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Open Source On the Big Screen

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the ebb-and-flow dept.

Movies 120

An anonymous reader writes "Following the success of Elephants Dream, the Blender Foundation is developing a follow-on open movie called Peach, set for completion later this year. Computerworld has up an interesting interview with Matt Ebb, lead artist from Elephants Dream (the interview is split over 5 pages). Ebb talks about the making of the world's first open movie and offers some advice to others wanting to start such a project."

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I can see it now (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22057520)

my name up in lights, with a big old

FROST POST

flashing in neon glory

This post is GPLed

gay niggers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22057530)

from outter space

(NOW THATS OPEN SOURCE QUALITY FILM!)

Reason: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.

Success (4, Insightful)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 6 years ago | (#22057594)

Just before anyone wades in...

...this probably refers to the successful completion of the open project as opposed to box-office success or other notional gauge of success. ;)

Re:Success (5, Funny)

realmolo (574068) | more than 6 years ago | (#22057760)

Yes, in the open-source world, success is measured differently.

For example, in the land of open-source projects, having a premium "Mrskin.com" account would be the equivalent of "successfully" copping a feel off of Angelina Jolie.

Re:Success (3, Funny)

jgarra23 (1109651) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059314)


Yes, in the open-source world, success is measured differently.

For example, in the land of open-source projects, having a premium "Mrskin.com" account would be the equivalent of "successfully" copping a feel off of Angelina Jolie.

Not only that, a fork would actually be copping a feel from Brad Pitt.

Re:Success (1)

spoco2 (322835) | more than 6 years ago | (#22057842)

And certainly not the successful creation of anything actually worth watching.

I couldn't make it through the whole thing when I last tried to watch it, quite, quite painful.

I applaud the concept of an Open Source creative work but the output was below par in many areas.

I hope future efforts put more thought into a script and voice talent.

Conceptual success (2, Informative)

Tranzistors (1180307) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058530)

The film's purpose is primarily to field test, develop and showcase the capabilities of open source software, demonstrating what can be done with such tools in the field of organizing and producing quality content for films.

It was technical demonstration, so don't feel too surprised it had a crapy plot. As far as video quality goes, I found this video quite nice.

More about it here [wikipedia.org]

Re:Conceptual success (3, Insightful)

spoco2 (322835) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058640)

But two things were lacking on that front
producing quality content for films.: It really wasn't quality at all, I didn't find anything impressive at all in regards to the animation or texture/overall look. So even disregarding the plot I found it substandard.

and secondly, if it had been a story that was actually INTERESTING then maybe they would have helped their cause so, so much more. ("Man, did you see that crazy [funny/sad/emotional] cg film on the net... that was awesome" "I did, and did you know it was completely done with FREE software! Crazy... crazy") By ignoring a plot and any semblance of making it at all engaging they by and large wasted their efforts. A little bit of pre planning/script writing would have gone a LOOOOONG way.

Re:Conceptual success (1)

symbolic (11752) | more than 6 years ago | (#22063082)

I wholly disagree. If you were to put the kind of movie too many people say that ED "isn't" in front of an audience that can only appreciate that kind of (simplistic) movie, I'd be more than willing to bet that they won't even begin to understand or appreciate the technical differences. In other words, put a piece of candy-coated slop in front of the right audience, and it won't matter how "good" it is...they'll eat it up.

Re:Success (1)

Pennidren (1211474) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058302)

so true
If I hear "NEMO!" in a high pitched, whiny voice ever again I think I will have a seizure.

Re:Success (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058884)

Actually it was "EMO!" ... And boy was it.

Re:Success (1)

Pennidren (1211474) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059626)

oops, it has been so long since I've seen it; obviously that memory is fading nicely -- whew, what a relief!

Youtube (4, Informative)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 6 years ago | (#22057630)

For those of you who haven't seen Elephants dream and don't want to tolerate the 450MB download, here's the Youtube link [youtube.com] .

Re:Youtube (0, Flamebait)

podperson (592944) | more than 6 years ago | (#22057834)

Thanks so much for the youtube link. I had wanted to see the Elephants Dream since it was released but was unwilling to pay for the DVD or download it. What a horribly boring short film...

Oh well, supposedly Blender is completely redoing its godawful UI for 2.5 (I say as I put on my asbestos underwear) ... and can then get to work adding functionality to the renderer to make it competitive with, say, 3D Studio Max R3.

Re:Youtube (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058244)

I recently learned enough Blender to be able to model some simple things.. and after learning all that crazy shit I even got to the point where I wasn't having to think what did what all the time. All the claims that Blender wizards make about the UI being ultra fast once you get to know it are just false. Even after you have mastered it the Blender UI is cumbersome and annoying. I think what they mean is that it is faster than using 3d Studio Max, which may indeed be the case, but for someone who finds 3ds max pathetic in the UI department also, that's not hard.

Re:Youtube (2, Informative)

chubs730 (1095151) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058404)

I've been using blender for 2 years and I do indeed find the UI super fast. I think the real problem is that the learning curve is far underestimated; it's taken me quite a while to get to the point of having the majority of important keystrokes be second nature.

I wouldn't consider myself a "wizard", though at this point my main constraints on furthering my skills are a lack of proper art training and time. If you find the UI cumbersome now, keep at it, and the hotkeys will really aid you. The main problem is that the UI in blender has a really steep learning curve at the moment, but I find it faster than 3ds max or maya. It doesn't seem intuitive now, but using one hand for commands and one for actual modeling really speeds things up.

Re:Youtube (1, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058476)

Seriously, any UI will be "super fast" after 2 years of learning.

Re:Youtube (2, Insightful)

ultranova (717540) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059152)

Seriously, any UI will be "super fast" after 2 years of learning.

