HankCo

Publick Nuisance

The secret files of the Ventureverse

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Comicon Postgame and Production Journal
HankCo
jacksonpublick
We have the nicest fans. I was fortunate to meet a bunch of you/them in San Diego this weekend and I'm pleased to say there was not a bad apple in the bunch. None of the typical big convention creepos that can sometimes congregate in situations such as these. Not a single greasy-haired, wall-eyed, sweating-through-his-too-tight-windbreaker mouth-breather in the bunch! Nor my favorite type of troublemaking fan--the guy who likes your show...but he's got a few problems with it he'd like to discuss with you. Just good, friendly, incredibly polite folks of all ages representing every demographic under the American sun. Mothers and daughters! Jokers and Harley Quinns! A Dr. Girlfriend, even! And no less than three but no more than five Astrobase Go! t-shirts amongst them! Honestly, you were all just supercool and it really, truly was my pleasure to meet you. I'm only sorry that all but maybe two or three of the hundred or so Sharpie doodles I did for you guys completely sucked.

As usual, got to hang out with some of the other Adult Swim creator types, which is always fun, and I got to meet internet hero Eric Fensler, creator of the bizarre and hysterical GI Joe spots that were the hit of everyone's web browsers a year or two ago. Somehow I keep not meeting Seth Green. Other highlights included an odd dinner with Billy West, Dana Snyder and Ken Plume, the Adult Swim party, and almost buying an original Robert McGinnis painting but realizing I'd rather have a car. I missed half of the Adult Swim panel (that I wasn't invited to participate in this year) but about ten seconds after I sat down Keith Crofford mentioned that season two of the Venture Bros. was in production and the crowd let out a huge cheer (I'm told the loudest of the day). I personally wet myself.

Good news...more talk of the DVDs of season one, for one thing. We've got some cool special feature-y stuff planned which we're hoping to god we can pull together and produce in the next couple of months while still doing our season two jobs properly. Don't ask me what they are...it's a surprise. As of now, the dvd set is planned as a 3 disk affair, and the target release date is still the vague "some time in spring of '06." There was also talk of toys. Or of the potential for toys, but rather than jinx it, I'll leave it at that for now.

Since this Live Journal was originally intended to be a production journal, I'll proceed in that vein, for once...

VB PRODUCTION: WEEK 3

We have four scripts in the can. We should have five by now, but whatever. After a script is turned in we wait for our creative, legal and Standards notes from Adult Swim. Creative notes are generally light, since Lazzo & co. usually trust us and want to let us make the show we want to make, and except in rare instances, whatever notes we do get are generally right on the money. Standards notes are generally light as well, and whatever notes we get from that department are usually very easy to address--change the offending word, cover the offending body part with more costume when it's designed, etc. Legal notes are always a drag because they mess with our ability to anchor the show in real world things sometimes, and a lawyer's definition of "parody" is often vastly different from ours. Still, those are usually easy notes to address--when we get them in time, which we never did last year--and we have a decent and thorough lawyer this time around.

So the first two weeks of production are the domain of the design department. We have a meeting on the first day of the first week, we go over the script, and I give the character/prop and background design supervisors any notes, sketches and guidelines I have for the look of said script. If the script is too "heavy"--i.e. too many brand new, used-only-in-one-shot things have to be designed--we try to talk about streamlining things a bit so they can stay on schedule. "Do you really need 16 henchmen?" "Do we need to see the entire missile silo or will one corner do?" These are the kinds of questions we address then and there. Over the following two weeks I meet with them a few more times to check on their progress and give any notes about their rough designs before they get cleaned up.

