ZeMarmot, main contributor of GIMP 2.10.0-RC1!

Two weeks ago, we released GIMP 2.10.0-RC1! This is our first release candidate before the stable release GIMP 2.10.0. Yes, you heard it well, the release you have been waiting for, for 6 years, is just around the corner!

What has ZeMarmot done exactly?

This was a very exciting release, and for the first time, I was even the major contributor, with 270 commits out of 784 (in-between 2.9.8 and 2.10-RC1, so counting the last 4 months). This is more than the third of all changes between GIMP 2.9.8 and 2.10.0 RC1. As for other participants in ZeMarmot project, Aryeom herself designed 2 missing icons, when she wanting to have a change of mind from animating marmots, frame after frame, and Lionel (one of the board member of the LILA association heading the project) worked on improving ruler subdivision for inches.

So yeah, at every release, ZeMarmot is more and more a major actor of GIMP. We are quite proud of it. Usually, after every release, I would list here a more detailed list on what I worked on, but there is so much in there, that this time, I won’t do the full listing. Let’s just make a quick summary of the most important works:

  • Improve debugging with a dialog gathering data and backtraces. We already discussed about it.
  • Auto-save of unsaved images just before a crash! Yep you read it well! So I know that GIMP is very stable (we had a bunch of remarks about this after we announced the feature). Yet this is software, and in software, shit happens. I am a developer of GIMP and one of the first to tell it: yes GIMP is not perfect; it is very stable, but still, it can crash. Even more: it will crash, some day, when you will expect it the least (it’s always when it strikes! ?). So now we are prepared. 😉
    To be accurate, it is not a 100% safeguard. By nature, a crash is a state where a process is very unstable. Hence we try what we can, and sometimes I’m sure the auto-save will fail. But in my tests, it succeeded most of the time. And that’s what matters when it will save your work!
  • Color-managing the color picker on macOS.
  • Screenshot with the generic Freedesktop API has been implemented. It is meant to replace all Linux desktop environment’s specific APIs eventually but needs to get reasonable features first. Therefore currently GNOME/KDE and X11 implementations still have priority.
  • New preferences settings for metadata export, and making so that all export plug-ins respect these settings (among other things, thanks to the creation of new API for plug-in developers: gimp_export_exif()gimp_export_xmp() and gimp_export_iptc()). This is a topic many may not care about, though it can also be a major feature to others since metadata can contain sensitive information and we know there are some people who prefer for their image editor to just never export metadata.
  • Various new APIs for plug-in developers, like:
    • gimp_get_pdb_status() to return the status of the last PDB call. This is needed for plug-ins which depend on other plug-ins’
      procedures. If for instance, a second-level plug-in is interrupted interactively, we don’t want to process this as an error but as a cancellation.
    • gimp_stack_trace_available(), gimp_stack_trace_print() and gimp_stack_trace_query() for debugging plug-ins as well.
    • gimp_context_get_distance_metric() and gimp_context_set_distance_metric() for distance metric used in gimp_edit_blend() (and future usage).
  • Improving gimp_edit_blend() API to use “gegl:distance-transform” operation, making it much faster.
  • Improve splash image down-scaling so that it appears at reasonable size on a wide range of screens.
  • Some vulnerabilities were reported in end of 2017, so I fixed CVE-2017-17784, CVE-2017-17786, CVE-2017-17787 and CVE-2017-17789.

In the middle of this all, I already announced the new package mypaint-brushes.
And then there are all the little micro-features, but even more all the bugs we fixed! Actually I don’t think I could have fixed that many hard-to-reproduced bugs before, as easily as these last few months thank to our new debugging system. So I am really so happy I implemented this. Even though some may think it is not that important (not an actual feature for painting or editing images or whatnot), which is something I read on some forum, I personally feel like this is one of my major contributions to this software because I know it will improve its stability and robustness even more (it already started). 😀

I told you, earlier, that bug fixing and stability was my personal goal until 2.10. As you can see, I really meant it. 🙂

Mentoring a student to code in GIMP

In other cool news, a student, Darshan Kadu, approached us with a FSF internship, and continued one of the existing port, for JPEG2000 format support (finishing the port of our implementation from Jasper to OpenJPEG, since the former is getting deprecated everywhere), and I am the internship mentor. This is not the first time I worked with university students since I gave a few courses in a university in Paris last year, and I must say I like the interaction (whether with a single intern or with a whole class).

