... what is the latest DarkenSpace news?

ROASTING ON AN OPEN ...

December 11th, 2017

My early hope was that episode 8 would be released prior to Christmas of this year. Alas, while the episode is most certainly "in the oven" and smelling like a good one, a December completion looks unlikely now, for a couple of reasons.

First off, I've had a particularly busy fall, with much more than normal going on financially, work-wise, home-wise and health-wise. I've still managed to get most of my work on the episode completed, but I have undeniably been slowed down. Currently I have the video editing, special effects and script completed, and the soundtrack is about halfway done, although the latter has also been hindered by a new, aggravating technical difficulty in the studio, one that I finally stumbled onto a solution for yesterday. Having resolved that, I expect to have the rest of the soundtrack done before the Christmas break, and that should conclude my work on the episode save for the final mix and render of all elements.

However, it is also starting to look like the voiceovers are unlikely to be finished until after Christmas. That's beyond my control; when actors are generous enough to offer their services to a project like this, I have to allow them to do so when it fits into their schedules, and since I also don't expect them to do anything with this over their holiday breaks (nor myself), I now have to estimate that the voiceovers are most likely to be completed sometime in January.

At least I think I can say that the episode will be worth the wait. The one voiceover I do already have for the episode has been integrated into the main audio mix for the episode already, and it is simply wonderful ... the actress did a tremendous job in a critical role. (And now, if you are so inclined, you can spend a bit of time musing over how a female character might enter into the episode 8 storyline! While we're at it, there is also a hint in this blog entry as to the title of the upcoming episode.)


KILLERS

September 11th, 2017

Episode 7 of DarkenSpace was released this past weekend. It is the first to showcase use of the new camera system recently introduced into Elite: Dangerous.

Patreon rewards will be forthcoming in early October, as soon as patrons have been charged. As always, our deepest thanks to patrons for your demonstrated willingness to support the creation of this type of content!

One of the reasons why episode 7 took a bit longer than normal is that, because of the requirements of the storyline, it was necessary to capture much of the primary video content for episode 8 before the episode 7 script could be completed. That was in fact done, and a positive aspect of that is that we now have a jump start on creating episode 8. I do still have some flying and filming to do in the game in order to collect the remaining planned video content, but I spent a couple of weeks during episode 7 production trying to get the needed video for episode 8, so that much of the process is in the rear view mirror, at least. One of the voiceover actors for episode 8 has already finished recording their parts as well (and did a wonderful job, by the way, as have all of the actors throughout the series run).

The plan and expectation is that episode 8 will land on YouTube yet this autumn. In the meantime, please enjoy the fruits of all of the hard work we put into episode 7! And thanks for your patience!


TALE OF THE ENDLESS JOURNEY

August 25th, 2017

Work on the soundtrack for episode 7 is finally nearing its completion. I am hoping to finish up most or all of the remainder of the music during this coming weekend. It has been a particularly drawn-out process this time around, for a couple of reasons, which I'll go into a bit now, just in case you have been wondering.

First, it's another pretty long episode - only the 2nd episode to exceed 30 minutes in length. So that's a lot of music to write.

Second, with each new episode I have always pressed myself to up my game in video editing, scriptwriting and soundtrack composition by another notch, and that means I am spending more time on getting things right than I did in the first few episodes. I've also been making changes to my workflow in an attempt to regain some speed, but the benefits of those changes will probably only come to fruition in future productions, rather than immediately, as I am still in the process of adapting to these workflow changes for now.

Third, over the last couple of months I've had a couple of different medical issues simultaneously pop up (one of which put me in the ER), and those dueling issues have sapped my time, my attention and my energy. But at least one of those issues was finally put to rest within just this last week, leaving me to only have to deal with the 2nd one for the time being, and that has been helping.

Having said that, it might be illuminating for you to know that I started tracking my time spent on DarkenSpace earlier this year, and so far I have spent almost 280 hours of time on the creation of episode 7 alone. So I haven't exactly been on vacation from it, even with the other things that have been going on.

In one regard it was perhaps fortunate that the episode ended up being a bit delayed. Some disturbing events in the news a week or two ago had some distant echoes in something that happens in the plotline of episode 7, and I would have been too uncomfortable with that coincidence to release the episode any sooner, even if it had been complete. As it is working out now, I hope enough time will have passed by the time the episode does get released to avoid any perception of commonality with those news stories. An aside: I remember when a couple of episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a television series which to this day I regard as perhaps the best ever made, had their air dates postponed by months due to having some vague resemblance to current events. At the time, my thought as a fan was that it was an overreaction and uncalled for, but now I've learned what it is like to be on the creative end of that sort of a decision, and I can totally understand why they did it now. When it is your name that is attached to a project, and your imagination being rendered into a storyline, coincidences like that get magnified more than I ever would have believed before now. It has been very educational for me, as have many other aspects of the production of DarkenSpace. Indeed, the things I've learned about all aspects of video and soundtrack creation have become the main payoff for me from taking on this project.


