Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Forward Again

Sean Michael Robinson:

Hello everyone,

I'm afraid this will be another short one, as Mara and I are both working overtime to have High Society ready for a series of cut-off deadlines happening at the end of the month. Our goal remains-- to have the best edition of this material, ever, in your hands by the holidays.

Mara and I are both working cleanup now, and we are almost at the finish line. I've completed close to 200 pages worth of cleanup in the past two weeks.

So what do I actually mean by "cleanup?"

Basically, cleanup is everything that hasn't been adjusted in the initial pass at the page. This includes fixing tone shrinkage, fixing shrinkage of border tape, cleaning up lettering and at times substituting letters or drawing in missing ligature, and scrubbing out white noise in black areas and black noise in white areas.

The source of the material is the biggest determination of what kind of cleanup a page might need. Newsprint-sourced pages usually need noise cleanup and not a whole lot else, whereas tone shrinkage and border tape shrinkage is only going to be present in the originals.

The plan had been for me to do very little cleanup, leaving all but two issues ("Mind Games 2" and "Election Night") to Mara--but with the various deadlines of the book, and Mara's additional jobs on the project, it became clear I'd have to help out. Going forward, I'll be looking to train a third team member to handle cleanup as well, so that part of the process won't be a production bottle neck. But the necessity of doing such a large volume of the work myself has caused me to think about the work in a very different way.

I thought it might be interesting to show you all a few images from the book, with only the "correction" layers of the Photoshop files visible. This is, essentially, what we've "fixed" on various pages, minus the page itself.

Here's one of the most iconic pages of the book, the last page, unfortunately sourced from newsprint. You'll notice that almost nothing has been done other than reinforcing black areas.

The intention of this kind of intervention is to make sure the blacks reproduce purely black, which, if you examine newsprint, they're mostly not. You could conceivably reprint work from newsprint without making these kinds of adjustments, but placing such work side by side with pages sourced from photo negatives or original artwork, the difference would be too dramatic, the blacks too "dusty" in comparison (Those of you with access to a bootleg copy of Cerebus #1 can see an extreme version of this in action). This is also the kind of thing that can drive you crazy for no good reason, pursuing complete "blackness" in screen terms when there's no real-world benefit in doing so. Fortunately I used the Lebonfon High Society test signature to get a better idea of how far down noise will actually reproduce, sending them some very on-screen "noisy" pages to get an idea of at what point exactly it affect the reproduction. Those prone to mania take note! When working at 2400 dpi, on my particular screen setup, noise has to be visible at a 16 percent zoom to show up in print on an offset web press.

Here's a page with a healthy dose of the most time-consuming flaw, namely, tape or tone shrinkage. For the entirety of "Election Night," Dave created meticulous white decorative borders with Letratape on a separate piece of illustration board, which was photographically combined with the rest of the artwork at the negative stage. Unfortunately, that Letratape has shrunk and warped over time, and so the borders had to be reconstructed with the remains.

Here's a closeup of the moved and rotated border elements, followed by a closeup of the same border without any adjustment.

And here's the finished product.

Needless to say, these pages took much longer than their neighbors.

And lastly, here's an example, too infrequent, of my favorite type of page. This was sourced from a beautiful scan by Dan Parker, the very scan I was marveling at a few weeks ago. Ah, the bliss of little to no adjustment.

And what's that little bit of stuff in the left-hand corner? Could it be some replacement Cerebus tone?

Yes, it turns out that, in some circumstances, the most efficient way to complete incomplete areas of tone is not to clone it, but to draw it in, dot by dot, over incomplete areas. We now have about five different tone procedures for different kinds of tone replacement, all of which I'll be sure to recite when, I dunno, trying to end a party prematurely, or when trying to bore a child to sleep.

And here's the finished product, one of the more beautiful pages in the book.

More soon!


Stephen Benson said...

Good work! Better than ever seen, I suspect. Dave's been pretty fortunate here.

Anonymous said...

Long time creeper here on AMOC, so I'm up to date on all the developments. I was at the NYC Comic Con this weekend, and I'm not sure if any of you folks are aware, but one dealer had 3 original pieces of Cerebus art (one from Cerebus (#19, page 2), one from High Society, and one from Church and State (#53, page 16)). All were going for $1,200 each It may be too little, too late, but I wanted to pass along the word.