Now I had a few exchanges about possible future projects for interns in GIMP, possibly in GSoC (for memory, GIMP project used to do a few GSoC but stopped a few years ago; I believe the last GSoC internship happened just when I came in the project myself so I never had the chance to mentor someone in GSoC). So as I saw people proposing for interns to do all sort of major implementations in the core of GIMP, I’d like to comment on this.

Personally I am mostly interested in mentoring because I like accompanying students when they discover real development world. If we can get a few cool patches in the process, this is cool. But this event should not be considered as a cheap way to get code. Any project which relies mostly on this to improve will mostly get hardly maintainable code, which took a lot of your time as a mentor but may never end up merged in your master tree.

Whatever your job is, picture yourself when you were student. Now imagine that you suddenly dropped your student self into your current position which you are in after years of hard work and learning the job though actual real-life projects, successes and failures. Do you really believe that your student self would have just revolutionized your current job in just a few months? I hope you don’t say yes, because that would be a bit sad if you don’t believe you evolved since you were students! ;p

So yeah, GSoC or any internship is very cool because we can work with some bright minds of the future of software. But these are not and should never be a magical way to get cheap, fast and good code. If anyone really believe this, something is wrong!

Release Candidate, uh? Stable release soon then?

Yep we are definitely working as hard as we can to get the stable release as soon as possible. We even just got under the 2-digit of blocker bugs the other day (though we are now back at 10 blockers)!

Actually we had to discuss a bit before naming it a RC. Indeed we believe that this is not really Release Candidate material. Well… not if we wanted to be really thorough. But in the same time, we are a bit tired of dragging the developement of GIMP 2.10 (for 6 long years now!). And making it a RC was our way of pushing a bit the development and ourselves, like a step in the right direction. Now you should really expect the stable release soon, unless we discover something really bad (knock on wood!) in the meantime.

Have fun testing GIMP 2.10 RC1 everyone! 😀

 

Reminder: my Free Software coding can be funded on:
Liberapay, Patreon or Tipeee through ZeMarmot project.

Automatic bug report and stack traces for GIMP

While I was working on yet-another-crash without a backtrace, I realized that we could just generate automatic backtraces upon crashes and tell people about it. This is how I ended up writing a debug tool for GIMP, popping-up a dialog with a nice text encouraging to report bugs. You’ll notice that the main text is non-technical. The goal is not to display non-understandable error messages which nobody will understand. All the technical part is in the below section and is just to be copied by a single button click and reported to us verbatim. 🙂

This technical part contains: GIMP version (and commit information if available), compiler, main dependency version, and finally the errors and backtraces of these errors.

Note: this doesn’t “report” the bug on your behalf. Anyone still has to make the conscious action and go on our bug tracker. But we make things easier and just a few buttons and a copy-paste away.

Someone asked me if I could make a blog post about it, so here it is.

How does this work?

Used to be based on glib…

We already had some backtracing capability in GIMP, mostly using glib API g_on_error_stack_trace(). The main problems of this API:

  • that this function outputs to stdout (which means that you needed to run GIMP from terminal to get the trace, and until now this was only used with specific command line options or on unstable builds);
  • sometimes it was not working for weird reasons;
  • it works only in Unix-like operating systems (in particular not in Windows);
  • it is based on gdb only (as I soon discovered)

So I ended up looking what this function was doing. As I said, the basics is that it simply uses gdb if it is installed on the machine. I am still unsure why, but it was doing so using the interactive mode, therefore entering commands through the standard input with a pipe. Why is it weird? Because gdb has a batch mode especially done for such non-interactive calls. I suspect actually that some of the times g_on_error_stack_trace() failed to work correctly was maybe because it was stuck (but I am not sure, I have not tried to dig much more, so maybe I say shit). But the worse issue was that it was simply printing to stdout. So if I wanted to get the output inside a string in order to use it in the graphical interface (we should not expect people to run GIMP from a terminal!), I had to do more piping of the output. Well at some point, that was just ridiculous to stack processes one after another after another after…

… then based directly on GDB…

This is how I started to reimplement the feature. I simply run gdb in batch mode, and I keep the result in a string for later display in a dialog. This was actually very straightforward. See commit bb88a2d52f.

