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Your support will transform this genre-bending science fantasy novel into a hardbound work of art.
Your support will transform this genre-bending science fantasy novel into a hardbound work of art.
146 backers pledged $6,666 to help bring this project to life.

The hardcovers have landed! (Please scroll down for important shipping info.)

Dear Kickstarter backers,

Earlier today, I had the pleasure of opening up the first box of Realms Unreel illustrated hardcovers. It was thrilling to hold the finished product in my hands.

You made this book a reality! Thank you. This project has been an amazing journey for me and Ian, and we're so glad to have had you along for the ride!

Audrey

Photos of the finished product

Realms Unreel cover (now in alternet green!)

Dom and Ava on the brink ...

Emmie Bridges, all kitted out

Yes, we had another delay. Thanks again for your patience :)

You'll notice in the photos that the book now sports a green cover, which is different from the cover design I included in the last update. That's because, during the final proofing process, we were unable to achieve the light-on-dark contrast we needed for the black cover, despite an extra round of proofs and the best efforts of the printer. However, the alternate color scheme looks quite lovely on the bookshelf!

Because the book shipment was delayed by the cover printing issue, the books have arrived while Ian is away on his honeymoon. So he and I have rescheduled our signing and shipping party for after his return. We expect to be dropping the first signed hardcovers in the mail the week of July 22nd.

Import note regarding shipping

It's been over a year since you filled out your backer survey, so your mailing address may have changed.

If you are reading this message and have a hardcover included in your backer reward, please contact me directly through Kickstarter to let me know where you would like your book shipped. If I don't hear from you via Kickstarter, I'll email you at the address associated with your Kickstarter account. If I still don't hear from you, I will hold on to your book and email you again in a month.

(Thanks to everyone who confirmed their shipping address with me after the last update.)

Books are printing! (Please read note regarding shipping.)

Dear Kickstarter backers,

Our hardcover order is now in process at the printer, and I should have a stack of new books delivered to my doorstep in about two weeks.

Ian and I will then have a signing, packing, and shipping party to get the books out to you, followed by a celebratory dinner to mark the completion of our Kickstarter project.

IMPORTANT NOTE regarding shipping:

It's been over a year since you filled out your backer survey, so your mailing address may have changed.

If you are reading this message and have a hardcover included in your backer reward, please contact me directly through Kickstarter to let me know where you would like your book shipped. If I don't hear from you via Kickstarter, I'll email you at the address associated with your Kickstarter account. If I still don't hear from you, I will hold on to your book and email you again in a month.

Sneak peek of the cover

We want backers to see the complete set of illustrations for the first time when they open their books, so we won't post all the images online until a few weeks from now. But we thought we'd share a sneak peek of the cover, at least:

Thank you all for helping to make this project happen! We can't wait to share the final result with you.

Audrey & Ian

Applying the finishing touches

Dear Realms Unreel Kickstarter backers,

Great news! The hardcover will be off to the printer very soon. Emmie's just applying a few finishing touches.

Thank you again for all your support and patience. We can't wait to share the final product with you!

Audrey & Ian

What's in a scene

Dear Kickstarter backers,

Over the past two months, we've continued to refine the method we're using to create the look and feel of our illustrations. Here's an illustration from Chapter 2 — where Dom encounters Serapen in Musaion — and the story about how it came together.

Storyboards laid the foundation

In our original storyboards, we selected the scenes we felt captured key parts of the story arc. Those storyboards showed us the characters, environments, and poses we would need to capture in our illustrations, and it also gave us a place to develop a color palette to help differentiate our primary "realms" — Dulai, Earth, and the alternet. (Dulai, in this case, takes on a violet cast.)

Here's the original storyboard for this illustration:

Sketches set our direction for overall look-and-feel

Early on, we decided based on some of Ian's exploratory sketches that we wanted to achieve a look that was shadow heavy, as we liked the dramatic simplicity that comes with lots of darkness.

More sketches brought our characters to life

For key characters in the storyboards, we developed the unique look of each character through sketches. Here's a collection of sketches that led to the final look for Serapen.

Zbrush added the third dimension

The next step — selecting which elements and characters to model in Zbrush — has been the trickiest aspect of the project so far. Three-dimensionality adds a lot of visual interest and depth to a scene, but modeling is far more time-consuming than sketching. Too much modeling also risks reducing the graphic novel quality of the images. Although we like how three-dimensionality evokes the idea of the alternet, we don't want the illustrations to look simply like a screen capture of a virtual world.

