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10 Questions with Chris Biewer, Director & Animator of "Cosmic Rage"

A decade after a horrific meteor impact, the people of earth are slowly starting to rebuild society. Hidden beneath the rebuilding effort is an underground fight club fighting for the future of Chicago and the world.

This is the premise behind Chris Biewer's animated series, Cosmic Rage. With an interesting blend between 2D and 3D animation, this up and coming series offers some interesting visuals, blending comic based designs and 3D models. We had an opportunity to ask Chris a few questions on the initial development of his project and how he hopes to see the series continue to evolve with future episodes.

AFA: What first inspired you to create this series?

Cosmic Rage has evolved over the years. The initial concept came to me in high school, but story-wise I was mimicking a lot of things I was really into. Shows like Dragonball Z, Outlaw Star, Neon Genesis Evangelion and such. Throughout college and after college, the story and characters kept evolving and I realized that I was just borrowing these elements and ideas from things that I liked, and I needed to use these characters to tell I could, not recycle. Fortunately, I discovered a motive for these characters and this world. I hope you enjoy it!

AFA: When did you decide that this project was going to be a combination of 2D and 3D? What circumstances led to this decision?

The decision to make Cosmic Rage a combination between 2D and 3D came after I decided that I didn't want to pursue it in the comic book medium. I was digging around on the internet one night after watching Archer and I was trying to find out how the show was made. There was a blog post about the production of background elements and characters. They stated that the background elements were created in 3D and suddenly it became an area I wanted to explore, so I did some animation tests on renderings and it became the route I wanted to pursue.

AFA: What were the animation programs you used to bring the story to life?

I used Manga studio to do the inking of the illustrations, then I would take those into Photoshop to do the coloring. The 3D work was all done in Cinema 4D, a decision that really came about because of the plug in City Kit from Greyscale Gorilla and many of the model kits from the site as well as the Pixel Lab. Then everything is composited an animated further in After Effects.

AFA: Where there any major challenges you encountered during the creation process?

The biggest challenge of the creation process was very easily time. During the day I work at a studio doing motion graphics work and outside of that I would do some freelance projects and later teaching assisting to save up funds to work on the project, help pay for software, voice over, web hosting and things in that regard.

AFA: In regards to the story, it looks like there is going to be a large cast of characters to follow. Which ones did you enjoy writing for the most and how do you intend to move the story forward from here? ( without getting into spoilers of course.)

I really enjoyed writing all of the characters but I really enjoyed writing for Jani and Zeth. I put a bit of myself into many of the characters so it's almost like watching different aspects of myself interact in this animated world.

AFA: The style of this series seems to take a lot of cues from Japanese animation (at least that is the way it seemed to me), was there any particular series/movies that helped inspire the designs of the characters or setting?

In terms of design, the characters definitely are inspired by the medium. I have always been a fan of Shonen type stories, Dragonball Z in particular. Archer really inspired the 2D and 3D combination. Working as a motion graphics artist, I wanted to try to incorporate a little bit of a graphical and compositing approach as well.

AFA: You mentioned this project was given a grant by the South Dakota Arts Council back in 2015, which is pretty awesome in and of itself. How did that process work and how were you able to push the project forward once you had more support?

So Cosmic Rage really went through an evolution. It started as a comic book, and then I partnered with a friend and we were going to develop a card game app that had animated cut scenes and the fight scenes were all going to be card battles. We really underestimated the workload for a project like that, which is natural when you are just out of college. So I kept the motion comic style and fleshed out an episode that was going to be released on the iTunes Book store. This was around 2014 and I had a prototype of the book that I was taking to conventions and showing to people. The biggest piece of feedback I got was that people wanted to click play and be able to watch it. So that was what the art grant was for. Time was my biggest enemy so the grant paid me to take a month off from my full-time job and spend time doing additional drawings, making new scenes and casting the voice over talent. Which was all paid with money that I had saved from various other freelance projects. The goal was to get it finished up so I could take it on the road and help build a fan base.

AFA: You also mentioned that this episode was screened at several different anime conventions. Which ones did you attend and what was it like to premiere your work in front of a live audience?

My plan of attack was to show this in the midwest and south since driving is cheaper than flying to all of these cities. I was fortunate enough that my debut was at a local convention that was in its first year and did really well, Siouxper Con. I also had screenings at Anime Detour in Minneapolis, MN, AnimeFest in Dallas, Tokyo in Tulsa Oklahoma, SoDak Con in Rapid City, SD, Nebrasokon in Omaha NE, and AnimeFargo in Fargo, ND. It was a busy summer and it was great to travel to each convention and do Q/As with the people in attendance.

AFA: Did you write a majority of the script, storyboarding, animating yourself or did you have help? If so, who supported you and what role did they play in the creation process?

I did all of the script and storyboard work. I had some friends that work in film and had them look over the dialogue a bit to help make sure the characters were distinct in style and word choice. Most of the 3D models are ones that were purchased online, but the characters and animation were also done on my end. I was also fortunate enough to find an audio engineer that did the music and sound effects for that episode too. Ben was absolutely fantastic to work with.

AFA: When can viewers expect a follow-up episode?

So I have been doing some reworking on how I want to follow episode one up. I want to animate the characters more, so I have recently decided that I'm going to pursue using shorter clips. Probably more the Instagram route to share work as I go. The hardest part with all of this was not getting to show it and get it in front of people until the first episode was completely done. So I will bring more people into the process and see the second episode come together more. The clips will all be the second episode, so once it's wrapped up they can be put together and viewed.

Thanks so much to Chris for reaching out to us! If you wish to see more of Cosmic Rage and follow it's development you can find more information on the series main website. You can also support the series future development by checking out its very own Patreon page.