UNHELPFUL SOFTWARE

July 10th, 2017

Episode 7 of DarkenSpace, which will be entitled "Killers", is well along in its production process. It has reached "picture lock" status, meaning that the video edit is complete and no further changes are planned. The screenplay has also been completed, save for a few lines that are pending (see below), and the soundtrack composition and recording are underway.

There are a few lines of the episode 7 script that are dependent upon events that will take place in the subsequent episode, so for the last ten days or so I've been trying to capture the primary video (that which defines the storyline) for episode 8 (which as yet remains untitled) in order to complete those elements of the episode 7 script. If I'd been successful in that effort, it would also have been great because I'd already be well along on the production of the next episode as well. Unfortunately, the problem is that the game is not cooperating. The type of event I need to happen used to happen all of the time, which is why I planned on it, but after the latest patch it appears to happen either very rarely or not at all. That's becoming a big problem, one that I've wasted a bunch of time over these last ten days trying to get past. I've now come to realize this is going to be a problem with making videos over time using any game that is constantly evolving, and not always evolving in a predictable or even positive direction unfortunately.

Along the same lines, there is also a very noticeable bug in the game's audio playback with the latest patch that makes it impossible to use most station launch sequence video without being jarred out of one's suspension of disbelief, and the makers of the game haven't shown any intention to release a fast fix for it, so that is also apparently going to restrict what I am able to do for video for episode 8. Fortunately I'd finished capturing the primary video for episode 7 prior to the latest patch, so at least the immediately upcoming episode doesn't suffer from this particular problem.

If and when I do any other game-based video series like this in the future, I think I'd probaby want to shoot the video for all episodes up front, over a relatively short period of time and hence hopefully with a single, unchanging version of the game, and then do all of the rest of the video production work over time thereafter. (DarkenSpace is too far along to start doing that now, of course.)

I'll close this entry with some more positive news items: although it took some time to get a good handle on the new, more complex camera controls in the latest version of Elite: Dangerous, I did finally get there, and the results are that episode 7, in my opinion, is far and away the most visually satisfying episode of DarkenSpace to date. Also, about a month ago I spent quite a long time (probably in excess of 24 hours) creating an orchestral template in Logic Pro X (with almost 200 individual tracks!) to help accelerate soundtrack production. I have now started using that template on episode 7, and have had very positive results thus far. My expectation is that my time investment in creating that template will be more than recouped in time saved when actually composing these soundtrack cues.

Be ready, because "Killers" is right around the corner!


CARDINAL

April 20th, 2017

After having taken a much-needed holiday break, and then some additional time to finish and release the long-planned soundtrack album for the series, DarkenSpace returned yesterday with the release of its sixth episode.

Once again, this episode introduces another character played by a professional actor. I've been extraordinarily fortunate to have had the opportunity to feature a growing group of actors as the voices heard in this series (led of course by Charles Hubbell, who continues to deliver tremendous performances in the titular role), and the show clearly wouldn't be the same if not for all of their participation.

To head off at least one of the possible queries: no, episode 6 was not filmed with the new 2.3 camera system. All of the video was captured well before the release of version 2.3, and in fact much of it was captured before the 2.3 beta (which I don't have access to) even began.

In fact, some of the video for episode 7 has already been captured as well, also prior to 2.3's release. However, there's much more to capture for episode 7 yet, including most of the external/2nd unit types of shots, which is where the new camera system will have the greatest impact. So there should certainly be a substantial amount of content captured with the new camera system in the next episode.

I don't plan to start capturing more video until after the first 2.3 patch (now slated for early May), though, since there are reportedly some graphical issues in the current build of Elite: Dangerous that I think could detract from the look of the show. So I want to give Frontier a chance to improve on at least some of those before I start locking them into video for posterity.

I have plenty to do in the meantime, including trying to resolve a hardware problem that cropped up in my studio at the tail end of the production process for episode 6. I'm not sure how much time and/or money that issue is going to require to reach a resolution just yet, so having a few weeks to try to deal with it may prove to be very valuable.


SOUNDTRACK ALBUM RELEASED

February 3rd, 2017

After working on it on and off over the past year, and almost exclusively over the past two months, I can finally report that the original soundtrack album for DarkenSpace was released a couple of days ago. You can hear the tracks and purchase the album at https://windcrymusic.bandcamp.com. The album contains approximately 58 minutes of music, comprised of 21 separate cues from the first five episodes of the series, all of which have been remixed and remastered for inclusion in the album using studio technologies that in most cases weren't available to me until after the episodes were made (I poured a lot of cash into upgrades of my studio last fall). I personally believe this is the best these cues have ever sounded.

