GIMP Motion: part 2 — complex animations

This is the second video to present GIMP Motion, our plug-in to create animations of professional quality in GIMP. As previously written, the code is pretty much work-in-progress, has its share of bugs and issues, and I am regularly reviewing some of the concepts as we experiment them on ZeMarmot. You are still welcome to play with the code, available on GIMP official source code repository under the same Free Software license (GPL v3 and over). Hopefully it will be at some point, not too far away, released with GIMP itself when I will deem it stable and good enough. The more funding (see in the end of the article for our crowdfunding links) we get, the faster it will happen.

Whereas the previous video was introducing “simple animations”, which are mostly animations where each layer is used as a different finale frame, this second video shows you how the plug-in handles animations where every frame can be composited from any number of layers. For instance a single layer for the background used throughout the whole animation, and separate layers for a character, other layers for a second character, and layers for other effects or objects (for instance the snow tracks in the example in the end of the video).

It also shows how we can “play” with the camera, for instance with a full cut larger than the scene where you “pan” while following the characters. In the end, we should be able to animate any effect (GEGL operations) as well. This could be to blur the background or foreground, adding light effects (lens flares for instance), or just artistic effects, even motion graphics…
All this is still very much work-in-progress.

One of the most difficult part is to find how to get the smoother experience. Rendering dozens of frames, each of these composited from several high resolution images and complex mathematical effects, takes time; yet one does not want to freeze the GUI, and the animation preview needs to be as smooth as possible as well. These are topics I worked on and experimented a lot too because these are some of the most painful aspect of working with Blender where we constantly had to render pieces of animation to see the real thing (the preview is terribly slow and we never found the right settings even with a good graphics card, 32GB of memory, a good processor, and SSD hard drives).
One of the results of my work in GIMP core should be to make libgimp finally thread-safe (my patch is still holding for review, yet it works very well for us already as you can see if you check out our branch). So it should be a very good step for all plug-ins, not only for animation only.
This allowed me to work more easily with multi-threading in my plug-in and I am pretty happy of the result so far (though I still plan a lot more work).

Another big workfield is to have a GUI as easy to use, yet powerful, as possible. We have so many issues with other software where the powerful options are just so complicated to use that we end up using them badly. That’s obviously a very difficult part (which is why it is so bad in so many software; I was not saying that’s because they are badly done: the solution is just never as easy as one can think of at first) and hopefully we will get something not too bad in the end. Aryeom is constantly reminding me and complaining of the bugs and GUI or experience issues in my software, so I have no other choices than do my best. 😉

 

You’ll note also that we work on very short animations. We actually only draw a single cut at a time in a given XCF file.  From GIMP Motion, we will then export images and will work on cut/scene transitions and other forms of compositing in another software (usually Blender VSE, but we hear a lot more good of Kdenlive lately, so we may give it a shot again; actually these 2 introduction videos were made in Kdenlive as a test). Since 2 cuts are a totally different viewpoint (per definition), there is not much interest on drawing them in the same file anyway. The other reasons is that GIMP is not made to work with thousands of high-definition layers. Even though GEGL allows GIMP to work on images bigger than memory size in theory, this may not be the best idea in practice, in particular if you want fast renders (some people tried and were not too happy, so I tested for debugging sake: that’s definitely not day-to-day workable). As long as GIMP core is made to work on images, it could be argued that it is acceptable. Maybe if animations were to make it to core one day, we could start thinking about how to be smarter on memory usage.
On the other hand, cuts are usually just a few seconds long which makes a single cut data pretty reasonable in memory. Also note that working and drawing animation films one cut at a time is a pretty standard workflow and makes complete sense (this is of course a whole different deal with live-action or 3D animation; I am really discussing the pure drawn animation style here), so this is actually not that huge of a deal for the time being.

To conclude, maybe you are wondering a bit about the term “cel animation”. Someday I guess I should explain more what was cel animation, also often called simply “traditional animation” and how our workflow is inspired by it. For now, just check Wikipedia, and you’ll see already how animation cels really fit well the concept of “layers” in GIMP. 🙂

Have a fun viewing!

ZeMarmot team

Reminder: my Free Software coding can be supported in
USD on Patreon or in EUR on Tipeee. The more we get
funding, the faster we will be able to have animation
capabilities in GIMP, along with a lot of other nice
features I work on in the same time. :-)

GIMP Motion: part 1 — basic animations

Mid-July, we finally published publicly the code of GIMP Motion, our software for animations in GIMP. It is available on GIMP official source code repository under the same Free Software license (GPL v3 and over).

We don’t have a public GIMP release containing this plugin yet. Hopefully it should happen soon, but the code is still much too experimental and incomplete. We are using it daily internally and you are welcome to do so as well, but the released version will be much better. 🙂
So it means that for the time being, if you want to play with it, you will have to build it yourself from source, or wait for someone to make a build (we may provide one at some point).

