Silent Shadow: Tools & Technology

Silent Shadow: Tools & Technology

So what originally went into making Silent Shadow? Back in 2005, the tools I had at my disposal were Poser 5, Photoshop CS, and whatever that free version of 3DS* was called back then. Initially, about the only thing I modeled was a desk used in the opening scene. After that, I just purchased what I needed for each scene from Daz or Renderosity.

It was a limited version of the way more expensive 3DS Max. About the only thing I can remember is that you could download it from Turbosquid, and back then, it was Discreet that owned 3DS—although at the time of the web-comic launch, Autodesk had just purchased 3DS from Discreet, or maybe Discreet merged with Autodesk?

Hardware

In 2005, I was working on a desktop computer that had an AMD Athlon64 processor, 512MB RAM, and a Geforce 128MB graphics card (sadly, I don’t remember the exactly model—it may have been an FX5200). Back then, PCI-E was just starting to become a thing—AGP was still the dominant standard. Roughly a year later, I built my own desktop system:

  • ASUS M2N-SLI Deluxe
  • Athlon 64 x2 4200+ (2.2Ghz)
  • 4GB DDR2 667
  • 250GB SATA-II HDD x2
  • Geforce 7300GS 256MB PCI-Express 16x

The videocards in both systems were victims of the bad capacitor plague—technically, four videocards. I replaced the 5200FX with a 5500FX a month before I built the desktop. Then shortly after graduation, the 7300GS failed, which prompted an emergency trip to Best Buy in the middle of a snowstorm to replace that card. I think the card that I replaced it with was a Geforce 9600 GSO 1GB. Then shortly after that, the 5500FX that I had replaced four years earlier failed—I got cheap and just bought the same model off Amazon. A failing capacitor also caused one of my wide-screen monitors to fail. If I had the soldering skills and electrical hardware knowledge that I have now, I could have saved the monitor, at least. Repairing all four videocards would have been beyond me even now.

In 2017, shortly before I finished Hawk & Wolf in short-story format, I had just built another desktop system. This one used an AMD Ryzen 5 1500X processor, Asus PRIME B350-PLUS ATX AM4 Motherboard, and an EVGA Geforce GT1030 2GB video card (later upgraded to an RTX 2060 XC 6GB, then an RTX 3060 XC 12GB).

As of now, I’m using a system that I built last winter—AMD Ryzen 7 3800X, Asus TUF GAMING B550-PLUS WIFI II ATX AM4 Motherboard, and an EVGA RTX 3060 12GB video card.

I reused parts from my 2017 build to build a gaming PC for my boyfriend. So he has my RTX 2060 and the 64GB of RAM that my 2017 build originally had. I did get a new motherboard, processor, and SSD for his system, though. Since the mobo is the same model as the one I used in my new build, I think my Christmas present to him would be an additional 64GB of RAM.

Now

Now, twenty-ish years later, I’m looking at using Blender and Daz Studio, with Poser taking on a very diminished role in creating the web comic. I’m still going to use the Aiko3 and Hiro3 figures from Daz so I can maintain the look and feel of the original comic.

The sad part is Aiko3 and Hiro3 are still popular but apparently, Daz isn’t interested in creating morphs for Genesis 8 or 9 so I’m sort of stuck until my 3d sculpting skills are good enough to create morphs.

The biggest challenge I have right now is replicating in Blender the toon shading + subsurface scattering effect that I initially developed in Poser. Apparently, with the release of Blender 3.2, the ability to use Shader to RGB with the SSS node was taken out of Eevee to prepare for the Eevee-next rewrite. In my opinion, that was very short-sighted as I understand it broke a few things for users that had come to depend on that setup. Working in software development myself, I could go on a rant about why you don’t do that, but that’s not the point here 😂

Speaking of breaking things willynilly, Automattic did something similar with CSS styling in WordPress 6.3—which has been really fun (not!) trying to fix for clients who upgraded and find that their styling is broken.