No, it won't. For a given task in a given UI, there is a way to do so with the minimum number of keypresses / mouselicks / whatever. This minimum number varies from UI to UI; the UI with the smallest minimum will also be fastest, because no matter how well you learn a given UI, your speed is still limited by the physical limits of your body. You simply can't press the buttons infinitely fast no matter how much you practice, so the less of them you have to press to accomplish a task, the faster you can perform it.

That said, I have no idea if Blender's UI is fast, slow or average; I couldn't make sense of it when I last tried it, and have resigned to doing my modelling with Povray scripts. I guess that tells something about the user friendliness of Blender :(...

Re:Youtube (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059310)

heh, the productivity of a 3d artist has nothing to do with how many hot keys they can memorize. It all has to do with workflow decisions.

Re:Youtube (4, Insightful)

Corwn of Amber (802933) | more than 6 years ago | (#22060310)

I'd like to point out that workflow decisions can only be made when you know the whole of your tool. I've seen people lose years of time, because they couldn't be bothered to learn how to do things in the ways the toolmakers already thought about.

Re:Youtube (1)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059524)

That said, I have no idea if Blender's UI is fast, slow or average; I couldn't make sense of it when I last tried it, and have resigned to doing my modelling with Povray scripts. I guess that tells something about the user friendliness of Blender :(...
You might want to read 'The Essential Blender', reviews suggest that learning from it is fairly straight forward (although there are definite gripes about the screenshots...)

http://www.blender3d.org/e-shop/product_info.php?products_id=96 [blender3d.org]

Of course I might be biased since I contributed the sculpt chapters :)

Another book I've heard good things about is Tony Mullens 'Introducing Character Animation With Blender'

http://www.blender3d.org/e-shop/product_info.php?products_id=95 [blender3d.org]

LetterRip

Re:Youtube (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058970)

Blender's UI is really bad. And I have a right to say it. I used Blender for about 3 years back in high School. Did some neat things with it. Went on to University where I became used to Maya, 3DS and Lightwave. After 3 months with any of them I was easily double my productivity with Blender. S, there you go. As someone who really likes the idea of Blender, has experience with Blender and has made the real world comparisons, Blender's UI sucks. Seriously, find a good manual and spend a few months learning something else. At the very least it will give you some useful perspective.

Not to mention that with higher end work, you really do need a package that is going to play nice with all the other programs that you will be importing/exporting to.

Re:Youtube (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059166)

Maya, 3d Studio Max and Lightwave all have shockingly poor UIs too - although at least they use the left mouse button for selecting things. 3d artists are terribly forgiving of horrid UI design.

Seriously, find a good manual and spend a few months learning something else.
If you understand the concept of 3d modeling already, a good UI should take no time to learn.. none. If you don't understand the concepts, sure, there may be some period of learning required, but the UI of your modeling app should aid that learning process.

3d modeling tools are seen as technical products for a technical audience.. as such the UI is given no serious consideration.

Re:Youtube (1)

flewp (458359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059244)

Maya's UI isn't too bad - after some heavy customization. Any one who uses such a program for a living really needs to invest some time to customize their UI if they want to get the most out of their chosen app in terms of productivity.

Re:Youtube (4, Interesting)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 6 years ago | (#22060336)

If you understand the concept of 3d modeling already, a good UI should take no time to learn.. none. If you don't understand the concepts, sure, there may be some period of learning required, but the UI of your modeling app should aid that learning process.

3d modeling tools are seen as technical products for a technical audience.. as such the UI is given no serious consideration.
Your first statement is partly true, but not entirely. First, each app has a different philosophy behind its work flow. In that sense, no, understanding 3d modelling doesn't guarantee a '0 time to learn' by any stretch of the imagination. For example: Lightwave has a modeler app. You build your model in that app, then load it in Layout and animate it. The benefit is that the tools are designed around direct vertex manipulation. It's very easy to get a nice clean model with no extra invisible points etc. The added bonus is since LW's scene has to load the object in, then modify it, you can easily modify an object later and it won't rock the boat of what's going on in layout. (In other words, you can easily update a character's model after it has been animated. Though not impossible in other apps, it's typically less elegant.) Maya, however, has a different approach. Its idea of modeling involves piling on a series of modifiers/nodes onto some geometry. If you want to slice along the polys of a cube, for example, a 'split node' is attached to the object that modifies the geometry for that result. You can then go back and modify it.

On the surface, you end up with a similar toolset. Both Maya and Lightwave have the split/slice polygon tools. However, the philosophies behind them really make that common toolset problematic. For example, Lightwave doesn't have a modifier based operation. It's like Photoshop in that respect. You mess with the vertices, blammo, you're done. This gives you tools like "Dragnet". That tool allows you to grab an area of verticies and pull, just like working with clay. Maya, however, can't do any operations on geometry without creating a modifier. So if you want to do a tool like I described, you have to create a 'dragnet' node, place its start point, then move it to the destination. That's a good deal slower than how Lightwave handles it.

This is an over-simplification of what's involved, but it more or less illustrates the problem with your statement. I'd liken it to watercolors vs. oil paints. They both require paint and a paint brush, but the techniques involved are nearly inverses of each other. With Lightwave, you model by cutting a lot of pieces away. With Maya, you model bending pieces into shape since its work flow lends itself to doing lots of deformations. To put it another over-simplified way: Lightwave would be better suited to modeling something vehicular with rigid pieces. Maya, however, would totally kick Lightwave's ass when modelling something with a lot of hoses and other bendable things, like the Sentinels from the Matrix. The difference is in the workflow philosophies of these apps, not their toolsets. It's a lot harder to cross-train modelers between apps than you'd expect.