There were a few cues of fairly iconic nature to the series that were not included on the album. In some cases it is because they needed to be fleshed out for album inclusion to a degree that I simply haven't had the time or inspiration to do yet, and in other cases it is because I have plans for those cues that mean the most definitive versions thereof are yet to be heard.

With that project out of the way (at least for the moment - after all, I did add "Volume One" to the album title because I anticipated a possible need for a "Volume Two" at some point), I am getting back to working on the next series episode. Actually, I am working on more than one episode, as there are preparations to be made in advance for the episodes which will follow the next one.

It appears that Elite: Dangerous 2.3 will be including some sort of upgraded camera system. I am both excited and nervous about that. Excited at the prospect of being able to capture the game in new ways for the series, and nervous because of the possibility that Frontier might, in the process of "improving" the camera system, remove capabilities that I have relied upon in order to shoot the series. In either case, any upgraded camera system is unlikely to make it into episode 6, as the episode video should be "in the can" before that version is released. But as for subsequent episodes, time will tell; I'm keeping my fingers crossed that 2.3 will bring only good news as far as production of the series is concerned.


IMAGINATION, AS DRAMATIC LICENSE

November 5th, 2016

(Warning: this blog post contains minor spoilers for episode 5 "Messengers", so if you haven't yet watched that one, I'd suggest watching it first and then returning to read this blog entry thereafter.)

Today a viewer observed in a YouTube comment that using heat sinks would have made certain events of episode 5 far easier. It isn't the first time someone has pointed out elements of Elite: Dangerous gameplay that would have eased or entirely removed obstacles that Draven has encountered in the course of the series. For the most part these aren't accidental oversights on my part - rather, they have usually been conscious decisions to ignore or alter certain aspects of the game for the purposes of heightening the drama and justifying certain activities within the storyline.

Ever since Elite: Dangerous was first released a couple of years ago, there have been discussions (and in some cases arguments) between players about whether or not it was necessary to bring one's own imagination to playing the game. This in particular gets brought up by those persons who describe the game as "a mile wide, but an inch deep". Their belief is that the player shouldn't need to imagine gameplay, but rather the game designers should have supplied all of that. Whereas old timers (like myself) often cite the fact that what made older games like this (from decades ago) enjoyable was the fact that we did bring our own imagination to the game world, thereby making it richer. (We had to ... otherwise even the visuals of those old games would have been very unsatisfying by comparison to what can be achieved in games today.)

For my part, one thing I don't particularly care for about Elite: Dangerous is the relative absence of sneak missions, where one is forced to use a combination of stealth, guile, patience and power management to accomplish a task. Heat sinks are an example of a game design element that I don't really like, nor use myself. In my thinking, any tiny device like a heat sink that can absorb all of the heat from a spaceship should glow on sensors like a sun when released, at a minimum attracting any would-be pursuers to the approximate area thereof. (If I'd designed the game, I'd also have limited detection ranges even in supercruise based on distance combined with the speed of both the scanner and scannee, to make both blockades and blockade-running activities more complex.) Unfortunately that isn't how the game was designed - but it is what the game becomes for me once I bring my own imagination along for the ride.

The thing about the DarkenSpace series is that it isn't just the game that is on display - it is the version of the game that takes place in my imagination when I am playing it (at least in solo mode). It is a way for me to document what I would like the game to be, including modifying my evaluation of or even entirely disregarding certain actual game design elements at times to increase the depth and enhance my own enjoyment of the experience. One of the nice things about making this series is that I get to capture that vision of the game that takes place in my imagination, and then share it with others.


MESSENGERS

November 5th, 2016

Finally, "Messengers", episode 5 of DarkenSpace has been posted. This is a super-sized episode, at nearly 40 minutes of length, so you can almost look at it as being the equivalent of two episodes of the show being released together (albeit telling a story that required it to all be bundled within a single episode). Another way to look at it is that it is nearly half the length of some feature films! Hopefully that explains why it took a while to make this one; in addition to needing to audition and then coordinate the efforts of several additional actors, the episode required the composition and recording of a volume of soundtrack music whose length approaches the running time of some albums. In fact I feel it could be considered remarkable that all of that was able to be done on a part time basis in less than four months. In any event, all of us that were involved are very happy to be able to present the results to you now.

You can find the episode in the usual places, including on the Videos page right here on the website. The Patreon reward (the full soundtrack of this episode, sans any other audio) will be made available to patrons in early December, once the next patron charge cycle has run. And the closed captions for this episode will be posted in a few days.

Even more than usual, this episode goes against the accepted YouTube wisdom that shorter videos get more views because it takes less of a time commitment to view them. I'm sure that is true, but it is also true that some types of stories simply cannot be told in such small chunks. For me, the most important thing about DarkenSpace is to faithfully tell Draven's story in the manner that I imagined, and to fully explore all of the drama that it entails, regardless of how many views the resulting videos get. So I hope that many of you will feel it's worthwhile to set aside 40 minutes to be able to enjoy "Messengers" in its entirety.

