ZeMarmot monthly report for September 2016

The past month report will be short. Indeed Aryeom sprained the thumb from her drawing hand, as we already told a month ago. What we did not plan is that it would take that long to get better (the doctor initially said it should be better within 2 weeks… well she was wrong!). Aryeom actually tried to work again after 2-week rest (i.e. following doctor advice), but after a few days of work, the pain was pretty bad and she had to stop.

Later Aryeom has started working from the left hand. Below is her first drawing with her left hand:

Left-hand drawing by Aryeom for Simwoool magazine

Left-hand drawing by Aryeom for Simwoool magazine

I personally think it is very cool but she says it is not enough for professional work. Also she is a few times slower with this hand for the moment. Yet for ZeMarmot, she started animating again with the left hand (wouhou!), but not doing finale painting/render. She is waiting the right hand to get better for this.
In the meantime, she has regular sessions with a physiotherapist and Friday, she’ll do a radiograph of the hand to make sure everything is OK (since pain lasted longer than expected).

Because of this, the month was slow. We also decided to refuse a few conferences, and in particular the upcoming Capitole du Libre, quite a big event in France in November, because we wanted to focus on ZeMarmot instead, especially because of the lateness which this sprain generated on the schedule. We will likely participate to no public event until next year.

Probably now is a time when your support will matter more than ever because it has been pretty hard, on Aryeom in particular, as you can guess. When your hand is your main work tool, you can imagine how it feels to have such an issue. :-/
Do not hesitate to send her a few nice words through comments!
Next month, hopefully the news will be a lot better.

Don’t be a stranger to GIMP, be GIMP…

I can try and do more coding, more code reviewing, revive designing discussions… that’s cool, yet never enough. GIMP needs more people, developers, designers, community people, writers for the website or the documentation, tutorial makers… everyone is welcome in my grand scheme!

Many of my actions lately have been towards gathering more people, so when I heard about the GNOME newcomers initiative during GUADEC, I thought that could be a good fit. Thus a few days ago, I had GIMP added in the list of newcomer-friendly GNOME projects, with me as the newcomers mentor. I’ll catch this occasion to remind you all the ways you can contribute to GIMP, and not necessarily as a developer.

Coding for GIMP

GIMP is not your random small project. It is a huge project, with too much code for any sane person to know it all. It is used by dozen of thousands of people, Linux users of course, but also on Windows, OSX, BSDs… A flagship for Free Software, some would say. So clearly coding for GIMP can be scary and exciting in the same time. It won’t be the same as contributing to most smaller programs. But we are lucky: GIMP has a very sane and good quality code. Now let’s be clear: we have a lot of crappy pieces of code here and there, some untouched for years, some we hate to touch but have to sometimes. That will happen with any project this size. But overall, I really enjoy the quality of the code and it makes coding in GIMP somewhat a lot more enjoyable than in some less-cared projects I had to hack on in my life. This is also thanks to the maintainer, Mitch, who will bore you with syntax, spaces, tabs, but also by his deep knowledge of GIMP architecture. And I love this.

On the other hand, it also means that getting your patch into GIMP can be a littler more complicated than in some other projects. I saw a lot of projects which would accept patches in any state as long as it does more or less what it says it does. But nope, not in GIMP. It has to work, of course, but it also has to follow strict code quality, syntax-wise, but also architecture-wise. Also if your code touches the public API or the GUI, be ready for some lengthy discussions. But this is all worth it. Whether you are looking for improving an already awesome software, adding lines to your resume, improving your knowledge or experience on programming, learning, you will get something meaningful out of it. GIMP is not your random project and you will have reasons to be proud to be part of it.

How to choose a first bug?

Interested already? Have a look at bugs that we think are a good fit for newcomers! Now don’t feel obligated to start there. If you use GIMP and are annoyed by specific bugs or issues, this may well be a much better entrance. Personally I never contributed to fix a random bug as first patch. Every single first patch I did for Free Software was for an issue I experienced. And that’s even more rewarding!

Oh and if you happen to be a Windows or OSX developer, you will have an even bigger collection of bugs to look into. We are even more needing developer on non-Linux platforms, and that means we have a lot more bugs there, but also most likely a good half of these are probably easy to handle even for new developers.

