Wednesday, July 29, 2009

iPod Comic Questions

ComiXology ComicsLast week I mentioned was was spending time re-engineering our League of Monsters comic to work better on the iPod. I never mentioned the publisher, as I have been waiting for them to go live with the application, but I can now. It's ComiXology who I interviewed a while back. They went live Friday at Comic Con and their iPod Comics application/comics store is available for download from iTunes now.

My post about working on the comic prompted several questions from Sphinx Magoo (as well as a few from people who contacted me directly.) I'm going to do my best to answer all of them today...

Q. Would it be possible to have the text balloons animate in some way so that they expand to a larger size when touched?

A. Yes and no. Currently, all of the iPod comic applications I've seen use static images without any type of true animation effects. A few (like genusApps Kamikaze iPod comic application ) have the type of fly out/expanding balloons you are talking about but I think they are just using two sets of images. One with the panel as is, and then one with the balloons isolated and enlarged.

They way the Kamikaze app works is pretty nifty actually, so if you have an iPod, download one of their comics and check it out.

Q. What sizes do you have to convert each of the images to be converted to iPod-legible format?

The iPod screen is 320 x 480 and some iPod comic vendors want all of your images to be that exact size. The beauty of the ComiXology process is that you can use various sizes and aspect ratios, so you aren't as tied down. My general advice is to keep the 2:3 aspect ratio in your head when dividing up your comic so all of your panels will look as uniform as possible.

Q. How do you go from a series of images to something which can be read on an iPod and Is there a way to test your comic on a computer before bringing it onto your iPod? I'd imagine that'd be a bit of a time-saver for making quick edits and such.

I think the question here, is how would your average comics creator put his comic on an iPhone, and the answer to this is not simple.

Apple PCs are pretty AND expensiveIt's not like the web where after signing up with some web host, you simply tinker with html and post a bunch of jpgs to a web site. No, unfortunately, creating content for the iPhone OS involves Apple's Objective C language and you MUST have an Apple computer to test your application as there isn't a Windows emulator (that I know of) that would allow you to develop iPod applications on a pc.

So, unless you are prepared to learn Objective C AND buy an Apple computer to develop on, this leaves you with two options.

1. You can partner up with a iPod comic vendor to put your comic on the iPod.

2. Or you can subcontract a freelance Apple developer to help you with the process.

I chose option 1, as I felt the advantage of working with a vendor is you can benefit from their marketing support.

Q. So who is the best iPod comic vendor to work with?

Well, I think that's a matter of personal preference. I chose ComiXology because I like the very slick system they have developed which uses Photoshop to help you prepare your files and doesn't necessarily restrict you to the 320x480 screen proportions. However, there are many other companies making iPod comics ( iVerse, Robot Comics, Kamikazee, Clickwheel, etc...) and they all take submissions, so you have lots options.

So, if you are a comics creator who wants to put your comic on the iPhone/iPod I would suggest the first step is to buy an iPod Touch (they are the cheapest of the two devices) and spend some time reading some of the comics available from the iTunes store. That will help you understand the limitations of the format as well as get you familiar with all the various iPod Comic vendors.

Have a great day!

- Jim


Sphinx Magoo said...

Thanks for the answers!

But, by answering one question, more questions pop up in a Hydra-like fashion!

1) Now that you've started developing for the iPhone/iPod family, will it change the way you lay out panels in the future? Do you think you might adopt a more grid-like format for your digital comics now?

2) Do you design your pages in such a way so that if, in the future, you have a print edition, you'll have print-ready files?

3) One thing I've seen for extended vertical or horizontal comics panels is a kind of "pan-and-scan" effect. Would Comixology allow for that kind of effect?

Thanks again. Hopefully I'm not being too much a pest with all these questions.

Jim Shelley said...

Sphinx - the questions don't bother me at all - I welcome them like Omac welcoming battle! ;)

1) Definitely! Pierre has already picked up on the idea of doing more grid like layouts - he was used to storyboards anyway, so it's not that much different. I think well eventually see a lot of print comics make this adjustment and diagonal/non-rectangular panels will become very rare.

2) This word you use - *Print Edition* - our translators have no meaning for it in their database. :D
--- Seriously though - yeah, it's easier to go down in resolution than to go up, so we prepare stuff in 300 dpi, then scale down as needed. - Is that what you mean?

3) On that I'm not sure - I know what you mean, but I haven't seen that in one of their comics yet.

Sphinx Magoo said...

Thanks, Jim.

2) Yup. That's what I was wondering. I'm pretty sure that in the future, print editions will be more of a luxury item as electronic books take a firmer hold, but we're still living in a world of gas-powered cars and video games you play with your hands.

Thanks for all the info.


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