Animal figures in ZeMarmot

Wilber & Co. - Marmot encounter
Wilber & Co. – Marmot encounter (Creative Commons BY-SA)

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)!
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Rewind on Aryeom and Jehan’s Open videos

Before we met, Aryeom drew quite a bit of animation. You may have a look at her (outdated) 2013 reel. She did a few relay animations with other artists, tried on various technics (sand animation, stopmotion, paint-on-glass animation…) worked on the “Boy Meets Boy” movie in 2008 (she directed a short animation which was included in the movie, as well as a separate music video clip), directed by Kim Jho Kwang-soo…

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.

[2012] 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.

The concept was an interactive video included in an HTML canvas. People could upload a photograph and an address (using OpenStreetMap assets), to show their support to Mozilla, and their image would show embedded during video viewing on the right coordinates in the drawn world map. The actual page which won is still up, with the interactive video version.


Firefox et Vous

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).

[2013] 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.

Interview with a Red Panda

This was again CC BY-SA.

Of course, this is a period with increase of my contributions to GIMP (I was given rights on the repository a few months earlier), but also my first patches to Blender (2 bug fixes: broken offset/crop in VSE and broken render because of the ffmpeg fork affair).

[2013] 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.

Dance of the Sugar Plum Butterfly

[2013] 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.

Space Girin on the Wall

[2014] Pausing… or not

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).

[2014] 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.

"Le Lien" in International Contemporary Dance Festival in Alger

[2015] Our first big project: « ZeMarmot »

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!


ZeMarmot teaser

I will probably detail our planned improvements in a next post.

And after?

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.

Stopmotion contribution in Entangle

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! 🙂

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Report of Libre Graphics Meeting 2015

We have been back from Libre Graphics Meeting 2015 in Toronto for 2 weeks now. It is time for a report! 🙂

About the event itself, this year was very nice, as usual, though it felt a little empty compared to the previous 2 years we also attended. Not sure exactly why is that. Are most contributors European-based? Apart from this:

* We could hang out with the rest of the GIMP team, and that’s cool…
GIMP Breakfast on Sunday

* Nearly the whole GIMP team made a small road trip to see the Niagara falls…

ZeMarmot at Niagara falls
ZeMarmot at Niagara falls

* Of course, we also had our annual GIMP developer meeting, to discuss directions of the project…
Gimp bird-of-a-feather meeting

* And we discovered once again several awesome projects during various presentations. I won’t name them all, and unfortunately we also missed a few talks (I was especially sad to miss “Goodbye FontForge” by Dave Crossland — because with such a title and because Dave is a reference, this looks like it was a must-see; and “Web Sites on a Stick: EPUB and the Web Converge” by Liam Quin, a GIMP contributor, and we heard his talk was very cool). But from what we saw, I’ll raise:

  • Creating textbook-grade SVG illustrations for Wikipedia: a talk about contributing to Wikipedia with SVG images. It was interesting to see nice possible outputs of SVG. Yet what really hit me was the low support of SVG in browsers (like: it is supported nearly everywhere now, but apparently most advanced feature are not). So apparently SVG images contributed to Wikipedia are actually re-rendered as bitmap (text layers are hidden, advanced layout features would get wrong rendering on most browsers, embedded links are not working, etc. Well that’s if I got it right, tell me in comment if I misunderstood! This is sad.
  • imgflo: the cool work of Jonnor, GIMP, GEGL and MyPaint contributor, about imgflo, his project of an image rendering server through HTTP API. These are the kind of projects which will help GEGL go forward.
  • The List powered by Creative Commons: a talk by Matt Lee from Creative Commons about a smartphone app project to request and share photographs. Well I’m not sure if this project will be a success, and I heard a lot of people saying they did not believe in it. But I think the basic idea is still there: we should be able to gain more contributions to Libre Knowledge projects (Wikimedia, OpenStreetMap, Creative Commons projects…) by giving them more “game-like” exposure. This is actually a thought I had slightly before knowing this project, when I met people who send all their data to Google with games like “Ingress” (if you read, you know who you are!). I think we should be able to do the same thing with Libre Knowledge projects. For instance, if instead of sending all your coordinates and personal behavioral data to Google, you had a similar Free Software smartphone game to improve OpenStreetMap data automatically, wouldn’t that be awesome? Well if anyone has such a project, do not hesitate to contact me! Especially if you are into UI, then I’d leave you this part and I’d take care of the engine. 🙂
    Of course, I’m not really sure this was the actual direction taken by The List, but it could be an interesting experiment.
    Also we already told about it, but we remind that Matt Lee is running a crowdfunding as well right now for a comedy movie, “Orang-U: An Ape Goes To College”.
  • Allowing Mistakes to Happen: this one was really funny. Antonio is a glitch artist, a field I didn’t know about. Basically while we are looking for bugs to fix them, he is looking for bugs… to use them for art! I know, right?!
    Glitch Art
  • Towards Open Textile and Garment Production: very awesome, an Open Textile Production line project. The idea: the knowledge of making clothes is mostly lost in western countries, and unfair in the rest of the world (bad work condition, dangerous even, bad pay, old material because slaving human workers is cheaper than getting modern machines, etc.). Not to mention the uniformization of fashion. So the idea is to get back control to our own fashion in the same idea as Hackerspaces/fablabs. Here for an awesome video. We also saw one of these hacked knitting machine a week later in OpenTechSummit in Berlin.

