Saturday, 13 October 2012

George Peter Gatsis: On Downloading Cerebus

In light of recent online concerns expressed about the downloading mechanism for High Society Audio/Digital made at The Comics Reporter and, below George Peter Gatsis (the technical wizard responsible for making the online Audio/Digital download happen) gives his reaction to these comments:

There are two responses that immediately come to mind and you can go with which ever you like:

a) Sweet Potato Fries with plain vegi-burger... (you know the one I am talking about... the one with LAMB as the main ingredient)

b) WHAT exactly is "collapsing"? All I see is an incredible list of many people, events and obstacles that struggled, pushed and pulled against each other to bring us to proof of concept, that is wholly owned by everyone who downloads it.

Let's do a quick review of what is going on here:
  1. The praises of the presentation are numerous.
  2. The artwork scanned is beautiful.
  3. The easy download option... Seriously - right click and save link to your hard drive... Too hard?
  4. The various format options to suit their needs... Seriously, CHOICE is a problem for some people?
  5. THAT THEY CAN DOWNLOAD THE FILEs WITHOUT DRM ATTACHED TO THEM! Comixology and other such offerings don't have this.
  6. That they are given the highest resolution comic book EVER put out to date.
  7. That there are on average over 60 pages per issue... For 99 cents!
  8. That if we were to give them everything at once, it would be well over 20gigs!!!
  9. That Dave actually read the comic book... IN CHARACTER! I cannot recall this ever happening before.
  10. That the comic book is animated with audio, sound effects and music... AS AN OPTION!
  11. That this is a NOVEL offering... NEVER ATTEMPTED BEFORE on this scale, other than what I did with my ground breaking comic books, The Black Diamond Effect... IN THE EARLY 90s! Seriously, my first issue in 1990 was 90% vector, while everyone else struggled with jagged bitmaps... and I animated my stuff, much like what I did with High Society now... Back then, no one payed attention... NOW, after 22 years, people get it to the tune of $63,000!!!
  12. That many people have put their lives on hold to help make this effort possible.
  13. If EVERYONE ELSE in the credits, didn't chip in to do their part, this wouldn't have been made.
  14. That 1140 people answered the call to support one of the GIANTS in the comic book medium!
  15. If I didn't convince Dave that I can get this done, when the fire had brought everyone involved (other than me) into a state of despair and ready to give up, the project wouldn't have been made.
  16. That I George Peter Gatsis, personally am not taking any money for my time putting together High Society Digital for the KickStarters to download... If I were to charge for my time, this project would never have been made.
  17. That much respected Ted Adams, of equally respected IDW, one of the top comic book publishers in North America, forked over $30,000 on the spot! Because he sees the NOVELTY of what is created and the untapped potential!
  18. That before now, people had to contend with lesser quality un-authorized digital scans of Cerebus.
  19. That Dave's notes are finally available to us - notes that are gospel to independents, small press and creators ALL OVER THE WORLD!
  20. That for the first time... an audio/video comic book is concentrating only on the original effort of the artist(s) without ripping the work apart and re-inventing the wheel...
I can continue this list for many more reasons, but 20 is good enuff, coming off of the top of my head. There are maybe a handful of people that are not happy to spend time in front of the computer downloading large files, I am here to help figure out their unique situation... But for those that do download High Society Audio/Digital, they are in for a unique comics experience.

I stand at the edge of a flat world, blindfolded and await the firing squad of the masses!

The Black Diamond Effect Inc.

George has been publishing his own comics since 1990 and is the tech / animator / producer responsible for packaging Dave Sim's Cerebus comics into an online Audio/Digital experience. Each issue of High Society (Cerebus #26-50), with bonus material, will be available for 99 cents per issue from Cerebus Downloads.


Anonymous said...

You tell them, George. I couldn't be happier with the results. I think this model could be used by other creators to make some very interesting and modern versions of their comics. If someone else wants you to do what you have done for Cererbus then charge them a lot of cash for it. Dave Sim has embraced something entirely new and should be commended for it as well as everyone else that worked on the project. The tired old Comics Journal can go pound sand.

David Birdsong

Michael A Battaglia said...

I have far faster dl times than average, so I may not be the best person to counter this claim, but, on my end the whole download process is as smooth as the surface of Air Canada Centre's ice before the opening faceoff. (Go Leafs!)

