Friends! Supporters! Please pardon the radio silence while we’ve been cranking frenetically to get the movie made. Conducting such an ambitious project with a tiny budget means that we all work on Tube with one hand while also keeping the lights on with the other. Our lovely crew is pushing hard to ready the trailer for release in time for the Siggraph conference next week, which five of Tube’s artists (Bassam, Pablo, Hanny, Francesco, and Bing-Run) will take a few days out to attend. We look forward to seeing some of you there!


To whet the appetite, here are a few render tests from the work that’s been in-progress, as well as a fast look at some of what’s been happening:

Between inescapable bouts of his trademark rigging, Bassam’s screens are full with a mix of directing, project management, shading tasks, time-lapse animation, pipeline coding, and more. As scenes develop and renders come off the farm, Bassam and Fateh, Tube’s writer/producer, are also making the late day shot and edit decisions that bring all the pieces together. In the process, we’re excited to be planning for things like sound design and distribution.

Art director Pablo Vazquez has rejoined us in Massachusetts for the northern summer, and is busy running the lighting and shading pipelines, compositing, and making gorgeous render tests that are extremely distracting to anyone trying to work while sitting next to him *cough*. By nights and weekends, he and Francesco turn the dining-and-laptopping room into a hotbed of furious industry as they’ve been developing and promoting Blender Network, refactoring, converting Caminandes to 4K, and building still another new project soon to make public.

Francesco Siddi, who many will remember from Tears of Steel, Caminandes, and this cool thing also joins our local crew this summer as awesome all around generalist/TD/project manager. He’s been finishing up the last missing layouts, poking Bassam to make some helpful automations, and valiantly cleaning up the hairy library files that nobody else wants to touch. He’s put Tube on the Attract management software in development since Mango/ToS, and in fact added some features Bassam requested to better track Tube’s epic production.

A great group of super-talented artists and interns have joined our local crew both visiting from abroad and online.

We’re very happy for the addition of lead environment artist Nicolò Zubbini (Tears of Steel), who is a real pleasure to work with, and has been cleverly applying his experience in architectural shading and Cycles rendering to the special challenge of designing animated textures suitable for time-lapse. He is producing materials for entire sets that have a single slider to control their ‘aging’, and he’s published some thoughts on his approach to shading since Mango in this video.

Dimetrii Kalinin
heads up organic modelling and texturing, working in high poly for some extremely challenging models that require design, sculpting and modeling chops, extensive anatomical detail, and an artist’s eye. His work is incredibly impressive, and he somehow produces things in a weekend that would take anyone else ages to do.

Xiaohan “Hanny” Lu has been with us as an intern generalist since before her graduation from Hampshire College, where the Tube production is based. She has contributed a bit of rigging, modeling, and simulation but especially excels as a lighter, applying her technical skill and cinematic sensibility to several shots for the Tube project, which you can get a peek at in her demo reel.

We’ve had the benefit of amazing animators Gianmichele Mariani, Sarah Laufer, Beorn Leonard, Tal Hershkovich, Karen Webb, Jarred de Beer, Virgilio Vasconcelos, Nathan Vegdahl, Luciano Munoz, Matt Bugeja, and Chris Bishop — who also acts as our invaluable animation supervisor — about all of whom more should soon be said.


Participating artists and interns Hassan Yola, Christine Stuckart, Davide Maimone, Aislynn Kilgore, Samah Majadla, Connie Hildreth, Ike Aloe, Arindam Mondal, Jeenhye Kim, Lukas Zeichmann, Rachel Creemers, Jake Wisdom, Tim Carroll, Nora Jenny, Pere Balsach, Davide Maimone, Milan Stankovic and others have all made great contributions that we’ll be talking about in future. This summer Jiang Bing-Run, a young animator visiting from Taiwan, is proving a great asset in tackling Tube’s crowd sequence.

In the upcoming weeks we have a number of exciting announcements and releases planned, so keep an eye out for more!

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enki_lookdev Doing some shader/texture/look developement for Enki-roach before its lighting debut. Roach design is from Redo, Modelling and Textures by Dimetrii (with some mods by me), rigging by me (with some tweaks from Dimetrii). Currently working on cycles shaders (a mix of refraction, transparency, SSS and glossy (no diffuse!!!)) with loads of fresnel/layer weight and textures. Takes a while to converge but worth it- this cockroach is in only 3 shots (and only one alive ;). The hairs were a last minute addition. click it to embiggen.