Finally crashes and bugs which output warnings are often pretty easy since you can usually directly investigate them in a debugger (gdb for instance), which is also a good tool to learn if you never used. Bugs related to a graphical element, especially with text, are a good fit for new developers too since you can easily grep texts to search through the code.

Infrastructure

Now there are whole other areas where you could contribute. These are unloved area and less visible, which is sad. And I wish to change this. One of these is infrastructure! GIMP, as many big projects, have a website, build and continuous integration servers, wikis, mailing lists… These are time-consuming and have few contributors.

So we definitely welcome administrators. Our continuous integration regularly encounters issue. Well as we speak, the build fails, not because of GIMP, instead because minimum requirements for our dev environment are not met. At times, we have had a failing continuous integration for months. The problem is easy: we need more contributors to share the workload. Currently Sam Gleske is our only server administrator but as a volunteer, he has only limited time. We want to step up to next level with new people to co-administrate the servers!

Writers

While we got a new website recently (thanks to Patrick David especially!), more frequent news (here I feel we have to cite Alexandre Prokoudine too), we’d still welcome new hands. That could be yours!

We need documentation for GIMP 2.10 coming release, but also real good quality tutorials under Free/Libre licenses. The state of our tutorials on gimp.org were pretty sad before the new website, to say the least. Well now that’s pretty empty.

Of course translations are also a constant need too. GIMP is not doing too bad here, but if that’s what you like, we could do even better! For this, you will want to contact directly the GNOME translation team for your target language.

Designers

And finally my pet project, I repeat this often, but I think a lot of GIMP workflow would benefit from some designer view. If you are a UX designer and interested, be welcome to the team too!

So here it is. All the things which you could do with us. Don’t be scared. Don’t be a stranger. Instead of being this awesome project you use, it could be your awesome project. Make GIMP! 🙂

mrxvt looking for maintainers

Hi all!

mrxvt is a cool light-weight terminal emulator, not tied to a specific desktop environment and with minimal dependency. This was also one of my very first bigger contributions to Free Software. Well I had patches here and there before, but that’s one project where I stuck around longer and where I was quickly given commit rights. So it is dear to my heart. It was also my first big feature attempt since I started a branch to add UTF-8 support (actually any-encoding support), which is the normal way of things now but at the time, many software and distributions were still not working with UTF-8 as a default. Then I left for years-long wandering our planet on a motorcycle (as people who know me are aware) and because of this, drastically slowed down FLOSS contributions until a few years ago. Back as a contributor, mrxvt is not my main project anymore (you know which these are: GIMP and ZeMarmot!). I moved on.

Now I have to admit the awful truth: I don’t use mrxvt much anymore. My main reason is actually because I need dearly UTF-8 and even though I’d love to finish whatever I started on this topic years ago, I don’t have the opportunity to do this anymore. Whatever terminal I use now* is good for me.

Yet mrxvt is still used, and we have regularly people asking about its development. So this is just a small call, if not too late:

if anyone is interested into taking over mrxvt, you are welcome to do so!

I have recently moved the code from subversion (on Sourceforge) to git on gitlab. So consider this new repository as the new official upstream of mrxvt. But be it know that my goal here is not to take back active development. I just can’t make the time to it. I can only assure that I would maintain it with GI (historical maintainer who also has commit right on the new repo as well) and would review and merge any patch which makes sense. If any developer who previously had commit rights on our subversion repository asks me for, I can give you commit rights there too.

Last but not least: if anyone wants to take over, we will gladly give ownership. But please send a few patches first. We had a few people who wanted to become the upstream without even showing a piece of code. Well we want to give the baby, but making sure first we give it to someone who cares. So just make a few patches that we can review, and we’ll happily give over mrxvt.


* Full disclosure: my current terminal of choice is Guake. Well it has unfortunately its share of bugs, but I really love the “making it appear and disappear in a click”. Considering that the terminal emulator is undoubtly the software I use the most daily, making it a special one, with its own windowing (not lost in alt-tab hell) is a very good trick to me.

ZeMarmot monthly report for August 2016

So what happened in August for ZeMarmot?

GUADEC

We went to the GUADEC conference, which was our first time there. Have a look to our reports in English and in Korean.

