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Sky Over Baikonur Backdrop with Gimp

Often, when modelling in 3D, it's necessary to create a "backdrop" panoramic image. Typically this shows sky and distant land which should appear behind the foreground action. One place we'll need this for the pilot to Lunatics is for the sky in Baikonur, Kazakhstan on launch day at the beginning of the story. I had some very particular ideas about how this should look, and I want to create just the right look. Here's how I constructed it.

Finding Free Music for a Free Film with Jamendo, VLC, and K3B

One of the great advantages of using a free license for a work is that you can re-use a growing body of free-licensed source material to help you do it. But it can seem a little daunting to find the material that you both want and can legally use. Here's a little bit of my strategy, a few tips, and some sources, including Jamendo, which I found to be the most useful for finding music. I also touch upon some useful free software tools for listening and sorting tracks.

MediaWiki and Script Translation for the Morevna Project

We are getting very close to wrapping up the English translation of the script for "The Beautiful Queen Marya Morevna: Underground" (which is the working title of the film being produced by the Morevna Project). So it seems like a good time to talk about the software we've been using, which is MediaWiki.

Book Review: Foundation Blender Compositing by Roger Wickes

Hardly anyone realizes that Blender even is a video compositing and non-linear editing tool (in addition to its modeling, rendering, and animation capabilities). There are few, if any, books available on how to use it for that purpose, so Roger Wickes' book is much needed. It contains an enormous amount of very useful information.

Extracting and Using a Recorded Sound Effect with VLC and Audacity

I found a useful sound effect in an online video from NASA which replaces an earlier temporary sound I used in a scene soundtrack for the Lunatics pilot, "No Children in Space." I'm going to extract the sound from the video (with VLC), cut out the sound I need, clean it up, and insert it into an existing sound mix (all with Audacity). This should give you some insight into using Audacity and a VLC on a real project.

Backup up your GoogleMail locally with getmail

To the chagrin of their competitors, GoogleMail seems to have become almost as synonymous with webmail as Google has with search engine (recently my six year old was explaining to me how he Googled for something at school). GoogleMail is a useful tool and has a lot of advantages over traditional client-server mail accounts, particularly if you are on the move. To be honest those sorts of advantages are present in pretty much any webmail setup: I'm just concentrating on GoogleMail because it's by my experience the most popular. But GoogleMail has one disadvantage, all your messages are stored on Google's servers. If you lose access to Google service or to your account then you lose your e-mails. Fear not oh free software lover, help is at hand in the form of the very useful getmail.

Falcon WOPI, the Falcon Web Oriented Programming Interface

These are exciting times for Falcon's language development. New and interesting features are being implemented, tested and rolled out at break neck speeds! Not only are core language features being released, but so are a multitude of feathers (Falcon libraries/modules). One such module release is V1.0 Web Oriented Programming Interface (WOPI). It is the intent of this article to cover the basic features/functionalities of WOPI through common web oriented functional examples.

Soyuz Launch Vehicle in Blender: Part I, Modelling the Core Stage

For Lunatics, we need several space vehicles. For a few of them, we have existing free-licensed computer models that we can use, but others are not so easy, or need customizations. The Soyuz launch vehicle is one of these, and it was relatively easy to model, since launch vehicles are geometrically simple (basically a bunch of extruded cylinders and cones). In Part I, I'll demonstrate the basic modelling techniques I used to create the Core Stage.

Storyboards for a film with Flickr, OpenClipart, Inkscape, Gimp, and ImageMagick

How do you get a flurry of images in your head into a concrete description of a film so that you can produce it? One important step is to create storyboards. For the storyboards on Lunatics, I've used a variety of approaches, from rough sketches on index cards to found photos and collages. This has allowed me to collect my ideas and get them into a concrete form -- both as cards I can manipulate directly and as images on computer that I will later be able to turn into an animatic.

Making Movies with Free Software

Sometimes life is very circular. Once upon a time, I was a film major. Then I was an astronomer, then I was unemployed for quite awhile, during which time I discovered free software, and as a result of my various rantings about it, I started writing for Free Software Magazine. Now it seems that I've become a film-maker again. I'm working on not one, but two animated science-fiction films using free software tools, intended for a free-licensed release on the internet under new distribution models. And, being a writer, I'm going to write about it. I think it will be both entertaining and useful.

Creating an Animatic Using Audacity and Kino

An animatic is a kind of a rough sketch for a film. It's not really meant to be an artform in itself (although some reach that point), but it is rather intended to be enough information for the filmmaker to make intelligent production decisions. It also must be cheap and easy, since effort that goes into the animatic will not appear in the final film. I have not yet fully decided what tool is right for doing the animatics for Lunatics, so I'm doing some experiments with different tools in order to decide. In this column, I'll create an animatic for a short sequence from the pilot.

Painting Sound with ARSS and Gimp

As I was working on a sound track project for a science-fiction film I've been working on, I remembered reading an article in Free Software Magazine, by Gianluca Pignalberi, in which he described filtering using Gimp and a command-line program then called "ARSE" (version 0.1). The program is now called "The Analysis & Resynthesis Sound Spectrograph" ("ARSS", now version 0.2.3). Combined with an image editor of your choice (I also chose Gimp), it also turns out to be a very interesting way to make original sound effects -- by painting the sound spectrum.

Firefox, Chrome, Safari have finally killed Internet Explorer

I have been wanting to write this article for a while. Years, in fact. I am determined to write it in the simplest possible format: no punch-line at the bottom, no building up to a grand conclusion, but simply stating something impressive, true, and simply wonderful: the hegemony that Internet Explorer once upon a time had is... over. Right now, other browsers are fighting amongst each other, and it's all about how much of IE's share they are getting. The war is over: Internet Explorer lost. Everybody else won.

OpenSolaris and its killer features. Coming to a GNU/Linux near you?

When we think of free operating systems we tend to think overwhelmingly of the big hitters (all GNU/Linux) like Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora and Mandriva and then of those niche distros that have been designed for low end systems or for specialist purposes like security and forensics. But Oranges are not the only fruit. There is a hinterland out there called Unixland, populated by other less well known systems whose roots are firmly Unix too. BSD for example, famed for its rock-like security. OpenSolaris is another one, perhaps less well known, but it has features that are well worth a punt.

Can't Program, won't Program? Then Mash the Web with Mozilla's Ubiquity

Like any other aspect of life the internet is awash with hype. And snake oil salesmen. It's lure exceed the benefits those spam e-mails promise that inundate your inbox with offers of little blue pills to reach those parts of your anatomy other chemicals just can't reach. However, sometimes the hype is not just, well, hype.

Mozilla's Firefox browser has been downloaded more that one billion times and its success is reflected in the millions of downloads of one of its killer features: addons (or extensions, as we geriatrics called them). The Browser operates under a tri licence and the addons for it are overwhelmingly free and open too. They empower the user and extend the browser. They help to put the user in control. Ubiquity does this in a way that makes web mashups creative fun and allows you to command the web, not just surf it, without any need to be a programming master of the universe.

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