This also allowed me to get a slightly better stacktrace since I could customize the command. So I request “backtrace full“, getting us local variable contents.

… and LLDB…

Then I remembered that some bug reporter on macOS was using lldb, the debugger from the LLVM project. Since LLVM is default on macOS, I assumed that LLDB is much more common there than gdb too. So I added support for it. This was quite easy too, I just had to search for command equivalency. See commit 4ca31b0571.

… and finally the GNU libc!

Finally I was told of the backtrace() and backtrace_symbols() API. This seems to be a GNU-only API (man says these are GNU extensions). Anyway this should make these always present on common Linux distributions, which is very good news. It means that we will always get “something” on Linux (also the result is much quicker than calling gdb or lldb). Unfortunately the output of  backtrace() is not that exhaustive: basically you get function names, and in particular neither file name nor line number even if you built with debug info, nor variable and parameters contents. So it’s a bit less useful. Yet it’s better than nothing! See commit 4fd1c6c97c.

So in the end, my tool tries gdb, then if absent, lldb, and finally fallbacks to backtrace() if available. This should hopefully gives us traces of crashes and errors in most cases!

The difficulties

Issue 1: do not rely on memory allocation after a crash

There were still a few issues. One of them is that you may notice that I use this dialog for 2 kind of errors: fatal errors (crashes) and non-fatal errors (WARNING, CRITICAL, etc.). l use the same code, but while testing, I realized that I often could not create the dialog from the main process when GIMP crashed. In Linux at least, once the program crashed, I was able to catch the terminating signal enough to do last minute actions, but it seems allocating more memory was not amongst the possible actions (that was my assumption based on tests, I may be wrong, don’t take this for manual talk). Well I guess that makes sense to forbid more memory management, especially if the crash is related to memory bugs. This means that even just creating a new dialog is not possible (requiring allocation of a new GTK+ widget).

This is why when crashing, I run the dialog as a separate process, whereas I run it from within the main process for non-fatal bugs.

Issue 2: backtrace() needs to be run by the main process

When running as a separate process, should the back trace be generated by this other process or from the main process? At first it made sense to have it generated through the new process, but then this has 2 inconveniences:

  1. I am duplicating the back-trace generation code (since I sometimes need to run it from within GIMP, sometimes from outside) and code duplication is never good (even maintenance-wise, you end up with different version. This sucks). You can make common core code as exception, but it’s just not ideal (it makes the build rules complicated).
  2. From the outside process, I can attach to the main process with gdb or lldb but I cannot use backtrace()anymore. That would mean that a lot of people would not get the auto-generated traces (not everyone installs a debugger!).

This is why I decided that the backtrace is always generated by the main process and in case of a crash, it is passed along through a file, instead of a parameter. I could have piped it which would have been just as easy, but Dr. Mingw (see below the Win32 section) was already using a file. So I chose to do the same to be as consistent across platforms as possible (also a file has some advantages: in the extreme case where the dialog breaks too, we may ask a bug reporter to look if a file has still been generated with the info).

Also since — as I said in issue 1 — memory allocations are more likely to fail during crash handling, you need to use backtrace_symbols_fd() instead of backtrace_symbols().
The _fd() variant is guaranteed to run without memory allocation (this is written in the man). And now we have traces on most systems, still with GNUlibc fallback!

Issue 3: error avalanches

Another issue is that, in case of non-fatal errors, you may often have a few of them one after another. Sometimes they may be generated as dominos (you get the second as a consequence of the first error), sometimes it’s because of long-running operations which would just reproduce the same errors many times.

