Animal characters in our movie are in-between real animals and usual anthropomorphism that you would find in common animation films when animals are main characters.
So yes our Marmot wanders with a bindle on a stick. Yes he wears a bandana around the neck. But he does not speak! You won’t find any speaking animal in our movie (well unless we meet parrots maybe!). We even have a scene in our current script where Marmot will end up in a human city… as comfortable as a Marmot would be in a real city: not very!
This is a scriptwriting choice we made long ago, even when we were still thinking making ZeMarmot as a still comic. And though this was not a secret, this is — I think — the first time we reveal this here so clearly. This makes animation direction and music that much more important in our movie.
This is what inspired this “Wilber & Co.” joke. If you don’t know, “Wilber & Co.” is a regular comic strip we release in GIMP Magazine, drawn by Aryeom, script by both Aryeom and I. And if you don’t know even who is Wilber (or Tux), this is the mascot of GIMP, the awesome software for drawing and manipulating images we use and contribute to (and Tux is the mascot of the Linux Kernel which is also our Operating System core of choice).
I have now started again to work on ZeMarmot’s script, and while we won’t share too much details immediately, I thought it was interesting to expose some of our script choices. 🙂
Also in case you missed the news, ZeMarmot’s crowdfunding got extended by the platform so you are still encouraged to contribute if you wish to be part of an awesome 2D animation film under Creative Commons BY-SA/Free Art, made with Free Software and with a cool story (well I write it, of course it is cool :p)!
When I met her, she was working on her graduation animation film, Grandma Ocean with Kang Hui-jin.
Needless to say, when software were needed, these were all done with proprietary software, mostly Adobe ones.
 Our First Open Movie: « Firefox and You »
The Open Movie adventure would begin when we heard of the Firefox Flicks contest, organized by Mozilla to promote Firefox. I was already a GNU/Linux user and Firefox was my browser of choice. We decided to participate, spent about 2 or 3 weeks to make a script and draw a small animation, for which we won a first place in “New Technology” category.
It was released under Creative Commons BY-SA/Libre Art licenses for the assets, and AGPLv3 for the code. On the other side, the software used were the usual Adobe Photoshop + After Effects/Premiere. Our first Open Movie, but still with closed tools.
Nevertheless this triggered me to submit my first patches to GIMP a few months later (my first patch being September 2012).
 First Open Movie with FLOSS Tools: « Interview with the Red Panda »
The next year, we did not participate again to the Flicks contest, but Mozilla proposed us to do a small interview or video to promote the event for newcomers. We thought it could be funny to do it in the form of another animation film (out of contest).
This time, we tried to go full-steam Free Software: GIMP, Blender, Ardour. Let me tell you it was not easy. You can also see that the animation has not too many movements. I’m not sure because I don’t remember in detail, but it was probably on purpose.
 Promotional/Rotoscopy: « Dance of the Sugar Plum Butterfly »
About at the same time, as an experiment, Aryeom tried a rotoscopy animation on her own. We made a video of the contemporary dancer Hysao Takagi, from the dance company “Le Lien” and drew over the footage in GIMP, later edited in Blender. Let me tell you this was not easy either, and I think to this date, there are still no Free Software to facilitate drawing in rotoscoping technics.
 Our first Libre Graphics Meeting: « Space Girin on the Wall »
A few months later, the GIMP team would invite Aryeom and I to Libre Graphics Meeting in Madrid. Our first time.
They had this very awesome screen-wall which could be programmed, display images, and react to a camera targetted at the place. Aryeom drew our Space Girin (girin = giraffe in Korean) in GIMP which was displayed on the wall, and I wrote some code so that its eyes would follow people walking by, thanks to the street camera. The whole code and images would be released as GPLv3.
In end of 2013-2014, we would be in New Zealand, traveling and such. I would code a little, and in particular would start the idea of symmetry painting in GIMP, after seeing the feature in Krita. Well honestly we did not think it was so necessary in GIMP, but it looked like a fun and easy (what a mistake!) thing to add in GIMP, and I thought it could be an interesting occasion to try out a small crowdfunding. This feature would be later implemented in GIMP early 2015.