3d modeling tools are seen as technical products for a technical audience.. as such the UI is given no serious consideration.
I'm not sure how to read this statement. Either you're saying that the UI isn't developed for the mass audience (which is true, and I have no argument at all with) or you're saying that UI's are just tacked on and the artsts just deal with it, which does happen, but isn't generally true. UIs for 3D apps are developed around the philosophy of the app. If that philosophy isn't understood, then the UI makes no sense. Give a Photoshop guru a copy of Illustrator and tell him to do work in it, and he'll tell you the UI's bad. Different philosophy. A lot of work actually does go into the UI of 3D apps. The problem is you cannot take something as vast as '3D' and slim it down to a UI philosophy like you can with something like Photoshop. Yes, 3D apps aren't unituitive or psychic, but no, it isn't for lack of trying.

Re:Youtube (1)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059676)

Will you buy me Maya then please?

How Blender compares (2, Informative)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059694)

I used Blender for about 3 years back in high School.
How long ago did you use it - it sounds like 2 years ago or so? Back before Elephants Dream, it had a fair number of rough edges, especially in the animation and rendering department. And a few releases prior to that (ie when it sounds like you were using it) it didn't have undo for most things, so if the last release you used was quite a while back, then it isn't a reasonable basis to judge the productivity of Blender.

It is quite comparable in feature set and productivity to most high end 3D apps now (a few rough edges still - ie lack of a fast materials preview using OpenGl acceleration). Its modifier stack, SDS, sculpting, compositing tools, have recieved accolades from users of other software users. With the current SVN builds we have cutting edge animating, skinning, and rigging tools, and a pretty high quality particle and hair implementation. Also the rendering system is getting some really cutting edge stuff as well - see Brechts post about approximate ambient occlusion - http://peach.blender.org/index.php/approximate-ambient-occlusion/ [blender.org] .

Anyone who has failed to be impressed with past versions of Blender, should really consider giving the next release a try, I expect that you'll be 'blown away'.

LetterRip

Re:Youtube (1)

flewp (458359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059212)

Sorta OT, but I'm a huge fan of modo's UI. Very customizable, and I was able to jump in and start working almost immediately. It only took me about a week to ditch Maya in terms of modeling and focus solely on modo for modeling for work projects. Further customization of the UI (hotkeys, pie menus, etc) has further increased my productivity. 301 has a few bugs, but it's not too bad.

Re:Youtube (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22058348)

I'm not sure if you're a troll or not, but seriously?

I'll admit that Elephants Dream is a bit strange, but its certainly not dull. In fact, unsurprisingly, it sort of exists as a tech demo of what Blender can do, which makes watching it on YouTube rather akin to brail pr0n.

Your other comments are both absurd, Blenders renderer is state of the art, and quite competitive with anything Max can produce as the gallery will contest, plus it has Yafray which kicks arse. As for the GUI, 3D graphics is complicated, and so are the GUI's. A professional learns multiple GUIs and accepts that each has its pluses and minuses. Lesser peons learn just one interface and bash the others when they turn out to be different.

Re:Youtube (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22060030)

I suspect you're not a troll, which is even sadder.

Your other comments are both absurd, Blenders renderer is state of the art, and quite competitive with anything Max can produce as the gallery will contest, plus it has Yafray which kicks arse.

It produces "state of the art" output, perhaps, but its UI is thankfully not the state of the art. Sketchup, perhaps, is more representative of how we've learned to build 3d editors.

As for the GUI, 3D graphics is complicated, and so are the GUI's.

What does that *mean*? Is the idea to make buttons, radiobuttons, checkboxes, menus, and unclickable labels *completely identical* somehow advantageous to making complicated 3d graphics? Does the complexity of 3d graphics somehow dictate that simple things should also be complex? Blender apologists always seem to make sweeping generalizations but never attempt to justify even the simplest design decisions.

A professional learns multiple GUIs and accepts that each has its pluses and minuses. Lesser peons learn just one interface and bash the others when they turn out to be different.

Ah, name-calling. Now *that's* professional!

Strangely, people who resort to claiming we just bash Blender because it's "different" ignore the fact that we aren't bashing Inkscape, or GIMP, or even Emacs. They also ignore the fact that every different program has (by definition) a different UI. And yet, whenever we talk about how Blender is bad, the apologists come out and claim we're only "bashing" it because it's "different" -- but from what?

Re:Youtube (1)

spoco2 (322835) | more than 6 years ago | (#22060318)

I don't think they were a troll at all, it really was a boring film. I couldn't make it all the way through, and that's saying something considering the crud I'm quite prepared to watch.

I downloaded it some time ago in a high res version and so I've seen it in all its high res 'glory', and have to say I was very unimpressed.

Sure, they made a 'competent' stab at a 'film', but it is neither interesting in a story sense or particularly impressive in a technical way.

The fact that it was done purely via free means is the ONLY notable thing about it. And that's a sad thing. Had they made a short that was stand alone fantastic then the open source nature of it would have been a great add on... as it stands, you'll find that the majority of people with not a care in open source (so unbiased) think that it's a boring little film.

Re:Youtube (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22058494)

What a horribly boring short film...


Cool, please post a link to your own, far far more interesting film(s), short or otherwise. Thanks.

Re:Youtube (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22059514)

Maybe he hasn't made a film because, like the Elephant's Dream team, he's not very good at making films. However, unlike the Elephant's Dream team, he had the good sense not to blow the first chance Open Source had to make headway in content creation.

They entered it into every "proper" film festival and got nowhere. The animation industry isn't taking the film seriously at all.

The only "success" they had was to identify faults and shortcomings in the software when used to make a short film. They were beta testers. The Blender community looked up to them, and were ultimately disappointed.

Re:Youtube (1)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 6 years ago | (#22060586)

Maybe he hasn't made a film because, like the Elephant's Dream team, he's not very good at making films. However, unlike the Elephant's Dream team, he had the good sense not to blow the first chance Open Source had to make headway in content creation.
The chance wasn't blown. ED was well recieved among art houses. It was done in collaboration with a Art Instititue thus, targeting a mainstream story wasn't a possibility.