If you haven’t already, we can recommend to have a look at the record of our talk. We showed pieces of the animation work in progress.

Excerpt from ZeMarmot work-in-progress at GUADEC

Excerpt from ZeMarmot work-in-progress at GUADEC

Also the development being done on the animation software.

Animation software ­— work in progress

Animation software ­— work in progress

… and some numbers on what we did in GIMP (we already posted some info on our implication in GIMP earlier, if you remember), and more… Anyway rather than repeating ourselves, just check out the video. 🙂

Production

This month has been very active, both for the drawing, animating and coloring of several cuts of the pilot, as well as for the plugin development.

Just as we came back from GUADEC though, the graphics tablet of Aryeom — a Wacom Intuos 5 M — failed to work. This is bad news since these are pretty expensive. We were seeing it coming since the connection was having regular issues, but Aryeom is extra cautious with her material, so we hoped it would last longer. It did not. For a week, Aryeom had been drawing on a very old Wacom Bamboo (MTE-450, nearly 10 year old model, which Aryeom was using during her university years). Finally we found a solution saving us from having to buy a whole new tablet!

But as a bad news does Aryeom sprained her right hand’s thumb (i.e. her drawing hand) just around the end of the month! :-/ Probably she worked too much.
So that’s a bad news which requires her to rest her hand a bit now. Send her all the love you can, everyone!

That’s it for now. We’ll send more news soon, hopefully better ones.

We hope that you appreciate our project, and if this is the case, don’t forget that you can always support us either through Patreon (USD) or Tipeee (EUR).

Can you save a Wacom tablet with broken USB port?

You may have already read on ZeMarmot’s Twitter a few days ago but I thought a short post may be worth it. Lately Aryeom’s Wacom tablet (Intuos 5 M) had been acting up until finally the USB port was not working at all (not the cable — of course we checked! 😛 — but the port side on the tablet).

Apparently quite a common problem with Wacom Intuos tablets (like very common; I could find many reports on the web about such problem) and the after-sales of Wacom is quite expensive unfortunately. Some people would open and solder the USB back themselves successfully. On the other hands, I could read at least one comment by someone who failed and bricked the tablet this way. Also I have not soldered anything for years and I don’t have a good soldering iron anymore.

We also had the wireless kit, so we wondered if this could not be our solution: why plug the tablet at all? But it still requires the tablet to work on battery and this one is charged… by the same USB plug! Back to case 1. But then I checked the battery, realized it looked like a very common phone battery (comparing to a Galaxy S2 battery we had there, it was the same voltage, just a slightly different form factor). So yes the solution was simply to buy a 8€ universal charger, and a second Wacom battery so that we can use one in the tablet while the other is charging.

Wacom battery charged on universal charger…

Wacom battery charged on universal charger…

And tadaaa! Wacom tablet fixed for just a few bucks! 🙂

I’m just letting this small trick out there as a possible alternative to soldering yourself your graphics tablet, in case this happens to you too.

P.S.: yes it is written on the battery to only use the specified charger. But what do you want? We do what we can. 😉

Report of GUADEC 2016

Hi all!

So this year was our first GUADEC, for both Aryeom (have a look at Aryeom’s report, in Korean) and I. GUADEC stands for “GNOME Users And Developers European Conference”, so as expected we met a lot of both users and developers of GNOME, the Desktop Environment we have been happily using lately (for a little more than a year now). It took place at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.

Apart from some people we knew from Libre Graphics Meeting events over the years, we met a lot of new faces, and that’s very cool. We have to spread ZeMarmot love, right?! 🙂

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My first impression is the remarkable organization of GUADEC. They planned social events every day (barbecue, picnic with football, beer nights, dinners… even an ice cream truck at free price!), very well planned schedules, efficient sponsorship, workshops and hackfests, a cake for the 19th birthday… They know their geeks and we nearly never ran out of coffee (well, excepted during the hackfests ;-()!

GUADEC opens with a huge barbecue!

GUADEC opens with a huge barbecue!

GUADEC picnic

GUADEC picnic

Of course, we were not here just for the beer, there were a lot of very cool talks. I was quite interested into Endless and their OS based on GNOME. It was interesting to see the design experiment around GNOME maps too. There were also a bunch of discussion relative to security, and definitely the project on everyone’s mouth was Flatpak. This is clearly a technology that a lot of people have been waiting for, and the center of many discussions.