I hope people know that they can submit complaints to the technical support email found under "contact us" on the site. People are free to do what they will obviously, but I would hope that anyone having issues will take into account that this project is unprecedented, there are bound to BE issues I would imagine, and damning the works as a disappointing pain in the ass in a public forum could turn off people who might otherwise have a great experience. I'm just sayin'! Don't shoot me.

R. Cole said...

Why should Dave Sim get a year's worth of someone's full time labor, for free?

If this is what it takes to save Dave Sim from having to go work in the tar pits, then it needs to be extended to others even more needy, too.

Adam Ell said...

I start the download and go on and do other things, not just sit there, staring and waiting. But I guess some folks want it NOWNOWNOW!!! Whatever, they are well worth the wait. Seriously, Congratulations to all involved, these are very cool.

...and Cole, you are perfectly free to go and donate your time to any needy soul you feel requires it. Or are you one of those generous souls who seeks to donate someone else's time?

Adam Ell said...

...and what the shit is this downloading 40 separate files nonsense? I've downloaded a pdf, an mp4 and a .zip file.

JLH said...

Personally, I had no problem downloading the files. The download speed was great, despite this not coming from some multi-billion dollar network like Amazon or Netflix. I did have trouble getting the CBZ file to work due to that pesky MACOSX folder, but I quickly figured out the problem and corrected it myself.

As for storage, I'll probably do to these files what I do to any other comics I have downloaded. Namely, stick them on a couple of DVDs. I mean, what else do people do with downloaded comics anyway?

Michael A Battaglia said...

"Dave Sim has embraced something entirely new and should be commended for it as well as everyone else that worked on the project."

Hear, hear, sir!

Michael A Battaglia said...

R. Cole said...
"Why should Dave Sim get a year's worth of someone's full time labor, for free?

If this is what it takes to save Dave Sim from having to go work in the tar pits, then it needs to be extended to others even more needy, too."

Awwww, poooooor baaaabyyyy.... did widdle R. Cole's feeelies get hurt by the fact that people actually have a passion to be a part of something this cool, and are willing to sacrifice their time and skills toe MAKE IT HAPPEN, because, otherwise, it WOULD NOT HAPPEN? Awwww, poooooor widdle R. Cole. There, there. =(

Maybe if widdle R. Cole actually showed some gratitude rather than bitterness his feelies would be healed. Awwwwwww. =(

Rocky Cole said...

It's great that this project is happening for all who enjoy it, but it remains true that Dave Sim never has been in serious financial straits, as Gerhard could tell you. Dave might not have been raking it in lately, what with experiments that didn't achieve public liftoff such as the quirky glamourpuss, much as a lot of us appreciated it, but he lives in a paid for million dollar home, has substantial investments, cash flow from previous work and no debt.
I don't think it's remiss to point out that someone who has received, by his own accounting, more than $100,000 extra in the last several months, is not an unfortunate in need of the Hero Initiative as some of the saddest creator cases in comicdom are in dire need of - and yet, who are not receiving full time donated labor from a G.P. Gatsis.

Eric Hoffman said...

Please see Tom Spurgeon's comments at Comics Reporter:

Jeff Stryker said...

I honestly don't understand what people are upset about. The package as it is coming out is exactly what was discussed in several previous reports. You get a high quality digital version (and it is a fantastic scan with tons of extras, as advertised) and a previously unseen comic-as-a-movie that presents the experience in a completely new way. The "baroque release apparatus" is perfectly straight forward. It's only two issues a week, and the download isn't that slow. The fact that people complain about these things is simply a lack of perspective and a symptom of our immediate gratification culture.

There may be bugs, but that is to be expected. Just wait a few weeks to buy them (again, immediate gratification culture). If promises were made to Kickstarter donors, I don't doubt they will be fulfilled. A couple days after the project launch isn't time to be freaking out about not getting your free stuff.

Ryan Williams said...

I have had no problems downloading anything. I think one of the mp4s took maybe 20 mins. I think? Sorry, I honestly don't remember.

If people are having to wait a "while" to download, can you please give specific times? I know we live in a world of expected instant gratification, but people really can't be complaining about 20 mins for this can they?

Eric Hoffman said...

