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February 2019: The Sudden Filler Street Problem

This is something that last year I considered possible but shrugged off at the time. Perhaps I should have given it more thought, because here we are. Filler Street already trended low as far as view counts went, but “How to Fight your Dragon” hit a new low. “Not even 24 views in 24 hours” low. It’s made me reconsider a lot of things.

While Filler Street was partly meant to experiment, it was also meant to provide easier-to-produce content that I could put out regularly. The ultimate goal there was to grow Starstreak Media as much as possible before Feature Film 2’s announcement and release. But I’ve seen the opposite response, as the subscriber count stalled for several days around the time both Filler Street episodes went up. I don’t mind that I’m losing some subscribers—it’s expected given my year and a half of inactivity—but it was much more pronounced there. Combined with the lack of views, it became clear people didn’t care about Filler Street. So the question became, did I care about it?

I haven’t mentioned it before but I’m a huge fan of Nintendo’s Metroid franchise. Coincidentally, the day “How to Fight your Dragon” was the same day Nintendo announced that they were restarting *Metroid Prime 4* from scratch. The game wasn’t meeting expectations, so rather than push out a poor or mediocre product, they chose to delay development so they could publish something they were proud of.

I’m not proud of Filler Street the way I am about Last Stand or Knightrise or The Dust of Ormiin. It existed to provide content, but it was content that neither viewers nor myself cared enough about. With that in mind, I think it’s time for Filler Street as it was originally intended to end.

The production I’ve already completed won’t go to waste. My new plan is to film the end of the Cold Trail story arc and then produce all remaining Filler Street content as a single video. That way it’s just one more video for people who don’t care about it to skip over and it doesn’t dominate content on my channel. This does mean that two+ videos per month is no longer feasible. One each month is the best I can see happening at this point. Unfortunate, but…

YouTube channels are defined by the majority of their content. And if the majority of my content is filler, what’s the point? I would rather make every video a quality piece worth clicking on instead of mediocre content worth skipping. And without the pressure and time commitment of a new video every week, I can shift the effort and energy that would have been given to Filler Street into short films and Feature Film 2.

Sorry Paul Brickman, but I have bigger fish to fry.

-mysteriouspi

Director of Starstreak Media

Breakdown: The Dust of Ormiin

This is the short film that I animated just after publishing the finale of Knightrise then burned out on. I sat on it for some time before coming back to finish post-production. This proved beneficial: I put a lot of time and effort into the editing and it really paid off. In fact, I’d argue this is my best work so far. So where did it come from? (Spoilers coming so watch the film first!)

Near the end of Knightrise’s post-production I took an Energy and Society class whose final project included a creative work, intended to accompany and expand on the research paper. My paper was about the positive and negative impacts of nuclear power plants on local communities. Unsurprisingly, I decided to make my creative work a film. I submitted the first draft of the screenplay to my professor and told her I intended to produce it. “You know the script is more than sufficient, yes?” Indeed I did, but what’s the point if I don’t overdo it? On the due date I presented my paper and “The Tarnished World of Oormine,” an early version of the short with minimal special effects and no music or sound effects, only voice lines.

While the short film originally focused on the same topic as my paper, the theme quickly morphed into something else: mishandling any energy source devastates local communities. Settlement 490 was already exposing the nearby Ormian village to harmful radiation. But by pursing profits over safety, Covup enabled disaster for both the Ormians and Settlement 490. Proper management of the situation would have prevented the disaster, but EnCorp should have been more cognizant of the local Ormian village in the first place.

I gave this film my all, especially in post-production. Color correction and dust clouds transformed Ormiin into an unforgiving world. Light placement granted life to Settlement 490 and the Ormian village, illuminating them in the darkness. Moving Covup’s space shuttle with LEGO rigs wasn’t exactly smooth, but careful masking of the rigs made the shuttle fit seamlessly into its environments. And for the first time I experimented with balancing my audio between stereo speakers.

A clearer look at Covup trying to reach Settlement 490.

Here Covup is standing on the same pair of baseplates as the miniature version of Settlement 490 seen when Covup lands on Ormiin and after the explosion. To make Settlement 490 look large far away, I adjusted the depth of field so the settlement was blurry and placed some big ugly rock pieces between it and Covup. Darkening the set and adding special effects sold the illusion, though in my opinion I overdid the lighting.

