for now, I’ll just say that a number of other projects are coming along nicely, and my production cycles are just ramping up and up and up, and that I’m literally having dreams about some of the things we’re cooking up for you all. Research topics this week include more history of the Byzantine empire, a bunch of interesting/notable solar systems, Latin, and middle-eastern mythology. As heard (frequently) in our meetings: “It’s hard being a moron.”
Animation Update (Brianne):
Episode 4 was a huge success and improvement on every front. We tweaked our production process significantly, and I think the results have really paid off. One thing I’ve loved with working on a project like this is that it leaves us so much room to improve over time. Rather than having years of pre-production, weeks of filming, and months of post-production to see if maybe you did the right thing: This format lends us a lot of agility to improve our processes and learn from our mistakes and shortcomings. One of my favorite additions for episode 4 was a 45 second Nebula “Fly Through” animation. I loved the way that it started the episode visually in space, and it contributed a lot to our production quality. Being part of the blender community means I’m standing on the shoulders of a lot of different giants, and I learned a lot from this YouTube video about techniques for making nebulae in blender: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jh1p82AJkaU Hilariously enough, the beginning of the video calls out the artists this channel learned from prior to making this tutorial. It’s like open source art! This episode (much like those before it!) challenged my render farm software and my workflow. In the past episodes, certain messages were too long to render on the farm because of the motion graphics add-on I’m using. But, as a lucky result of our pacing changes: All of the messages were short enough to render on the farm! The issue that introduced was one of file transfer speeds. In past episodes, all of the individual frames of longer messages were collected on one machine. Encoding those frames into a video file was as simple as opening blender and doing a sequence render with the frames loaded into the timeline. This time an extra step was added where I had to encode things on my workstation. So, I started work the day after the episode aired to integrate FFMPEG into my render farm software.
Technology Update (James):
I kept working on getting our website ready for our huge update. Juggling a full time job, full time school, a family, and Celestial Horizons is a lot of work! I am hoping to make some quicker progress this week so we can finally make all of the changes that we are so excited about. One of the fun things that happened this week was all four of us meeting in person. We have regularly scheduled meetings to discuss anything from the story to software or just the business in general. Normally those meetings happen over a video conference and they are usually very productive. But having the meeting in person was even more productive than normal! We had a lot of conversation about this super secret software project that I am working on, which helped us really narrow down on how to define all of the requirements we have and make sure that we are using the right tech stack. The biggest challenge with this project is finding a good way to write this software as quickly as possible. All of our time is stretched thin so we need to be as efficient as possible. I am really excited for the time when we finally get to reveal what this project is. Stay tuned for a video release coming soon with more information!
Community Update (Christine):
This week saw the release of Episode 4 – Protesting! We have been SO excited to put that episode out. One thing we decided to experiment with writing this episode was having more things happen during the comms rather than happening outside the comms and the audience being informed about it after the fact. This led to a lot of discussion about the impacts of that on our community server. It’s been amazing to see people responding in character as team leads and continuing to push the story along via Discord. Because we made that choice to have things happen during the comms, we are able to do more continuing the story over the next two weeks building up to the release of Episode 5. Along with that, we created a few more secret Discord channels and gave certain members of our audience access to them. I’m not allowed to give out more info than that, but keep your eyes open and feel free to reach out to our core team (Nathan, Brianne, James, or I) if you’re interested in joining one of those channels. We also took advantage this week of the fact that it was the 4th of July weekend and most of our team had work off! We spent some time this weekend meeting in person to discuss future projects and film some footage for videos coming out hopefully in the next couple weeks. As Nathan mentioned above, we also released a fun video explaining some of the math behind a reveal Episode 4. The response to it was so positive with a lot of people reaching out to us asking for more. We’re making a list of potential explanation videos to make right now, so if you have any topics that YOU want to know more about, please message us! You can contact us via Discord, Facebook, Instagram, or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Thank you all for your support! None of this would be possible without you!