1) Whirlguy is looking for Voice Actors, Musicians and Sound Designers to be part of an audio drama to celebrate the Audio Portal's 15th Anniversary!
2) Today is the deadline for our Pit People Art Contest.
3) Eleven days remain to make something for our Construct 3 Game Jam! The theme is "You are not the main character." If you feel like you've waited too long, think of it like a game jam with 11 days instead of 48 hours. You can do this!
4) Pico Day is May 5th and you can celebrate by making any sort of content about your favorite things on NG. There are cash prizes!
5) If you're a history buff, I've been updating the NG History page. I still have a lot to do but the past 8 years are more fleshed out.
6) We're gonna do a big series of Animation Jams this summer, prepare yourself!
7) SirLenward is hosting a Super Mario RPG Rawest Forest Reanimate Collab! Animators, check this out!
8) Become a supporter! Everything here depends on it.
As you can see by the site skin, we've got an NG in Space theme going this month, where we've been premiering new episodes of your favorite space-themed shows on NG. It hasn't gone exactly as planned; the timing hasn't worked out for a new Shooting Stars and the next Starbarians has been delayed a few weeks due to @HappyHarry putting TOO MUCH love into everything he does, which always ends up being a good thing for the rest of us.
Anyone who was following closely was expecting the new Captain Tardigrade to release on Saturday and it was ready to go at 11am. However this episode has some insane full-screen fire animation and when it ran through our encoder, the visuals got REALLY BAD. Artifacts everywhere, it was completely unacceptable. I ended up manually encoding the episode for our three resolutions and having @liljim replace the ones created by our encoder. The end result looks great and appears to be streaming fine for everyone.
The experience made us realize it was time to update our encoding server. @BrenTheMan commissioned a new, faster server and has gotten it set up with all the latest software. We used Captain Tardigrade as our benchmark and tinkered until we got the right balance between visuals and performance. My one fear is that our larger video files will buffer more for low-end users but if you haven't had a problem watching the new Captain Tardigrade, you should be fine.
Here's an example of how our new server handles the most disastrous scene in this episode. I actually paid the $12 for one month of Vimeo Plus (necessary to upload more than 500 megs) just to compare outputs. Here's a 1080p comparison as well. Vimeo generally looks great but these fire scenes are a menace to compression.
The new encoding server hasn't gone live just yet but we're excited for the results when it does! NG might technically have the best quality of all the big sites and we're preparing to handle 4K as well. After new user pages launch with the new site header, I hope to break our video player out of the boxy layout and have it default to 720p dimensions (1280x720). Here's an example using a new 720p encoding of Cream, you'll have to download that pic to view full size since Dump is boxed in at the moment.
UPDATE: The new encoder IS LIVE! This doesn't apply to existing videos but anything submitted after 4PM EST today will have run through it. Quality will vary based on the source file but we did run Cream through it if you want to take a gander at that. Here are some Movie Standards you can look at if you're curious about providing good source files.
As far as what else to expect, our next update tackles user pages, site header and usability improvements in the feed. The header you see in that Cream screenshot is actually a functional header on our staging environment. We're just about there! Here's another screenshot from our staging environment: