At SIGGRAPH we premiered the trailer for the Blender community and revealed the title of the Tube Open Movie project:

Wires For Empathy

Tube is a name we have gotten attached to, but it was only a provisional title and serves us still as the designation for the project (the way that Elephants Dream is also known as Orange). Wires for Empathy is a more evocative title that hints at the themes of this fairly abstract film. During the weeks running up to SIGGRAPH, the local and remote crews were working hard polishing these (and many more) shots and getting them rendered in time. We hope you enjoy our short trailer!

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We are getting really excited to show all the incredible animation and amazing render tests coming off the farm. And even though we don’t want to let *too* much slip before time, I know Bassam is planning an update with some teaser images and production notes pretty soon.

Today I’m happy to share news of MediaGoblin, a libre software “publishing system” for images, video, audio and more that friends of Bassam’s and mine are building. It’s a single replacement for Flickr, YouTube, SoundCloud, and similar that anyone can run (like WordPress), but federated to keep files under user control. It’s very extensible, with support just added for 3D models now suggesting an alternative to Thingiverse. But I’m especially excited about MediaGoblin because it will establish the core functionality we can use to implement a lot of cool ideas we’ve had during Tube production for a collaborative platform that also fills the huge need for a solid asset management pipeline, a kind of super-Helga with some interesting properties. We’ve been talking to a bunch of developers about putting together a free software project after Tube, in which there’s been a lot of interest, and I have a thought that we could get studios to pool resources instead of each rolling their own and occasionally making a dead-end free software release.

A few weeks ago at the Blender Conference, we were talking with the developers about how, together with their distributed rendering, and these fairly near-future pipeline/collab possibilities, it seems like a lot of big pieces falling into place. MediaGoblin is worthy in its primary goals, but of especial interest for providing much of the functionality we’d need, plus perks like federation that we’ve dreamed about. Coding with Will Kahn-Greene, formerly of the Participatory Culture Foundation, the project lead is Chris Webber, until recently a developer at Creative Commons, and also a Blender user who did the anim in the excellent Patent Absurdity doc. And as part of the Tube Open Movie, Chris helped build pipeline scripts as well as our Reference Desk tool, one of the programs inspiring the new asset branch in Blender.


Today MediaGoblin has a nice write-up at Libre Graphics World, concluding:

If you are concerned about having full control over images, videos and audio records that you put online, you have just a few days left to support development of MediaGoblin — an awesome free software project that decentralizes media storage.

If you are a VFX or animation studio, or even a 3D printing company, you have even more reasons to support the project. With initial support for 3D models (STL and OBJ) MediaGoblin has a great chance to grow into a scalable digital asset management solution that is free to use and modify.

Finally, if you are a developer who’s good at Python, MediaGoblin could do with your contributions.

** Donations are tax-deductible in the US and also support the Free Software Foundation, which hosts the campaign.

And thanks for anything you can do to help this awesome project by passing the word!

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Hello everybody! I’ll be going to Portland/Oregon and OSCON 2012 where I’ll be giving a talk about tube and meeting up with various great people- including tube contributors Chris Webber and Oscar Baechler. chime in if you’re going there, and let’s have tea.

This week was quite full. we’ve got a beautiful anim team who are going through their shots (perhaps I should post some snippets?) and we are now at only 17 shots left for character animation. (not counting assigned shots that are in progress) This might mean we will make our goal of getting 90% of the character animation done by the end of the summer… we shall see.

This was also the week of infinite recursion! Two blender crashers turned out to be due to infinite recursion errors in our files, to whit:

  • we couldn’t link anything into one file without crashing. Joshua Leung found that one by looking at the backtrace – turned out we had a file with a group duplicator inside its own group.. tsk tsk.
  • instantly crashing files! this is because newer versions of blender can’t cope with nodal materials that are referenced in their own groups. I found this one by looking through the bug tracker.

The rest of our team haven’t been idle: we have more progress on lighting , new effects in some shots using various techniques, such as dynamic paint, smoke, modifiers and careful keying. Our new sparkly pipeline is (mostly working) and we’ve introduced it to our new anim team. Since this is a rush post, I’m going to copy ton and post a few random images, with no explanation 😉

next week might be slow, because of oscon, but I’m hoping we’ll make more animation progress, add a couple of small rig enhancements, get some new shots  into animation, and continue our work on models and layouts.

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Calling all students (18+), recent graduates, and professionals wanting to ply their 3D skills in libre software:

It’s that time again, internships open at the very cool Bit Films Animation Incubator at Hampshire College, Massachusetts. (Now semi officially known as the ‘Nerdodrome’)

Helmed by Chris Perry, formerly of Pixar and Rhythm & Hues, the program draws together a number of interesting projects and a lot of talent, so although the internships are unpaid, it promises to be a very stimulating and fruitful space.