The video above describes some of the base features for simple animations, such as storyboards/animatics and most common needs for animated images (GIF, Webp…).  What we call “simple animations” is when you mostly have several images which you want to succeed at one another. No complex composition with background and character layers for instance. New features will still happen, for instance for panning/tilting/zooming on bigger panels (very common on storyboards as well), and adding various effects (a keyframed blur for instance would be a common movie effect).

We will soon publish a second part video where we will describe the more advanced features for complex animation (the ones with layered background/foreground/characters). Because we just scratched the surface of what we will be able to do with this plugin. 🙂

Have a fun viewing!

ZeMarmot team

Reminder: my Free Software coding can be supported in
USD on Patreon or in EUR on Tipeee.

Release of TinySegmenter 0.3

Today I released version 0.3 of TinySegmenter, a Japanese Tokenizer in pure Python (released in New BSD license), with a single minor fix for proper install on systems not-using UTF-8 (apparently that still exists! :P). Thanks to Mišo Belica for the patch. Apparently some of his Japanese users are using it for Sumy, his software to extract summary from texts.

About TinySegmenter and Japanese tokenization

It’s not much of a release, but it is a good occasion to tell about TinySegmenter. This is a “Tokenizer” for Japanese. What is a tokenizer? Basically it breaks sentences into words. For people who don’t know Japanese, it doesn’t use spaces or any other symbol to separate words. Theybasicallywritelikethis. Yet there are ways to break these sentences into words, usually based on statistical analysis (like most things in Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence in general). For anyone who wants to know a bit more, this message from Kytea developer (another tokenizer, which is great) explains the 2 main methods with some links of software using them (among them Tinysegmenter) and especially keywords (allowing you to search more).
The reason why you want to “tokenize” Japanese or Chinese is that it is often a first step for further natural language analysis (for instance for automatic translation, grammar analysis, pronounciation hence speech synthesis, etc.).

Now the required example, “my name is Jehan” in Japanese is: 私の名前はJehanです。TinySegmenter breaks it like this:

In [7]: segmenter.tokenize(u”私の名前はJehanです。”)
Out[7]: [‘私’, ‘の’, ‘名前’, ‘は’, ‘Jehan’, ‘です’, ‘。’]

Future?

I am not planning on hacking much TinySegmenter anymore. I never was planning to; at the time I took over maintainership, I just wanted to use it for a project (which never went through) and the original developers were not answering. So I just properly packaged it, did minor changes (for instance better support of European words using Latin1 and extended Latin Unicode characters), added some tests, and that’s it. I don’t even use it anymore. Yet if more people are interested and want to use it, feel free to send me patches. I could also give commit rights, and even co-maintainership after a few patches. I just wanted to get these words out. 🙂

I also discover today the existence of a TinySegmenter3 on pypi, with less downloads than TinySegmenter (the older one I maintained, yes I know that’s a bit confusing, why would they keep the same name and just add a 3?) but worth looking at since they apparently improved performance a good deal (I haven’t checked but that’s what it says). Maybe I should look at their code and merge their commits at some points after talking to them?
We’ll see…

Anyway have fun! 🙂

Reminder: my Free Software coding can be supported in
USD on Patreon or in EUR on Tipeee.

Crossroad 0.7 released and future…

Crossroad 0.7

Last month, I released Crossroad 0.7. Do you remember Crossroad? My tool to cross-compile for Windows from a Linux platform, which I told about a year ago. Well there is not much to say: small release with bug fixes, minor improvements, update of the third-party pre-built Windows package repository (thanks OpenSUSE!), and so on.
Also there used to be a bug in pip, so any crossroad installed through pip was broken (I had a quick look at the time, and I think it was because it would break the install prefix). Fortunately this bug is apparently fixed so getting crossroad through pip is again the recommended installation:

pip3 install crossroad

The example from last year is still mostly valid so have a look if you want to see better what crossroad can do.

Future: Android, ARM, MIPS…

Though I historically started this project to build GIMP for Windows (when debugging for this platform), I had wanted to go further for some time now. Android cross-compilation, or even bare-metal builds come to mind.

10 days ago, I have started to work on the support for more cross-compilers. It’s not available in 0.7, but it should be in 0.8! I have successfully cross-built glib, babl, GEGL (and half a dozen other dependencies for these) for Android quite easily, in barely a few dozen of minutes (for Android ARM, x86, MIPS, etc.). Crossroad really makes cross-compilation just as easy as native compilation. 🙂

I will make a blog post with examples on cross-compiling Glib and GEGL for Android when Crossroad 0.8 will be out (not now since I may change a few things before the release). But really… if you already know how to use crossroad for building for Windows, then it’s exactly the same for Android (except there is no pre-built package installer; does anyone know if such a repository exist somewhere?). Just give a go to the git version if you can’t wait.

Going to mobile? Wait… is that… GIMP for tablets?