But also the small feedback that we got on how the GNOME Foundation works was quite insightful. Obviously this is only a small piece of it, but being able to participate and view some of the decision process, discuss about the money that the foundation had been able to raise, how it should be used, about new events around GNOME (like LAS GNOME). This all felt like an exciting time and a cool community to be part of.

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Another of my activities was trying to get designers interested into GIMP. For people who have followed my work a little, you know I have been really involved into getting GIMP a design revival (taking over the GUI wiki, creating an official GIMP GUI mailing list, trying to make other developers interested into this topic again and proposing some ideas here and there…), yet with very limited success so far (well I had some, but would really love if things could go forward at a better pace). I think GIMP is clearly a great software, both historically and technically. Historically because it is the root of several awesome technologies, like GTK+ (no GNOME without, right?) or lately GEGL, and because many people would call it a “flagship” for Free Software. But great technically as well: I am very amazed how good the code is. It has its zones of darkness (every software has, especially after more than 20 years of existence), because it is still well organized, clean, following clear coding standards with quality code. There is obviously a good technical maintainership. Now the GUI is less than perfect. Not because it is flawed, but because it follows here too 20-year-old design standards. Any software this age has this kind of problem, especially with design paradigms evolving faster and faster. Yet I believe a software that great deserves a chance to get a new face. So what’s the link to GUADEC? Well I have tried to approach various GNOME designers and getting them interested to GIMP again. If you are one of these designers I approached, hopefully I convinced you to give it a try. If I didn’t approach you, I may just not have known who you are, and do not hesitate to come to me. I am not saying that any complete huge redesign will happen overnight. But you definitely have open ears and we, at GIMP, are willing to discuss how to make a better user experience! We can start small.

Another reason for our presence was obviously to present our project: ZeMarmot. We were quite pleased to discover that some people knew about us. I was clearly going there thinking we would be like total strangers. But not only did some people recognize us, but we even had someone telling us his daughter was a huge fan. What? We got our first fan girl?

By the way, they had this badge machine, so while we were there, we printed and created our first hand-made badges of ZeMarmot. About 3 dozens of them. They are therefore quite exclusive so if you got some of them while being there, don’t throw them away!
Oh and by the way, that’s Creative Commons by-sa badges, like our movie! 😉

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For people interested into our talk, here it is! You’ll see some quite exclusive contents with a few seconds of some cuts of the pilote. Enjoy!

And so here we are, ready to leave Germany. This was a very interesting event. We may come back next year, who knows? Only regret I have is that I was really hoping to participate to a workshop, but since our hotel was already booked, it was not made possible. Well next year maybe…

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So thank you GNOME for the event and also for sponsoring our travel there! 🙂

ZeMarmot sponsored by GNOME

ZeMarmot talk livestream (GUADEC)

A small reminder that we are currently at GUADEC!

ZeMarmot's director at GUADEC 2016

ZeMarmot’s director at GUADEC 2016

As we said in our last post, tomorrow at 11:45 AM (Central European Time), we’ll have a talk about the status of ZeMarmot with some contents (i.e. few seconds of animation in progress) and our view on using GNOME and Free Software for media creation.

So if you are around Karlsruhe (Germany), do not hesitate to come by (GUADEC is a free GNOME event) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Otherwise, you can see us on the live streaming of the event (direct link for live streaming) and the recording will remain viewable afterwards from the CCC streaming website.

See you there!

ZeMarmot at GUADEC 2016

Hello everyone!

Just a quick post to tell everyone that ZeMarmot project will be present at GUADEC 2016.

ZeMarmot is speaking at GUADEC 2016!

ZeMarmot is speaking at GUADEC 2016!

GUADEC is “the main conference for GNOME users, developers, foundation leaders, individuals, governments and businesses worldwide” and this year, it will be held in Karlsruhe, Germany from August 12 – 14.