Worse case scenario: a long-time contributor, Massimo, directed me to a bug which would output dozens of thousands of errors in a few seconds. Actually that depends on the size of a selection, and in some of my tests, I had hundreds of thousands of errors!
Obviously you don’t want to create a dialog each time (this example was not even a bug which crashes GIMP, but creating hundreds of thousands of dialogs may do the killing job!). So you have to just update the current dialog with additional errors. But even doing so is very time consuming. Updating a dialog hundreds of thousands of times in a few seconds is at least likely to freeze the whole GUI for a dozen of minutes (I know, I tried!).

So I decided to limit the backtracing, but even the error handling. In a single dialog, I add up to 3 backtraces and 10 errors at most. Any more errors would just be redirected to stderr.

Issue 4: debugging preferences

Moreover do we want the dialog to appear for every kind of errors? In particular, we have WARNING, CRITICAL then all fatal errors. CRITICAL are usually really bad, so we definitely want debug info here. But what about WARNING? I mean, they  are bad too, and they are signs of a bug somewhere. But these are more minor bugs, sometimes also bugs on external data which we warn about (and have no control on). Also we often output warnings when we encounter bugs in other software (for instance, one of the recent bugs where my dialog worked was on a bug in KDE’s API for color picking, and there is not much we can do about it in GIMP but report upstream). So I added finer-grained settings, because you certainly don’t want to make creating with GIMP painful if it pop-ups errors every few hours!

Actually it is even possible to disable all debugging through GIMP preferences, even during crashes, if someone is really not interested at all in reporting bugs, hence contributing to GIMP improvement.

Note: on Windows, the debugging preferences page doesn’t exist at all because the backend we use is not customizable anyway. See dedicated section below.

Issue 5: multi-threading

As explained, we don’t only handle crashes, but also runtime errors. Since GEGL is so close to the GIMP project, it made sense to handle its errors as well (actually long-term, it would make sense to handle errors from any dependency, but let’s do it step by step). So I also catch GEGL’s WARNINGs and CRITICALs. But then I realized that since GEGL uses a lot of multi-threading, getting a backtrace from the main thread when the error happened in another was completely useless.

This combined to the fact GTK+ code must be run in the main thread, therefore to create or update my debugging dialog, I need to pass the information from the thread where the bug occurred to the main GTK+ thread. This can be done with gdk_threads_add_idle_full(). This call obviously adds a delay so you’d end up getting traces from the wrong code, and after an unknown delay. This is double useless.

As a consequence, to handle multi-threaded debugging, I needed to make sure that the stack trace was generated from the thread the error happened, without any delay, and only then it could be sent to the main thread with an idle function.

Issue 6: the tweaking

Then you have all these little details to make the experience not too terrible (at least I am not saying we should make it a good experience, a bug is never a good experience! ;P).

For instance handling a crash, I add a button “Restart”, allowing — as the name implies — to at least restart GIMP immediately.

When non-fatal bugs are reported, we should advise people to save their images and restart GIMP (of course, for crashes, they won’t have the possibility to save themselves, so don’t make them sadder by reminding them).

Also I have to be extra careful to not generate new WARNING or CRITICAL from within this code because then you could create cyclic calls. You don’t want to end up crashing the software because of the debugger which initially fired up only for a minor bug.

Well you get the idea! These are the kind of tweaking you just discover as you implement such a system and you have to take care of them as you go on.

Future work

Something we have been discussing would be to save the opened images in backup files upon crashing. Of course with some kind of crashes, it may not be possible, but that is worth trying at least!

I’ve actually started working on it (with commit d916fedf92  from yesterday). As expected, it’s working most of the time, but while testing various crash conditions, I had some cases where last-second backup failed. I have not dived into the code yet to understand why and what, and if there is a solution to these.

GIMP is quite stable now (at least on GNU/Linux), and quite rarely crashes (well I say this but we had some instability these last few days because of core changes in selection and channels so the auto-debug dialog was very useful). But for this one time when it happens, handling it the most gracefully possible implies saving the current state of work. Then obviously next step will be to propose recovery on next GIMP start.