As always, I never develop just for the sake of it: I code because I want this for a longer term project. And I have grown interested in small devices, even though I resisted for a long time (I still barely use my phone other than for calling, and I don’t even call much). I don’t think small devices will just replace full-grown desktops and laptops any time soon (oppositely to what some would tell you), but they are definitely funny devices. So let’s have some fun in building Android (or other small devices) programs! 🙂

Now I know that a lot of people have asked for a GIMP on Android. Let me tell you I’m not sure it will happen just now. Not that it can’t. I don’t see why we could not build it on this platform (I will probably do a cross-build at some point, just for the sake of trying) but I believe it would be utter-crap as-is. GIMP has not been thought for small devices at all (I even have sometimes GUI size issues on my laptop display!) and therefore we should either heavily modify its GUI with conditional code for small touch devices,  or simply create a brand new GUI, which is probably a much better idea anyway, with such different usage paradigms. Maybe we could create a new Free Software adapted for smaller devices? If other devs are interested to make one as a continuation of the GIMP project, this could be interesting.
This said, having the main GIMP also more touch-aware would be a very good thing (for screen-tablet users), so who knows how things will evolve…

My first GEGL-powered Android “App”

Now I really wanted to have a go at this so I developed my first application to apply GEGL filters on images. This was also my first Android application, period, so I discovered a lot more than just using native libraries on Android.

I know, there are thousands of these “image effects” applications. Sorry! 😛
Really I just wanted a small and easy stuff based on GEGL, and that popped in my mind. For now, it’s called with the stupid name “Robogoat”, and you are free to look at the code under GPLv3. Current version only applies a Sepia effect (“gegl:sepia” operation) to test that the cross-compiled libgegl works well inside Android (it does!). When it will be ready, we should be able to select any effect from a wide range of GEGL operations. 🙂

Robogoat screenshot: applying a gegl:sepia effect in Android
Robogoat screenshot: applying a gegl:sepia effect in Android

If anyone wants to have fun with it, build it and even provide patches, you are more than welcome!


As a conclusion, I would like to remind that I am trying to make a living by developing Free Software, and for the time being, it doesn’t work that well. All my coding is supported through ZeMarmot project, which funds us for making an animation film while contributing to Free Software, in particular GIMP, but others too. For instance, while working on this Android stuff in the previous week, I improved Crossroad, contributed patches and a bug report to meson (and I may have discovered a bug in json-glib but I must check to be sure, before filling a new bug report) and to gradle, and also I have a few commits pending for babl (for Android support)…

So if you want to support me, you can fund my FLOSS development in US dollar (on Patreon) or in euro (on Tipeee). Thanks! 😀


P.S.: by the way, thanks to Free Electrons (a company for embedded Linux development, which contributes back quite a lot to the kernel; I like this, so here is for my minor help by citing them, even though I was not required to!) for having offered me a training in Android system development, a year ago. This is not the reason I first got interested into hand-held devices (rather the opposite, I went there because I had the interest), nor has it been that much help to what I did above, but that sure showed me how easy it indeed was and gave me a preview of the world of embedded Linux.

Background design: ZeMarmot’s home

Background design: ZeMarmot home (title)

In an animation film, obviously the design does not refer only to characters. There can be props design when applicable, and of course background design. As an example, the most interesting case is how we designed ZeMarmot’s home! At least the outside part of its burrow, since we never see the inside (unlike in the initial comics attempt).

You remember the first research trip? Back then, we found this nice hill, next to Saint-Véran village with just a single tree in the middle.

The tree on the hill: ZeMarmot movie reference
The tree on the hill: ZeMarmot movie reference

And obviously on the bottom of this tree, there was a marmot burrow hole.

Burrow hole in tree roots: ZeMarmot reference
Burrow hole in tree roots: ZeMarmot reference

We thought that was just too cool. Most burrow holes are just in the middle of the landmass, but this felt like a “special hole”. Our main character is not a special marmot, it’s not a hollywood leader, chief of the marmot clan or anything, but still… it’s our hero, right? It’s not just any marmot, its ZeMarmot! So we wanted to give him a special burrow. Therefore ZeMarmot now lives under a cool tree. Only difference is that we didn’t set it on a hill but in a plain, since plains are also very common setups for marmots in the alps.

Here is how the burrow entrance looks in our storyboard:

Storyboard: burrow entrance
Storyboard: burrow entrance

Then with clean lines:

Drawing: burrow entrance
Drawing: burrow entrance

Finally adding some colors:

Colored ZeMarmot's burrow entrance (WIP)
Colored ZeMarmot’s burrow entrance (WIP)

Note that this last image is still work-in-progress. Aryeom said she is not fully happy with it yet. I thought it was still nice to show you the progression from our research photos to storyboard sketchs, drawing and coloring, with all the thinking we made on why and what.

Hope you enjoyed this little insight in our work! 🙂

 

Reminder: if you want to support our animation film,
ZeMarmot, 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.

 

ZeMarmot work in progress: from animatics to animation

While production on the animation is still going full-steam, we thought we could show what exactly this is about. How do you go from static images to animated ones? Well this is all like progress layers, one step after another.

The Storyboard, then the Animatics

We have already talked about these at length so we won’t do it again. Feel free to check out our previous blog posts on the topic. These are the first 2 layers: comics-like static images (storyboard), and static images displayed in video (animatics).