Also during this first two week period we record the episode. We recorded our first episode last Monday, which went really well. Urbaniak and T. Ryder Smith jumped right back in the saddle and nailed their respective characters better than ever. And just to show how very small our production can be, and how no one working on Venture Bros. ever has just one job, we now record at Mike "Dean Venture" Sinterniklaas's studio. Yup, Mike's a sound engineer in addition to being a voice actor. Recording takes the better part of a day and leaves me with hundreds of audio tracks to sift through. Generally, I'm given a disk (or two) of the tracks, I take them home or to the Astrobase, load them into iTunes, and start listening. I write down the name of the track next to its corresponding line in the script and then hand this off to our sound engineer. This takes hours upon hours and is often incredibly frustrating. Sometimes because I have to pick between two excellent, different takes of the same line to decide which is funnier, and other times because no matter how many versions I listen to, there just doesn't seem to be a "right" one. Also, hearing your own voice over a set of headphones, no matter what character you're pretending to be, is...kind of embarrassing. All attempts to condense this process have been fruitless: 9 times out of 10, the track we thought was the best one on the day we recorded it turns out not to be upon a second, private listen. And lots of times the first take of a track that I recorded eight times because I didn't think we were getting it right turns out to be the best of the lot. Anyway, the sound engineer takes this marked up script, pulls the noted tracks, cleans them up and trims them, and then lays them all out in script order in Pro Tools. Which brings us to the slug:

Slugging in this case (the term means something completely different in most other productions) is the process of editing said Pro Tools project to create a sort of Venture Bros. radio show. I sit with the engineer and more or less imagine what the pace of the show will be. We pull tracks together that were recorded hours apart, overlap them and so forth, in order to try to make the show sound like live conversation. When we hit a part of the script where big action is described, I have to kind of imagine how long that action would take, and we leave that part silent (unless of course henchmen are screaming during the action, or Brock is grunting or something). When our little radio show is all edited and sounds right, we check the time. If it's over 23 minutes, I have to start cutting stuff then and there. Or, if it's over but not by too much, I have to at least start seriously thinking about what's going to be cut during the next two phases: storyboard and animatic.

We give the cd to the storyboard artists, who begin their work in week 3. By listening to the audio, they get a better idea of the attitudes and expressions they need to give the characters during certain lines and actions. It also effects their direction of each scene. A sequence that may have seemed nice and open in the script may be much quicker than they thought once recorded, so they realize then they don't have time to cut all over the place or do some sweeping, panning establishing shot or something. I meet with these guys at the beginning of their process as much as possible, too. If there are scenes that I have a very specific look in mind for, I doodle a few thumbnails and explain it to them. Otherwise, they're on their own and I wait for them to finish their thumbnails. Thumbnails, for those who don't know, are small, rough sketches laying out the basics of a scene. The storyboard artists spend their first week doing these, at the end of which I sit down with them, go over their drawings, and change or add to them as necessary.

...which brings us to the end of week 3. And of course week 3 to the rest of the production means week 1 of the next script for the design department. So this is when all of the above starts to overlap for me and people start getting frantic and losing sleep...

JP

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Oh, I want toys! I just started a new job, and I have a cubicle, and cubicles demand toys... I would kill for a Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend. Pls make it so, tyvm... :)

I'm very excited about season two! Keep up the awesome work.

It's nice to hear more about all the hard work that actually goes into the making of The Venture Bros, and how most everyone takes on multiple roles. It shows how dedicated you guys really are to making a great show.

Hey! I'm a greasy-haired, wall-eyed, sweating-through-my-too-tight-windbreaker mouth-breather! And I love the show, but I have a list of 257 major and minor things I'd like to discuss changing about it. Nothing too extreme, but you know, anything to help make VB better!

So maybe it's just as well I wasn't able to show up at Comicon. Oh well! Always next year! Cheers!

Cool! I just love hearing about all this kind of production stuff. I just eat it up. Thanks!

Thanks for giving us some insight on what goes on behind the scenes. Keep up the great work!

I like the Production Journal Updates. Keep em comin.

Will there be any fanous guest stars this season? From notable VA's to even some other celebrities?

Corrado

Thanks for the reminder that this stuff isn't quite as easy as yall make it look.

Fascinating. I can't think of any creator who lets his or her fans in on the production process like you do. Will you still do this when VB becomes a huge corporate money-maker and you're living in Beverly Hills, plotting your scripts at poolside while eating cheese off your third trophy-wife's chest?

