Character Art Commission

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Commissioning Character Art

The basic idea for character design development is as follows:

  • We commission sketches of a few select characters to gauge the artist's take on the characters. Probably, these will be Georgiana, Hiromi, Josh, and Sarah (trying to cover a range of gender, ethnicity, build, and age -- it's hard to pick four for this, but I think these will give us enough info). Of course, we also tell the artist what to expect in terms of the "design" commission. I expect to pay about $100 for this, out of pocket, and the concept drawing becomes a project property under CC By-SA (though the artist retains copyright as usual).
  • Assuming we're happy with the direction the artist has shown us, we commission a full set of character design model sheets. These will consist of front/side body drawings and face details showing a range of emotions. There should also be a "cast drawing" which shows the relative sizes of the characters. We can also use this to re-create the teaser silhouette logo based on the new character designs, as well as a full-color version for later use. (I can produce examples to demonstrate example of these deliverables for other projects).

See also: Model Sheets Spec

Style Notes

Finding the right balance for the characters will be a bit of a challenge. If the characters are too realistic, we run the risk of getting into the "uncanny valley" with a zombie-like effect -- this tends to happen when the realism of movement doesn't keep up with the realism of the character model.

On the other hand, if the characters are too stylized, then their distortion will affect other aspects of the project, such as props and sets, which would have to be distorted as well. In fact, I'd like for the characters to be close enough to real proportions that we can we use real dimensions for the sets and props.

Character Style Chart from "Sintel" Production

For the production of "Sintel", David Revoy created a series of sketches to scope out the range of character "types" to consider for the project. Some of these were spoofs of styles in existing animated films. I think this is a very valuable tool for thinking about character style, and I want to use it here. I've constructed a chart out of some of these drawings below in order of head/body ratio (represented as the "heads height" of the characters), and shaded in what I think is probably the right region for Lunatics -- possibly slightly more stylized than "Sintel", but not very far from it.

Of course, there are more things being varied in these drawings than the head-height. It'll also be necessary to think about the realism of the facial features and how they will move and other details which the character design artist will have to think about.

The page on Animation Style has much more detailed information on this question along with my reviews of a few existing productions.

Overall Mood of the Series

Lunatics is light-hearted character-based comedy, but it is in a very serious (or at least very realistic) setting. Occasionally, the story turns quite somber, but the overall tone is upbeat. Nobody dies.

This is sort of the same balance Jos Whedon worked with in Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. The humor is based on the character's personalities (and they are a little extreme), but everything has to be within the realm of the believable in terms of being physically possible. Like those shows, though, there are some moments of genuine angst and genuine terror in Lunatics.

A lot of the humor comes from the contrast between what I think of as the science-fiction movie "stereotype" and the "reality" of real astronauts and the real space advocacy community. Sort of along the lines of "how would it really work." Whedon does this too, when he makes us consider questions like, "Do demons watch TV?" It's kind of similar to that.

Much of the drama and humor also comes from simple family interaction, and from the adversities of the frontier itself. In this way, it's a little like the "Little House on the Prairie" series (the books, not the insipid TV show!). It also has aspects of a British sit-com about "self-sufficiency" called "The Good Life" (in England) and "Good Neighbors" (on PBS in America -- it's the same show, there was a trademark conflict).

In anime, I'd have to draw comparisons to "Planetes", but the cultural environment is totally different. Our characters aren't corporate drones in "20th-century Japanese corporate culture transplanted into space", but rather they are more like "Heinleinian libertarian types homesteading and bucking the establishment."

I can also refer you to the script and storyboards for the pilot episode, but I have to warn you that it's a bit atypical as a Lunatics plot -- it was purposely designed to be very low on dialog and big on visual imagery. The show will occasionally get this lyrical, but most of the time it'll be smaller and more personal, with more dialog, etc.

Clothing (General)

Most of the time, our characters will be inside of a habitat -- so the clothing is indoor wear.

Some of it may conflict, which represents our own variability on that subject, so that's where you get to apply your own creativity. In practical terms, an underground Lunar habitat would be kept at a fairly constant temperature -- maybe colder during the lunar night. But not anything a typical US midwesterner would find extreme.

The include some notes about clothing for each character, which are fairly idiosyncratic.

Space Suits

I had not really mentioned this stuff before, because I tended to think of it as a "props" problem, but I can see it's also a "characters" issue, so I need to talk about it...