As I'd mentioned on the official Facebook page, a number of my other responsibilities have gone ignored for several months while I've been pushing to complete this episode. So I'm going to be taking a short break from creating the series in order to catch up on those other responsibilities, and then to actually try to enjoy some holiday vacation time with my family (unlike last year, when I used all of my vacation time to work on the series). So I won't be resuming full production of the series until about two months from now, i.e., around the 2nd week of January. However, I'll surely be doing minor bits of episode 6 preparation between now and then, though ... very probably composing some of the soundtrack ahead of time, arranging for some acting parts, rehearsing the episode's story (which has already been largely planned out) in Elite Dangerous: Horizons, and so on. I also hope to get back to the process of pulling together the DarkenSpace soundtrack album, which is now planned to include highlights from the first five episodes of the series.

But in the meantime, you have an extra-long episode in your hands now, which you'll hopefully enjoy. Thanks for reading, and for watching!


SHOULDERING A HEAVY LOAD

October 7th, 2016

It's been a while, so I thought a detailed update was in order.

The preview video for DarkenSpace episode 5 "Messengers" was posted to YouTube at the start of this week. Work continues toward the completion of the full (and lengthy, as mentioned before) episode. One secret from the episode has already been revealed by the preview: "Messengers" will be the first episode of the series to include planetary surface content from Elite Dangerous: Horizons!

There were some delays in getting actors lined up for the five separate roles in this episode, but all of the roles have now been filled. About 60% of the dialogue has been recorded thus far, and I am hoping to receive some of the remaining pages this weekend.

The soundtrack composition is about 85% complete, and the orchestration thereof about 60% complete. I'm expecting to whittle down significantly on both of those remaining musical components this coming weekend. It seems pretty likely that the soundtrack will be complete before the voiceovers this time around, but as I've said before, completion of the voiceovers is always going to be subject to the schedules of the actors involved, since they are graciously contributing their talents in an unpaid fashion, and all (sans myself) are professional, working actors.

One thing that has slowed down the soundtrack work lately is that I injured my back and shoulder about a month ago while moving a broken recliner, and have had quite a few days since where I've had a bit too much discomfort to be able to be creative. But that's been improving in recent days, allowing me to get back into the studio more regularly again, thank goodness.

Another thing that has been affecting the soundtrack work is the fact that the extensive sample libraries that are being loaded with each cue (which have grown significantly since the series debuted) are causing as much as a ten minute delay from the time I start loading a cue until the time when it is fully loaded and can be played and edited. I now have an SSD drive on the way, to which I plan to move all of my sample libraries in order to hopefully cut down that loading time by as much as 80% and hence maximize my time spent on composing rather than sitting around and waiting for my DAW to load sounds. Alas, that won't help with episode 5, because I dare not begin transitioning my sample libraries to the SSD until after the episode is complete (moving the sample libraries before episode 5 is complete would cause the existing cue project files to have a fit). Suffice it to say that I'm very motivated to wrap up the episode 5 cues as soon as possible so that I can transition over to getting that new SSD set up, so it will be ready when I start on the music for episode 6.

There has been some planning ahead for episode 6 as well. We already have yet another actor lined up for a special role in that episode, and I'm looking forward to hearing what he will do with the (already completed) pages for that role.

Thanks again for your patience as we wrap up our work on episode 5!


EPIC

August 18th, 2016

Work on episode 5 of DarkenSpace has been underway for the past several weeks, including several very late nights recently in order to finally get some capture-resistant video for this episode in the can. Outside of some Motion 5 work on a couple of shots, the video edit is now finished, and even after Herculean efforts at trimming all of the fat, the episode is still going to weigh in at nearly 38 minutes in length, by far the longest one yet. I didn't ever expect to make a single episode that long, but the arc of the story for this one really demanded the time. I think it is a safe bet that, in the end, episode 5 will prove to have been the longest one in the series. Hopefully it won't be too long for viewers to watch all the way through, because (IMHO) it is going to be content-rich from end to end.

Charles and I are also having to recruit a few extra actors for this episode. I think we will be able to cover our needs on this one out of local resources, but if you can voice act and are interested in potentially doing a part on a future episode, feel free to contact us on Facebook, preferably with a link to an example of your efforts.

In the meantime, I'll be proceeding with finishing the script and then embarking upon the massive undertaking of scoring such a lengthy episode, while Charles will have extra pages of dialogue to squeeze into his schedule as well. Unfortunately that means you can expect episode 5 will take a little while yet before it is ready - albeit not nearly as long as it took to make episode 4, at least!

P.S.: For our patrons, the Patreon rewards for episode 4 were posted about ten days ago. Visit the Patreon site (linked at left on the navigation panel) to collect them, or to become a patron in order to support the series and receive rewards for future episodes. Thanks much!