Key Framing

In the digital world, “keyframes” is used with different meaning. On video formats, it is usually used to distinguish a standalone image in the stream with partial images which cannot be displayed by themselves. On 3D or vector animation software nowadays, it is usually used as extreme points in smooth transition which are computed by algorithm (interpolation). This is more or less the definition given by Wikipedia: “A key frame in animation and filmmaking is a drawing that defines the starting and ending points of any smooth transition.

This definition is a little too “mechanic” and tied to modern way of animating with vector or 3D (actually it is not entirely true even in 3D and vector but this is what one might think when discovering interpolation magic). Key frames are actually simply “important images” as determined by the animator in a purely judgemental way. Keyframing is part of the art of the animator, more than a science. It is true that they are often starting/ending points of movements, but this is not a necessity. Also called sometimes “key poses”, these are what the animator feels make the movement good or not, in one’s guts as an artist.

Pose to Pose vs Straight Ahead animation

When animating, there are 2 main techniques. The first method is to decompose the movement in key poses (keyframes) as a first step. Then later, when it looks good, you complete with intermediate frames (inbetweens). This is the pose to pose method and demonstrated a bit in the above video.

When you are a big studio, keyframes would usually be drawn by the main animators, and the inbetweens would be left to the assistants (less experienced animators). This allows to share the work with more multitasking. In ZeMarmot‘s case unfortunately, Aryeom does everything, since we don’t have the funds to hire more artists as of yet.

The other method is called “Straight Ahead” and consists on doing all frames one after another without prior decomposition. Timing is much harder to plan with such a technique and you may end wasting more drawing. On the other hand, some animators prefer the freedom it gives and by making movements less perfect, you can also avoid them being too mechanical (in other words, perfect movement are not always what you are looking for when you want to represent living being in their whole perfect imperfection).

Observing Aryeom, she uses both methods, depending on the cuts, as is the case for many animators.

Conclusion

Hopefully you appreciate this insight on the work behind animating life, and this small video where we display the same pieces of a scene at different steps in the work-in-progress, first one after another, then side by side.

You will notice that we mostly show always pieces of the same scene since we really want to try and avoid any spoiler as much as possible. 🙂

Have fun!

ZeMarmot team

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.

Spring is here!

This is spring, time of cherry blossoms and warmer weather (well for people in north hemiphere only!). So Aryeom drew a new header image for our blog (as usual drawn in GIMP under Creative Commons by-sa).

Very soon more news on GIMP and ZeMarmot!

Wilber week 2017: our report

Wilber Week 2017: the hacking place
ZeMarmot reached Bacelona airport!
ZeMarmot reached Barcelona airport!

Last week, the core GIMP team has been meeting for Wilber Week, a week-long meeting to work on GIMP 2.10 release and discuss the future of GIMP.  The meeting place was an Art Residency in the countryside, ~50km from Barcelona, Spain, with pretty much nothing but an internet access and a fire place for heating. Of course, both Aryeom and I were part of this hacking week. I personally think this has been a very exciting and productive time. Here is our personal report (it does not include the full result for everyone, only the part we have been a part of).

Software Hacking, by Jehan

GIMP on Flatpak

I’ve wanted to work on an official Flatpak build for at least 6 months, did some early tests already back in September, but could finally make the full time only this week. The build is feature-complete (this was not the case of the original nightly builds of GIMP, used as tests by Flatpak’s main developer, back when it was still called xdg-app; also these incomplete builds seem to have not been available anymore for a few months now), or nearly (since some features are still missing in Flatpak).

I’ll talk more on this later in a dedicated post, detailing what is there or not, and why, with feedback on the Flatpak project.
Bottom line: GIMP will have an official Flatpak, at least starting GIMP 2.10!

Heavy coding and arting going on at #WilberWeek
“Heavy coding and arting going on at #WilberWeek” (photo by Mitch, GIMP maintainer)

Working on the help system, Windows build, and more…

I’ve also worked in parallel on some other topics. For instance I’ve made a new Windows build of GIMP to test a few bugs (with my cross-build tool, crossroad, which I hadn’t used for a few months!), fixed a few bugs here and there, and also spent a good amount of time working on improving language detection for the help system (in particular some broken cases when you don’t have exactly the same interface language as the help you downloaded, since we don’t have documentations for as many languages as we have GUI translations). This part is mostly not merged in our code yet because unfinished. But it should be soon.
All in all, that was 26 commits in GIMP (and 1 minor commit in babl) last week, and a lot more things started.

Art hacking, by Aryeom

Aryeom, ZeMarmot director, contributed a lot of smiles (as always), art and design. Since Mitch forgot our usual “Wilber Flag”, she quickly scribbled one on a big sheet of paper (see in video).