Long story short, I ended up having to fake SSS to get the look I wanted—at least until Shader to RGB works with SSS in Eevee-next (I haven’t seen it in Blender 4.0-alpha, which is when Eevee-next is supposed to be released).

There might a tutorial incoming on how I managed that.

Poser

Now that I’m planning on a relaunch, will I continue to use Poser?

For the most part—no. If I do continue to use Poser, it’ll be in a very limited capacity. Blender is more powerful than Poser; it’s easier to use, and it also has two excellent rendering engines that are better than Poser’s. What’s great about Daz Studio is that I can transfer all of my old characters into Blender, including their rigging. The best part is that both Blender and Daz Studio are free, and I can still use all of the content I had from previous years.

Yes, I know that Superfly is basically Cycles but that’s about the only noteworthy thing that Smith Micro did with Poser—well, aside from adding multi-processor support.

What I’m seeing is that it’s very likely that Poser 11 will be the last version of Poser I use for any 3d artwork, including Silent Shadow.

I did buy Poser 12 when it came out but other than some UI improvements, I wasn’t impressed. Also, the earlier version had a tendency to crash and corrupt my work so I stopped using it and went back to 11 and I haven’t tried to use it since.

Poser had some issues. It was slow and had a messy interface. There were doubts about its future when development slowed down after Smith Micro acquired it. Plus, Daz Studio was released for free, offering a more beginner-friendly alternative to Poser’s expensive price.

Daz3D also started releasing their base figures for free as well, which further added to the sense that Poser was being left behind. Another thing not helping Poser’s case was that prior to SM buying it, it had already changed hands three times—Fractal Designs (the original owners), then MetaCreations, then Curious Labs, then eFrontier—though I don’t remember if Curious Labs became eFrontier or what the deal was there.

Photoshop CS

I used Photoshop CS primarily for compositing, page layout, and lettering. I continued to use Photoshop (up to CS4) until 2010 after I released one of the last pages that I worked on. Other than that, I didn’t have any challenges in using Photoshop. Page layout- and typography purists would probably insist that I should have been using Illustrator but frankly, I use the tools that work for me. Since this is still my baby, I really don’t care what the industry thinks. My stance is this: “it gets the job done so who cares?”

All that aside, Adobe changed some things with Photoshop in CS6 and later that made it more difficult for me to work with—which was also another contributing factor in why I ended the web comic in 2013.

Vue Complete

Speaking of subscription models, Vue went the same way as Adobe so I ended up dropping it as well. The initial plan was to use Vue for outdoor scenes. So instead of Vue, I’ll likely be using Blender as well.

Another problem I have with Vue is the parent company’s decision to lock reactivation of legacy versions so that you have to pay an additional $200 to reactivate a license that you’ve already purchased.

The Future

Blender and Daz Studio are going to be my tools going forward. I’m in the process of considering a move away from Adobe products because they’re too expensive. It was one thing when I was just paying for an upgrade every other year but this switch to the subscription model is a fucking joke. Sure, there are alternatives, like the Affinity line but having used those products, to me they’re rather lacking.

Another reason I’m looking at a move away from Adobe is so I can move away from Windows to Linux—well, provided that Daz Studio works on Linux—which looks to be very likely. One thing that could potentially block that move is NVIDIA driver support for Linux.

Why not go to Apple? I despise Apple—or rather, I despise Apple fanboys. Plus, the biggest obstacle is money. Why shell out $5k+ for a Mac Pro when I could build a system with the same specs for half that?

Either way, we’ll see what the future holds!


That’s it! Keep your eyes on this space for more Silent Shadow-related news and artwork!

Jess G.

Who am I? Well, I’m a web developer by day and an anime geek/artist/pick-a-random-subject-that-I’m-interested-in person by night. My posts do have a tendency to follow whatever mental tangent I might be on. I suspect that my ADHD may be to blame for that.
Enjoy your stay!