ZeMarmot sponsored by GNOME

We are all happy users of GNOME here, and this is the first time we will be in GUADEC, so this is pretty exciting. Both Aryeom, the film director, and myself, Jehan, are sponsored by the GNOME Foundation to present our film, produced with FLOSS, in room 1, on Sunday, August 14. We will talk about the movie, its current status, about our work on GIMP too, how GNOME and Free Software works in a media creation workflow, and so on. So we hope you will be many to check this out if you are around!
There are a lot of other very cool talks for the whole 3 days of conference, so if you come by, I have the feeling you won’t regret it. 🙂

Of course, if you happen to come across us in between talks, or during the hackfest days, don’t hesitate to come and say hi! Here is what we look like so you can recognize us:

Have fun everyone, and maybe see you at GUADEC! 🙂

GIMP 2.9.4 and our vision for GIMP future

So you may have heard the news: we recently released a new development version of GIMP, version 2.9.4 (as well as a bugfix release 2.8.18, but this is not as awesome).

Small edit: I realized that my blog post has been linked on many major news website. I didn’t expect this! Therefore I just want to make clear that whatever I wrote below is my view of GIMP future. It may not be shared by other developers who have their own priorities and this post has not be written with the other devs. In other word, anything here is not written as anything official from the GIMP project itself, but from me only, a single contributor to GIMP.

GIMP 2.9.4

I am not going to rewrite all of the official news, because you may as well read it on gimp.org. Anyway I co-wrote the news with the rest of the team and provided several screenshots. So reading there is also partly same as reading here. 😉

I’ll just illustrate with this cool picture of the live preview of operations (here a gaussian blur) directly on canvas, split for comparison, implemented by Mitch, our own benevolent dictator (or are we all his dictators?). The image on canvas is by Aryeom, ZeMarmot‘s director.

GIMP 2.9.4 screenshot. Image on canvas is by Aryeom Han under Creative Commons by-sa.

GIMP 2.9.4 screenshot. Canvas image by Aryeom Han (Creative Commons by-sa).

Pretty cool feature, uh?

GIMP & ZeMarmot project

As you can read on gimp.org, ZeMarmot is a contributor to GIMP through my own contributions (which amounts to about 14% of commits for this specific release. Commits number is not always the most perfect metrics but as good as any).

Painting

So what did we bring to the table? Well there are the stuff which we like most first: painting. So I developed symmetry painting last year. Here are some symmetrical doodles drawn by Aryeom in just a few seconds, thanks to the symmetry modes:

Symmetrical doodles by Aryeom Han (Creative Commons by-sa).

Symmetrical doodles by Aryeom (Creative Commons by-sa).

I also helped on the integration of the MyPaint brushes, and in particular contributed upstream on a whole build system rework which, as a side effect improved the codebases of libmypaint and MyPaint (quote from Mypaint’s blog post):

Development of MyPaint will continue of course; in fact making this split happen has improved a lot of things in the codebases of both projects ☺ Big thanks to @Jehan for making this all work so well!

Internationalization

Also the fact that Aryeom is Korean, that we both lived in several countries in Europe, Asia and Oceania, that we speak English, French, Japanese, Korean (well my Korean is lacking!), and that I love languages and am a grammar geek made us good targets to notice anything wrong with GIMP’s support of non Western languages. So I have fixed some bugs and even crashes related to Input Methods and made the text tool finally compliant with input method engines (it used to have an ugly overlay box, not integrated at all in the input box, and without any standard formating).

Writing Korean (left) or Japanese (right) in GIMP 2.9.4's text tool.

Writing Korean (left) or Japanese (right) in GIMP 2.9.4’s text tool.

Of course, I did several other fixes related to languages since I contribute to GIMP like each language translated in itself in the list of language in the preference, or bugs with GUI with right-to-left languages, like Arabic (did I say I was a language geek? I love all these differences and particularities).
Other than this, both Aryeom and I are trying to build a more diverse community by engaging FLOSS and GIMP enthusiasts in Japan, South Korea (some tutorial videos in Korean even) or other countries in their native languages. A hard and long job but we are trying. 🙂

Code review and code maintenance

Well I code a lot of other stuff, smaller features (like the email plugin in GIMP 2.9.4, using xdg-email, implemented a few weeks ago) and bug fixes since I like GIMP hard-rock solid and as stable as possible but that’s obviously less visible. I am also trying to step up more and more for code review and maintenance of small pieces of the software, since Mitch really needs the help (apparently the whip is not enough help! Go figure!). Well this is still work in progress and I wish I could make time to bring more cool code into GIMP, but it still allowed the action search (equivalent to the space-menu of Blender), which I think is one of the coolest feature of GIMP 2.9/2.10 and making menus so old school. This was originally contributed by Srihari, then I reviewed, rewrote and fixed parts of it to fit our high standards on code quality. Well I think that’s one of the features I am the most proud as a reviewer (instead of as the original author). This is also very rewarding to work with other coders, especially when talented and with interesting ideas.