P.P.S.: I haven't forgotten about the DarkenSpace soundtrack album, either. Most of the cues to be included have been exported as individual tracks now, and about half of them have been remixed for the album. There's still more to do yet, but I am hoping to blend in my work on the remainder of that with the soundtrack work for episode 5. But I've been prioritizing work on the series itself, of course.


CORRECTION ON PATREON REWARD SCHEDULE

July 13th, 2016

A correction from the previous entry (from which I have also removed the misleading information): Patreon rewards for episode 4 will be made available next month, right after patron's payments have been successfully processed, rather than sooner.

Oops! Well, I admitted that I was rusty on a lot of this stuff, didn't I?


MATTER

July 12th, 2016

At last, after a long journey that led through a new computer, subsequent hardware problems, a different video capture process, and new scheduling difficulties for all concerned, a new episode of DarkenSpace has made what appears to be a thus-far successful debut on YouTube today.

There were many things that could have gone wrong today and apparently didn't, not least of which is the rust that half a year of non-use put on my video and audio editing skills. Part of what I needed to do on episode 4 was relearn some of the same lessons that I had to learn back when the series first debuted, and not everything came out quite as perfectly as I might have wished. But I hope the end result works well enough, and now I'll take those learned lessons and apply them the next time around.

I want to express my gratitude for the vast majority of YouTube subscribers who stuck with the channel during this enforced hiatus. And the same goes, in spades, for our Patreon supporters.

In addition to preparing the Patreon rewards just mentioned, one of these next couple of evenings I also need to go through and create the closed captions for episode 4. Only then will my work associated with this episode be complete. After that, I can move on to start preparing for the next episode (both in game and via the composition of new soundtrack cues), as well as pulling together and remastering various musical elements from the first four episodes to release as a soundtrack album (on Bandcamp.com).

For anyone who noticed that Horizons content (e.g., the planetary landings) wasn't really featured in episode 4, even though I now have a computer that can handle it, be assured that it will be showing up very soon now. This particular episode just didn't have a place for it, but what I have on the drawing boards most certainly does.

Onward to episode 5!


BACK IN THE GAME

July 6th, 2016

Finally some good news again: the gaming PC upon which the series depends has come back to life, thanks to my friend Jon's skillful assistance and a boxful of replacement parts. Indeed, if anything this should make the series video in future episodes even a bit better in quality, since I replaced the originally installed (and subsequently crashed) GTX 980 Ti with a newer version of the same model that has a higher clock rate and more efficient cooling. It cost me yet more cash to do so, but at this point I am just trying to get this thing to be as stable and solid as possible going forward. Making and editing videos consumes enough time and effort already, without also needing to battle to keep the underlying hardware running.

After several weeks of being on hold due to Charles' schedule, the episode 4 voiceovers are once again moving toward completion as well. Charles also just came up with a very effective technique for getting a particular sound for one portion of the episode that I was concerned about. I'm sure glad to have him on board in this process, and not just because of his "golden voice".

One unexpected difficulty I had with capturing video on the gaming PC using Shadowplay is that it seems to introduce random pops and clicks into the captured audio. This only seems to happen in Elite Dangerous: Horizons ... I've tried it in a few other games and not heard the same thing. My existing audio repair tools in Sound Forge Pro proved unable to eliminate those pops and clicks, so I was getting a bit worried about how I was going to deal with those, but yesterday I found a 3rd party plugin that cleaned up the audio quite nicely. Alas, that means yet a little more money to be spent on getting DarkenSpace back on its feet, but I really want this thing back on its feet, so I go right on with the spending.


SERIES BACK ON HIATUS

June 16th, 2016

My news today is not good: the stars seem to be aligning against the continuation of DarkenSpace.

My expensive new Windows PC is turning out to be a lemon, with multiple hardware failures already. It has been dead in the water for over a week now, and based upon my latest findings, I think it might very well need a redo from nearly the ground up. I am throwing good money after bad at it right now, and at some point I am going to have to decide that I simply can't afford to get it up and running anymore; I've put many thousands of dollars into this already, and right now I have absolutely nothing to show for it. The only thing I know for sure is that it is very unlikely to be back up and running anytime soon.

The voiceovers for episode 4 are proceeding, albeit slowly (Charles' schedule has been tight). Alas, I can't start on episode 5 without a working PC, so for the moment the production of additional series episodes is on hold again.

I'm sorry to say it, but I am not making any promises about the future of the series anymore. One of these days I suspect this is going to have caused too much financial and emotional strain on me, and I am going to have to call it quits before I bankrupt myself or have a stroke over trying to keep a sinking ship afloat.

One other thing: never, ever, ever buy a computer from OriginPC.com. I paid more for this thing than I paid for my iMac 27", and the PC has turned out to be a pile of garbage. I'm going back to only buying Apple computers.