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Recently Davis Sorenson tweeted that he has resurrected the mypaint-xsheet branch- a special branch of the popular FLOSS painting application that has support for animation, in the form of a playable exposure sheet type interface that harkens back to traditional animation. The original creator of the branch, Manuel Quiñones, used it to animate the open movie Viaje a la tierra del Quebracho , and it subsequently remained pretty much as-is. Davis has since then updated the branch so it tracks the most recent version of mypaint with all the new enhancements, and has so far added the ability to adjust framerate, and is working on a new file format that takes inspiration from blender’s SDNA for forwards and backwards compatibility. You can get his current progress from his github. His goal is to develop this as a standalone animation application, that naturally shares the mypaint brush engine.

I’ve often used mypaint to ‘sweeten’ renders by adding a certain amount of grunge, smearing and artistic adjustment. Now we could even contemplate producing animated sequences for tube, for use in texture sequences or in post processing, enhancing the film with some direct touch.

I’ve done a bit of experimentation in the new branch, and I have (of course!!!) a list of things I’d like to see – this list is intended as feedback, but not as a series of demands, I believe Davis has his own priorities before he starts adding a bunch of features, but, well, a person can dream 😉 :

  1. exporting a sequence is either missing or diabolically hidden; I ended up exporting frame by frame (not fun!)
  2. copying a cel results in a ‘linked’ cel , painting on one affects the other. That’s cool, but there needs to be an obvious way to unlink them for individual modification
  3. working with multiple animated layers; i.e. more than one cel per frame would be great.
  4. once 3 is implemented, it would make sense to import a sequence as an animation.
  5. timeline based animation like pencil?
  6. sound in the timeline for lip/sound sync?
  7. transformation tool (mypaint is currently lacking this)
  8. perhaps exploit mypaints vectory strokes to do some kind of tweening

That being said, don’t let the lack of features discourage you from playing: this is an intensely addictive and fun program, and in a way, its simplicity is a factor in that; however Davis decides to take this program, I hope that he keeps this element in mind.

Finally, Davis is thinking about names for the new animation program: his conditions are that the name be a single word (no portmanteaus), that it be meaningful, and finally that it sounds good! Suggestions welcome :)

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Blender’s Video Sequence Editor (or VSE for short) is a small non-linear video editor cozily tucked in to Blender, with the purpose of quickly editing Blender renders. It is ideal for working with rendered output (makes sense) and I’ve used it on many an animation project with confidence. Tube is being edited with VSE, as a 12 minute ‘live’ edit that gets updated with new versions of each shot and render.  I’ve been trying out the Python API to streamline the process even further. So… what are the advantages of the Video Sequence Editor. Other than being Free Software, and right there, it turns out there are quite a few:

  1. familiar interface for blender users: follows the same interface conventions for selecting, scrubbing, moving, etc. Makes it very easy to use for even beginning to intermediate users.
  2. tracks are super nice: there are a lot of them, and they are *not* restricted: you can put audio, effects, transitions, videos or images on any track. Way to go Blender for not copying the skeuomorphic conventions that makes so many video editors a nightmare in usability.
  3. Since Blender splits selection and action, scrubbing vs. selection is never a problem, you scrub with one mouse button, select with the other, and there is never a problem of having to scrub in a tiny target, or selecting when you want to scrub. I’ve never had this ease of use in any other editor.
  4. simple ui, not super cluttered with options
  5. covers most of the basics of what you would need from a video editor: cutting, transitions, simple grading, transformations, sound, some effects, alpha over, blending modes, etc.
  6. has surprisingly advanced features buried in there too: Speed control, Multicam editing, Proxies for offline editing, histograms and waveform views, ‘meta sequences’ which are basically groups of anything (movies , images, transitions , etc) bundled together in one editable strip on the timeline.
  7. as in the rest of Blender, everything is keyframable.
  8. you can add 3D Scenes as clips (blender calls them strips) making Blender into a ‘live’ title / effects generator for the editor. They can be previewed in openGL, and render out according to the scene settings.
  9. it treats image sequences as first class citizens, a must!!!
  10. Python scriptable!!!! big feature IMO. (uses the same api as the rest of Blender)


Disadvantages are also present, I should mention a few:

