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Making Free Movies with Free Software

This is a loose collection of articles about the challenges I'm facing as I work on two animated video projects. One is the Morevna Project started by Konstantin Dmitriev. The other is a project I'm working on with my wife, Rosalyn Hunter, called Lunatics.

Both projects combine free culture and free software issues, since they will not only be released as a free culture works, but will also be made using free software tools.

My Quest for Free Licensed Japanese Pop Music with Wacca.Fm's XMLRPC API and Python's xmlrpclib

This is my story about searching for Japanese pop music under a free culture license. It's a little tricky, because the best sites for this are of course, in Japan, and not well advertised on the English web. I discovered how to use Python's XMLRPC library to run searches using the web API for a Japanese music sharing site called "Wacca". The results were very interesting -- I found some of what I was looking for, though not all.

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.

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.

Impossible thing #4: The Blender Foundation and Movies

The bazaar development model turns out to be amazingly versatile: it seems that most software, even things you wouldn't think would be feasible, can be developed using such an approach. But there has to be some working core software before the community will have enough interest to contribute to a project, and there are some projects where that is really too much work for one person to do.

One such area is sophisticated 3D graphics applications, like Blender (and also Computer Aided Design applications, like BRL-CAD). Such projects typically need some sort of seed project in a "cathedral" mode in order to get started. Other projects, such as creative endeavors, are simply not going to be as successful in the committee atmosphere of a community-driven project.

In such cases, there's a need to simply accumulate capital and pay people for their work. But surely this is impractical for a loosely-bound group like the free culture community? Let's look for some counter-examples.

Just peachy: free software, free movies

Apparently I’ve been living under a rock, because I only recently found out about the Blender project’s free and open source short movie, Elephants Dream, when I happened across Terry Hancock’s review of it last year on this web site. The motivation behind Elephants Dream was to create a great movie short using only free and open source tools, while at the same time finding ways to improve the quality of those tools and free software projects in general.

Two free open-source movies

This week I finally learned how to use Bit Torrent, and I downloaded two free-licensed open-source movies: Elephants Dream by the Orange Project and The Boy Who Never Slept by Solomon Rothmon (who is credited as Producer, Writer, Director, and who plays the title role). Both are interesting as first ventures into free-licensed open-source filmmaking, but the contrasts are more striking than the similarities, both technically and aesthetically.

The Boy Who Never Slept

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