On the road and having trouble

Marcel Durer

I’m known to be able to talk without any punctuation but this is ridiculously. As you can see, we have a problem with wordpress – I’m still trying to figure out what exactly is wrong and how to fix it. It seems that the bug But the timing for that problem couldn’t be worse.

BECAUSE, this week is FMX week – and Shift! – Tales of the Sentinels is proud to be a part of it. If you are at the FMX2014 you are not only able to meet us there, but to see some artwork at an exhibition in the ground floor and listen to a presentation of both Sabrina and I.

Also we will be part of this years “Internationaler Comic Salon Erlangen” and the “Dragon Days 2014″ – but more about these two events, when I’m finish cleaning this bug-mess up. 

Diploma was just another step

Marcel Durer

It’s been a long time since there has been any activity on this blog. That doesn’t mean that there was no activity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

February has been a real busy month, as it was the final sprint. A lot of nightshifts (no pun intended), a lot of coffee and blood, sweat and tears there was march. And march was the month of my final exam.

Well, to cut a long story short: We did it! Although the first episode of Shift! – Tales of the Sentinels is not quit finished, my study at the Filmacademy Baden-Württemberg is. I earned the right to call myself “dipl. Transmedia- and Gamesdirector”, thanks to a great team. And as of now, I have to think about the true horrors – like insurances and financing my daily bread.

What happens right now is that we try to finish the artwork as soon as possible and to have a fully functioning prototype. Everything we can present as a showcase is still pretty work-in-progress’ish. In the end, the diploma was just another step in the process of making “Shift!”.

But to show you guys some stuff, (and specially for all of you German speaking readers) here is our German experience trailer. Have fun and stay tuned for more updates coming your way!


The great character parade

Marcel Durer

A new year, a new post by yours truly. A lot happened in the last weeks. We have made a lot of progress in the different departments. Some parts of the story changed drastically. For my diploma, the first really, really important deadline is something like 8 weeks ahead, I’d like to give you a brief overview over all the characters you will find in the first episode of Shift! and tell you something about them.

You can see them in the picture, and I will describe them from left to right.

Line Up

Click on the picture to get a full screen view on the chracters of Shift!

So we start with our hero Adam (17). Although he looks like your everyday teenager, he is everything but ordinary. The other teenagers at school would call him weird. That’s because he has another view on the world. Normally he tries to stay out of trouble. But he has a crush on Ronja – and Ronja means trouble.

Ronja (19) is a punk-rock girl. She has a strong opinion of the world and has no problem to fight for what is right in her opinion. She doesn’t hide her attitude, even though it could get her and her surroundings in big trouble. She knows something is wrong in the world and wants to change this.

Regina (49) is the loving and caring mother of Adam. She is a pretty tough power woman, the real head of the family and a typical greenie. Her biggest fear is losing one of her children.

Erik (51) is the father of the family. His mind is worried by the troubles of his job: the current financial crisis rocked his construction company and he has to fire some employees. But who do you let go?

Mimi (5) is the youngest family member. She has a strong connection to her older brother Adam. But just like Adam, she is everything but ordinary. Her drawings are showing events she couldn’t possibly remember – or which haven´t happened yet.

And now (since we call Shift! the “tales of the sentinels”) we continue with those special persons, who are able to shift between the layers of our world – the sentinels.

The first one is the cute Pudel (18) who has a “Girls just wanna have fun” look and attitude from the 80’s. Her name comes from the German word for “poodle”. You might think that she has the name because of her curly hair, but that is just secondary. She is named like a dog because of her unstoppable thirst for knowledge and her track hound behaviour.

The opportunistic and sometimes cowardly Wiesel (23) is in his opinion too cool for school. He is a real hustler, earning his money by doing small crimes with his abilities – and not only the police has a problem with that fact.

The colossus next to him is Tavarish (20). You could call him a big friendly giant type of guy. He might be the strongest guy, but he is not the brightest light – always pointing out the obvious.

Prediger (50) is a member of the high council of the Sentinels and a real powerful authority figure. He has seen things and knows stuff about Adam that even the teenager doesn`t knows. But the mysterious man has a hidden agenda, and Adam doesn’t fit in his plans. At least for now …

And there is the mysterious Schakal (43), but you already know about him, don’t you?

Hope you’ve enjoyed our characters.

Storyboard – let’s picture it

Marcel Durer

When we read stories, we get instantly images in our mind – but in every head, the images look different. Comics are a bit different since they are (at least in my opinion) the perfect hybrid between written stories and animated film. Comics are a visual medium and visualization auf the story is probably the most important step.