Hi Michael,

Clarification: It is not my intent (nor do I believe it within my power) to single-handedly bring down the Cerebus Kickstarter project with one or two TCJ comments. I haven't gotten round to downloading the Kickstarter content. I decided not to after I was informed by a (computer savvy, let it be said) friend that downloading the material was a laborious process and that the downloads were having the nasty tendency of freezing up. If Gatsis has since managed to correct some of these issues in the meantime, that's great. My main point of contention is that there are far too many Kickstarter updates to make easy navigation of the process or a clear indication of whether or not Kickstarter donors would eventually receive a physical copy of the digital edition following its completion (something akin to the IDW release - prompting my remark that it would make sense for Kickstarter donors to simply receive that seeing as how they underwrote the project) in addition to the cumbersome (for me) number of files required to download.

For those with the time and energy to sift through all these updates and to download all these files, this isn't a problem. Fine. I posted Spurgeon's comments (not sure why this is funny?) as it appeared he was having similar issues and has decided, as have I, to "opt out" of the months-long piecemeal download process. As I said before, I'll buy the IDW release, but I would hope that after Ted and Dave take their cut, more than a little would be left over for Gatsis, Scrudder, Atwal (who lost nearly everything he owns in a fire) and anyone else whose blood, sweat and tears have gone into make this considerable effort a reality. Certainly they are also trying to earn an honest living and not part of a charity or altruistic organization?

As an aside: anyone reading this please consider donating to CEREBUS TV - they are in need of your support! The first episode of Season 4 is playing now!

R. Cole said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Damin J. Toell, Esq. said...

There's nothing remotely laborious about downloading the High Society issues. I downloaded 26 and 27 in both the mp4 and ePub formats with my iPad (which is never a particularly friendly device for downloading large files), and all the downloads went off without a hitch and the downloaded files work exactly as expected. There just isn't a real problem here.

Anonymous said...

I find it odd that the same folks that have had less than pleasant things to say about Dave Sim in the past are the ones that are having issues with the downloads.

Ok, I lied, I don't find it odd at all.

David Birdsong

Eric Hoffman said...

This is how the download process was described back in June (update 16/118). Granted, it does not state links for the complete project vs. individual issues, but given this lack of clear information, I can certainly understand Spurgeon's (and others') confusion:

Update #16 · Jun. 08, 2012 · 9 comments

THANK YOU EVERYONE!! We are closing in on $36,000 which means a few things.

1. Cerebus High Society Special Digitial Edition IS going to happen. Here's the deal. Everyone who back this kickstarter at $15.00 or Higher is going to get TWO links from George Gastis once the project is complete - one for the regular Digital Edition of the book with just the High Resolution images and another link for the Special Edition Bells and Whistles High Society! When the books are released after the campaign, going to be $0.99 a piece for each issue. So you're saving a ton going through the kickstarter campaign!

R. Cole said...

From the Kickstarter Page back in June, by John and George Peter:

"Only Kickstarter backers will be getting both the High resolution scanned (regular-you-read-it-yourself-version) and the Bells and Whistles Special Audio/Visual Edition"

So I guess something's changed since our original pledges. It does say KickStarter is not responsible for any failures of promises.

Probably people have been overworked and time has gone by, so they have forgotten the original promises of what the backers were supposed to get.

I had a problem with the first files, but it was fixed later.

Michael A Battaglia said...

I'm starting to wonder if this is coming from a resentment-spawned backlash to the IDW advance.

Anyway... I've lost sight of what the complaints are.

To me it's just simple and good: High Society downloads: Right click, save, enjoy.

Forthcoming DVD: still in it's larval stages, open to positive input, something to look forward to.

Jake said...

As a Kickstarter packer I am more than pleased with High Society digital. Thanks for the hard work guys!

Dominick Grace said...

My previous response has vanished, so here's a shorter version.
1. Re: how it all works, my IMPRESSION, based on the working cited by Eric above, was that when it was all done, there'd be only two downloads required: " Everyone who back this kickstarter at $15.00 or Higher is going to get TWO links from George Gastis once the project is complete "--interpreting "once the project is complete" as, you know, once the project was complete.... Instead, we're getting them piecemeal as the project unfolds, which means a minumum of fifty, not two, different downloads (and it'll be more than fifty, since not all the material to be received is currently included in either version). I get that the files are huge, so doing each full version in one go would be a huge file and require enormous time to download--or, I realize it NOW, now that I've downloaded single issues nad had it take well over a half hour to get each one. But certainly, that was not my expectation based on how the campaign was originally worded.