They entered it into every "proper" film festival and got nowhere. The animation industry isn't taking the film seriously at all.
To my knowledge it wasn't submitted to any but a handful of festivals (Most festivals have rules that prevent the film being released prior to submittal). It was in a few festivals and won a few awards. It didn't have amazing success, but it wasn't expected to. The animation industry took the film seriously, and a lot more 3D artists are giving consideration to adding Blender to their pipeline. Blender is no longer seen as 'the 3D software you get if you can't afford "real" software', but instead as a reasonable replacement for other midrange and high end 3D software suites. Of course most large software houses already have well established pipelines, and they also like the comfort of having support contracts, so there is little incentive to them switching over to Blender. However small studios have a lot to gain, and Blender is slowly gaining a larger share of professional animators.

The only "success" they had was to identify faults and shortcomings in the software when used to make a short film. They were beta testers. The Blender community looked up to them, and were ultimately disappointed.
They discovered features that they wanted and needed to make the process of movie making more productive and got those implemented. They produced a quality short animation that demonstrated to professional animators that Blender has the capabilities of achieving high quality animation and renders. There were plety of indivudals who enjoyed the movie.

I'd say Elephants Dream was a significant accomplishment and a success.

LetterRip

Re:Youtube (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22058558)

I watched the movie, and I don't get it, at all. Then I watched the making-of video, and I think I understand why.

When you make a movie, you bring in a lot of different people with different skills and ideas for what it should be. Up until relatively recently, it simply wasn't possible for a handful of people to make a movie. Result? You get feedback as you go from a variety of viewpoints.

This movie was made by 7 white, young (20's or early 30's?), mostly European upper-middle-class males. No wonder the movie has 2 characters, a young white male and an old white male.

I guess in retrospect it's no surprise. If you wanted to find a set of people who could make a movie that inspires no emotion in the majority of the population, and is inaccessible to virtually all, you could hardly do better than by pulling them from the Blender forums.

That said, I guess some of the graphics are kind of impressive. It's a tech demo, no more. I feel the same about this as I do, say, using the GIMP to draw huge-breasted women with Linux logos on their asses: that's neat but can it be used for art?

Download size (2, Funny)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059946)

Why should the download be 450 megs? Surely you can just download the source code, make sure Blender is installed, and type 'make'?

Good things coming from the Blender crowd (5, Informative)

Facetious (710885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22057672)

I have particularly been watching their open game [blender.org] .

Re:Good things coming from the Blender crowd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22057948)

Except open source community has never build any game building tool as intuitive as Game Maker, otherwise we would have a real game changer for the open source community that can stack up against the million dollar development tools.

Re:Good things coming from the Blender crowd (2, Insightful)

chubs730 (1095151) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058090)

When was the last time a multimillion dollar commercial game was created with gamemaker?

Apricot (4, Interesting)

chubs730 (1095151) | more than 6 years ago | (#22057794)

As a blender/crystal space user I'm more interested in the development of Apricot [blender.org] , the open game based on the movie. It'll be great to see improvements in the area of 3d Linux game development, and certainly make it a more attractive platform for developers in the future.

Other projects (2, Insightful)

slapout (93640) | more than 6 years ago | (#22057804)

Has anyone taken the source files to the project and created anything else with them?

Re:Other projects (2, Informative)

Metsys (718186) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058030)

Here's an article that has a few examples. http://www.blendernation.com/2006/08/18/elephants-dream-remixes/ [blendernation.com]

The only other thing I can recall people using the source files for is re-rendering it for technology tests, like an 8 megapixel display.

Blender (-1, Troll)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#22057872)

I admire the impressive work. But please, Blender developers, DEAR GOD fix that HORRIBLE UI! Everytime I've tried working with Blender, I ended up banging my head on a desk in frustration. It makes GIMP's UI look like it was designed by Apple.

Re:Blender (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22058034)

Hmmm I got modded Flamebait for criticizing GIMP's UI.

Re:Blender (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058040)

It makes GIMP's UI look like it was designed by Apple.

now that hurts.

if you are developing a open source tool for artists - particularly in a market where the proprietary alternatives are deeply entrenched - why aren't you working with artists from day one to get the UI right?

Re:Blender (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058616)

Because artists have no freakin' idea what a good UI is. The fact that all the major tools for modeling have completely horrid UIs is not a coincidence. 3d modeling apps are the proverbial kitchen sinks.

Re:Blender (2, Insightful)

flewp (458359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059300)

modo and silo have well done UIs. As does Mudbox. I was able to jump into all 3 with no problem. And before you say they're not major tools, I suggest you look around. A lot of work may be done in Maya, 3DS, etc, but a lot of modelers are moving to specialized apps for modeling. The thing with 3D modeling is it's still partly a technical exercise and not solely an artistic endeavor.

Re:Blender (4, Interesting)

ultranova (717540) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059498)

Because artists have no freakin' idea what a good UI is. The fact that all the major tools for modeling have completely horrid UIs is not a coincidence. 3d modeling apps are the proverbial kitchen sinks.

That's partly because they try to combine modelling - with two or three different paradigms: polygons, NURBS and subdivision surfaces - texturing, rigging, animating, physics, particles, hair, etc. into a single program. Of course the end result is a horrible mess where it's impossible to find what you want. Which, I suppose, is a long-winded way to say that they're kitchen sinks ;).

Ultimately, the problem is that 2D modeling - drawing - has traditionally been the domain of artists, while 3D modeling has been the domain of engineers and architechts. Artists don't have to know or care about mathemathics, while engineers and architechts have to. Their tools reflect this: brushes vs. millimeter paper. This division has been carried to the computer realm. It is straightforward to paint with Gimp - point and click a place in the screen, and color is added there - but the very first thing any 3D program manual starts talking about is polygons, and then goes on to explain the mathemathical foundation of NURBS. The limits of 2D screens and pointing devices don't exactly help, either.