Since Dom's character appears in so many scenes, and because his physique is so distinctive, he became the testing ground for many of Ian's experiments in Zbrush, from modeling to posing to shading.

Trial and error, Photoshop, and plenty of elbow grease combined 3D and 2D elements into the final result

The high-fidelity model of Dom allowed us to work on scenes that feature him alongside elements we intended to have a more hand-drawn quality. Here are a few of the elements we combined into the final image.

 

 

 

And voilà!

The final result:

Hardcover Shipping Update

Based on all we've learned this year, we now have a solid grasp of the time required to complete the remaining illustrations. We're committed to finalizing the illustrations and sending off the book file to the printer by April 7, 2013.

Allowing time for the printer to produce the first print proof, for us to review the proof, and for the printer to complete the full print run, we expect to have the completed hardcovers in our hands by mid-May. That means we expect all of our backers whose reward includes a hardcover book will have their books in hand by the end of May 2013.

For those of you with additional rewards, we'll contact you once all the illustration artwork is complete in March to discuss what you'd like to see in your signed prints.

Thanks again so much for making this project possible — we're in the home stretch!

Audrey & Ian

Refining our mix of 3D and 2D illustration elements

Ian writes:

After quite the life-changing summer (Among other things, I got engaged!), I'm so excited to get in touch and show you some first detailed images of the ZBrush work I've been doing for the book.

The first image, which you may recognize as Zeke's samurai avatar, Prodigytal, is effectively a looks exploration for how we can take 3D-modeled character renders from ZBrush and push them through Photoshop to get an interesting, shadow-heavy look. This isn't a final image for the book — there will be a graphical overlay for the game environment provided by Audrey (who, as I understand, knows a thing or two about this), and I may yet do a few finishing touches. However, we think it shows some really cool potential for what we can do.

You'll also see several images of Dom's model straight out of ZBrush with a simple shader attached. Dom was probably the trickiest character for us to design, since he has to be powerful, looming, and embodying a sort of Roman stonemason feel, but for all his strength he also must convey a certain vulnerability as well — this is, after all, a huge Eastern European man who shadows a little girl whom he believes to be a reincarnation of his beloved. We're feeling good about this approach to him, and I'll be posing him into compositions starting this week.

The biggest challenge for me right now is boiling the storyboards down into 3D and 2D elements, and making sure we do the 3D parts in such a way that they convey depth and texture while being reasonably quick to create.

I hope you'll forgive us that the illustration process is taking longer than we originally planned, and hopefully this update helps to remind you of what a cool project you're supporting. I'd absolutely love to hear your feedback, so feel free to comment or message us to let us know what you think. Thanks again for making this project happen, and we'll be back with more soon!

Audrey writes:

After looking through a number of other illustrated fantasy and science fiction books, Ian and I have decided to print the hardcover version of Realms Unreel with a horizontal aspect ratio, probably with a 9-inch spine height to match the paperback. With that key decision made, I have been able to get started preparing the hardcover print layout.

It was not quite a year ago that I was preparing the print layout for the paperback, and I'm glad to be putting those skills to work again. Because of your generous support, this time we have a lot more printing options; paper size and quality, color printing, cover printing, and binding style are all under our control. These new printing variables — and, more significantly, placing full-page illustrations in the midst of the text — will make the layout process more complex. Nonetheless, I'm really looking forward to this phase of the project. Since my alter ego spends so much of her time creating digital things, it's wonderful to engage with a physical medium.

As far as timing goes, Ian and I are putting together a calendar for the remainder of this year with the goal of completing the illustrations and print layout by the end of 2012. The printer will need some lead time after we've submitted our layout files to produce the first hardcover proof, so I don't know yet exactly how long the printing will take after we've finalized the layout, but I will post that information for you once I have a time estimate from the printer. For any of you who have changed addresses since you originally backed us: don't worry, I'll confirm your current shipping address with you before we put your hardcover book in the mail.

Thanks again for all your support!

Zeke's Prodigytal Avatar

Zeke Eckerd first appears to Emmie Bridges in the form of his samurai avatar, Prodigytal, in the game domain Mysteries of Eleusis.

Dom's Zbrush Model

Dom's model with shader, full length, facing right

Dom's model with shader, full length, facing left

Dom's model with shader, full length, zoomed in

Dom's model with shader, portrait detail, facing left

Dom's model with shader, portrait detail, facing forward