2. People who aren't having issues, good for you. I had the first PDF download freeze once and had to start over again and had problems with both audio-video versions. Even though I did finally manage ot ge tthem both (the secone one after at least six different attempts), they will not play in Quicktime, even though that's the identified app for them. (I can get them to play, but not in the designated app.) The right-click option does NOT work on my computer; when I try that, what gets saved is the icon only, not a link to the material.

3. It really doesn't strike anytone else as odd that Kickstarter backers have to do multiple downloads over several weeks to get this, while IDW customers will, in a few months, get it all in one easy, convenient package? Because it does strike me as odd, especially since the original Kickstarted promise was that ONLY backers would get the bells and whistles AV version at all.

I don't begrudge IDW getting to release this, or that the AV version will get wider release--in fact, that makes a lot more business sense than just making it a Kickstarter backer bonus. Nor do I have any complaints about the quality or quantity of what we're getting. But frankly I'M baffled that so few people don't seem to think that 50+ downloads over several weeks is no big deal. Maybe it's not for people who download stuff all the time, but for me, at least, downloading stuff from the internet is exceedingly rare, so this approach ... frankly, I'd rather just download two gigantic files when it's all done, and just leave my computer alone for a few hours while it does it, than do it this way. (And I'd much MUCH rather just get it on a plain DVD in a blank envelope.)

George Peter Gatsis said...

Dominick... I have alot of emails on different topics come in... Praise and call of help... So far, I don't see an email from you describing your concern and problem with downloading...

Vent away publicly... But until you contact me at , so I can help figure out your unique situation... You'll just continue to be frustrated in your posts concerning High Society Digital.


Anonymous said...

Max Southall here, CerebusTV CTO.

What's being run up against here, aside from supply side initial teething problems that are de rigeur for people who aren't professionals and haven't done commercial internet distribution before, is the demand side problem.

It is daunting, to be sure, to supply a product to end users that works everywhere, for everyone and under all equipment.

That is, not everyone is located in areas with reliable, fast internet connections capable of transferring large amounts of data without stopping or without error. Not everyone can afford to pay for the fastest broadband service even if it is available. People outside major city centers often only have a fraction of what is available, on a shared connection.

They have internet, yes, but it may be choppy - it may be wireless, it may be metered at very expensive rates. It may go down for some short periods. That's not so important for web browsing, which isn't continuous long data streams, but bursty and periodic.

This is why we made certain choices for the CerebusTV stream, that made provision for this "lowest-common-denominator" viewer problem.

And this is why it takes so much quality control testing on a multitude of different platforms - Windows with its several various versions, Apple with its various versions and hardware platforms, Linux and its various flavors- and then, various versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera.

If you only want to hit the majority, then you have to be willing that some people will have problems not of their own making.

Otherwise, you need to test, test, test and make sure you have adequate resources for that and for the customer support you will be overwhelmed with if you don't.

We chose after the initial issues of October 2009 with the debut of Cerebus TV to bite the bullet and put the resources into testing extensively before airing again - which Dave supported fully. But it has meant that the income of CerebusTV has always fallen short of the professional recompemnse it takes to make that kind of effort.

We currently have FIVE different video formats that CerebusTV supports each episode. And it is likely that for some folk, we still won't be able to reach them as we'd like until we can mail them DVDs of the episodes. Or until everyone gets an Apple product. :-)

My suggestion is that Kickstarter supporters alone get a compiled DVD ROM of ALL the sound-and-fury audio/video High Society episodes sent to them. This won't interfere with IDW's store-only distribution agreement and will satisfy the spirit of the original promise to those who pledged at that level and some of whom now find they paid for something they can't actually get.

I admit I'm a bit chagrined to see the acclaimed scholar Eric Hoffman, author of Cerebus The Barbarian Messiah, pejoratively dismissed in an insulting way when he mentions the same sorts of issues we had early on with CerebusTV. I know we weren't happy to get the criticisms we did when people had problems with CerebusTV, but having supervised customer call centers, we stayed unfailingly polite and tried to resolve the customer's problem. After all, it was to serve their interests that we were doing the show and all the hard work it entails.