Searching an operation in GIMP with the action search.

Searching an operation in GIMP with the action search.

There are more code I reviewed and integrated, like lately the cool command line’s batch processing macro or even the whole revamping of the user interface (new themes and icons). Arguably this is less “useful”. Well it depends. I met some people who claimed it will change their life, while others would hate the new design direction (though note that old icons and theme are still available in preferences). But anyway this was an idea hanging around on mailing list for years, so I took on myself to attend to new contributors willing to help on the matter (Klaus Staedtler for the icons and Benoit Touchette for the themes). This is also an interesting adventure, I think.

New themes by Benoit Touchette and icons originally by Barbara Muraus and Jakub Steiner, heavily updated and completed by Klaus Staedtler.

New themes by Benoit Touchette and icons originally by Barbara Muraus and Jakub Steiner, heavily updated and completed by Klaus Staedtler.

In the end working on all these fronts is very cool but also exhausting. Hopefully the more time goes, the more I will be able to do! 🙂

Future of GIMP

GEGL everywhere?

I see a lot of good things happening around GIMP. And not just from me, but from all the awesome people in GIMP team and projects around. GEGL for one is a hell of a cool project and I think it could be the future of Free and Open Source image processing. I want to imagine a future where most big graphics program integrates GEGL, where Blender for instance would have GEGL as the new implementation of nodes, with image processing graphs which can be exchanged between programs, where darktable would share buffers with GIMP so that images can be edited in one program and updated in real time in the other, and so on.
Well of course the short/mid-term improvements will be non-destructive editing with live preview on high bit depth images, and that’s already awesomely cool right?

Painting again, better UI, export and much more…

Of course we want to go further for painting features and workflow improvement, but also the UI which really needs some reworking here and there (which is also why I created the gimp-gui mailing list, meant to discuss all sort of topics UI and UX related). That also includes improving support for graphics tablet and alike.
I also have a lot of ideas, some may come to be implemented in a form or another, or not (the export process for instance is still untouched for now). Even when this happens, it’s ok: contributing to Free Software is not just adding any random feature, that’s also about discussing, discovering others’ workflow, comparing, sometimes even compromising or realizing that our ideas are not always perfect. This is part of the process and actually a pretty good mental builder. In any case we will work hard for a better GIMP. 🙂
Among the many other features we are really keen on are the ability to select many layers at once (this is often a pain for Aryeom, since she usually works with many dozens of layers when animating), macros, improving the API to be able to customize the GUI (and not only adding menu items) and the behavior of GIMP, get more communication between GIMP and plugins and in general reacting to hooks, and much much more.
Now there are stuff which are also cool, like better HiDPI support but since we don’t own a HiDPI screen anyway, this is harder to test.

Also I like GIMP for being generic. While other programs choose to be specialized, which is a valid choice, we can notice most graphics programs end up with the same features in the end anyway. Indeed brushes and other painting features are actually very useful to photographers as well. On the other hand, painters regularly use filters and transformation tools originally thought for photographers. Designers use everything as well. So I think the approach of a program which aims to do everything well is quite acceptable too.

Well you see, we have a lot of plans about GIMP, that seems nearly impossible but that’s exciting. And of course, there are the plugins for animation that I am working on, on a good pace. I think I will be able to present the main GIMP plugin for animation quite soon on this website. Stay tuned! 🙂

Help us by helping ZeMarmot?

