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Open Source On the Big Screen 120

Posted by kdawson
from the ebb-and-flow dept.
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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Open Source On the Big Screen

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  • Success (Score:5, Insightful)

    by reality-bytes (119275) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @05:33PM (#22057594) Homepage
    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 (Score:5, Funny)

      by realmolo (574068) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @05:43PM (#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 (Score:4, Funny)

        by jgarra23 (1109651) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @07:27PM (#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.
    • by spoco2 (322835)
      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 (Score:2, Informative)

        by Tranzistors (1180307)

        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]

        • by spoco2 (322835) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @06:41PM (#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.
          • by symbolic (11752)
            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.
          • Yeah I agree, the plot was too deep for people like you. A lot of the effects were done just because they could be done as well, so it really wasn't too different form major studio stuff there.
            • by spoco2 (322835)
              Yeah, the plot was just entirely too deep. That's the way to defend a dull movie, say it was just over my head, good work there.

              You know, I do enjoy good cinema, I am fully capable of working out subtle similes and metaphors, but that doesn't stop a boring film being boring, I don't care what it was alluding to, I don't care what the underlying concept was, because, well, it WAS BORING... no amount of waxing lyrical over the 'deep' storyline gets over that... and when you see the quote from the director "Th
    • so true
      If I hear "NEMO!" in a high pitched, whiny voice ever again I think I will have a seizure.
    • http://www.google.com/search?q=linux+pixar [google.com]

      That's really all I have to say, aside from congratulations Matt Ebb and crew, oh and congrats to blender too.

    • by mwvdlee (775178)
      I can succesfully complete a feature-length movie using Flash. It'll be completely boring from start to finish though. Making something last for 100 minutes isn't hard, making it so people will actually want to look at it after 3 seconds is a lot more difficult. Elephant Dreams only demonstrated some technical aspects of movie making. As a technical demonstration it was overly long, as a movie is was worthless.
  • Youtube (Score:5, Informative)

    by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @05:35PM (#22057630) Journal
    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].
    • by Ed Avis (5917)
      Why should the download be 450 megs? Surely you can just download the source code, make sure Blender is installed, and type 'make'?
  • by Facetious (710885) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @05:37PM (#22057672) Journal
    I have particularly been watching their open game [blender.org].
  • Apricot (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chubs730 (1095151) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @05:46PM (#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.
    • by guignome (860672)
      Yes I'm also looking forward to that. I'm curious to why they choose cristalspace [crystalspace3d.org] over ogre3d [ogre3d.org] though. They probably found that using crystalspace would be easier as ogre3d doesn't implement a full game engine, despite its popularity.
  • Other projects (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slapout (93640) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @05:46PM (#22057804)
    Has anyone taken the source files to the project and created anything else with them?
  • by LetterRip (30937) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @05:51PM (#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? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79.gmail@com> on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @05:55PM (#22057960) Homepage
    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: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Success = to succeed = a parrot with no beak
    • Re:Success? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by RobBebop (947356) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @07:12PM (#22059116) Homepage Journal

      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dbIII (701233)

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

      They succeeded in their goals perhaps?

    • by LetterRip (30937)

      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).

    • by glwtta (532858)
      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 whol
  • Advice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @05:59PM (#22058016) Homepage Journal
    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 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by westlake (615356)
      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]

      • 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 liste

      • by gaspyy (514539)

        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.
    • 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
      • 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
    • 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.

  • 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.
  • by Chris_Jefferson (581445) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @06:07PM (#22058146) Homepage
    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.
    • by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @09:08PM (#22060468) Journal
      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.
    • 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 perspe

  • by starseeker (141897) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @06:13PM (#22058238) Homepage
    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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by crossmr (957846)
      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.

    • by RobBebop (947356)

      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

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LetterRip (30937)

      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

    • by xtracto (837672)
      Check out the film mentioned in this comment [slashdot.org]. I just saw the trailer and seems quite nice. In contrast with elephant dreams, it is not "digial masturbation", but it seems to be a nice film (with a plot and all that).

      Personally, I saw elephant dreams and I liked it. And not because it was done in blender or whatnot but because it was "obscure". However, I understand that it was not a mainstream kind of movie.
  • Not Really Open... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    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

    • by wertigon (1204486)
      I disagree that a closed approach is neccessarily a bad thing.

      Regarding "Elephant's Dream", it is *supposed* to be a surreal story. I'd like to argue that these kind of movies are good simply because they aren't mainstream. Oh, sure, it doesn't make sense. But it's artistic value is interesting, nonetheless. Elephant's Dream isn't your standard run-of-the-mill Hollywood movie with good plot, likable characters and clichéd and overused plot conventions, simply because it's not a Hollywood movie and it w
  • by shadowman99 (598429) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @06:19PM (#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.
    • 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.

      • Exactly. It's like complaining that the Violin is difficult to learn. People get results out of a tool based on the effort they're willing to put into it.
    • Install Blender, open Blender, press F12 and you have a render of a cube. The default scene in a new Blender install comes with a plain cube, a camera aimed at it and a point light. If you want a sphere delete the cube and add a sphere. If you want it to be coloured add a material to it. Nothing beats reading the documentation to find out how something works
  • 5 pages? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dotancohen (1015143) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @06:40PM (#22058634) Homepage
    Don't want to see five pages of ads? Here's the one page, for-print version:
    http://www.computerworld.com.au/index.php/id;1111810628;fp;2;fpid;4;pf;1 [computerworld.com.au]
  • on nikola tesla's life?
  • 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].
    • Re:A Swarm of Angels (Score:4, Interesting)

      by montyzooooma (853414) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @06:56AM (#22064642)
      A Swarm Of Angels has been a frustrating experience for me. I was initially very interested with it but it became apparent that there is a creative team in place who make the decisions and then these decisions are put to the vote. So you're voting on which of the creative teams visions you go for. I don't think there is any significant material input into the creative project by the swarm.

      Shares are being sold in the movie project but there is no chance to participate in profits, in the event that any profits are made. So while the project is on-going some people are being paid for their input and work (fair enough) while those "investing" have no hope of a return on investment over and above whatever entertainment they get from the forums and the opportunity to vote on what colour the poster will be (check it out if you don't believe me but last time I looked you needed to join to view the forums). To me this looks like an ideal investment plan for a potential film-maker - you get your money, you don't have to pay any of it back and individual investors are too small to have any control over you.

      There was an initial flurry of activity on the forums then a bit of a gap in official communications while people on the forums talked a load of bull about scripts. Then we heard that a tentative initial script outline was going to be debuted at an upcoming convention, without any creative input from the swarm. At that point I realized it was smoke and mirrors and haven't been back since. If it's turned into some democratic creative Utopia since then my apologies to them.

      Now I appreciate that a ship needs a captain and any project like this needs a creative vision but the implied promise was that that vision would be shaped by the members but I don't feel that was the case.

  • by Trogre (513942) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @07:09PM (#22059072) Homepage
    But will the movie be safe, Emo? Emo, will it be safe? Emo!

  • 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,
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      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 op

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