To top it all off, the popular OBJ format used to exchange 3D models completely fails to retain any of the all-important rigging or animation loop information. As a result, these models are fine if you want to do an image of Lot's wife but not otherwise. We desperately need a higher-level file format which captures rigging, animation cycles (such as walk cycle) and automatic things like blinking and breathing, as well as unconscious gestures, body language and such. In short, a file format to describe a digital actor. The current stuff is the equivalent of assembly, and about as efficient for large projects: good for the CPU, horrible to anyone who has to do anything with it.

And, of course, all this is completely ignoring all the stupid little things like polygons caving into the model like the empty shells they are, NURBS models breaking at seams, the utter masslessness of any model unless the animator specifically goes over each frame and figures out how inertia and gravity affect things, inverse kinetics chains flip-flopping in certain situations, etc.

I wonder when we'll get even the abstraction level equivalent of ANSI C for 3D; compared to the current stuff, it seems pure sci-fi.

Re:Blender (2, Interesting)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 6 years ago | (#22060624)

We desperately need a higher-level file format which captures rigging, animation cycles (such as walk cycle) and automatic things like blinking and breathing, as well as unconscious gestures, body language and such. In short, a file format to describe a digital actor. The current stuff is the equivalent of assembly, and about as efficient for large projects: good for the CPU, horrible to anyone who has to do anything with it.
See the Collada and FBX formats which support all of that, Collada is an open exchange format, FBX is a closed exchange format.

LetterRip

Re:Blender (1)

s20451 (410424) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058666)

why aren't you working with artists from day one to get the UI right?

Maybe because, since you're not interested in selling copies, you don't have an incentive to involve them in the development process?

For extra points, does the "selling service" model generally give an incentive to produce better or worse UIs than "selling licenses"? Discuss.

Re:Blender (1)

Requiem18th (742389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059278)

Uhm no, blender developers actually bragged that their UI was designed in close relationship with their users. In fact this movie wasn't really made to show off what blender was capable of doing but figuring out what was missing from the tool chain to make a feature length movie.

The opposite actually hapenned (2, Informative)

DrYak (748999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059794)

if you are developing a open source tool for artists - particularly in a market where the proprietary alternatives are deeply entrenched - why aren't you working with artists from day one to get the UI right?


Blender [wikipedia.org] started it's life as an internal tool at a Dutch studio (NeoGeo). So in fact, it was designed with the target artists in the loop.
And pretty much shows you why it's actually a bad idea :
- When you let hardcore artists design an interface, they'll design what's most efficient for them : an obscure interface where absolutely every function is a short-cut and available at the finger tips. The hardcore artists will be able to use it blindingly fast. The problem will be that they're going to be the only able to actually use the software, because they'll be the only ones to whom the keyboard short-cuts make a sense.
- Blender had to become open source before some member of the community took the time and the effort to make nice contextual menus.

Tools developed internal for the target audience are the worse, because the devel/users focus mainly on utilisation speed and completely neglect the learning curve because they don't need to learn the software in the first place, as they're the one who build it.

To produce more accessible tools, you actually need to have a larger community, that includes people specialised in designing good UIs and people who have to start learning the tool and which will report where the tools isn't obvious to learn using.

Re:Blender (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22058964)

It's not that easy.

Computer modeling and animation is a very complicated, very specialized sort of thing. It's a complicated piece of software, and you can't just expect that you can turn it on and start animating. Modeling and animation are complicated and hard.

It's a bit like complaining that the UI of a 747 is poorly designed. Compare Blender to any other advanced 3D software program, and you'll find that it's complexity is commensurate with the industry.

Blender's been designed to work in a particular way: one hand on the mouse, one hand on the keyboard. To make this work, you need to read the manual and learn the shortcuts.

Learn that, and Blender's a real joy to use. And the advanced Blender users aren't willing to give that up to make your life easier.

If you - like me - can't memorize arcane key combinations to save your life, you're screwed.

If you're looking for open software, try Art of Illusion or K3D. If you've got a bit of money, have a look at Animation:Master. I'm keeping an eye on JPatch, but that project seems to be stuck in single developer rewrite hell at the moment.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22059172)

nuff said

Re:Blender (1)

Tr3vin (1220548) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058966)

If you have ideas for a better UI, the Blender community is very open and will listen to what you have to say. Now, on the other hand, if you don't have any ideas on how to improve it, why blame the developers? The UI was designed by artists because Blender is used by artists. Believe it or not, that makes it very efficient for the artists to use. Yes, there is a learning curve since it does not look like every other 3D app, but that does not mean that it is lacking in quality.

Not "horrible" (1)

ElMiguel (117685) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059088)

Blender is great software with a not-so-great GUI. Actually, it's not so much that the GUI is badly thought up, it's that its learning curve is terribly steep at the beginning because it doesn't follow any of the usual UI conventions people are used to. You need to invest a few hours of learning upfront to feel comfortable at even the most basic tasks. I'm sure people who use Blender very frequently can be very productive with this GUI, but I'm also guessing that those people are outnumbered by several orders of magnitude by would-be occassional users that just end up giving up because the GUI is too unintuitive for them.

My hope would be that they implement a GUI for occassional users that follows the standard GUI conventions; it doesn't need to include all the more obscure features, because occassional users won't know how to use them anyway. Provided Blender's core functionality is properly separated from the GUI in the code, it probably shouldn't be much effort, and it would open up Blender to lots of new users.

Re:Blender (1)

Jessta (666101) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059094)

I found blender's UI awesome.
It's all created using opengl so everything is zoomable and they've made it really easy to customise the way you layout your work space.

Re:Blender (1)

MrCopilot (871878) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059136)

The UI isn't broken its productive.

The thing about Blender is that the UI is the keyboard. If you expect it to act like 3DStudio or Maya then you will forever be banging your head.

Throw away everything you know about what to click and follow the new Summer of Documentation tutorial they teach you all the keyboard shortcuts so they become intuitive in no time.