THE PRODUCTION CHECKLIST

April 21st, 2016

As of tonight, the primary video for episode 4 (by which I mean the continuous in-cockpit video in which the bulk of the story takes place) is "in the can", as they say - i.e., it has been captured from the game and is ready for editing. That is often the most difficult part, especially when I come into the process with a storyline already in mind that I need to realize through in-game events that often don't cooperate. So the fact that I can report success on that front tonight is a big relief to me.

But that's just the first step in the process of finishing an episode of DarkenSpace. The subsequent steps are:

  1. I need to collect all of that raw video in Final Cut Pro X and then edit it down into a coherent and tight storyline that doesn't take 2+ hours to watch.
  2. Once I have the storyline set up using the primary video, I have to finish writing a screenplay that matches the edit.
  3. Then the finished script needs to be submitted to Charles, for him to start on the voiceovers as his schedule allows.
  4. Meanwhile, I start identifying sections of the video that can benefit from secondary, external shots, plan out how to get those shots, in many cases rehearse the complex camera moves involved, and finally capture those shots from the game as additional video clips.
  5. Often I will also have come up with one or two special effects shots that are needed by this point (I already have one of these in the plans for episode 4). So I need to get to work in Motion 5 to design, create and render those special effects, along with titles and other such elements that are needed for the episode.
  6. Now the finished secondary shots are edited and interwoven into the existing storyline in Final Cut Pro X, resulting in a nearly finalized video cut (but as of yet still lacking anything but environmental audio).
  7. After this, I can finally concentrate on the musical score and any additional sound effects that are needed for the episode. The first step is to do a "spotting" pass through the episode in Logic Pro X, placing scene markers to identify each section that needs a specific music cue.
  8. While I have already been composing a number of basic cues for the episode before this point, they will still need to be tweaked, stretched and/or rearranged as needed to fit the final video, and additional music will also need to be written to flesh out the full score.
  9. Finally, once I have mixed each of the soundtrack cues in Logic Pro X and bounced them into audio stems, and have received and sorted through all of Charles' copious recorded voiceovers to create a final performance, as well as extracting the environmental audio from the finished video cut of the episode, I combine all of those audio elements into a master audio project, again in Logic Pro X, and then set up an automated mix thereof so that everything that needs to be heard can be heard. Once this mix is finished and bounced into a two track stereo master (sorry, no surround sound capability in my studio yet), it is imported back into Final Cut Pro X, where it replaces all of the existing audio.
  10. And once I've made it that far, I can at last render the finished episode (usually several times over, as I watch each render immediately and usually spot last minute tweaks and changes that are required). Once I have a render that I am happy with, the upload to YouTube can at last get underway.

Oh, and have I mentioned that I also have a full time job that I somehow have to fit all of these tasks around? Well, if that doesn't make it clear why it takes more than a few weeks to finish each episode of DarkenSpace, I don't know what will.

What matters right now is that I'm back in the process of doing this, and I am excited for you to see what I think will be a good result. The long and unfortunate hiatus is almost over!


MOVING FORWARD

April 1st, 2016

First off: in case you are wondering, no, this is not an April Fools post. I think those are deeply annoying.

Elite Dangerous: Horizons was finally re-installed and tested last night on the PC that I've purchased for the sake of continuing the DarkenSpace series. The new system has an Intel Skylake 6700K quad-core, 4.0 GHz CPU and an NVidia Geforce GTX 980 Ti 6GB GPU - and as I'd expected and hoped, it runs the game beautifully. This beast should not only put the series back in production, but should make all of the Horizons content available to it, and just generally make the series video look better and with far less of the frame rate issues that were too often noticeable in the video captured on the Mac, no matter how hard I tried to obscure or minimize those problems in the episodes to date. In fact there were multiple instances of shots from the first three episodes that I had to shoot in slow motion in the game and then increase the speed of during editing in order to smooth things out enough to make it watchable. Thank goodness I shouldn't have to do much of that sort of thing anymore.

I do have a number of smaller hurdles left to leap before I will actually be starting to capture video again. I need to get my head tracking setup again, finish configuring my HOTAS for video camera control, learn how to actually play the latest version of the game again, figure out how to use ShadowPlay to capture video, and work out my Windows-to-Mac networking situation in order to get the video over to Final Cut Pro where I do the editing. But now that the majority of the hardware issues are resolved, I expect those remaining things to get resolved relatively quickly as I careen headlong toward a resumption of the series.

As Draven is wont to say, at last we're "moving forward".


TRYING TO BE PATIENT

March 27th, 2016

Yes, it's true: I have new PC hardware on the way that will enable the series to resume, and I'm very excited about it, as it should run not just the core game but Elite Dangerous: Horizons very well, much better than my iMac could run even just the core game. This should not only open up all of the Horizons content for inclusion in the series, but also should permit me to begin using a variety of external shot angles and movements that I could never capture on the Mac because the frame rates suffered too much. I have such a large gamut of shot types that I had wanted and tried to use before but couldn't because the frame rate of the captured shots from the iMac was too choppy to be watchable; all of those shot types should soon be available with this new hardware. I can hardly wait for you to see what should soon become possible!