As often, I will conclude by promoting our permanent monthly funding of ZeMarmot. I know this is very annoying! We want to make a difference, something cool: a Libre animation film together with Free Software code. And trying to make this into more than just a hobby. Right now we are barely there.
I regularly talk about the more “artistic” side here, not often enough about the “technical” coding side. So I decided to use the opportunity of GIMP 2.9.4 release to make this small (non exhaustive) report of stuff I had been doing these last months and what are our goals on the software side (GIMP in particular). If you like what you read here about my contributions, then you like what ZeMarmot is doing, because this is all the same project. And therefore if ever you can afford it, we would welcome financial help so that we can continue software development as well as the production of the animation film.

We are on 2 platforms allowing monthly subscription (which you can stop anytime, as soon as you don’t like us anymore!): Tipeee where you can contribute in EUR (€) and Patreon where you can contribute in USD ($). Note that our pitch is written in French on Tipeee but that’s the same project anyway. Just read the official website in English or the Patreon page.

That’s it for today! I hope you enjoyed my coding report on GIMP. Enjoy your week-end everyone! 🙂

Timing your movie…

A big question when you write a scenario is: how do you time your movie?

CIMA museum's clock, by Rama (CC by-sa)

CIMA museum’s clock, by Rama (CC by-sa 2.0).

From the scenario

You can already do so from your written script. It is usually admitted that 1 page is roughly equivalent to 1 minute of movie. Of course to reach such a standard, you have to format your file appropriately. I have searched the web to find what were these format rules. What I gathered:

Format

  • Pages are A4.
  • Font is 12-point Courier.
  • Margins are 2.5 cm on every side but the left margin which is 3.5 cm.
  • Add 5,5 cm of margin before speaker names in dialogues.
  • Add 2,5 cm of margin before actual dialogue.
  • No justification (left-align).
  • No line indentation at start of paragraphs.

I won’t list more because there are dozen of resources out there which does it in details, with sometimes even examples. For instance, this page was helpful and for French-speaking reader, this one also (and it uses international metric system rather than imperial units), or even Wikipedia.
It would seem that the whole point of all these rules is to have a script with the less possible randomness. A movie script is not meant to be beautiful as an object, but to be as square as possible. Thus exits any kind of justification (which stretches or compresses spaces), as well as any line indentation (which does not happen every line) because they don’t have a behavior set in stone. They were made only so that your document “looks nice” which a script-writer cares less than in the end than being able to say how long will the movie last by just counting the pages.

Free Fonts

Some people may have noted that 12-point Courier is a Microsoft fonts. For GNU/Linux users out there, you can get these with a package called msttcorefonts. On Debian, or Ubuntu, the real package is “ttf-mscorefonts-installer” and it does not look like it is in Fedora repositories. That’s ok because I really don’t care. I use personally Liberation Mono (Liberation is a font family created by RedHat in 2007, under a Free license). FreeMono is also another alternative, but the Liberation fonts work well for me.

You may have noticed that these are all monospace fonts, which means that every character occupy the same horizontal space, i.e. ‘i’ and ‘W’ for instance uses up the same width (adding spaces around the ‘i’ for instance), which opposes to proportional fonts (more common on the web). Once again, proportional fonts are meant to be pretty whereas monospace fonts are meant to be consistent. It all comes back to consistent text-to-timing conversion.
Not sure why Courier ever became a standard in script-writing, but I don’t think that any other font would be much of a problem. Just use any metrically-compatible monospace font.

Side note: I read 3 scenarios in the last year (other than mine) and none of them were using Courier, nor actually most of the rules here. So really I am not sure how much this rule is enforced, at least in France. Maybe in other countries, this is more an hard-on rule?

Writing with LibreOffice

Right now, I simply write with LibreOffice. Now I am not going to make a tutorial about using LibreOffice, because this will diverge too much but my one advice is: use styles! Do not “hardcode” text formatting: don’t increase indents manually, don’t use bold, nor underline your titles…
Instead create styles for “Text body” (default texts), “Dialogue speaker”, “Dialogue”, “Scene title”… Then save a template and reuse it every time you write a new scenario.

While writing this post and looking for reference, I read weird stuff like “use a dedicated software because you don’t want scene titles ending a page”. Seriously? Of course, if you make scene titles by just making your text bold, that happens. But if you use styles, this won’t (option “Keep with next paragraph” in “Text flow” tab which is a default for any Header style). So once again, use styles.