Re:Blender (1)

flewp (458359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059404)

I tried Blender briefly years ago, but haven't tried it recently. That said, I use the keyboard heavily for my Maya work, same with all other 3D apps I use and have used, save trueSpace years ago. In fact, with the exception of very rarely used tools, every tool in my tool chest of apps is basically initiated with a keystroke.

Re:Blender (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059542)

After using a few 3D things I would say the only two ways to stop a confusing UI is either to hide a lot of options and rely on the users memory to find them (the MS twisty menu passages idea) or go 2D.

Not this again!!! (2, Insightful)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 6 years ago | (#22061856)

There's always one.

Blender was a fantastic UI which is very powerful if you haven't been polluted by other interfaces. But that's okay, you go back to using notepad, I'm happy with vi.

Moaning about the blender interface on /. is about as useful and interesting as me moaning about how slow and complicated Photoshop is to use because it's not like the GIMP. Seriously it took me a few minutes to figure out how to resize an image in Photoshop recently because I haven't used it in about seven years.

"Blender's UI sux" comments have been done to death. They are boring and pointless. If you have a need to use it, learn the UI, otherwise quit whining, or go and whine at say 3D Max developers for creating a UI that is so slow and inefficient and takes so much unhealthy mouse work to get basic things done that they have forever closed your mind to new possibilities.

Re:Blender (1)

zIRtrON (48344) | more than 6 years ago | (#22063222)

someone find a tutorial for this dude,
then we can speculate in a month's time.

Maybe more "access" to the program is the solution idiots.

True open source coming to the Big Screen soon (4, Informative)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 6 years ago | (#22057886)

The movie Plumiferos http://www.plumiferos.com/index-en.php [plumiferos.com] will be coming to the big screen some time early next year. A feature length movie done entirely in Blender (modeling, animating, rendering, non linear editing, etc.)

LetterRip

Success? (3, Interesting)

goldspider (445116) | more than 6 years ago | (#22057960)

I'm probably not alone in that I've never heard of this movie nor studio. Not saying that I alone am a good measure of a movie's success, but I'd like to know the criteria by which this is being judged a success.

Re:Success? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22058540)

Success = to succeed = a parrot with no beak

Re:Success? (3, Insightful)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059116)

I think Hollywood and conventional wisdom have perverted the term "success" for their own power so that it implies "commercial success".

A more general definition is "an achievement of an objective or goal". To some extent, this is rather arbitrary but having created my own movies [metaphrast.com] (all videos licensed under Creative Commons), I would say that it would be a success for them to just finish it.

Now, to inject my own selfish opinion into the argument of the definition of what success might be for an "Open" project like this, I would list the following, "an work that makes a positive contribution to the culture of humanity". It doesn't have to be a large contribution, but as long as people can gain something from it (a lesson, some entertainment, faith and hope) then it would qualify in my mind as a "success".

This is what I aim for when I mark a publication with the Creative Commons license (which, in addition to the movies, includes this [metaphrast.com] ).

Re:Success? (2, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059620)

but I'd like to know the criteria by which this is being judged a success.

They succeeded in their goals perhaps?

Re:Success? (1)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059870)

I'm probably not alone in that I've never heard of this movie nor studio. Not saying that I alone am a good measure of a movie's success, but I'd like to know the criteria by which this is being judged a success.
Sony Pictures will be distributing it, and apparently it has a lot of good publicity for it in Argentina. You probably haven't heard of any but a handful of US animation studios (Pixar, Dreamworks), so your not having heard of the studio isn't a surprise.

It is unclear whether US distribution is going to happen so it is unsurprising that you haven't heard of it. None the less, it will be a complete feature film, with excellent quality animation and a good story (at least from what I've seen of previews). It also has some well known talent (for Argentina) for the lead characters so it is likely to prove successful commercially.

LetterRip

Re:Success? (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22061210)

I'd like to know the criteria by which this is being judged a success.

Well, here it is two years later, and we are still talking about that 10 minute movie. So I guess it has succeeded at being an "open source movie" and, ipso facto, the best "open source movie" there is, for what that's worth.

Don't get me wrong, I think all of this is great, I just wish that with words like "groundbreaking" being thrown around so much, that they made it a movie first and a software freedom manifesto second. The whole thing mostly feels like a demo for Blender, more than anything else.

Advice (5, Insightful)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058016)

I have some advice for these guys: Get a script!

Elephant's Dream was a huge technical achievement, but the final work was an abject failure as a film. A "movie" isn't just a series of pictures that appear to move when displayed in rapid succession. Tell me something. Move me. Give me a character I have a fighting chance of identifying with.

Do something to transcend mere moving-pictureness.

-Peter

The Pixar Shorts (2, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058296)

Elephant's Dream was a huge technical achievement, but the final work was an abject failure as a film

If you want to understand the difference between a tech demo and a movie - and how the evolution of a story teaches you mastery of your craft - you need look no farther than this: Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1 [amazon.com] [Blu-Ray $20]

Re:The Pixar Shorts (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058714)

Computerworld has up an interesting interview with Matt Ebb, lead artist from Elephants Dream (the interview is split over 5 pages). Ebb talks about the making of the world's first open movie and offers some advice to others wanting to start such a project.


But he isn't giving out advice on making tech demos, is he? The article and the summary treat Elephant's Dream like a "real movie", when you and I seem to agree that it is a tech demo.

('Course, I haven't even made on of those . . . so no one should listen to me, either!)

-Peter

Re:The Pixar Shorts (1)

gaspyy (514539) | more than 6 years ago | (#22063294)

If you want to understand the difference between a tech demo and a movie - and how the evolution of a story teaches you mastery of your craft - you need look no farther than this: Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1 [Blu-Ray $20]


My thoughts exactly. If you want a taste of witty, crazy little story, just do a search for "Geri's Game". I think it's on Pixar's website.