Thanks for the inside look at the show.

Crap. That wasn't supposed to be anonymous... I thought I was logged in.

yay! more venture bros.!!!

love the production journals. it really gives an insight to how things are done.

Venture bros figures with a lot of articulation would be nice. Having the Monarch and Dr. Orpheus striking various dramatic poses would be fantastic.

The line for the [adult swim] panel was entirely too long, so I missed it. Though if I'd known you were going to be sneaking in at the back, I might have done the same!

I'm very excited about the possibilities of toys! I need a Dr. Girlfriend action figure with several changes of clothes!

And, the production information was facinating. I don't think I could do your job, even if I had any talent! Keep up the good work!

Ok, I didn't mean to be anonymous... I hate posting from work!

I have it on very good authority that the most famous masked female wrestler in Pawtucket, RI worships the ground the Venture Brothers walk on. The news of a Season One DVD nearly made me poop with unrestrained joy. Oh, your salty delicious goodness. OH!

As somebody trying desperately to start up an independent cartoon series, this journal is totally priceless as a well of information for how stuff goes down. I'd love to ask other questions about how some of the earlier things happened, but I know you're currently busy as all get out.

Keep up the good work, regardless! Am a hardcore fan.

Merchandising !

(Anonymous)

2005-07-22 07:10 pm (UTC)

I want a Dr. Orpheus talking alarm clock. It should yell things like:
"Arise! Arise!"
"Tarry not in the world of slumber for you have an 8:00 AM meeting!"
"Loose your hold on this one, Hypnos! I, Dr Orpheus, command it! "
"Pumpkin...your breakfast is waiting."

Oh yeah...and a Triana Orpheus doll. Not a little 12" barbie knockoff though. They should be big, like umm, 5'5".

Those are awesome lines. I would totally buy it if they made it.

Wow! That's waaaaay different than how we do Kids Next Door!! (kidsnextblog). I mean, our voice actors are looking at the storyboard... (But didn't you once work here? You'd know this already...)

You just blew my mind!

Hey, different strokes for different folks...what works for one show doesn't for another. To us, everything follows the writing, and since a joke is all in how you tell it, it's important for us to get the voices right and try to make the board artists follow the actors' voices. I think it helps a lot with the poses the characters strike, and the pacing helps people figure out how to board more economically. It would probably help us for action scenes and stuff if the actors were looking at boards--then they'd know what kind of grunts and groans and exertion sounds to make--but we can always dub those in later and we usually know how the action's going to go down when we write the scripts anyway, so we can guide the actors by telling them things like "yell like you're picking up the heaviest thing ever and you're really pissed!"

I love the internet! You're one of the creators of my favorite cartoon of all time, yet here you are writing a journal that I can read. How nifty! I feel all close to you. *snuggles up to your knees*
I had a question for you and now I've forgotten it. Damn. I might be getting back to you if I remember it.
You know, our last name starts with an L. Let's say, for the sake of what I'm about to tell you, that it's Lipton (It's not). My husband, daughter and I make an "L" shape with our fingers, press them together and say, "Go team Lipton!" Then we cackle.
I thought you should know.
By the way, just to keep me excited and squee-ish, maybe you could let me know if you plan to do anymore episodes based around Dr. Orpheus. I adore him. :)

I wanted to step up to the adult swim booth but the line was really long when I walked by, and I was completely intimidated by these girls. That guy in the center was kinda creeping me out too.

Are those blondes supposed to be (White) Debbie from Sealab? 'Cause those jumpsuits seem wrong. (Though in a good way.)

To our official, honorary Riddler

clowny_face

2005-07-22 07:33 pm (UTC)

(OMG, making cartoons sounds wicked hard)

Eep! You referred to us! Fondly!

Hey, this is Tara (Harley Quinn), and in case you couldn't tell it was a total thrill for us to get to hang out with you them booze-filled summer nights. Still twitchy with joy. And hope I wasn't too much of a chatterbox; later I really wished I'd shut up and asked more stuff about you, but hopefully another time...

BTW, we tried to make it to your signing but missed you by 10 minutes! So sad! I blame Batman.
Oh! And in my effort to not be too obnoxious I forgot to give you our card, but our web addy is www.gothampublicworks.com (Even got pics of our old Riddler if you're curious ^_~)

Other than that if you're ever back in SoCal get in touch and we'll ply you with hugs and liquor, and if Donny and I decide to do a Con day as VB characters (we *had* considered it before) don't be surprised. Late!

Re: To our official, honorary Riddler

jacksonpublick

2005-07-30 11:21 pm (UTC)

It was my pleasure to hang out with you guys, too. And no, you weren't too much of a chatterbox! And actually, you did give me a business card. Or maybe it was the Joker.

Excellent choice in music (the 'Lab). One of my all time favorite albums!

I wish I could say I'm looking forward to the 2nd season... I would be if I still had cable! :( I think Venture Bros. will be one of the things I miss the most about not having cable.

wow...that sounds like a hell of a process, but i could only imagine the satisfaction you get after putting in all that time and effort to see things like a large audience cheering the loudest for YOUR show...anyway, congratulations on teh show doing so well and good luck with the rest of season 2 production. i can't wait!
also, are you going to be at the wizard con in boston at the end of september?

Not likely, the Boston thing. The end of September will be fiercely busy for us, as production will be in full swing, our DVD project is due, and Doc's solo painting show hangs right around then. Sorry...

That's eerily similar to how we're making this "Edutainment" game at work. Of course, unlike the game, people actually watch your show. And we have no idea what we're doing so we're much slower.

Yes, we're making a video game for a company where the average age is 60. I'd complain that it's a waste of time but hey, money.

Awesome news about the DVDs. I'll definately pick one of those up with my ill-gotten gains. And maybe a Brock toy too. Assuming it doesn't vibrate.

This was actually very educational, and might have cured a few of us of wanting your job (but not all of us).
And hey, we're cool over here on the other coast, too. Come visit us!

i was thinking the other day, have you ever seen the movie "Cube"? its from the mid 90's and its really weird and i was thinking you seem like you could have a lot of fun using it as an idea/reference for a show.

anyways, cant wait for season 2. youre why i watch tv on sunday night.

Brock would bust the Cube in two seconds!

I remember wanting to be a cartoonist when I was younger. I always thought it would be a 1-3 person production. Oh, how naive I was.

aww cumquats! i never did get to meet you while i was there. shoot.

Legal stuff

(Anonymous)

2005-07-23 12:34 am (UTC)

What are some of the things your lawyers wouldn't let you do? I've heard that sometimes you can't mention products on the air, but I've never heard of an actual lawsuit resulting from something like that.

It's all about context and usage. Sometimes we can mention a product or show a product but not mention AND show a product. Other times we can't do either. Depends on the company whose product we're using, I guess, and whether or not it's a flattering or appropriate portrayal. Also depends upon the eagle eyes and ears of the legal department at Cartoon Network. We were once forbidden from depicting a package of cigarettes, which we never named the brand of in the dialogue and which had no text or logo on it but too closely resembled the primary colors of a specific brand. In some cases, you can call the company and get the reference "cleared," meaning they tell you it's okay to use it or they don't see it as anything they'd need to take legal action over. In the case of the cigarettes, which I must again point out had no discernable logos or text on them, everyone was super-touchy because cigarette companies targeting young people, which is Adult Swim's demographic. When it comes to parody stuff, we're learning that if we were MORE of a parody show, we'd actually be able to get away with more. It would be easier for us to have a big green guy walk into the middle of an episode, shout "I'm the Incredible Hulk!" and fart than it would be to have Brock dress up as the Incredible Hulk for Halloween and say "I'm dressed as the Incredible Hulk." The logic being that one is parody because you're commenting on the character and the other is not because you're just using the character's likeness. Even though I personally see having our characters dress up as other characters as a form of parody, the law doesn't necessarily agree. It's weird, I know. I'm still trying to figure out how South Park gets away with everything it gets away with. Maybe I should call their lawyers...

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