Night Zero

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Night Zero
Author(s) Anthony van Winkle, Eli Black-Mizuta
Website http://www.nightzero.com/
Current status / schedule Updating every Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Launch date 2008-09-08 [1]

Night Zero is a thrice-weekly webcomic and published graphic novel created by Anthony van Winkle . Conception and production began in late 2007, with the completion of the "pilot" episode in May 2008. The first serial comic began its online run on September 8, 2008.

Story[edit]

Seattle was among the first American cities to fall victim to the unknown—the infected attacked without mercy, remorse, or fatigue. Hospitals were overflowing with the sick, and the sick only got worse as night fell. Quarantines were established, emergency protocols were enacted, but it was too little too late. The city fell into turmoil, bodies littered the streets, and the casualties began to rise. Key sectors of the city infrastructure and government were plunged into anarchy. The "scratchers," named for the tell-tale self-mutilation they perform on their bodies and faces, made the streets sticky with shed blood.

The power void left by a failing city government was the ideal ground for the Nazarov family, a Russian group that had less-than-legitimate activities before the collapse. Their organization had the muscle, capability, and network to assume control of Seattle, cordoning off a chunk of downtown as a safety zone. Those who could adhered to their rule for the chance at a new life, and their numbers grew. Those who chose to blaze their own trail saw their numbers dwindle.

Today, the New City is a walled-off community with just a fraction of the population of the old Seattle. The apparent security of the wall has allowed the New City's residents to pick up the pieces of their lives, and the outlook is optimistic in the face of uncertainty.

Distribution[edit]

The major serial storyline is released as a free webcomic, with three new pages uploaded every week at the official Night Zero website and via RSS feed. As of July 2010, four serial episodes (part of an ongoing storyline) and seven vignettes (stand-alone comics) have been produced.

The online comics cycle out as new ones are produced and older ones are published in printed volumes. The first volume was released in February 2009 and is simply titled "Night Zero: Volume One". Its successor, Night Zero: Volume Two, was released one year later in February 2010.

Night Zero: Volume One is a collection of tales from the post-apocalypse, including:

  • City Planning: Ashes - The first episode of the photographic novel, introducing the main characters of the Night Zero comic
  • Ghosts of the Past - The original pilot episode of Night Zero, the trial-by-fire through which the production process was invented and refined
  • Lost and Found - A short story of living and lying in the new world
  • Shooting for HDR - A look at the technologies behind the Night Zero photographic style
  • From Script to Panel - The life cycle of the comic, including scripts, storyboards, shoots, and renders
  • Notes from the Director, the Assistant Director, and the Director of Photography, behind the scenes photos, and other special content.[1]

Night Zero: Volume Two is the second collected volume, emphasizing the growth of the production quality and expansion of the universe, and contains:

  • Jezebel - The first produced vignette, a tale of three survivors trapped together during the last night of civilization
  • City Planning: Quarantine - The second episode of the serial photographic novel, continuing the story of the new city and its survivors.
  • City Planning: House Calls - The third episode of the serial, where the deeper runnings of the new government are revealed and tested.
  • Brothers in Arms - A short story prequel to the vignette "Sisters"
  • Sisters - A vignette that delves into the backstory of the Nazarov sisters and the formation of the "Syndicate" outside their city wall
  • Director's Notes, behind the scenes photos, and other special content.[2]

Both printed volumes are available for purchase online and in Seattle-area comic shops.

In March 2009, an apocalypse-theme party was held to celebrate the release of Volume One, at which characters and activities from the Night Zero world entertained partygoers with an immersive environment.[3]

In March 2010, the second release party was also a themed/costume party, where party attendees were given unexplained map pieces and were tasked to collectively solve puzzles (both mental and physical) to unlock activities and enter a raffle for prizes.[4][5]

Production[edit]

Night Zero is a photo novel collaboratively developed among a team of artists. It was conceived in 2007 by Anthony van Winkle and co-created by Forest Gibson as a "neo-noir-style graphic novel with photography".[6] Once scripted, each episode is storyboarded and shot in a full production run, including full sets, props, and on-location shooting. The cast of the comic is composed of local improvisors and drama students, who receive consulting by a professional model.[7][8]

The comic is shot using HDR photography instead of standard single-exposures, which dramatically increases the production time and cost, but yields tonemapped photos that give Night Zero its unique "illustrated look". There is a great overhead to shoot in HDR, because each "photo" requires three separate exposures, meaning the actors have to hold position for more than a full second on every take. The composition of foreground, mid-level, and background elements, all shot in triple-exposure HDR, makes Night Zero a very computationally intensive work. The photos are editing using non-destructive techniques in Adobe Photoshop CS4 [7][9]

Unlike other photographic novels, there are no green-screens or CGI elements used in creating the photos.[10]

Other work[edit]

The main story comic is supplemented with vignette comics, short stories, and one-off photos that are updated in between the major episodes.[8]

Night Zero has created a number of outside projects, including a live-action guest strip for the webcomic Geist Panik[11] and a "fan art" gallery of characters from the Valve video game Left 4 Dead (pictures can be seen at their Flickr account).

There was controversy over their addition of a fifth character—a pirate. Speculations have been placed as to why it was added, and in a recent podcast, Night Zero hinted that this character may show up in a sequel of the game.[12] Since the June 1, 2009 announcement of Left 4 Dead 2 during the E3 Expo, it was clear that there was no connection between the pirate character and the sequel.

References[edit]