Re:Advice (1)

Requiem18th (742389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059232)

The movie was an abstract metaphor of the internal workings of a computer or so says Wikipedia. I think, just like poetry, it is not meant for everyone but the creator like it and that is enough to justify the creation of a movie. Indeed all movies worth watching are made out of passion for the art not the bucks.

  But i agree that choosing a lower common denominator with more generic story and narrative would appeal to more people.

  Not that I'm dissing pop culture, I believe there are still so much stories to be told...

Re:Advice (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22060054)

I have this theory that "art" is something that happens between an artist and an audience through some medium. These guys have done amazing things with the medium, but utterly failed to move me. The fact that you reference what it means to someone else suggests they didn't communicate with you, either.

-Peter

Re:Advice (1)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 6 years ago | (#22061992)

I have some advice for these guys: Get a script!

Elephant's Dream was a huge technical achievement, but...

I'm surprised you didn't identify closely with Proog.

Then again, on re-reading your post, it seems analogous to what I saw as the main thrust of the movie.

Story boards (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22058036)

This site has some of the original artists' stills. [tinyurl.com] Beautiful work.

Re:Story boards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22058158)

Don't click, minicity link (as expected).

Re:Story boards (1)

Wescotte (732385) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058718)

What is minicity? I've seen it quite a bit lately but don't know anything about it. Is it a shock site? Is it a virus?

Open source is taking hollywood by storm! (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058042)

That's right. Not only can they render movies that look like Hollywood movies, the scripts suck about as bad! This is easily on the level of a Disney movie, maybe with less cute talking animals.

Is it really open? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22058110)

Does/will the Elephants Dream and Peach DVD movies come with region locks, anti-skips, or other consumer-hostile technologies?

Success of Elephants Dream? (4, Insightful)

Chris_Jefferson (581445) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058146)

Elephants Dream was a success? You mean a film which almost no-one ever heard of, and almost all of those who watched it didn't like?

While it was cute to make an open-source film, it would also have been nice to have a decent plot and scripting. I've seen many better stories in flash on newsgrounds. Heck, I've seen better plots on ytmnd.com.

Sign of times to come... (4, Insightful)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22060468)

Elephants Dream was a success? You mean a film which almost no-one ever heard of, and almost all of those who watched it didn't like?

Who cares if it sucks? Fantasmagoria [youtube.com] wasn't exactly an amazing piece of work by today's standards, but as the world's first cartoon (1908) it was a good indicator of things to come.

Yes, including your beloved Family Guy...

This is a trend-setting movie, underscored by the woes of the MPAA and RIAA. Media is moving away from centralized cathedrals and moving inexorably towards individualized bazaars. Nothing that the **AA can do will change this fact, since it's really a consequence of technology getting forever cheaper.

The plot is weak, the voice acting is terrible. But like Fantasmagoria, it kicks off a trend of forever-improving material.

Re:Success of Elephants Dream? (1)

bradgoodman (964302) | more than 6 years ago | (#22061574)

When I read the article, the mention of the "Success" of Elephants Dream immediately raised my eyebrow.

There is a lot to learn from the "success" of Elephant's Dream.

A movie is more than great visuals, scenery, and Blender wizardry.

Thus, contributions are needed well beyond engineers and animators - like writers.

Open-source needs to be more than just code - but scripts, characters, etc.

I think "success" would be an open-source movie being recognized at least beyond the FOSS-crowd. From that perspective, I wouldn't call it a success. And from within the FOSS-crowd, most people thought it sucked.

Flaimbait me if you want - but you didn't like it either.

Anyone doing a less "artsy" project? (3, Interesting)

starseeker (141897) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058238)

I have no problem with making an artsy movie that has hidden meanings, and clearly the Elephant's Dream guys knew what they were doing. It would be interesting if some folks with a bit more mainstream focus would pick up the ball and try it - it might really help Blender too.

Any movie is going to be judged by a combination of its technical achievements and its storytelling. A lot of the reviews I have read of Elephant's Dream are sort of "what was THAT about" and clearly that was an expected response. Fair enough. Now I'm curious to see if the ground breaking work can be used to create something with a bit more mainstream appeal, that the wider press could pick up and promote with the expectation that most viewers would be entertained. Are there free movie scripts being written anywhere? Maybe if there's a central forum with scripts being reviewed by a community a team could take one of the highly ranked ones and see what they can do with it.

Maybe we can make some "stars" in the Open Movie world - script writers, voice actors, what have you.

Re:Anyone doing a less "artsy" project? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22058608)

Are there free movie scripts being written anywhere?
PLENTY.... oh wait... you meant suitable for people under 18?

Re:Anyone doing a less "artsy" project? (2, Informative)

crossmr (957846) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058796)

it wasn't artsy, it was digital masturbation.
What they were alluding to was painfully clear. The entire purpose of the movie was to say how great and important the movie was.. on the other hand look at http://www.delivery.framebox.de/ [framebox.de] Delivery made with far less support, and a hell of a less horn tooting.

Re:Anyone doing a less "artsy" project? (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059260)

Maybe we can make some "stars" in the Open Movie world - script writers, voice actors, what have you.

There is some fiction listed here [wikipedia.org] . I don't know how much of it allows for derivative works, but that would be one important distinction. Furthermore, I don't know how much of it would be fit for main stream consumption.

Personally, one of the novels there was written by me. The link on the page points here [2076book.com] . You'll notice that I am not currently allowing for derivative works... but if the right production crew were to approach me with a script and a plan then it is a distinct possibility that I would take advantage of my author's rights and let them produce a derivative work.

Re:Anyone doing a less "artsy" project? (2, Interesting)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059956)

Now I'm curious to see if the ground breaking work can be used to create something with a bit more mainstream appeal, that the wider press could pick up and promote with the expectation that most viewers would be entertained.
Peach http://peach.blender.org/ [blender.org] , the second open movie being done by the Blender Foundation is targeted at mass market appeal - it will be cute, funny, and furry.