More on this later as I will continue working on it…

What about Windows?

Now the last remaining issue is Win32! Having GDB or LLDB there might be possible (I have not checked) but probably not the best path. It turns out a contributor, Mukund Sivaraman, did already add support for backtrace generation on Windows upon a crash, back in 2015. This is using the ExcHndl library from the Dr. Mingw project. Basically this is extremely easy to use since there are only 2 functions in the API: one to init the library, one to choose a file where the backtrace will be outputted.

void ExcHndlInit(void);
bool ExcHndlSetLogFileNameA(const char *szLogFileName);

So yes, since 2015, backtraces were simply outputted into a file somewhere, and people just never knew where and how to find it. What I did was simply to piggy-back on this feature, grab the backtrace from the generated file, and display it in our GUI. And that’s it!

Since I needed my own code to run after Dr. Mingw, I had a look how this tool actually made its job. In its code, I saw it was using  SetUnhandledExceptionFilter()to run its action just before the crash. What I did was adding another exception handler with the same function, but registering my handler first beforeinit() Dr. Mingw. This way Dr. Mingw call my handler immediately after its own because it keeps track of any handler previously set and call it after itself.
See commits ae3cd00fbd and 4e5a5dbb87.

Now this has a few limitations: the backtrace generated by Dr. Mingw is not that complete compared to a good gdb backtrace. Also sometimes, I had some crashes which this tool would not catch. I am no Win32 expert and did not spend much time on it, so I don’t know why.
Finally this works only on crashes, in particular I cannot generate backtraces on a whim as I can do on other platforms, which allows to generate backtraces even on WARNINGs or CRITICALs messages for easier debugging, even without a crash.

Well in the end, Win32 always ends up less featured and most annoying to debug. I guess there is nothing to be done since I remind we are still looking for Win32 developers on GIMP. We have had very few contributions of Windows developers for all the years I’ve been around, quite sadly! If you are interested to contribute on this cool piece of software, be very welcome!

We got our first reports with automatic traces!

Even though the tool is still only present in the development version, some people build GIMP from master, and we already got a few bug reports with traces included directly! This is very cool.
Actually even Aryeom got such dialogs, which resulted in some bug fixes already (and more to come)! 🙂

So yeah when I fixed my first bugs thanks to these automatically generated back traces, that made me happy because I felt this new tool will make life a lot simpler and I knew my time was well spent. 😉

You’d think a developer of GIMP would not be happy to get a back trace. And yeah, I’d prefer that GIMP was perfectly bug-free. But there is no such things, and as long as we get bugs, we may as well get well-illustrated reports to easily fix them. This is why I am happy! We are constantly on our way to a much more stable GIMP.

Yeah!

Reminder: my Free Software coding can be funded on:
Liberapay, Patreon or Tipeee through ZeMarmot project.

New header for the new year!

New year 2018

Happy new year everyone!

Aryeom started the first day of the year by the live drawing of a new header illustration welcoming this brand new year. Well that was time since we still had quite a summer-themed header until yesterday. 🙂

New year 2018This new image happens to be also in 16:9 format so it can be used as background image on most screens. Just click the thumbnail on the right to download it full-size.
It is licensed Creative Commons BY 4.0 by Aryeom Han, ZeMarmot director.

Also the drawing session was streamed live (as many of Aryeom’s GIMPing session now, as we explained in “Live Streaming while GIMPing” section of our 2017 report). If you missed it, you can have a look to the recording. As usual, this was not edited afterwards nor was it sped up or anything; oh and we certainly don’t add up any music to make it look cooler or whatever. 😛
This was a real focused live, which explains why it is nearly a one-hour video. Just skip through it if you are bored. 😉
Enjoy!

This drawing and this live are made possible thanks to our many donators!

Reminder: Aryeom's Libre Art creation can be funded on
Liberapay, Patreon or Tipeee through ZeMarmot project.