Felix and I take the exposé of the first episode and we make a storyboard out of it, as you would do for a film likewise. This means, we do not work with the typical panel-in-panel look you normally have in comics.

While making the storyboard we ask us different questions for each panel/frame: What can the user explore? Do we have a foreground? Did we consider the golden ratio? Where is the light coming from? Is there a way to keep the amount of panels smaller so we can concentrate more on each panel until the deadline? Is there animation to consider?

In the end, we will have scribbles of each panel of the first episode. In my opinion that is the most important milestone: Not only are we able to make a to-do-list with every single task that is left to do but we can also use these scribbles to test stuff. We can scan the scribbles and load them into unity. With our prototype of the comic we will see if our ideas make sense on its final device and if the flow of the story is right. I’m excited.

Felix and I take the exposé of the first episode and we make a storyboard out of it, as you would do for a film likewise.

Felix and I take the exposé of the first episode and we make a storyboard out of it, as you would do for a film likewise.

Animals – or our very own discovery what SHIFTING means

Jana Beyer

No, our team excursion wasn’t meant to get to the zoo. Though suggestions from the team like this or i.e. paintball appeared, I took my job as a production assistant for Shift! to organise an active, funny, not too expansive and team building excursion very serious.

So we decided to go to the Climbmax in Stuttgart. You’re right, this sounds like some sort of ape/animal as well. We stumbled into this huge climbing hall and finally reached the part we wanted to go to – the bouldering area, which means climbing without harness, just with big mattresses on the floor and walls not higher than 2-3m.


Oh my gosh – so many professional climbers around and we brought this group of crazy people and nerds here who spend most of their time in front of their computers! But you wouldn’t have thought that as soon as the first one of us was courageous enough to climb the first easy blue route, you could see our whole team up the top!


Of course right away we started to compare ourselves to animals – Nora looked like a harvestman, Marsl did find his monkey arms very useful for climbing. What we didn’t expect was that everyone had so much fun bouldering – so that our big picnic waited for us a long time. And all complaining about our destination from before was gone.

Another surprise: those professionals around us really started kind of  philosophical discussion below you when you got stuck somewhere in the height about where you should put your right foot next and how much you should angle your left knee. Because though 2-3 meters doesn’t sound much – when you’re at the top and have to jump, it IS high!


…and very very subtle we discovered by ourselves how it is when you are able to shift between two levels of your world… ;)

Welcome to the mainstream, dear tablet!

Sabrina Proske

Dear tablet,

I warmly welcome you to the mainstream. Nice to meet you. I love using you. Your market share seems to be shaping up well. That´s why we want to produce amazing content for you. But before publishing in March 2014 I really have to research which system software is the best for SHIFT.

„Market research is a part of marketing and is also referred to as market analysis. It means to gather information about the target markets or customers. It is a very important component of the business strategy. It´s a key element to maintain superiority over competitors and it provides THE information to identify and analyze the market.“ That´s what wikipedia says. And so does Inga von Staden, our dean of studies. Doesn´t seems so be that difficult. Hmm.. but maybe it is? „The market research is the business of the Producer.“ – FUCK, THATS ME! I think, while browsing pages for pages for days! I reread statistics and tried to interpret them (in a right way). They do not speak for themselves! It strikes that there are statistics for any monkey business, but of course: except for the one I am looking for. It´s my mission to find out about the market share and the unit shipment of used tablet software in Germany. That sounds great, especially when I am overflown with statistics which I don´t give a damn about. Unfortunately, sometimes they don´t make any sense. It depends on the publisher and his interests in it. And it´s incredibly interesting that there are so many global surveys but to find analysis about the behavior of German tablet-user (and not for smartphones!) is almost impossible. That is really great as we decided to launch SHIFT for the start only in Germany…


The tablet market is increasing.

Up to now I figured out that in 2010 Apple started with an amazing market share of nearly 80% worldwide. Android partially with only 8%. But everything changed in the last years. The market share of both met in the middle at about 50%. This is traced back to the fact that Apple lacks new customers. They prefer more and more Microsoft, Asus, Lenovo and of course Samsung. One reason might be the high price for the Ipad. A second reason are personal preferences, pro and anti-Apple attitudes also influence the decision. You can find a lot about emotional hostility on this topic.