Note: dedicated software are much more than just this basic issue, and they would have a lot more features making a scenarist life easier. I was also planning on developing such a software myself, so clearly I’m not telling you not to use one! I’m just saying that for now, if you can’t afford a dedicated software, LibreOffice is just fine, and styling issues like “scenes titles should not end a page” are just lack of knowledge on how to properly use a word processing software.

So that’s it? I just follow these rules and I get my timing?

Of course, real life hits back. First of all, every language may be more or less verbose. For instance German and French are more verbose than English, which in turn is more than Japanese. So using the same formatting, your page in French would be less than a minute on screen whereas a page in Japanese would be longer than a minute.

There is also the writer’s style. Not everyone writes as concisely and you may write the same scenario with a different timing than your colleague.

As a consequence, writers evaluate their scripts. You can try to act them out for instance. Try to see how long your text really lasts. And then I guess, you can either create a custom text-to-length conversion or adapt the text formatting to end up with the “1 page = 1 minute” approximation. If your scripts are usually going faster, then you need more text in one page. Make smaller margins or use a smaller font maybe?

Of course, it may also be that you use a much too verbose style. A scenario is not a novel: you should not try to make a beautiful text with carefully crafted metaphors and imaging. You are writing a text for actors to read and understand (and in our case, for painters and animators to draw).

ZeMarmot’s case

Moreover the 1 min = 1 page rule is not consistent in the same script either: a page with no dialogue could last several minutes (descriptions and actions are much more condensed than dialogues) whereas a page with only dialogue could be worth a few seconds of screen. But that’s ok, since this is all about average. The timing from scenario is not meant to be perfect. It gives us an approximation.

Yet ZeMarmot is particular since we have no dialogue at all. So are we going to have only 5-minute pages? That was a big question, especially since this is my first scenario. Aryeom helped a lot with her animation experience, and we tried to time several scenes by imagining them or acting them out. This is a good example which shows that no rule is ever made to be universal. And in our case, it took a longer time to accurately calibrate our own page-time rule.

Animatics

This is more animation-specifics: the next step after storyboarding (or before more accurate storyboarding starts) is creating an animatic, which is basically compiling all the storyboard’s images into a single video. From there, we can have a full video, and we will try to time each “image”. Should this action be faster or last longer? This requires some imagination since we may end up with some images lasting a few seconds and we have to imagine all in-between images to get the full idea. But in the end, this is the ultimate timing. We are able to tell quite accurately how long the movie will last once we agree on an animatic.

Should timing lead the writer?

The big question: should the timing lead us? You can get a different timing than you expect, and there are 2 cases: longer or shorter.

The shorter one is easy. Unless you are really really too short (and you don’t qualify anymore as a feature-length for instance), I don’t think it is a problem to have a shorter-than-average movie. I’d prefer 100 times a short but well timed and interesting movie than a boring long movie.

Longer is more difficult because the trend nowadays seem to have longer and longer movies. Now 2h30, sometimes up to 3h, seems to be a standard for big movies (and they manage to lengthen them in the “director cut” edition!). I have seen several movies these last years which were long and boring. I am not even talking of contemplative art movie, but about hard action-packed movies. No, superhero battling for 3 hours, this is just too much.
So my advice if your movie is longer than expected, ask yourself: is it really necessary? Won’t it be boring? Of course, I am not the one to make the rule. If you work in Hollywood, well first you probably don’t read me, and second you don’t care whatever I say. You will make a 2h30 movie and people will go and watch it anyway. Why not. I’m just saying this as a viewer. And since I think this is really not enjoyable, I don’t want to have our own viewer experience be boring (well at least by movie length!).

And so that’s it for my small insight about timing a movie. Of course, as I already told, I am mostly a beginner on the topic. Everything I say here is a mix of my searches these last months, my own experiments, Aryeom’s experience… So don’t take my word as is, and don’t hesitate to react in comments if you have better knowledge or just ideas on the topic.

By the way: ZeMarmot‘s pilote (not the finale movie) has been timed to be about 8 minutes long. 🙂

Reminder: if you want to support our animation film, made with Free
Software, for which we also contribute back a lot of code, and
released under Creative Commons by-sa 4.0 international, you can
support it in USD on Patreon or in EUR on Tipeee.