So I think it has a good chance of meeting your hopes and expectations.

LetterRip

Not Really Open... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22058278)

The results of the process are released under an open license. However, the project itself - notably, the writing and direction of the film - were not really an "open" process.

This is perhaps the biggest problem of Elephant's Dream. Has the script been under some sort of review, I don't think it would have passed.

I think there's some irony to the fact that on virtually every level except as an good movies, Elephant's Dream is a huge success. As a demo reel for Blender, a way of making the workflow more usable, a means for enhancing the viability of Blender... a huge success.

But as a film... Not so much. It doesn't really tell a story, and the plot (such that it is) doesn't make sense. If this is all being imagined on the part of one of the characters, there's really nothing to let us know, and the "real" world fails to intrude. Who is this other character, and why are they together in the first place? It just doesn't work.

Project Peach takes a similar approach - while all the outputs of the project will eventually be open to the public, the actual process - plotting, character choices, storyboarding - are closed to the public. In theory, it's to prevent the "surprise" of the story from being spoiled. I'd argue that film experience something like "Cars" and "Toy Story" was just as good for the people who worked on the film as it was for those who didn't. In some cases, it was probably better, when they could finally see the fruits of their work come together.

In contrast, have a look at Animation:Master's Tin Woodman of Oz [hash.com] . Although they're a commercial project, the model is much more open than Blender's. The discussions are open on their boards, the animatics have been posted, and there's constantly open discussion about the project. Any member of the community can join in and contribute, from design, rigging, voice acting, music and animating. There's no "secrets" to the project.

Of course, you've got to be a paying customer to actually have a copy of Animation:Master in the first place, and their boards were notorious for banning people who complained about their products. It's also forbidden to discuss competing software in their forum.

Still, I think it's a model worth looking at, especially as a counter example to these so called "open" projects that Blender embarks where the end result isn't revealed until the end.

Yes, I'm aware that stuff is released on the blogs. Note that these often have censored bits, so particular bits of information about the film itself isn't leaked. Technical details are much more open.

I'm not arguing that the results - other than perhaps the video itself - aren't great. But I have to disagree strongly with the use of "open" tag as applied to the process itself. And TWO shows that a more open model is certainly viable in some forms (which put other constraints on the project, like increasing the time to market).

From the last time Blender got flamed on Slashdot (5, Funny)

shadowman99 (598429) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058320)

"...It's about time we get some competition, but especially it's time someone makes a 3d program the average slashdot reader can understand and use." Ton Rosendahl I personally cannot wait for Blender to become simple enough for noobs everywhere to start rendering pictures of spheres. The 3d world can never have enough "first renders". Cluestick: Add a light and a camera, or your render will be black. Bonus points if you actually aim your camera at the object to be rendered.

Re:From the last time Blender got flamed on Slashd (2, Informative)

deathguppie (768263) | more than 6 years ago | (#22062712)

If coding was easy everyone we be an expert C++. But that takes time and patience to learn and so do 3d modeling applications. There is a lot of whining going around about how hard blender is to learn, but the truth is it isn't any harder to learn than any other advanced computer related activty./P.

how about an open source animation (2, Funny)

justo (2858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058706)

on nikola tesla's life?

A Swarm of Angels (1)

De Lemming (227104) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058862)

About the scenario, these guys should take a look at A Swarm of Angels [aswarmofangels.com] , which takes a much more open approach at creating a movie. The community can contribute to the two candidate scenarios being written. Then there will be a vote choosing between those two.

Here's an older Slashdot article about this project, "Creative Commons Filmmaking Remixes Modern Cinema" [slashdot.org] , and the Wikipedia link [wikipedia.org] .

In Soviet Russia.... (0, Offtopic)

Trent Hawkins (1093109) | more than 6 years ago | (#22058952)

Kinds played this: Sea Battle [wired.com]

And awesome game where you look through a parascope at little metal nazi submarines and you try to hit them with lightbulb torpedoes. Great fun, and the whole thing is made of solid steel, so it felt like you were using a real parascope... come to think of it, it might actually have been a real parascope.

Nice idea, Emo. (3, Funny)

Trogre (513942) | more than 6 years ago | (#22059072)

But will the movie be safe, Emo? Emo, will it be safe? Emo!

Ballsy Statement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22060084)

Ebb talks about the making of the world's first open movie
In all seriousness, do we really believe this is the worlds first open movie, or simply the first WIDELY PUBLICIZED open movie. I've known artists up the wazoo who have made their own CG movies and clips and such.

What programs are they using? (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 6 years ago | (#22061534)

All I ever hear about is how they're using Blender for the movie. However, 3d modelling and animation is only a part of the production process. What I want to know is what other programs are they using?

What audio programs are they using? They've got to record dialog somehow (unless it's a silent movie.)
Which video editing programs? You know, like organizing scenes, cutting the "negatives," etc.

I think the promotion of the video editing programs would be more beneficial than promotion of Blender itself, as many more people are interested in doing things with camcorders than 3d modelling.

Re:What programs are they using? (2, Informative)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 6 years ago | (#22062282)

What audio programs are they using? They've got to record dialog somehow (unless it's a silent movie.)

They used Reaktor, which is a bit disappointing. Reaktor is more mature than OSS equivalents like om or its successor whose name eludes me now. I'm sure if they had chosen someone else to do sound, someone who knows Linux audio, they could have had fully open source production of the same technical quality. Of course artistic/creative quality can't be measured the same way.

The fact that they didn't use open source sound appears to be entirely because Jan Morgenstern didn't know the toolset and not becuase it was insufficient. It's a shame.

It would be great to see a project like this provide feedback for Ardour, Rosegarden, various plugin developers, etc, or even lead to closer interaction between blender and jack.

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