All over the tablet-market is booming better than ever. Until the end of this year 200 million tablets will be sold. And it´s getting more unreal: the annual growth until 2017 will be 11% up to 350 millions tablets. 27% of German internet-users state to own a tablet-PC, half of them an iPad.


Who is the typical Ipad user?

Who is the typical Ipad user? According to the amusing thesis of Eric Schmidt  he is a cultured man, anxious to this physically appearance and wealthy. Sounds a bit exaggerated but Apple likes to present them self in a special light. That´s why start-ups always prefer to produce for Apple.

Well, for now there are the best preconditions to produce for you, my dear little tablet. But, for which software? Automatically our team decided to produce for the Ipad. Though we still have to decide for which Ipad version.

And thanks to our mentor Lars Henriksen, (he pointed out that there is more than Apple outside the Institute of Animation, especially in Germany) I am sitting in the office, tortured by statistics, and desperate to find the right numbers. The internet is full of articles about the doom of the Ipad and the resurrection (of the dead) Android-Tablets.

Well, we will see, dear tablet.

A Rorschach principle


As a Motion Designer your field of work tends to be quite broad. I always took an huge interest in interaction design. I`m fascinated by the new layer it adds to the challenge of creating a unique design. Design of course is always user-oriented. Still I have to create something that can easily be decoded by anyone and be unique at the same time. In the Shift-project I saw the opportunity to try to live up to that challenge. Furthermore it was clear from the beginning that the whole team (especially Marcel) took an huge interest in creating a whole Shift CD (Corporate Identity) package.

But first things first. To create a consistent look we wanted to make sure to start at the core of a coporate Identity, the logo. There is a myth out there that logos are done quickly. All I can say is, don’t believe in fairy tales!
Looking at a logo – it might look like a tiny thing that can be finished in a few days.. drawing an simple apple that someone took a bite from, easy! First, creating a minimalist design often proofs to be much harder that bombastic ones. But let´s pause a second for what a single logo should be able to do, it should  represent the idea in an abstract way. It should represent the philosophy and feeling of the project. Not so easy to press all these fancy words in just one logo. But when it is done you kind of feel like having given birth to something new, something amazing.

Designing the Shift logo

When I started to think about the logo for Shift, I had just finished reading Paul Ekmans Unmasking the Face: A Guide to Recognizing Emotions from Facial Expressions. In his book Ekman often states that with each facial expression – no matter how focused we are – there is one layer that we are aware of showing to our environment and one that is hidden beneath but can be detected by some people with kind of “special powers”. Most of the time it is only visible for a millisecond, but it´s still there.

logo_01 logo_02 logo_08 logo_10
some early sketches for the logo

The story of Shift for me had a similar core idea. The astral world is a world where emotions come to life, making them visible for those who possess special powers. For the logo I wanted to visualize this idea. I definitely wanted to include psychology into my concept. This made me think about the Rorschach test often referred as inkblot-test. In that test the personality of a patient is released simply by showing him ten inkblot, and letting him tell you what he sees. He projects his emotions onto the inkblots, making them “visible” for his environment.


And this turned out to be the core concept behind the logo. Next to the psychological part, I also wanted to make sure to display the two layers of the Shift-world. The human side on the one hand and the astral-layer on the other, reaching out for each other, overlapping and together creating the universe of Shift.

02 11 15
Rohrschach logo sketches, getting closer .. but the outlines are just not right.

But as it is a logo for a comic after all Marcel wanted to make sure that it had a kind of icon/symbol style and that it could be reproduced by fans. We also wanted to make sure that it had a recognizable shape. So we decided to lose some of the details and shift it to a more minimalistic style.

Logo_131030_008 Logo_131030_010 Logo_131030_018

And after a lot of time of fine-tuning (I felt like I tried every combination of colours possible) we finally created a logo that somehow combined the whole philosophy of Shift.


Looking at it again and again I tend to find new associations  for Shift that I originally never intended to create. Throughout its abstract shape it somehow develops/evolves itself by reflecting the emotions and ideas of the audience.

idIris Schwarz – Motion Designer

The truth is in ink

Marcel Durer

I’d like to believe that I’m something like an open and outgoing person. When something is important to me I have no problem to admit it.

