Blender third open movie project, code-named "Durian" is ramping up to production, and time is running out for the pre-sale campaign if you want to get your spot in the credits. This time the project is focusing on an adolescent audience with an epic-fantasy setting and a female protagonist (my son aptly dubbed this the "Chicks in Chainmail" genre). The only art yet available from Durian itself is the series of banner ads (by concept artist, David Revoy), but an impressive creative team has already been announced.
A durian is a spiky pungent fruit which also describes the atmosphere promised for the Durian movie project. Like the Durian, it's likely to be a very specific taste, unappealing to some, but loved by others.
The durian project will be spiky like its namesake, but promises some beautiful production values, given the team that has been assembled (Durian banner ad is by concept artist David Revoy, background is by Takato Marui/CC By-SA 2.0)
In any case, producer (and Blender founder) Ton Roosendaal described the theme in these words:
Short 3D animation film, 5-8 minutes.
Epic short story, emotional impact, action scenes
Targeted at adolescents. Ok, we all still are, right! :)
So let’s add a female/girl as main character!
Visual and conceptual appearance of a typical “Hollywood” blockbuster or game trailer
As with the previous Blender open movies, Elephants Dream and Big Buck Bunny, the Durian film will be only the centerpiece of the release, with the real meal being the artwork, models, rigs, and technical development that come from the production process.
The Durian project's original announcement drew an enormous number of applications -- about three times as many as for Big Buck Bunny, according to Roosendaal. Among them were some very talented people, including the artists who were ultimately selected.
There is no concept artwork for Durian itself yet (aside from the banner ad), but there is some clue in the artists' portfolios and durian applications. Technical team members Brecht van Lommel and Campbell Barton, musician Jan Morgenstern, animators Nathan Vegdahl and Lee Salvemini, and (of course) producer Ton Roosendaal return to the project, having worked on the previous Blender open movie projects. New talents include the scenario writer, Martin Lodewijk, a noted Dutch comic artist and Colin Levy, an independent director.
Among the new artists on the project are concept artist David Revoy, modeler Angela Guenette, renderer Soenke Maeter, and 3D generalist Ben Dansie. These will be the people primarily responsible for the ultimate "look" of the film, and so it's worth taking a peek at what they have done before (I like to place these in production order -- concept, model, animation, overall):
Previous work by concept artist David Revoy. See the references for links to his gallery and videos (Credit: David Revoy )
Previous work by Angela Guenette includes a couple of commercial productions you may recognize if you have kids (Credit: Angela Guenette )
Nathan Vegdahl was responsible for much of the rigging and animation in Big Buck Bunny (Credit: Nathan Vegdahl )
Soenke Maeter's role in the Durian production is focused on rendering: shading and lighting (Credit: Soenke Maeter )
Ben Dansie applied to the Durian project as a "generalist," meaning he can contribute to all stages of the production process, so his application included works from concept through execution (Credit: Ben Dansie )
My Official Durian Plug
As you probably know if you read my column, I like eye candy, and I expect there will be plenty of it in Durian. I also like to see successful free-licensed art projects, and though only time will tell about that, Durian is looking like a very promising production. Finally, I believe that artists and developers really should be paid, and supporting a project like this is one way of making that happen. So I encourage you, if you really like free software and free art, to put your money where your mouth is, and support projects like this one.
Luckily, I was able to pre-order before the deadline this time around. That's open until September 15th, if you want to get listed in the credits (you should still be able to pre-order DVDs after, of course). Doing so is a great way to support the free software developers behind Blender and the artists, writers, and directors of the open movie projects. I sincerely hope the Blender Foundation will keep raising enough money to support future open movie projects.
As with the Blender Foundation's previous open movie projects, the entire production dataset will be released under free licenses, mostly under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 CC By 3.0 license.
 About the Durian Project and the Production Blog
 Images from David Revoy's Portfolio
 Images from Angela Guenette Demo Reel, also Alien Soldier Torso 3D Model Turnaround, Human Female Dummy Walk Cycle and Pose, Human Female Dummy Sitting Pose
 Images from Nathan Vegdahl Portfolio Video
 Images from Soenke Maeter Portfolio
 Images from Ben Dansie Durian Application Video
The text of this work may be distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, version 3.0, with attribution to "Terry Hancock, first published in Free Software Magazine".
The author asserts no copyright on any of the images in this article, but you should be aware that copyright restrictions probably apply to several of them. In the author's opinion, use of low-resolution images for journalistic review purposes falls within fair use. Links are provided to the original sources where you can inquire about any other use.
As two sensitive new-age guys in good standing, the author and his son wish it known that neither invented the expression "Chicks in Chainmail", which was the title of a fantasy short story collection edited by Esther Friesner for Baen Books. We're surely just as shocked by it as the publisher was.