"Magnetic shoes"

This was a popular idea in "Golden Age" science fiction, but there's a good reason why it didn't come true -- by and large, spacecraft are not made of ferrous metal! So, there's simply not much to magnet to.

There have been other attempts to stick your feet to things in free-fall, including the specialized cleats used by Skylab astronauts, velcro (suggested in 2001 at least, though I don't know if it's been used for feet), and stirrups. Only the stirrups really caught on, and even they are used rarely. What people wear in free-fall is ordinary socks to keep their feet warm, and that's it.

On the Moon, of course, gravity is adequate, and people would just wear normal shoes. Of course, in low gravity, you have to relearn walking a little bit, so Anya's high-heels would be a bit of a challenge (most women wouldn't bother).

In the pilot episode, where there are scenes on a Soyuz orbiter, "Space Station Alpha" (which is the future International Space Station with the addition of the LTS docking complex and some extra lab modules), and the "LTS" moon shuttle. For these, the characters would be following the present-day habit of wearing socks to keep their feet warm, and that's it.

"Flight Suits" / "IVA Spacesuits" / "EVA Spacesuits" / "Moonsuits"

All of these have been called "space suits" in popular media at one point or another, so it's easy to understand why anyone would get confused. But I think I need to clarify:

"Flight Suit"

A "flight suit" is NOT a pressure-tight suit. It's a jumpsuit, based on the clothes that pilots wear in the military. It's basically a long-sleeved overall. It usually has zipper or snap-closure pockets, and zips closed. It's mainly for warmth -- at high altitude in planes and in some spacecraft, the air temperature can vary a lot (limited insulation, poor air circulation, etc). Another factor is the use of low-pressure -- some spacecraft have cabins pressurize at about 1/3rd of sea-level pressure, with a higher fraction of oxygen.

"IVA Spacesuits"

The orange suits they used in the Shuttle program after the Challenger accident, the Sokol suits used on Soyuz, and the clear-dome Apollo suits (you see these in the launch sequence in Apollo 13, for example) are all examples of "Intra-Vehicular Activity" spacesuits.

These are pressure-tight suits and they can be used to work in vacuum -- but they aren't really designed for it. They are intended to be worn during dangerous parts of the mission (launch and re-entry) as an emergency safety measure.

Therefore, they are designed to be _comfortable when not pressurized_. I.e. they are designed for comfort when you are wearing them in a cabin at normal flight pressure with little or no positive pressure in the suit.

They're usually "soft suits" -- basically a neoprene pressure vessel with accordion joints sandwiched between layers of woven kevlar fabric that is intended to protect it. If you look close at the Sokol suit, for example, you'll see that it doesn't even have a separate helmet which avoids the metal neck ring. Instead, it has an integrated visor and the back of your neck is resting on the cloth interior of the suit, against the acceleration couch.

"EVA Spacesuits"

These are the actual working spacesuits -- the big white Shuttle-era spacesuit that you see people using outside of the Shutle, for example, or the Apollo-era suits. Life support can come through a hose umbilical, or it can be self-contained in a portable backpack.


The Apollo EVA suits were especially designed to be useful on the surface of the moon. This includes a few extras: the heavy boots with gripping soles, an extra layer on the gloves, including hardened fingertips, and additional safety features. These suits also have to contend with dust contamination and the possibility of snagging your suit on a sharp rock.

Among the safety features -- backup life-support system, co-breathing system (allows an umbilical to attach two astronauts together so they can share a single life-support pack), and a self-healing plastic patch in the suit that allowed for a drug to be injected through the suit (e.g. morphine if one of the astronauts broke a leg during the Apollo missions). Of course, most of these features were never used -- but they were there, and future moonsuits will have them, too.

Apollo A7LB Spacesuit Shuttle "ACES" IVA Suit Gemini IVA Suit Soyuz "Sokol" IVA Suit

In "No Children in Space"

In the pilot episode, we will see:

  • Hiromi's Sokol-derived IVA suit in the Soyuz sequence
  • Standard Sokol suit for "Sergei" (the pilot)
  • Georgiana's custom IVA/EVA hybrid suit
  • NASA and USAF uniform flight suits
  • Hiromi and Georgiana's home-made flight suits or jump suits
  • Josh will probably be wearing overalls and shirt which will work as well as a flight suit
  • Tim will be in jeans and a jacket, which is also appropriate

The free-fall scenes will be aboard the Soyuz orbiter, the "Space Station Alpha" (which is the current International Space Station with additional modules), and the LTS "Moon Shuttle".