Thanks for letting me sound off on this and I hope it's proven constructive.

Max Southall, CerebusTV/ CTO

Damin J. Toell, Esq. said...

Perhaps the part of the reaction to Mr. Hoffman is the fact that, by his own admission, he hasn't actually had a problem downloading the High Society Digital issues. Instead, he only heard from someone else that the downloading is difficult (never mind the others posting that there is no difficulty). It's impossible to alleviate a problem that doesn't actually exist.

Eric Hoffman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

I had no problem downloading the files. I did have a slight problem with the CBZ version, which was quickly solved by a helpful person.

In return, I got high-resolution scans of the first two issues of High Society, with multiple extras, including historical info, insight into the creative process, and new Cerebus drawings, delivered to my home, where I can put them on any device I want, including watching it on my TV. I get to enjoy this content now, instead of waiting until the final issues are completed.

People are complaining about this? Man, they're lucky they weren't trying to follow Cerebus via comic shop in the 1970s and 1980s.

I'll roll my eyes at those folks who are compalining, and thank George, Sandeep, John, and Dave. Apologies if I missed someone.

M Kitchen said...

Haters gonna hate.

I second what Scott said; thanks to everyone that made this possible.

Tony Dunlop said...

George is the best. I had a couple of silly, naive questions (I'm not - to put it mildly - computer savvy) when I first bought Digital #27. George responded at cerebustech(at)gmail(dot)com, literally within a few minutes, and very politely and professionally put me straight. Yes, it took over 20 minutes to download each file. Yes, I had to download the .mp4 file a few times before I got the whole thing. You know what? I paid A DOLLAR!!! You know how much I paid for the paper version thirty years ago? A DOLLAR FIFTY! In 1982 dollars! So everyone just get a f*cking grip.

Xtopher B said...

a) Sweet Potato Fries with plain vegi-burger... (you know the one I am talking about... the one with LAMB as the main ingredient)

Not only do I not know what one he is talking about, I have no idea what he means, why he's saying it, or why the parenthetical clause should be supposed from the initial sentence fragment.

Furthermore, I'm a kickstarter backer who has found my downloads problematic to unusable, and was hoping to receive some helpful explanation under this headline. Mr Gatsis' reponse instead seems to veer from incoherent to aggressive, and I have no idea why. While they might be resolved if I were to write to the "helpdesk" address cited in these comments - but notably not in the post itself - Mr Gatsis' tone here essentially does the opposite of encouraging one to do so.

(One understands that under a long-standing and heavy workload, during launch week, and while also receiving much praise from some customers, his patience with criticism may well have been frayed. But the response as given casts any buyers with legitimate issues as churls and ingrates.)

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Please direct all technical questions about the Cerebus Downloads to 'cerebustech (at) gmail (dot) com'. This comments thread is not the place to try and resolve technical issues. Thanks.

Xtopher B said...

Is it the place for the post that it's attached to to be explained, though?

Michael A Battaglia said...

@ Xtopher B -

I think this blog entry was a bit of a snafu out of the gate, in that George didn't have the full context when he was asked to "respond". It would be grossly unfair to bait him into defending himself, here, or to call him out.

Perhaps a brief explanation from the moderator, here, just to nip this in the bud.

George Peter Gatsis said...

There is no snafu... Tim did a great job of pointing me to the articles... I read the posts several times and I responded with my 2 points.

1) if you haven't seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding... I highly recommend it... Especially the scene with their vegi-meal. Great movie!

2) the most important point in my post is: "There are maybe a handful of people that are not happy to spend time in front of the computer downloading large files, I am here to help figure out their unique situation... " ... everything else is : "Let's do a quick review of what is going on here:"

Posting concerns about places, people and things is free speech... which is well outside the focus of techsupport.

If you require techsupport, just email describe your concern and I'll look into the best solution to your unique situation.

The more focused the contact with techsupport, the better I am able to compile suggestions and concerns to make CerebusDownloads a great experience for everyone.


A Moment Of Cerebus said...

I'd like to personally thank George for making the time to be here and respond to your comments (paticularly in what must be a very busy time for him!)... and on that positive note I suggest we close this thread now and all move along.