Apart from playing with Wilber stamps, created by Antenne Springborn, Aryeom also spent many hours discussing t-shirt and patch designs with Simon Budig. Here is one of her nice attempts for a very classy outlined-Wilber design:

Outlined-Wilber design by Aryeom
Outlined-Wilber design by Aryeom

Funny story: she chose as a base a font called montserrat, without realizing that the region we were in at the time was called Montserrat as well. Total coincidence!

She has also been working on some missing icons in GIMP, for instance the Import/Export preferences icon.

And with time permitting, she scribbled various drawings on paper, because digital painting doesn’t mean you should forget analog techniques, right?

Social hacking: interviews and merchandise

Developer interviews

I have been wanting to bring a little more life to our communication ever since we got a new website for GIMP. We already produce more regular news. I wish we had even more. I also think we should even extend to community news. So if you’ve got cool events around the world involving GIMP, do not hesitate to tell us about them. We may be able to make it a gimp.org news when time permits.

Something else I wanted is showing the people behind GIMP: developers and contributors, but even the artists, designers and other creators making usage of GIMP as a tool in their daily creative process. I have talked about these interviews for a few months now, and Wilber Week was my first attempt to make them a reality. I interviewed Mitch, GIMP maintainer, Pippin, GEGL maintainer, Schumaml, GIMP administrator, Simon, a very early GIMP developer and Rishi, GNOME Photos maintainer and GEGL contributor.
All these interviews soon to be featured on gimp.org!

And that’s only a start! I am planning on interviewing even more contributors (developers and non-developers) and also artists. 🙂

Merchandising

We regularly have requests about t-shirts or other merchandising featuring Wilber/GIMP. So we sat down and discussed on what should be exactly GIMP’s official position on this topic. As you know, I, personally, am all for Libre Art, so this was my stance. And I am happy that we are currently willing to be quite liberal.

Yet we have a lot of values and that was our main concern: how nice is your design? Is your merchandising using good material? Is it produced with ecologically-conscious techniques? Do you give back to the community?… So many questions and this is why Simon Budig will work on a ruleset of what will be acceptable GIMP merchandising that we will “endorse”. Endorsement from the GIMP project will mean that we will feature your selling page link on gimp.org and also that you will be allowed to feature on your own page some “endorsed by GIMP” text or logo. I’ve been quite inspired by this system which Nina Paley uses for Sita Sings the Blues movie.

Well that’s the current status, but don’t take it as an official position and wait for an official news or page on gimp.org (as a general rule, nothing I write is in any way an official GIMP statement unless confirmed on the main website by text validated by peers).

Release hacking!

The one you’ve all been waiting for, so I kept it for the end, or close: what about GIMP 2.10 release? We finally decided that it is time to get 2.10 going. We still have a few things that we absolutely need to fix before the release, but the main decision is that we should stop being blocked by unfinished cool features.

We have got many very awesome features which are “nearly there”, but mostly untouched for years. Usually it means that it globally works but is either extremely slow (like the Seamless Clone or n-point deformation tools), or that it is much too instable (up to the crash), often also with unfinished GUI…
Well we will have to do a pass through our feature list and will simply disable whatever is deemed non-releasable. The code will still be here for anyone to fix, but we just can’t release half-finished unstable features. Sorry.
The good news is that it suddenly divides our blocker list by 10 or so! And that should make GIMP 2.10 coming along pretty soon.

But so what of all these cool features? Will we have to wait until GIMP 3 now? Not necessarily! We decided to relax the release rules, which come from a time where all free software released major versions with new features and minor versions with bug fixes only (some kind of semantic versioning applied to end software). So now, if any cool new feature comes along or if the currently deactivated features get finished, we are willing to make minor releases with them! Yes you read it well. This makes it much more exciting for developers since it means you won’t have to wait for years to see your changes in GIMP. But it also means that our contribution process gets much more robust to the unfinished-patch-dropping issue. Of course the libgimp API (used by plugins) still stays stable. Changes does not mean breaking stability!
This was also summed-up in an official gimp.org news recently.

I am so happy about this because I have been pushing for this change in our release process for years. Actually the first time I proposed this was in Libre Graphics Meeting 2014, Leipzig (as I explained in my report back then). I call it a rolling release, where we can release very regularly new stuff, even if just a little. This time though, the topic was brought up by Mitch himself.

People hacking

The conclusion of this week is that it was very nice. As Simon Budig put it in his interview: I mostly stay for the people. I think this is the same for us, and these kind of social events are the proof of it. The GIMP project is ­ — before all — made of people, and not just any people, even nice people! Such event is a good occasion for meeting physically, from time to time, and not just with pixels and bits exchanged through the internet.
We also spent a few hours visiting Barcelona, in particular Sagrada Familia, and doing a few hikes in Montserrat.

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Awesome panorama shot showing several members of GIMP and GEGL (photo by Aryeom)
Panorama shot featuring several members of GIMP and GEGL (photo by Aryeom)

Financial hacking: ZeMarmot

As a conclusion, we remind you that ZeMarmot would be the way for me to work full-time on GIMP software development! We could do nearly as much every week if our project had the funding which allowed us to sustain ourselves while hacking Free Software. So if you wish to see GIMP be released faster with many cool features, don’t hesitate to click our Patreon links (for USD funding) or the Tipeee one (EUR funding).