ZeMarmot: GIMP 2.9.8 and end-of-2017 report

Here it is, GIMP 2.9.8 has been released some days ago now, the latest development version of GIMP! As it is customary now, let’s list our involvement in this version so that our supporters on crowdfunding platforms know what they funded. 🙂

Since it also happens to be the end of the year, I complete this post with our end-of-year report, as we also did in 2016.

What we did for GIMP 2.9.8!

During this release span, I focused most of my efforts on bug fixing. I finished a few features here and there but actually even restrained myself from coding too many new stuff! Why? Because I believe we have enough and at some point, we should just release GIMP 2.10. Of course, GIMP 2.10 could be even twice as awesome if we push it by a few more months, and 5 times more awesome with even more time. But then in the end, if you never see it, what’s the point, right? Actually I even plan on just doing this (bug fix and finishing what was started) until we get 2.10 out. Let’s stop feature craziness!

Apart from a lot of bug fixes, I did a lot of bug triaging these last months (looks like I participated in 122 bug reports between 2.9.6 and 2.9.8, i.e. 3 and a half months).  And this month, I also reorganized our bug tracker still for the same reason (pushing GIMP 2.10 release forward) by reviewing the 50+ bugs we had in the GIMP 2.10 milestone to set as blockers only the ones we should really look into. Right now that’s down to 25 such bugs!

I also put some efforts in our stable flatpak release, which is how since October 16, GIMP has officially had its flatpak package on flathub! It is of course visible on the GNU/Linux section of GIMP’s download page with a nice “Install GIMP flatpak” orange button (notice also the cool drawing on this page? That’s Aryeom’s!).

Right now, you can only install the stable release, i.e. GIMP 2.8.x (flathub only accepts stable builds) but if you get it there, when GIMP 2.10 will be out, you will automatically get an official update!
In any case, this flatpak thing (in particular keeping our development flatpak manifest up-to-date with git code and testing the builds) is taking a lot of maintenance time!

As a whole that was 122 commits authored by me in GIMP repository between GIMP 2.9.6 and 2.9.8, out of 474 commits (so ~25%), and I pushed a few more commit from third-party when I reviewed them…
We also had again 2 guest commits by Lionel N., board member of LILA association, the non-profit managing ZeMarmot project.

Of course, though I said I focused on bug fixes, there are still a bunch of cool features I participed to during this release:

  • Support of password-protected PDF for import (the 2-commit feature implemented by Lionel from LILA!) and new procedure `file-pdf-load2()` API for plug-ins and scripts to open password-protected PDF files, but also multi-page PDFs (loading a multi-page PDF was already possible through the GUI but not by scripts and plug-ins).
  • Help system improvements: upon detection of locally installed manuals in several languages, GIMP will now allow selection of the preferred manual language in the Preferences dialog (Interface > Help System). I felt this was an important feature because we regularly had people not understanding why the manual they installed was not seen by GIMP. And they were right, especially since we don’t have as many manual languages as GUI languages. For example, we have 3 Chinese translations (zh_CN|TW|HK) but only a zh_CN manual. I could definitely imagine someone with a zh_HK GUI to go for the zh_CN manual as a fallback.
  • Verbose version (command line: gimp -v) now displays C compiler information (useful for debugging).
  • Canvas rotation and flipping information are now visible in the status bar, and this information is interactive (clicking the flip icons will unflip the canvas; clicking the rotation angle opens the “Select Rotation Angle” dialog). Some people were indeed noting that with the ability to flip/rotate the canvas, in some cases, you may end up “lost” on whether it is currently rotated, flipped or whatnot. After all, the status bar already has zoom information and flip/rotation is quite a similar feature. 🙂
  • Screenshot implementation for KDE/Wayland.
  • Color picker implementation for KDE/Wayland.
  • Improve delay handling for screenshots.
  • Review HGT support patches and improve a bunch of stuff with auto-detection of the format variants (SRTM-1 and SRTM-3), and also a `file-hgt-load()` API for scripts and plug-ins.

But really, as I said, I think my bug fixes and maintenance of previous code was actually much more important than this above list, even though it is so less fancy (and I am a bit sad I cannot list bug fixes in a non-boring way!). And I will just focus more and more on fixes and stability to get GIMP 2.10 out as soon as possible.