Settlement 490 looks convincingly distant, if a bit too dark.

With the time and effort required to produce The Dust of Ormiin, it is unlikely I will produce more than a couple more films of this caliber (or at least, of both this caliber and length) this year. But it is a new standard that I will strive to meet and exceed as often as possible. I love telling impactful stories such as this and I hope you enjoy watching them just as much. Until next time,

-mysteriouspi

Director of Starstreak Media

THAC XVI: The Brickfilming Sprint

The Twenty-Four Hour Animation Contest (THAC) has a long history—so long that this January saw the 16th such event. It’s exactly what it sounds like: participants have the same 24 consecutive hours to write, build for, film, voice, edit, score, and publish their brickfilms.

Despite this history, I had never attempted THAC in previous years. One of my goals this year is to interact more with the brickfilming community, so I preemptively set aside the 24 hours, woke up way too early in the morning, and proceeded to produce the day away.

Wow.

It was a ton of fun. Not just the project itself, but checking in on other participants on the forums and Twitter to see their progress (and their likewise-deteriorating mental states). It was a sprint, but rather than anyone trying to pull ahead of everyone else, we were all merely trying and helping each other reach the finish line.

It was also taxing. Limiting yourself to a 1-2 minute film with only a couple set pieces is the best idea, so naturally I wrote a 3-minute film with 4 different sets. I only started animation over 6 hours in and with only half the sets built and felt like I was falling behind, but pushed through and got everything built and filmed. By 20 hours in the caffeine I consumed to stay awake left me shaky (unfortunate because I was still animating a final scene). By 23 hours in I was rendering the final product but was falling asleep at my desk. With only 16 minutes left I submitted my film, waited until the deadline to make sure everything went smoothly, then jumped into bed to scavenge what sleep I could.

THAC XVI was awesome, and finally interacting with the brickfilm community at large was a great experience. You’ll definitely see me hanging around BricksInMotion more, something I now realize I should have been doing for years.

Next update will be in February. Until then, look out for Filler Street Episodes 3 and 4, and an awesome new short film after…

-mysteriouspi

Owner of Starstreak Media

January 2019: We’re Back, Baby!

It’s like those multiple other times I said Starstreak Media would relaunch, except it’s actually happening. But of course it’s early in the year and only one video is up yet. So what’s the difference this time?

There’s actual material ready. Lots of videos and lots of WIP videos. Of course that raises another question: why make you wait? Why not release the currently ready videos now?

My major goal for Starstreak Media this year is to build momentum: I really want to try a regular upload schedule for once. In general it’s a better growth strategy than releasing videos sporadically, and I want to see where that takes us this year. I’m starting with a video each week (yikes) for a while and will eventually transition to 2/month once 1/week is no longer feasible. Videos will release Fridays 2:00 PM EST, and only on the first and third Friday of each month once uploads slow down. I’m “guaranteeing” (outside of something catastrophic happening) 1/week videos through March. Whether that will continue past this depends on how many videos I have ready and my rate of production during the first quarter of this year.

So what can you look forward to in the coming weeks?

  • Jan 4: New channel trailer (already online, check it out below!)
  • Jan 11: My THAC XVI entry, made in only 24 hours
  • Jan 18: Filler Street Episode 3
  • Jan 25: Filler Street Episode 4
  • Feb 1: A brand-new short film (teased in the new channel trailer…)

I’m very excited about the last of these as I believe it’s my best work yet. Hope that gets you anywhere near as excited as I am! See you again soon,

-mysteriouspi

October 2018: The Purposes of Filler Street

Let’s talk Filler Street more. If all goes according to plan, it will comprise the majority of Starstreak Media’s output in 2019 (and some time past that). Two episodes were uploaded last year but I took a big-ol’ break after finishing Knightrise Part 13, so it’s been a while.