The official internship period runs from Monday October 3rd, 2011 through Friday December 16, 2011. Applications are due (via email) no later than Friday Sepember 23rd, 2011 at 5pm (EDT). We understand that this is short lead time for those needing to make visa and travel arrangements. Because the project is ongoing, the internship period is flexible; if in doubt, apply!

Although it may not provide as immersive an experience, we are open to considering applicants to a remote internship. Remote interns would join the already global team using our web-based project management software, SVN, and IRC.

Please read *carefully* the open positions announcement and FAQ! Have more questions? Email fateh [at] freefac [dot] org.

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Hey folks, for the first time, the Digital Artistry Workshops at Siggraph will feature a blender session, on Sunday, August 7th at 2:30, some info can be found on the siggraph page, and more details are available here. I’m quite excited to be teaching this course, an 1+1/2 session intended to introduce people from other software to Blender, focusing primarily in my strengths (rigging). I hope it’ll be fun, we’ll try to do fun setups for atypical (and some typical) animation needs. The other sessions look quite interesting too.

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Hey folks, just a quick update here- some of you may have noticed spammy google chaches for the site, and some nasty redirects on non existent pages. It appears spammers somehow managed to modify some  files, resulting in spam pages depending on the useragent (which is why google cache shows the spam but browsers don’t). We’ve found the offending files, changed passwords, locked down access, reinstalled wp, etc. and think that we have cleaned up. I don’t think there was any payload in form of viruses or trojans to PCs browsing the site. We’ll keep our fingers crossed and a close eye to make sure things are back to normal.

I suppose it could have been worse. If you do find anything suspicious, please let us know.

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So Bassam’s been away in Bulgaria for a couple of weeks and Henri and I mostly had the studio to ourselves.  I’ve been working on a mushroom generator for a couple of timelapses – not that tube will be filled with glowing mushrooms, more that we wanted something half way between the ivy generator and a fully fledged particle system.  Henri modeled some funky mushrooms and together we spun together a quick demo video just to show off some of the effects that are possible, and to exercise our fetish for indirect lighting and luminous pink.

Mushroom Generator Blender 2.5 from Henri Hebeisen and Josh Wedlake on Vimeo.

The script is still heavily in development but if you like alpha stuff and you’re happy to do your own debugging, then feel free to download and run.

UPDATE: Find the latest build here.
UPDATE: release 4 is fixed for r31856 [Fri Sep 10 16:54:53 CEST 2010]… don’t expect it to last long though!

Essentially you need to model a couple of mushrooms (just a generic term – you can model flowers or trees or robotic arms) with some shapes for their animation which will be blended sequentially, some shapes for random variation, some shapes in which they bend up the y axis, a painted vertex group for shrinkwrapping the base of the mushroom, all scaling and rotation applied and the origin at the base of the mesh.

above: creating the shapes for auto animation

above: adding manual animation to a mushroom

You also need a target mesh which has nice topo (ideally no elongated tris or nasty convex quads), optionally painted vertex groups named OBmymushroomname… and MAmymushroommaterial… to control the distribution of your various materials and different object types, optionally a limit vertex group (ie only faces within this will receive mushrooms), and a lot of patience.  Select the mushrooms then make the target active and tab into edit mode, select the start face(s) then hit spacebar>Mushroomer (remembered to run the script first).

above: mission control, godspeed

Adjust the settings and hit go.  I suggest you run blender from the terminal so you can watch for progress and any hangups.  You might well want to abort if it starts slowing right down from too many mushrooms.

above: when its done

Development on this script has been a bit of a nightmare.  Currently it is not possible to create multiple linked objects and have different shape key and material animation blocks on them without having to duplicate the mesh and/or material blocks (thus unnecessarily eating up huge amount of memory and removing the possibility to edit the mesh for one mushroom and have all of the update).  This is in the blender bug tracker as #23546 and #23547.  If they get fixed you can uncomment the deep data path keyframe adding and enable all the code for migrating actions to object level.  Another limitation which slowed development is that it is currently not possible to merge two actions into one.  This is necessary if you are moving mesh level and material level animation data back to object level.  Essentially you need to combine two actions into one.  Not only is this not possible, but its also not possible to copy an fcurve in its entirity, but rather python has to iterate through very slowly copying every handle one by one, and even this is susceptible to some bugs (not yet reported).  This is because the collection of fcurves is read only even though each fcurve itself if read/write.  I was also held up by bug #23532 which prevented me from doing the action block combining in the NLA editor, and for a short while by bug #23548 which caused blender to crash when creating new fcurves.  Finally the script can’t currently support animation data on the mushrooms’ materials due to bugs #23593 and #23594 [UPDATE Campbell fixed these, great news! Material & texture animations are now supported!] – I’ve chosen to block this feature rather than risk an inescapable hang and data loss – uncomment those lines at your own risk!  Fingers crossed the devs will iron these out sooner or later and the mushroom generator will be running faster, with lower memory requirements, smaller file sizes and more stability!

