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 | URCHN.org

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 Linux.com, 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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We are thrilled by the “totally awesome” render tests coming off the farm, with supreme animatador / pixelero Pablo Vazquez (venomgfx) heading up lighting and look-dev, but there is juicy work still to do on the Tube production, so we invite interested artists to check out our open task list and internship positions announced below!

And if you are an artist with a bit of time who would like to get involved as a contributor, please contact us!


Calling all students, recent graduates and professionals wanting to ply their 3D skills in free/libre software:

Join Bassam and the URCHN crew this spring as a remote or local artist on the Tube Open Movie production, hosted by the Bit Films animation incubator at Hampshire College, Massachusetts. Helmed by Chris Perry, formerly of Pixar and Rhythm & Hues, the program draws together a lot of talent, so although internships are unpaid, it promises to be a very stimulating and fruitful space. These positions offer an opportunity to improve your skills, develop your reel, and make useful contacts in the industry. The official internship period runs from Monday February 4 through Friday May 17, 2013. Applications are due (via email) no later than Friday February 1, 2013, at 5pm (EDT). Because the project is ongoing, the internship period is flexible; if in doubt, apply! Please read carefully the open positions announcement and FAQ. Have questions about internships? Email us!

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