I’ve got a few tattoos on (or under) my skin – and every single one means a lot to me. For me it was a logical step to immortalize Shift! on my skin. Tattoos are an expression, it’s an artform. I can’t understand how I couldn’t do it: Shift! is my diploma and therefore some kind of goodbye of my studies here at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. The core meaning behind Shift! that staying positive has a positive effect on ones life became a concept I adapted to myself. I have so much fun working on Shift! that I’d like everyone to share that fun. And I’d like to think that the fun and  drive which I’ve got for this project is inspiring  the rest of the team. Like the band H2O sings in their song “Heart on my sleeve”:

“The places that I’ve been, forever written on my skin.”

I always go to the same tattoo artist. As I’ve never made a bad experience with him, I’m happy with all of his work and everytime, the atmosphere is relaxed. Most of my friends have tattoos made by him. I won’t mention his name in this blog post but you can ask me for the contact.

So that’s it. I’ve been prepared, stayed sober the evenning before, and was in a good condition – although I got to say that the spine is a strange place (feelingwise). But I’m happy with it as I am with Shift!.


“The places that I’ve been, forever written on my skin.”

shift tattoo

I’d like to believe that I’m something like an open and outgoing person. When something is important to me I have no problem to admit it.

Inside Shift – and why it’s so different


As someone who has a huge interest in motion controls I was very happy to be chosen as the Lead Programmer of Shift! – Tales of the Sentinels. But why?

As a passionate comic and manga reader myself I’ve already tried lots of different so-called “interactive comics”. I was somewhat disappointed regarding the interaction between the user and the comic itself. Despite having badass graphics, most of the comics seemed a bit “off the way” to me.


Motion controls and tablets deliver all kinds of different input methods.

Why stick with a basic comic behavior?
Why use touches only to swap between pages?
Why use motion controls to somehow achieve an 3d-ish effect?

Being able to reimage these mechanics in Shift! is something i really enjoy.
The idea of experiencing the story not just through artworks, but also through
controls and input methods solely designed to discover new and awesome stuff
hooked me immediately.

But what about implementing it? In order to ensure a productive workflow for artists, creative directer & engineers we chose Unity.

Here’s some background information on how we achieve these goals:

Comic frames resemble a stage scenery. While each individual plane is still a two-dimensional sprite, the scene itself remains in 3D.

Unity Screenshot

By rotating the camera in a circular / elliptic way around the center object e.g. Adam,  the user is able to grasp a glimpse behind objects.

Whether it’s an old thrown away newspaper  or a dictaphone,
lost by an unknown person, the user is able to discover new aspects of Shift.
And this is the point where Shift exceeds other interactive novels and follows its own

Sketch Camera System

While the camera movement itself is done through the motion sensorics of the iPad,
the screen can be used to interact with the current comic frame.
I am really glad to be involved in the thought process behind this project and I enjoy developing new interactive aspects of Shift throughout the entire production phase.

Stay tuned for new updates and (better) screenshots!

Florian Schuttkowski
Lead Developer

Serial: Are there any deadlines or meetings today?

Sabrina Proske

It´s 9 o´clock. Everything is peaceful and quite in the office. Besides the messages of Trello, which are popping up every few minutes on my iPhone, I enjoy the silence before the storm. Iris probably woke up at 5 am and is making me feel like a slacker by editing her tasks in Trello. The window is open, heating is on (that´s the only possibility to get the perfect temperature!). I am arranging my notes and checking e-mails before my team is entering the AK-Office one by one around 10.

Marsl, always with a big smile on his face, suddenly flings the door wide open and throws his bag in the corner. `GOOD MORNING!` he calls out happily and disappears as quickly as he had appeared. He gets to the AK-kitchen to get a coffee. The coffee we have is the most horrible coffee you can imagine! But Marsl doesn´t care about it. He always says it´s the best coffee he has ever drunken. He sits down at his spinning-chair with an energetic swing. After a short `Are there any deadlines or meetings today?´ he nods pleasantly and buries himself behind his desks answering e-mails. At least it looks like he is writing e-mails. I am now annoying him for over 3 weeks with the question `You still need more time for your studies on the target group??` – ´Done to 99%. I am only waiting for feedback` After that he kindly points out that he continues answering e-mails. Well, I think … I am going to ask him again in 10 minutes. But 10 minutes later I already forgot to ask. Then we´re filled up with work anyway. Marsl calls the next two hours a “callcenter” because as a Producer I am spending a huge time on the phone, especially before lunch. That´s why he puts his headphones on. While listening to 80ies and 90ies music he makes detailed changes to his storybible, the script or other documents. I still hope that these documents are getting shorter until his diploma. But he is adding more and more with a lot of enthusiasm…