Its also been a sad day today as we waved goodbye to Henri who is on his way back to France as I write.  Its been great fun working together for the last 2 months.  Luckily we’ll only be a stones throw apart when we’re back at our separate homes in Toulouse and London.  If all goes well we’ll be at the Blender conference this October as well.  Rest assured, the world hasn’t seen the end of the glowing mushrooms saga – I’m hope we’ll have another chance to work together soon!

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Calling all students (18+), recent graduates, and professionals wanting to ply their 3D skills in free software:

Applications are open to join Bassam’s team this fall, hosted by the very cool Bit Films Animation Incubator Program at Hampshire College, Massachusetts.

Helmed by Chris Perry, formerly of Pixar and Rhythm & Hues, the program draws together a number of interesting projects and a lot of talent, so although the internships are unpaid, it promises to be a very stimulating and fruitful space. For applicants to Tube, there is a possibility that housing can be offered.

The official internship period runs from September 20 to December 17, 2010. Applications are due (via email) no later than Monday September 13, 2010 at 5pm (EDT)).  We understand that this is short lead time for those in need of making visa and travel arrangements. Because the project is ongoing, the internship period is flexible; if in doubt, apply!

Although it may not provide as immersive an experience, we are open to considering applicants not able to join us locally, but interested to join the already semi-distributed team for a remote internship using our web-based project management software, SVN, and IRC.

Full announcement and FAQ here. Still have questions? Leave a comment, or email me, fateh [ at ] freefac [ dot ] org.

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Hello Everyone,

I’m Josh, one of new crew members for tube.  I travelled over to the US from England last week, and I’m here until mid September undertaking cultural studies, and working on the models for the film.  While I attempt to mediate transatlantic differences (such as introducing the rest of the team to Branston Pickle and Marmite, explaining the etymology of ‘bangers and mash’, and justifying why I need a knitted cosy for my teapot), my hosts are offering an American exchange programme complete with drive-in movies, fried dough, Independence Day Celebrations and Root Beer.  In my time away from the screen I’ve been out enjoying the fresh air, beautiful countryside and very un-British weather.  I’ve been running to and from work each day (8 ½ miles each way), and when I had a few hours to spare last weekend I biked up to the Sugarloaf Mountain.

Fresh out of finishing a long and traumatic Architecture degree at Cambridge University, I vowed never to work in the industry again.  My first task in the studio, however, was to design the station roof and columns, and to provide general advice to the rest of the team on all things architectural!  Being British, and naturally strongly resistant to change, I was slightly thrown when I realised the team was working with up to the minute svn builds of Blender.  Back home in my own work I’d been hanging on to the 2.49 vintage with its historical interface not unlike the quirky 400 year old tumbledown cottage I lived in at uni.  2.5 comes with its own breed of glossy newness, an impersonal homogeneity with other 3D apps akin to the monotony of the skyscrapers in downtown LA and a feature set which sprawls on and on like the city-edge of Phoenix, Arizona.

Bewildered at first, I was tempted away from the path of the righteous by the glowing red devil’s tail of Maya on one side and the swirling captivating vortex of 3DS on the other, but eventually I found my way through the valley of darkness.  I still miss many of the 2.49 features which haven’t yet been ported – skinning loops and multi-knife-cuts to name a few, and in my first few days I’ve spent a considerable amount of time filing bug reports, hopefully for the greater good.

There are still some very simple features I wish had been integrated into the new release.  As what Pirsig might call a ‘mechanic of the photographic mind school’, all of my previous organisation and labelling systems have been tainted with a certain amount of… dyslexic logic.  To make life easier for everyone else on the project I have to name every object, bone, group and file according to a strictly prescribed style, not least so our python automation knows what’s going on!  While I don’t mind accumulating road miles on my way to and from Amherst every day, I hate the unnecessary mouse miles blender’s UI demands.  I’ve illustrated one of the key issues (which could be solved by a simple hotkey and under-mouse-dialog) using an analogy that will be familiar even to non-blender users.

After breaking free from summers spent as a CAD-monkey in local architecture firms, I now find myself pining for the logical and consistent snapping and tracking systems I was so familiar with from hours spent in front of Rhino, Vectorworks, AutoCAD and the like.  At least the resulting ‘errors’ present in my incapable use of Blender’s snaps often results in a more derelict and aged look!  Here’s a work-in-progress snapshot of the interior of the train which I’ve been working on today, by virtually bashing it up:

That’s all for now,


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At the Libre Planet conference in Boston/Cambridge earlier this year, we saw the premiere of Patent Absurdity, a great new documentary on patent issues in software. The film offers a succinct account of the risk to culture posed by Intellectual Property law’s recent metastasis. And– it has animation done in Blender by pal, Chris Webber. You can watch it here.

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