- Introduction -

Over the sixty six weeks, I worked on a scanlation for the sixty six chapter manga Dragon Half, releasing one chapter every week. There were several reasons I did this. First of all, I liked the series. I was first introduced to it by the Dragon Half OVA in 1995 or so, so it had that nostalgia appeal to me. Secondly, I already owned the manga, so it was convenient to do. Thirdly, I had found multiple translations online which made it a series I could do all on my own if need be. Fourthly, I was very unfulfilled at the job I was at at the time, but I couldn't responsibly leave for another 3 months as we were ending the phase of a project, so I needed a good side distraction. Finally, I had enjoyed the fruits of the manga scanlation community for a very long time. I wanted to put something back, but the groups I had tried to join before never worked out for me. Due to all of that, this was the perfect project, which I controlled entirely.

The project was a lot of fun and I learned a lot from it. I wish I had kept track of the sources I used to learn how to do all this, but I didn't. Many of the skills were picked up along the way years ago, a lot was trial and error, while others were a result of my being a dedicated programmer. I know I didn't do an excellent job in this scanlation, it's definitely not high quality work. But nonetheless, I'd like to spend some time and go over everything I did for this project.

- The Process -

Scanning

First I would scan the book in, two pages at a time. The source book is no longer in its best condition, but none of the books I've scanned have fallen apart. I've heard of other people unbinding the book first, but that didn't seem much more effective to me unless I was scanning a two page spread. Even that wasn't too effective, since they would never fit together perfectly without a lot of Photoshop work anyway. So I scanned the book still bound, two pages at a time. Scanning in two pages at once makes things go much faster. I would always watch TV while scanning, so it was probably the least tedious thing to do in the project. Since I was watching TV, I really didn't keep track of the time it took to do. Black and white images were scanned at 300DPI Grayscale. Color images were scanned at 600DPI Color. I put each chapter in its own folder. I used a Canon Scanner, Canon Lite 30 specifically.

First Pass Cleaning

Then I'd go through and clean the pages For the editing, I used Photoshop 7.0. These were the steps of my first pass scanning:
    1. Rotate the orientation. I scanned the pages sideways, so I made a photoshop action that rotates the pages counterclockwise (mapped to F2).
    2. Adjust the levels to make the blacks black and the whites white.
    2. Split the scan into two pages. One of my photoshop actions (mapped to F3) does a crop to a selected area and deselect.
    3. Rotate each page to make them straight (ctrl-t).
    4. Change the height to 1100. I either crop the image to 750 pixel width, or increase the canvas size to 750 width.
    5. Save the resulting two images as psd files.

Second Pass Cleaning

I moved the original scans to a "raws" folder so only the clean psd remain in top folder.

Then I'd erase the dialogue. I just use a white pencil and draw over all the old dialogue. I usually fully take care of any sound effects or side comments I want to do at this stage to avoid font changes later.

Script Proofing

Then I'd proof the script, making sure the translation is as accurate and as natural sounding as I could manage. This step was the biggest pain for me, since I don't really read Japanese. For Dragon Half, I had multiple translations to consolidate using my piddly Japanese knowledge and some nice online kanji dictionaries. It took about a half hour to do a single chapter... it was a pain and I didn't even do a great job... If you're interested, I've made the revised scripts for chapters 15-66 available. Unfortunetely, I didn't save the revised first 15 chapters.

Editing

Then I'd do the editing. Sometimes the script is slightly changed depending on the dialogue bubble sizes. I usually used the font Wild Words at size 2.8 or 3. Anything in spiky bubbles used the BoldItalic style. I watched TV or listened to music during this phase, so it wasn't not too bad. It took between 40 minutes and two hours to do a 17 page chapter.

Quality Control

Then I'd go through the pages doing quality control. This is basically reading through checking the spelling, grammar, dialogue placement, and for any weird marks on the pages. I'd also make my scanlation notes at this point. I know I missed some errors and I'm thinking about going through it all again one day.

I saved each page in an optimized format to another folder (using photoshop's ctrl-alt-s command.) Colored pages were saved as jpgs with the following settings.

JPEG High Settings.
Black and white pages were saved as pngs with the following format.

PNG-8 Settings.

Finishing

I'd run pngout (http://www.advsys.net/ken/utils.htm) on every png in the folder the png versions were placed in. This makes a huge difference, often shaving a full megabyte off 17 png images. I actually wrote a quick script to help with this in ruby (code formatted to html following instructions from http://brentrubyrails.blogspot.com/2007/12/formatting-ruby-and-html-code-for-blog.html).

Ruby Script:
#
# A simple script to add a prefix and optimize all the png images
# in a Dragon Half folder.  This was written as throwaway code and
# had all the care and attention 10 minutes can bring.
#

require 'win32ole'

# Get the Volume Number and Chapter Number as user input
print 'Volume: ';
volume = gets().chomp!;
print 'Chapter: ';
chapter = gets().chomp!;

# Add the prefix to all file names in the folder whose name matches
# the prefix
prefix = "Dragon_Half_v"+volume+"_c"+chapter;
Dir.foreach( prefix ) { |x|
	if( x != "." && x != ".." )
		File.rename(prefix+"/"+x, prefix+"/"+prefix+"_"+x);
	end
}

# Run pngout on all the files
au3 = WIN32OLE.new("AutoItX3.Control")
au3.opt("WinTextMatchMode", 2)
pngoutCmd = "cmd.exe /c \"dhPngout.bat \""+prefix+"\"\""
au3.Run( pngoutCmd );

dhPngOut.bat:
for %%i in (%1/*.png) do pngout.exe "%1/%%i" /c0 /f0 /y /force 

Then I'd compress the folder to a zip. I use 7-zip with it's ultra setting.