ZeMarmot in 2017: our report!

You know it, ZeMarmot is not only about GIMP, even though this software is a huge part of it! ZeMarmot is about making an animation film in 2D drawing, traditional animation yet with digital means (i.e. drawing on computer, not paper). We draw with GIMP. Well Aryeom Han, animator and animation film director does so (not me). And we crowdfund this project.

Financial status

This year was a bit tough mentally and we really started to wonder if this project was a good idea for our lives. Project finances increased continuously yet very slowly, and were still extra low all throughout 2017 (under 400 € a month).

In October, I finally shouted a cry for help after my computer broke, and we are so happy that many people heard it! The funding increased by about twice.

Now let’s be clear! Our current funding is more or less 1000€ since October. This is a lot better than what we had before and it gave us a lot of hope. Yet it still does not pay full time salaries for 2 people (faaar from it, actually it cannot even pay a single full time salary obviously). So we still hope you will not forget us and if you appreciate our project and what we do, both on GIMP development and/or on ZeMarmot movie, please we will be very thankful if you can donate to the project.

ZeMarmot project donations can happen on:

» Liberapay «
(weekly funding, USD and EUR possible, lowest fees)

» Patreon «
(monthly funding, USD ($) only)

» Tipeee «
(monthly funding, EUR (€) only)

Live Streaming while GIMPing

We were conscious that the lack of news on the animation side was not the best. On the other hand, animation just takes time. That’s the way it is.

Depending on the complexity and details of the animation (as chosen by the team), a minute of animation can take a month of work or more (just search the web, all links say the same).

Of course, it depends on your artistic choices. If you do vector animation or Limited Animation (Simpsons or the likes), you can animate a lot faster. Basically you don’t take the same time to animate South Park or a Disney movie (which is not a problem, it’s a choice; I appreciate The Simpsons or South Park too). For ZeMarmot, as you know, we chose a detailed style with full traditional animation. At times we regretted this choice a bit but that’s the way things are.

That’s how Aryeom decided to live stream herself working! She took a few days to search software and found the Free Software OBS, understand how things work (well she also managed to break Fedora once by reinstalling NVidia drivers while following tutorials! :p), made many tests throughout December and since December 25, public livestreams started.

The work is regularly live-streamed at this address:

» https://www.youtube.com/c/LibreArtInfo/live «

Unfortunately we have not found the right organization yet to plan and give a schedule of future livestreams. So for the time being, the best is either to follow us on Twitter, subscribe to the Youtube channel,  or just try to have a regular look at above link.

Previous livestreams are recorded and listed automatically on the channel once the streaming ends, so you can also have a look later on older (not live anymore) streaming. Be aware though: this is real live of someone working really. That means it is real time, not accelerated 20 times (as all these speed painting you can see everywhere), errors may happen and are not edited out afterwards. There is no sound and Aryeom doesn’t interact with people. She is focused and doesn’t look at what is streamed (we will sometimes look at the chat though and may answer questions but don’t consider it as a granted “feature”; this is a peek at an animator work, not a service). The artist sometimes goes for a rest, and so on. It can even be boring at times. Also the longer recorded streaming in the list is more than 7 hours straight! Fair warning. 😉

Still I think that’s an awesome experiment and we already had some very cool comments, like people thanking us (some in English, many in French) because that it is a bit like being allowed to sneak into an animation studio to observe the animators working.

 

Art+Code symbiosis

We regularly have the question: “why don’t you have separate crowdfundings for development and animation sides?

Answer: because this project is a whole. It is symbiotic: I do Free Software because I use it; if I didn’t have ZeMarmot (or another project where we use GIMP), then I would likely not contribute to GIMP. It is that simple. Aryeom as well would likely not use GIMP if she didn’t have a developer by her side.

We remind that is how I started my first patches: because we had crashes and many issues with GIMP and this was not enough for us as a professional tool at the time. We are very happy to tell you that now, it is. Not only because of us, far from it, let’s be clear! We are so happy to hack together on GIMP with several very talented developers (among them, Mitch, GIMP maintainer who is still here after 20 years!). But we were allowed to do our part and this is the reason we stuck around.