  1. UI is blender centric! so if you are not a blender user, it does not resemble $FAVORITEVIDEOEDITOR at all. Also, you have to expose it in the UI (only a drop down away, but most people don’t even realize it is there)
  2. no ‘bin’ of clips, no thumbnail previews on the video files, though waveform previewing is supported.
  3. lacks some UI niceties for really fast editing, though that can be fixed with python operators, and also is getting improvements over time.
  4. could be faster: we lost frame prefetching in the 2.5 transition, however, it is not much slower than some other editors I’ve used.
  5. not a huge amount of codec support: Since Blender is primarily not a video editor, supporting a bajillion codecs is not really a goal. I believe this differs slightly cross platform.
  6. bad codec support unfortunately means not only that some codecs don’t work, but that some of the codecs work imperfectly.
  7. needs more import/export features (EDL is supported, but afk only one way)
  8. some features could use a bit of polish. This is hampered by the fact that this is old code, a bit messy, and not many developers like to work with it.

Needless to say this is all ‘at the time of writing’. Things may improve, or the whole thing gets thrown into the canal 😉

So what have I been up to with Blender’s video editor? Quite a bit! Some of it may end up not-so-useful in the end, but experimentation could yield some refinements. The really good thing about using Python, is that I can ‘rip up’ complex things and rearrange / redo them. So the experiments don’t result in a huge waste. Lets have a peak.

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Caldera (2012) from Evan Viera on Vimeo.

CALDERA is a project close to our heart, not least for being made by many dear friends and being the co-spawn of our time at Bit Films of Hampshire College. Now that the film has gone through festivals and entered the wilds of public viewing, congratulations again to the entire crew for all its well-deserved acclaim! (Below, some information from Evan reminds me how much debate Caldera has stimulated, and how interesting its been to see the way interpretations meet and diverge.)

Through the eyes of a young girl suffering from mental illness, CALDERA glimpses into a world of psychosis and explores a world of ambiguous reality and the nature of life and death.

CALDERA is inspired by my father’s struggle with schizoaffective disorder. In states of delusion, my father has danced on the rings of Saturn, spoken with angels, and fled from his demons. He has lived both a fantastical and haunting life, but one that’s invisible to the most of us. In our differing understanding of reality, we blindly mandate his medication, assimilate him to our marginalizing culture, and entirely misinterpret him for all he is worth. CALDERA aims to not only venerate my father, but all brilliant minds forged in the haunted depths of psychosis.

CALDERA was helmed by Evan Viera (Director/Composer/Co-Writer) and Chris Bishop (Co-writer/Animation Supervisor/Story Artist) and was produced at Hampshire College. CALDERA was the first film to go through the Bit Films Incubator Program, where founder and professor Chris Perry (co-producer/editor) invites orphaned independent films to be made on campus with the College’s students and resources. MANY students and industry professionals generously donated their time to the making of this film. (See Vimeo link for full list of credits and awards).

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Teal Steers Feeding

Get the production files here

licensed CC BY SA 3.0, you are free to use these so long as you use the same license, and attribute Bassam Kurdali |

Hope you have fun!

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Sometimes after Bassam gives a workshop or talk, we get sad notes saying “I wish I knew! I wish I’d been there!”

So I am posting this one super early, to cast the word far and wide:

Bassam will offer a Blender workshop at the upcoming Libre Planet Boston! He plans to make it interesting for beginning to intermediate users, with his talk touching on the distributed production pipeline and some cool peeks at Tube.

Libre Planet is a very nice conference series, and the nearby Cambridge/Boston event affords us the pleasure of meeting interweb friends in person, as well as making lots of new ones. What’s more, Libre Planet supports the work of the Free Software Foundation.

Look for Libre Planet Boston this March 23-24, with some events tentatively planned for Friday, March 22. More on the precise schedule as it develops.

Let us know if we’ll be seeing you there!

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Today at, an article on the Top 3 Linux video editors reminds me that Libre Graphics World called Bassam “one of the most eloquent evangelists of Blender’s video sequencer” for his occasional talks about Blender’s stealth role as a general purpose video editor. And I saw that somehow we never linked the demo from URCHN!

His 2009 talk from Libre Graphics Meeting, Video Editing with Blender for non 3D artists, using examples from real projects still works as a good introduction, despite the many evolutions of Blender since.


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