Then I'd upload the zip file via ftp to my webspace with Filezilla... and... I'd be all done! By the end it took maybe four or five hours to completely do a chapter, from scanning the book to the uploading the file to the web. It's a huge chunk of time, but much better than I was managing when I did scanlations before. Hehe, I guess that I spent more than 300 hours on this project... that sounds incredible when I think about it now.

For further commentary on the process, this is the readme I included with every chapter I had an editor do:

Hello, Editor, this is Ahojed. This is how I'm doing the Dragon Half scanlations as of now. You can follow these instructions or not, the end product is what matters the most. I use Adobe Photoshop 7.0 and I'd really really like to get psd files back, because I do lots of optimizations in converting to png and in case I decide to retro old translations or actually edit in sound effects. The final size of a chapter in psd format shouldn't be a problem for us and there are lots of free sites you can upload them too (zip them first please.) Anyways, here's what I think you need to do.

1) Break the pages apart (each raw jpg is 2 pages) and name the files [pgXXX] where XXX is the page number. Make sure to do a free transform so that the page is straight and not crooked. The dimensions of the image MUST be 750 pixel width by 1100 pixel height. Try your very best not to lose any drawing, although you can add white space around the image if you need to. If you need to know the starting page number, ask me.
2) Erase all the text. You can leave SFXs in. Either I'll do them later, or if you can read the katakana, you can add them in below the panel prefixed by "SFX:"
3) Add in the text from the translation files. I use the font "Wild Words". Usually the size is 2.8, though it varies to fit the bubbles. Spiky Bubbled text is always italic-bold, otherwise regular. Make it look good.

Notes on the translation file:
Surrounded by "": Probably means this text is not in a bubble
Prefixed by *: Probably means it should go as a note below the panel
You can ignore the scanlation notes at the end.

Generally, use your best judgement and if you have questions, ask me. Follow the examples already available on the page. Also, since you'll be giving me the psds, I can fix anything that's wrong. Most files don't tell you who's talking, but it should be pretty intuitive, each line represents one bubble, read right to left, top to bottom.

Good luck, if you have any questions, ask me.


- The Website -

I made the website for Dragon Half too. My friend Anthony let me use his webspace and host. Here's the code for the dragon half pages (with the database information blotted out, of course): http://dragonhalf.aswembar.net/DragonHalfWebsite.zip Appreciate it if you're able, openly mock it alone if you're a better php coder than I was when I coded it. Keep in mind, I cobbled it together in a day or so, so I'm not really that proud of it. Also, the current version (now that no dynamic updating is needed) is completely static.

The part of the website I liked was the file serving mechanism. I did it all in a few hours even though I'd never thought about the problem before. If you didn't know, I uploaded chapters FAR ahead of time. The page's code would regulate downloading the chapters, "releasing" a new chapter by itself every week. It was an incredibly low maintenance site, I only manually edited it four or five times after releasing the site.

The chapter files were placed in a special directory with permissions set to 700, meaning only the owner could read, write, or execute the files within. The page would make links active based on how many weeks had passed since the first week. When a user clicked on a link, javascript would be run to open an output stream and serve the chapter from the protected folder. This of course lead to problems for people who limited the execution for javascript, but... that's what the mirrors were for (thanks firebookduo!.)

And that's all there really is to say about the website.

- Help -

Getting people to help out with a manga like Dragon Half is tough work. It's even tougher when the scanlation group is unknown.

I initially looked for help by posting on various forums, but that netted me no one. Eventually, I posted a notice on the Dragon Half project website itself, which got me some replies. Also, a very kind person ended up mirroring the entire page for me.

The most consistent help I had the whole time was my wife, who did the first and second pass editing on basically all the chapters I worked on. I did get some help from random editors, but only UndeadHunter (to whom you should ALL be very greatful), really stuck through for more than a few chapters. I was really grateful for the few chapters they did do though. I might have been too relaxed, giving them three or four weeks to finish a chapter. Or maybe it was because they thought their help wasn't needed. Most likely, they just got bored doing it. But, whatever.

Also, the e-mail thank yous from various readers were a huge help in motivation, there is no way I'd have ever finished this project without the support of the readers.

- Getting Out the Word -

I posted my weekly releases to http://www.mangaupdates.com, which was all I needed. I tried posting on a few forums, but that wasn't really effective at all. That was probably because I'd post in the "Web Links and Advertising" sections, and no one really looks in there. Occasionally I'd get e-mails from people wanting to host chapters, and the site would get some click-throughs there.

Eventually I found that other people linked to the site. I'd even find my chapters hosted on irc and direct download manga distribution sites. It was all pretty cool, in my opinion, but just further went to show me how little I understand about how the internet moves.

- Closing Notes -

Doing a good job scanlating manga is crazy hard (okay... really just crazy time consuming) and I finally understand why it takes so long to release chapters: Well Founded Laziness. Scanlating is really done without any incentive, just the thanks of the readers and a feeling you did something someone might enjoy. Thankfully, I did have some help, so I was able to finish up ahead of schedule. With this, I dip out of the scanlation scene. I think I've contributed enough to the scene by now. Now I'm off for something new!!!

You can see the fruits of this labor by going back to http://dragonhalf.aswembar.net