To illustrate, just a few hours ago, thanks to Aryeom’s streaming of her work, we were able to have an unexpected live demo of how well we work together. During her live, GIMP crashed! Ouch! In a few minutes, she was able to find reproduction steps during the live streaming. Less than two hours later, I fixed the crash then improved my fix in the master repository of GIMP (it actually took even just a few minutes to reproduce and fix the crash, but well I also had other priorities which I could not drop immediately!).

That’s how well we work together and what you pay for when you donate to ZeMarmot project, and finally that’s the reason why it is a 2-people project, not 2 separate projects. 🙂

So if you ever hold your donation because you only want to pay for a movie, or at the opposite only want to pay for GIMP development, I hope you will review your judgment and see why you get to your goal even better by paying for both!

GIMP Motion

GIMP Motion is our plug-in for animation in GIMP (we talked about it earlier for simple then complex animations). You can also see it in action in Aryeom’s live streamings by the way, nearly daily now.

Unfortunately I have kind of neglected it lately, and that’s mostly for the reason I told earlier: because I am really focusing on getting core GIMP 2.10 out. So I hope this won’t just drag forever (seriously I want to get done with GIMP 2 and go forward with GIMP 3!)
That means that GIMP Motion will likely not be a part of GIMP 2.10. Yet it will be a part of a further GIMP 2.10.x release since we decided earlier that we would relax the no-feature policy on minor releases, which is how I decided that GIMP Motion was not ready to be part of a stable release. That’s exactly why I pushed for this no-feature policy relax for years (ever since 2014, cf. the section “GIMP Meeting(s)” on our LGM 2014 report!): so that we don’t have to rush half-done features nor push important releases forever.

Well we still use it internally, but that’s still very very rough and has many bugs. Be warned if you try it!

Documentating the process of animation

This year, we have been a bit light on documenting the process. Well we had a post on animatics, key-framing, etc. and one on background design. We also had a few talks during the NUMOK festival in Paris, as well as in the JM2L meeting in South of France where we could give some interesting details on the process as well which are not written here yet (but should be soon).

I am the first to admit that’s not enough since Aryeom and I really want to document the techniques behind giving life to still images. But as I said, we had been a bit down, overworked and penniless this year so this fell a little behind. Hopefully we’ll do better next year.

ZeMarmot in the news

This was also cool since, we got on local TVs twice this year thanks to JM2L! In all the videos, GIMP is clearly mentioned and shown on screen as well as Aryeom hacking animations on GIMP in GNOME. 🙂

We have been featured on France 3 (also in writing):

Then on PleinSud TV (at 2:32):

And a mention in a newspaper, Nice Matin:

New material

Thanks to the increased funding at end of year, we were able to renew a bit our material. In particular we bought a Wacom MobileStudio Pro (basically a laptop-tablet from Wacom) on which the first thing we did was to erase Windows and install a GNU/Linux (Fedora 27) and GIMP. And that worked well. We still opened more than a dozen of bug reports here and there, so don’t expect things to be perfect yet. But we are working on it!

We documented a bit our process on a Twitter moment and unfortunately had to take a pause because of hardware issues. We indeed had to send the tablet back to after-service, which gave it back after more than 3 weeks (2 days ago)!

Now we will have to start it all again. Be prepared, we might publish a very complete guide soon on how to get a very cool Wacom laptop with Linux and GIMP. 🙂

Conclusion

This year was hard but eventful, and the end of year gave us more hope after funding increased and we were able to upgrade our material.

The streaming of Aryeom GIMPing was also a very cool idea and we are happy to see that people seem to like it. To this day we only got positive feedbacks. We should have started this sooner!

We do hope that things will continue to improve. We love what we do and our project, and we really wish we will soon be able to say proudly that we are able to make a living by hacking Free Software and Libre Art.

When this day will come, this will just be a very very happy day. 🙂
Happy New Year 2018 everyone!