See you soon!

Release of the pilot episode of an old project: “Ouhlala”

2017 starts well for ZeMarmot, with many new contributors and joy of life!

We  recently found a former project, lost in old hard drives, dating from either end-of-2014, or early 2015 (before  ZeMarmot), when we were still searching for a fun project to keep us  busy. As you know, we haven’t chosen this project, called “Ouhlala“,  which explains this small 30-sec episode was getting forgotten somewhere  in a hard drive. A little sad; therefore we now release it.
Obviously  this serie is on indefinite standby since we now focus on ZeMarmot and this is the  first time we publicly release this episode (it was only shown once  during a very small talk, 2 years ago)!

The early concept of the serie was to illustrate various idioms from all over the world with short  animations (not necessarily in an intellectual way, more with funny  views). The pilot episode focused on the French idiom “Jamais 2 sans 3” (~ things always go in 3).

License of the movie: Creative Commons by-SA 4.0 international
As usual, all is drawn with GIMP, sound is recorded or edited in Ardour, except for a few CC 0 sounds found on the awesome freesound.org.

Have a fun viewing all!


Reminder: if you like what we do, you can fund our current project, ZeMarmot at Patreon (USD) or Tipeee (EUR).

ZeMarmot end-of-year report

Hi everyone!

How are going your last days of 2016 so far? It’s been a strange year? Well let’s not diverge, and focus on ZeMarmot, then, shall we? First be aware that our dear Director, Aryeom Han, is getting a lot better. She was also really happy to get a few “get well” messages and say thanks. Her hand is still aching sometimes, in particular on straining or long activities, but on the whole, she says she can draw fine now.

Reminding the project

I will discuss below what was done in the last months, but first — because it is customary to do so at end of year — I remind that ZeMarmot is a project relying on the funding by willing individuals and companies, with 2 sides: art and software.

I am a GIMP developer, the second biggest contributor in term of number of commits in the last 4 years and I also develop a plugin for digital 2D animation with GIMP, which Aryeom is using on ZeMarmot. I want to get my plugin to a releasable state by GIMP 2.10.

Aryeom is using the software to fully animate, draw and paint a movie, based on an original story which I wrote a few years ago, about a marmot who travels the world for reasons you will know when the film will be released. 🙂 Oh and the movie will be Creative Commons by-SA of course!

Up to now, our initial crowdfunding (~ 14 000 €) has allowed to pay several months of salary to Aryeom. I have chosen to not earn anything for the time being (not because I don’t like being paid but because we cannot afford it with current funding). Some of it is remaining but is kept to pay the musicians.

Now we are mostly relying on the monthly crowdfunding through the Patreon (USD funding) and Tipeee (EUR funding) platforms. But all combined, that’s about 180 € a month, which amounts to barely more than a day of salary (and with non-wage labour costs, that’s not all of it for Aryeom). 1 day per month to make a movie, that’s far from enough, right?

My dream? I wish we could some day consider ourselves a real studio, with many paid artists, producing cool Libre Art movies going to the cinema (yes in my crazy dream, Creative Commons by-sa films are on the big screen!), and developers paid to improve Free Software so that our media-making ecosystem gets even better and for everybody to use!
But right now, that’s no more than an experiment mostly done voluntarily.

Do you like my dream? Do you want to help us make it real? You can by helping the project financially! It can be the symbolic coin as the bigger donation, any push is actually helping us to make things happen!

Click here to fund ZeMarmot in USD on Patreon »
Click here to fund ZeMarmot in EUR on Tipeee »

Not sure yet? Feel free to read more below and to pitch in at any time later on!

Note that not only the money but also the number of supporters is of great help since it shows supports to bigger funders; and for us that’s good for morale too! A good monthly crowdfunding can also help us find producers without having to abandon any of the social and idealistic aspects of the project (note that we have already been contacted by a production who were interested by the film after the crowdfunding but we refuse to compromise too much on the ideal).

The animation

We illustrated Aryeom’s work by 2 videos presenting extracts of her work-in-progress. In this first video, she shows different steps in animating a few cuts of the main character:

In this second video, we examine some cuts of another character, the Golden Eagle, main predator of the marmot:

There are a lot which can be said on these few minutes shown about the work of “animator”. Many pages of books on the art of animating life could be filled from such examples! We will probably detail these steps in longer blog posts but I will still explain the basics here.

Animating = giving life

Aryeom says it in the first video and you can see it in several examples in both videos. When your character moves from A to B, you are not just “moving” it. You have to give the impression that the character is acting on oneself, that it is alive, inhabited, in other words: animated.

This is no surprise one of the most famous book on animation is called “The illusion of life” (by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston), also the bedside book of Aryeom. Going this way has a lot of ramifications on the animator job.

Believable, not realistic

Before we continue, I have to make sure I am understood. Even though realistic animation is also a thing (Disney comes to mind), making a good animation is otherwise not necessarily about making it “realistic”, but instead about making it “believable”.