Also, I have confirmed with Charles that he is able and willing to continue voicing the character of Draven Darken. This was equally critical - I couldn't imagine continuing the series without having his distinctive voice at the forefront thereof.

Alas, there's still one remaining problem ... as fate would have it, I was notified late last week that the shipment of my new PC hardware has been delayed until at least the end of the month. So I continue to try to be patient, as difficult as it is, and I hope you will be as well. In the meantime I'm continuing to compose new music for the soundtrack as well as write the screenplay for the next episode. In fact I climbed out of bed very early this Easter Sunday morning because I had a dialogue idea for the climactic scene of episode 4 which I wanted to get written into the script while it was fresh in my mind. So as you can see, DarkenSpace remains at the forefront of my thoughts.


DARKENSPACE LIVES

March 9th, 2016

More details will be shared in the next few weeks, but you can set this much in stone: there will be more DarkenSpace coming, soon.

As such, I have re-enabled the Patreon links. So if you have been enjoying the show, please consider becoming a patron and thereby helping me to recoup some small part of all the money I am spending to make it happen (hehe).


SERIES AND SOUNDTRACK STATUS

February 29th, 2016

First, a quick update about the series. I still don't know for certain whether I will be able to swing the expense of the gaming PC needed to continue DarkenSpace, but I can at least report that things are looking promising so far for it to be possible. I think I'll know for certain by a month from now. More updates will follow.

In the meantime I've continued to write screenplay and music for future episodes of the series. On that note, I think I am going to postpone releasing the soundtrack album until I can include music from the planned episode 4 on it, since I'm pretty happy with what I have going for the next episode and would like to be able to share it as part of the soundtrack.

So I'd just like to ask that you please continue following along with DarkenSpace a little longer. As long as things do work out as I am hoping and expecting, I think I can safely promise the results this spring will be worth the wait!


ONGOING MUSIC EFFORTS, ETC.

February 5th, 2016

Lest you thought that I'd be taking a vacation away from DarkenSpace-related projects ...

Over the last several evenings I have been remastering the "Violence" soundtrack (using Ozone 7 Advanced, which I added to my studio shortly after the episode 3 video went online) in preparation for sending it out to my Patreon supporters. That soundtrack is being sent out today, after I (hopefully) got through some last minute ID3 tag hassles.

This process has also been a "dry run" for mastering the forthcoming DarkenSpace soundtrack album, which will contain selected cues from the preview and the first three episodes of the series (yes, I say "first" because I still believe the series will be continuing a few months from now). That soundtrack album will also contain expanded versions of a couple of iconic cues from the series to date ... and one entirely new piece of music that must remain a secret for a little longer (haha).

Finally, I have started to price out what specs of a gaming PC I will hopefully be getting a couple of months from now. Assuming circumstances allow me to actually do that, DarkenSpace should be able to come back shortly thereafter, better than ever, with improved graphics, frame rates and Horizons content. So if you have enjoyed the episodes thus far, please keep an eye here for updates on the process of bringing it back!


HIATUS

January 26th, 2016

Bad news: I have to officially announce that the series is going on hiatus for the foreseeable future.

I have tried flying Elite: Dangerous with the new (and required) 2.0 Mac client several times now. And the performance has gone downhill - so far downhill that it is no longer suitable for capturing video from. Even when I try tweaking down the visual quality to the point where it clearly looks inferior to the earliest episodes, the frame rate still lags so badly that it is very often like watching a slide show.

So, here's the thing. Unless some miracle happens that makes the existing Mac client usable again (and Frontier, the makers of the game, have been showing no interest in putting any serious work into the Mac client anymore), I can't see continuing with the series unless and until I can get a gaming Windows PC sufficient to run it with at least the same level of quality that I was getting through the first three episodes of the series. And right now I simply cannot spend the money to buy such a PC. It is possible that I could be in a position to do that in several more months, but unfortunately that can by no means be guaranteed.

As you may know, I had tried setting up a Patreon account to make a gaming PC happen for the sake of the Horizons expansion. But at the time I thought that the goal there was to allow planetary landings to become part of the series - not because I expected the current Mac client to suddenly become unusable for any video at all. And since the Patreon campaign has seen only a couple of interested parties, I am forced to admit that it just isn't going to make this possible. So it comes down to when I can afford to personally finance the series to that extent. I'd even consider a Kickstarter campaign, but the lack of interest in really supporting the series that I have seen from the Patreon effort (with the exception of those three individuals who did sign up, for which I am very grateful) leads me to feel certain that would be a pointless effort.

I do have a fair amount of previously captured video that I never used, and while it isn't sufficient to keep telling the story through episodes, I think I will be able to collect together some of it to make some sort of music video to post to our YouTube channel in the next month or so, just to keep it alive.