Filler Street fulfills three purposes:

  1. To provide regular content while I work on larger and more serious projects in the background. Knightrise is an excellent example of how long a large project like a film can take me. I don’t want to spend so much time on large projects but provide nothing in the meantime. Just look at the series’s name: Filler Street will act as filler between large projects. My largest current project still has at least a year before filming starts, so thats’ plenty of time to build a backlog.
  2. To provide a testing ground for equipment and techniques. While I can test with more important projects, I’d rather not if I don’t have to. Filler Street provides a good testing outlet for film techniques and camera settings by comparison. If it doesn’t go well, not a big loss.
  3. To serve as my comedic work. All of the bigger projects I have planned are essentially dramas. They can have funny moments but are not primarily written in that vein. Filler Street is therefore an outlet for my rather…interesting sense of humor. I think they’ll be funny to the majority as well, just not in the same way as other content typically on YouTube.

Don’t misunderstand: Filler Street is not something I’m throwing together just for the sake of having content. I want it to be enjoyable like any other content I put out there. It will even have an overarching plot. But it’s not the main event for Starstreak Media. More grandiose projects will always hold that spot.

Still, I look forward to showcasing new episodes next year. Until next time,

-mysteriouspi

September 2018: 10K and The Rebranding

This all happened months ago before I resumed communication so you’ll have to forgive me for the delay in announcement. Starstreak Media reached 10000 subscribers as of May 23, 2018. Personally that’s nothing short of incredible. I remember getting excited about 100 back in 2011, and then 1000 back in 2013, so this is huge by comparison. I’m excited that so many people want to see more work from Starstreak Media. Thanks to each and every one of you.

As for rebranding, I changed the name of the YouTube channel from “mysteriouspi” to “Starstreak Media.” It reinforces the name of the company and is frankly less annoying to remember. Very shortly after I updated the logo everywhere. Previously it was a photoshopped picture of a galaxy, not terribly original. The new logo stands out as unique to Starstreak Media. Check the website or the YouTube banner to see! There’s even an animated version that will play at the beginning of more substantial videos in the future.

How’s video progress? Filler Street is going quite well. I didn’t cover what my progress was in the previous update, so here’s where I’m at overall since uploading the first two episodes in 2017:

  • Episodes 003-014, 016-017 filmed.
  • Episodes 015, 018-031, 033, 036-037, 039, 042, 045, 048, 051, 054, 057, 060 written.

No filmed episodes have been completed yet because I haven’t yet done voice acting for any of them. I intend to sit down and marathon voice recording for as many as possible sometime this month.

Filler Street is set on the sidewalk of the Modular Buildings line. I only owned Detective’s Office way back when I conceptualized and filmed the first two episodes (this was in 2015) but the next 10 also feature Pet Shop and Palace Cinema. I’ve had up to three others (Parisian Restaurant, Brick Bank, and Downtown Diner) for a while but never replaced their tiled sidewalks with studded plates, which makes it much easier to animate minifigures. I finally took the liberty of ordering the parts to do so in August and got them into the rotation starting with episode 014. They’ll bring a lot more color than the shades of blues and browns from the other buildings.

Until next time,

-mysteriouspi

August 2018: What do you mean it’s not January 2017?

Look over there, it’s that thing that happens to 99% of people. You know, that thing where they say they’re going to do a bunch of stuff but it doesn’t pan out for one reason or another (usually multiple) and it’s not even the first time this has happened.

The past year has been relatively rough for me. Nothing tragic or anything, but a lot of my personal struggles, many of which I was outright ignoring, have come to light. I’ve done a lot of self-discovery and have focused on improving myself these past months. It’s helped a lot and I’m thankful for those who have supported me through it then and now.

This is the main reason behind my inactivity thus far this year. Didn’t capture a single frame for months. My lack of motivation to do—well, anything—was even affecting my film projects. Again I’m getting a lot better, but there will always be room for progress.

Do I want to tell you I’ll publish 2 videos every month in 2019? Absolutely. Can I guarantee it’ll happen? Not right now. The good news is that I’m currently way more than on track to deliver just that; progress has been awesome. But I’ll have to stay diligent to make this a reality. No more grandiose claims until I can 90% back them up.

…ok, just one grandiose claim: the waiting will be worthwhile. Filler Street isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s still enjoyable. That short I mentioned in October 2017 is 99.9% done (for real!) and will be coming in February 2019. Right now I think it’s my best film yet. And of course, there’s another project in the works that won’t see the light of day for years. But oh am I excited to reveal it.

Thanks for hanging in there.

-mysteriouspi