It is very common to exaggerate some movements for various reasons (often because it is funnier, but also sometimes because exaggerating it may sometimes look even more believable than the realistic version!), or the opposite (bypassing anatomically-correct movements). There are no bad reasons, only choices to achieve what you want.

Now that this thing is clear, let’s continue.

You can’t just “move an arm”

The very classical example beginners will be given is often: “lift your right arm up”. That’s it? Did you only move your arm and the rest of the body stayed unchanged? Of course not. To stay in balance, your body shifted to the left as a counterweight; the right shoulder lifted whereas the left shoulder lowered; and so on.
A lot of things will change in your body with this simple action. Even your feet and legs may move to compensate the shift of the center of gravity. As a consequence, you don’t “move your arm”, you “move your whole body” (in a configuration where your arm is up).

This is one of the first reason why to just move a single part in a body, you cannot reuse previous drawings and change just this part. No, you will properly redraw the whole body because if you are to fake life, you may as well do it well.

Note: when you say “animation” to computer people, their brain usually immediately wires to “interpolation“, which is the mathematics to compute (among other things) intermediate positions. Because of what I said above, in reality, this mathematical technique is barely used in traditional (even when digital) animation. It is used a lot more in vector and 3D animation, but its role should definitely be minimized compared to the animator work even on these fields. In vector/3D, I would say that interpolation only replaced the inbetweener role (some kind of “assistant” who draw non-keyframe images) from the traditional animation world.

Timing, silence and acceleration

You often hear it from actors, poets, writers, singers, anyone who gives some kind of life: the silence is as important as the noise for their art. Well I would also add the acceleration and the symmetrical deceleration.

You can see this well on this first example of the video 1 (at 0’41). Aryeom was unhappy with her running marmot which was nearly of linear speed. Marmot arrived too fast on the flower. Well he slowed down, but barely. Her finale version, Marmot would arrive much faster with a much more visible slowdown, making the movement more “believable” (we get to the bases!).

The eagle flight in video 2 (at 1’09) is another good example of a difficult timing as Aryeom went through 2 stages before finding the right movements. With the wrong timing, her flying eagle feels heavy, like it has difficulty to lift itself into the air (what she called her “sick” eagle in the video); then she got the opposite with an eagle she felt more sparrow-like, too light and easy-lifted. She was quite happy with the last version (obtained after 8 attempts) though, and in particular of this very last bit in the cut, when the eagle gets in glider mode. Can you spot it? This is the kind of difference which just lasts for a few hundredth of seconds, barely noticed, yet on which an animator can spend a significant amount of time.

Living still images (aka “line boil”)

A common and interesting effects you find in a lot of animation is about a shaking still image. You can see it in the second video (at 0’33), first cut presenting the proud eagle still on his mountain. Sometimes you want to show a non-moving situation, but just sticking to a still image feels too weird because in real life, there is no perfect stillness. Even if you make all efforts to stay still for a few seconds, you will imperceptibly move, right? So how do you reproduce this? The attempt to stay perfectly still while this being impossible? Well commonly animators will just redraw the same image several times because as much as you can’t stay still, you can’t draw perfectly identical images twice either (you can get very close by trying hard though) and you loop them.

You usually don’t do this for everything. Typically, elements of the background, you accept them to be still much more easily. But this is common for your living character or sometimes to pull main elements which you want to tick out of the background.

Avoiding cycles

Now, loops are very usual in animation. But the higher quality you aim for, the less you have loops. Same as stillness does not exist in life, you never repeat exactly the same movement twice. So even though loops seems to be the first thing many animators will teach (the famous “walking cycles”), you don’t actually use these in your most beautiful animations. When your main character walks, you will likely re-animate every step.

Of course, it is up to you to decide where to stops. Maybe for this flock of birds in the background, far away, just looping (and even copy-pasting the birds to multiply them!) may be enough. Though this is all a matter of taste, time, and money ready to spent on animator-time obviously.

Camera work

This part has not really started yet, even though it has already been planned (from the storyboard step). But since Aryeom started (first video at 1’06), let’s give some more infos.

Panning and tilting

In animation, where the movement is by essence 2D as well, these refers to respectively a horizontal and vertical camera movement. Why do I need to say “in 2D animation”? Because in more traditional cinema, these will rather correspond to a tracking shot done on rails, whereas panning and tilting refer to angle movements of a static camera. Different definitions for different references. Note that even though 3D animation could be using one or the others, they mostly kept the animation vocabulary.

This gives you a good hint on how characters and background are separately managed. If you have a character walking, you will usually create a single image of the background, much bigger than the screen size, and your camera will move on it, along with the character layers. With fully digital animation, this usually means working on image files of much higher sizes than the expected display size; in traditional physically-drawn animations, it means using very large papers (or often even sticking papers together). As an example, at a Ghibli exhibition, they would display the background for a flying cut of “Kiki’s delivery service” and it would take a full wall in a very large room.