I certainly have more of Draven Darken's story that I would like to tell, and will continue to keep this goal in my thoughts going forward, for that day when I find that I can afford to get the series going again. I know that it will very much be like starting from scratch at that point, unfortunately, but there's nothing I can do about it.

Also note that I will be taking down the Patreon links for the moment, until such a time as I can promise that the series will continue.

Now I know how Draven felt at the end of episode 3.


HORIZONS IN DARKENSPACE

December 9th, 2016

Now that Elite: Dangerous Horizons is about to be released with substantially increased content for the galaxy of the game, particularly planetary landings and surface settlements, I know that many people will be asking when DarkenSpace will be including content from Horizons. Unfortunately, for the time being the short answer is that "it won't", since Horizons is not being made available for the Mac platform. And even Bootcamp is not an option since the iMac upon which the series is currently being made does not have a video card capable of running Horizons at a resolution, quality and frame rate sufficient for capturing video for the series.

Hence, the only way DarkenSpace will ever include Horizons content such as planetary landings and other such activities is if I purchase a new Windows computer with sufficient power to capture the new game content at a quality sufficient for the video series, and that's an additional expense I just can't justify right now for a series that is already costing me significant amounts of both time and money to make. Maybe someday, but not now.

But ... it turns out there's another route to make this possible in the near term, and that is fan support of DarkenSpace through the website Patreon.com. So, I'd ask anyone who is sufficiently interested in the DarkenSpace series to want to see it move forward as quickly as possible to include additional and higher quality content to please consider visiting the new DarkenSpace page at Patreon.com (a link has also been added to the navigation menu at left) and becoming a patron if you enjoy our series and are interested and in a position to help support it.

Until then, or until I feel I can afford to spend more of my own money on the series, DarkenSpace will continue to be made with the core Elite: Dangerous game only, and running on the Mac platform.


THE CINEMATOGRAPHY OF DARKENSPACE

November 29th, 2015

While "cinematography" at first probably sounds like too generous of a word for describing the process of capturing game video from Elite: Dangerous, I do feel that it is somewhat applicable.

In the process of capturing external shots for DarkenSpace, I often rehearse and/or repeat some of the debug camera moves for a half an hour or more to get all of the simultaneous, multiple axis moves coordinated just right to get the camera to where I need it in time to capture what I am trying to capture. I also have my HOTAS gear (Saitek X-55 joystick and throttle) specifically set up to facilitate the type of camera actions I tend to perform.

But that only covers the mechanical aspect of getting shots. Beyond that, I believe there is also an artistic, creative aspect to how I use the debug camera on this series. The way I follow (or in some cases deliberately don't follow) the action, or very often maneuver the camera in order to imply actions that the ship can't actually perform without a pilot at the controls, is vital to making DarkenSpace look the way that it does and helping to advance the story.

Ever since DarkenSpace debuted, I've received periodic, generous offers from viewers to act as a cameraman to assist in making some shots for the show. While I certainly appreciate the offers, there would be many problems with using a second party as a cameraman. As described above, I believe a lot of the "character" of DarkenSpace stems from the specific ways I manipulate the debug camera. It would be difficult at best for me to attempt to teach someone to emulate even the mechanical details of how I operate the debug camera, and quite impossible to give them the same artistic eye (for better or for worse) that I use when getting my shots.

As if that wasn't enough of an obstacle, there's also the fact that most players will not be playing on a similar iMac running at 1440p resolution with my specific graphics settings, which would mean that, even if all of the other hurdles described above could be somehow overcome, any resulting captured video would be very unlikely to be a match for the look of the clips captured on my computer. The other clips could in fact be better, potentially, as I think it is pretty common knowledge that the Windows version of Elite: Dangerous looks a bit nicer - but even that would have the negative effect of making the rest of the show look bad in comparison! Either way, it would draw attention to an incongruity in the camera work and distract from the storytelling.

So, perhaps this will help to explain why I haven't taken up anyone's offer to do camera work on DarkenSpace, and why I don't foresee myself using any other camera operators on the series in the foreseeable future. In fact, it is far more likely that at some point I might opt to enlist another player to masquerade as Cmdr. Darken's ship (if they have the ship model, outwardly visible outfitting and paint job available), in order to keep running the camera myself, since I don't believe my actual ship piloting is nearly as unique and vital to the show as is the way that I operate the camera!


WEBSITE ONLINE

November 27th, 2015

At last the dedicated website for DarkenSpace is live. Never fear - we'll be staying active on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts as well.


"DarkenSpace" is created in part using assets and imagery from the game Elite: Dangerous, with the permission of Frontier Developments plc. It is not endorsed by nor reflects the views or opinions of Frontier Developments and no employee of Frontier Developments was involved in the making of it.

All other video, audio and website content is copyright 2015, 2016 David Sandberg.