It is not really true that we totally paused animation-making. We played a little with stopmotion animation, and this is how I discovered Entangle (I would later propose the maintainer to join us in LGM in Leipzig). The fact is that we don’t have real good software for stopmotion, they are all either inactive, or very unstable and limited to webcams, not good cameras. So I played a little with adding stopmotion features to Entangle, a quality software, and very stable for tethered camera control.
We did this small video with the daughter of a landlord we had for some time, to experiment with Entangle:
Shannon vs Octopus
Note that we had the permission from the parents to upload the video, but we never asked for making it a Libre Movie. As a consequence, this movie is under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND. This is more of an experiment and not to be considered as part of our Open Movies.
We are so animation-geeky that Aryeom even draw animation frames on blank cards, with song that we played and sang, and we sent the frames as postcards to family for Christmas (so each person got one frame of the whole animation, which can be seen on the web).
 Contemporary Dance International Festival in Alger
For “Le Lien 07” dance company again, we made a film, this time purposed to be projected as background during a choreography for the “International Contemporary Dance Festival” of Alger.
This film used shootage under Creative Commons BY found around the internet, as well as images which were graciously lent to us by their makers, and others taken by the dancers; and our first attempt of 3D animation with a cherry tree under the wind. Here is the show recording. You can see our movie in backgrounds at some point.
Note that during all this time, in 2012 and 2013 in particular, Aryeom had jobs doing marketing videos, or even on TV shows in backstage, but she never used Free Software for any of the professional paid jobs. What does it tell us? Maybe that Free Software, as much as we loved them, were not ready, not efficient enough, or scary. In particular, crashes were too many on GIMP. I already told it in an earlier post but crashing when unplugging a graphics tablet is not acceptable in a professional workflow, neither is actually any kind of crash. Nowaydays, thanks to the hard work of many contributors, GIMP hardly ever crash. Well at least on Linux and in our machines. I don’t say it is flawless yet (which software is?) and we have regular reports of issues in our bugtrackers, which we continue to track down. But in our own lives, we hardly see them anymore. Aryeom can’t even remember the last time she saw GIMP (stable release at least) crash, even though she uses it intensively for hours every day!
So mid-2014, we started thinking doing a real nice project with GIMP and other software. Now let’s be clear: the Free Software workflow and software ecostystem is still not there fully. It is much better for 3D (though not as good for all parts of the production) thanks to the awesome work of the Blender Foundation, and it is going much better for vectorial, thanks to Synfig Studio or Tupi. But for 2D digital cell animation? Well close to the void. This will be hard, but that’s a void we are willing to fill. And we do hope you will help us do so by participating to our crowdfunding!
I will probably detail our planned improvements in a next post.
We are not planning on stopping there. We want to finish ZeMarmot first. This is a story with a start and an end, not a series with unlimited episodes. If we can get it funded, we will work on our custom software that we will release soon as GPLv3, improve GIMP, Blender, and any other necessary software (Ardour maybe too if we have issues there).
And we want to continue. Actually Aryeom already has some very cool ideas of Stopmotion movies, for which we will continue to use GIMP, Blender, but also probably Entangle for photography. I have actually contributed to the Apertus AXIOM crowdfunding (where I was also a minor code contributor and made a few talks to promote the project a few years back), so I should be able to buy one of the first AXIOM cameras ever. When this happens, I’m thinking one of the first things I would do would be a patch to Entangle for the support of AXIOM, and continue my contribution to give it stopmotion features.
This all coupled with more GIMP, Blender, Ardour, Synfig, etc. improvements, we should soon be able to have a very powerful ecosystem on GNU/Linux for any kind of movie making and animation.
Of course, this also depends a lot on you all who are reading me! If ZeMarmot does not happen, all our nice plans for the future might end up in a hole, as a dream that were and never will (or at least not as soon).
I hope you’ll be many to support us! 🙂