Animation is a lot of drawing

I will conclude the section on animation by saying: that’s a bloody lot of drawing!

As you can see, Aryeom spends time redrawing the same cuts so many times to get the perfect movement that sometimes she becomes crazy and thinks that she is just drawing the wrong animal. The story about the pigeon is a true story and I am the one who told her to add it to the video because that was so funny. Some day, she comes to me and show me her cut she has been working on for days. Then she asks me: “doesn’t it look like a pigeon?”
Hadn’t I stopped her, she was ready to start over.

This is an art where you even draw again when you want to show stillness, and you forbid yourself from using too much shortcuts like using loops. So what do you want: you probably have to be a little crazy from the start, no? 😉

There are actually several “schools”, and some of them would go for simplicity, shortcut and reusage. Japan is well known for the studio Ghibli which goes the hard way as we do, but this is quite a contradiction in the country industry. The whole rest of Japan’s animation industry is based on animating as little as possible. Haven’t they proved so many times that it is possible to show a single still image for 30 seconds, add sounds and voices, then call it an animation?

Sometimes it is just a choice or a focus. Some animation films focus on design rather than believable movements, or scenario rather than wonderful images. For instance, I don’t think you can say that The Simpsons has a wonderful graphics appeal and realistic animation (they even regularly makes meta-jokes inside episodes about the quality of their animation!), but they have the most fantastic scripts, and that’s what makes their success.
So in the end, there is no right choice. Every one should just go the way they wish for a given project.

And this is the way we are going for ZeMarmot!

Music

Just a very short note on music. We have started working with the musicians, remotely and on a physical meeting on December 1st.  We have a few extracts of “first ideas” but they won’t do justice to the quality of the work.

I think this will have to wait for much later.

Software

I went so long about animation that I hope I have not lost half of the readers already! If you are still reading, I’ll say what I worked on these last months.

GIMP

I am trying to do my share on GIMP, to improve it globally, speed up the release of 2.10 and because I love GIMP. So I count 259 commit authorship in 2016 (60 in the last 3 months) + 48 as committers only (i.e. I am not the author, but the main reviewer of a patch which I pushed into our codebase). I commented on 352 bug reports in 2016, making it a habit to review patches when possible.

I have a lot of projects for GIMP, some of the grander being for instance a plugin management system (to install, uninstall and update them easily from within GIMP, and a backend side for plugin developpers to propose extensions), but also a lot of ideas about the evolution of the GUI (this should be discussed topic-per-topic on later blog posts).

Also I have been starting to experiment with Flatpak so that GIMP can provide an official release for GIMP.  For years, our official stance has always been to provide a Windows installer, a OSX package, and GNU/Linux… yeah grab the source and compile or use the outdated version from your package manager! I think this situation can be considerably improved with Flatpak and similar technologies which were born these years.

Animation in GIMP

As explained already, I took the path of writing it as a plugin rather than a core feature. Anyway GIMP is only missing a single feature which would make it nearly as powerful: bi-directional notification (basically currently plugins don’t get notified when pixels are updated, layers are renamed, moved or deleted, images closed…). That’s actually something I’d like to work on (I already have a stash somewhere with WIP code for this).

The animation plugin currently has 2 views:

Storyboard view

GIMP's animation plug-in: storyboard view
GIMP’s animation plug-in: storyboard view

This actually corresponds to the very basic animation logic of 1 layer = 1 frame, which is very common by people making animated GIF (or MNG/WebP now), except with a nice UI to set each image duration (instead of tagging the layer names, a very nasty user experience, feature hidden and found only on some forums or old tutorials), do basic compositing and even comments on vignettes if-need-be. All this with a nice preview in real-time!

Cel-Animation view

GIMP Animation plug-in: Cel-animation view
GIMP’s Animation plug-in: cel-animation view

This is the more powerful view where you can compose a frame from several images, often at least a background and a character. In the above example, the cut is made from 3 elements composed together: the background, the eagle and the marmot.

You may usually know more of the “timeline” style of view, which is basically the same thing except that frames are displayed as horizontal tracks. I tried this too, but quickly shifted to this much more traditional view in the animation world, which is usually called an x-sheet (eXposure sheet). I found it much more practical, allowing commenting more easily too, easy scroll, and especially more organized. There is a lot you don’t see in this screenshot, but this view is really targetting a professional and organized workflow. In particular with layers properly named, you can create animation loops and line tests of dozens of images, with various timings,  in a few clicks.

I am also working on keyframing for effects (using animated GEGL operations) and camera movements.

Well there is a lot done but definitely a lot more I am planning to do there, which takes time. I will post more detailed blog posts and will push the code on a branch very soon (probably before Libre Graphics Meeting this year).

That’s all, folks!

And so that’s it for this end-of year report from ZeMarmot team! I hope you appreciate the project. And if so and can spare the dime (or haven’t done so yet), I remind the project accepts any amount on the links given above. Some people just give 1 Euro, others 15 Euro per month. In the end, you are all giving life to ZeMarmot!

Thanks and have a great year 2017!