    Made In the Neighbourhood (ft. a clothing printer, OpenKnit) from Gerard Rubio.

These are mostly the talks of less known projects and which I didn’t expected (well, excepted imgflo one’s, but it’s always cool to remind it!). Which is good: I prefer to find unexpected things, it’s less boring. 🙂
Of course, if you were rather expecting news of the big projects from my report, I’d suggest to have a look to the slides of the State of Libre Graphics [pdf] (the first talk of LGM), which are pretty self-explanatory (about Blender, GIMP, Inkscape, Scribus, etc. even our awesome LILA is there, and the brand new Pixls.us website project by Patrick David about Free/OpenSource photography).

And finally we presented our own project, ZeMarmot.

LGM-2015-ZeMarmot Talk
“ZeMarmot in a dense blizzard (due to bad camera settings)! ..At the Libre Graphics Meeting, 2015”, by Tom Lechner, CC BY-SA 2.0

You can have a look at ZeMarmot’s slides [pdf] (actually the ones for OpenTechSummit, slightly updated, but similar).
And here for the video of the talk shot by Peter Westenberg (Free Art license):

The presentation and the teaser (shown publicly for the first time this day) got well received, with applause, so this was a nice start. 🙂

Also we remind that we are still in the middle of ZeMarmot’s crowdfunding, in order to a cool animation film out, and improve (code contribution!) Free Software (GIMP, Blender…)
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Promote a Libre Movie during the International Day against DRM… and after!

Today is the International #DayAgainstDRM.

International Day Against DRM 2015

Digital Right Managements (systems preventing you from copying a movie or a song you bought, print an ebook you paid… and sometimes even read these!) are a real nuisance and we should fight them. But we believe here that fighting only is not enough. We should also propose constructive alternatives, new ways to produce, share and enjoy media and arts.

ZeMarmot is such an alternative: an animation film under Creative Commons BY-SA, which you can download and share at will. Marmot LoveThere won’t ever be any DRM in any ZeMarmot copy since it would be a design inconsistency. Our licence allowing (even encouraging) to share, it is indeed opposite by design.

So what better way to get rid of DRMs than contributing to Libre movies? Show the world that movies can be produced without harmful restriction! Contribute to ZeMarmot (by going to our crowdfunding!) and/or any other¹ Libre Art projet that you may like!

And if you can’t, spreading the word is good too. 🙂

Also such a day is a good reminder of all problems brought by DRM but to reach real results, don’t limit your contributions to Libre Art projects to this specific day of course!


¹ We met recently, during Libre Graphics Meeting, Matt Lee from the Creative Commons Foundation who is also producing and funding a personal project of feature film (not animation), which looks very funny, and of course also under Creative Commons BY-SA (like ZeMarmot). This seems like another good Libre funding target if you don’t like animation. Of course if you can fund both, you would be even more awesome! 😉

AMMD joins “ZeMarmot” project!

Good news everyone!

You may remember that we were looking for musicians in the last weeks. Indeed “ZeMarmot” wants to give a real important part to music, since there won’t be any dialogs (marmots don’t speak human langage!) and also because we love good music.

ZeMarmot and friends partying
Today we are very happy to announce officially our association with the AMMD cooperative of Free Artists! This is a very awesome cooperative of professional musician gathering nearly a dozen active bands, who all release their songs under the Free Art license (a license officially compatible with Creative Commons BY-SA).
Also they have their own professional recording studio, and — hold onto something — fully fueled by Free Software! You read it well: you can do professional recording and mixing with Free Software and professional musicians can make a living using Free Software, just as you can for professional graphics.
The AMMD will be in charge of composing original soundtracks, musiciens, recording and mixing to make “ZeMarmot” an even awesomer movie.

So — if not mistaken — I think we can say that if “ZeMarmot” can get funded, it will be the first animation movie ever FULLY made with Free Software, from the Operating System, to the graphics, the editing, and even the sound and music! How is it for a big step for Free Software?!

P.S.: we had many other feedbacks and discussions with artists, so thank you to everyone who proposed their services. Know that we don't rule out totally having other musicians if needed, and we are still in discussion with some interesting people who contacted us and that we may optionally work with additionally. The AMMD simply stuck out amongst all the contributors since their usage of Free Software and similar process and ideas on Libre Art really agreed with our project, and also because they do really great musics (don't hesitate to have a look at the AMMD website).

Our 2D animation movie supported by a 3D artist

Henri Hebeisen is an awesome Blender artist (Blender Foundation certified trainer). The association LILA worked with him when he participated to the Libre Calendar 2015 printing project; and if ever we raise enough, he may work on ZeMarmot with us if we need support from a 3D expert.

As you all know, ZeMarmot is a 2D movie. So you may wonder why would a Blender artist participate.
Marmot travels
A 2D animation is indeed about drawing and painting for the most part. Nevertheless when you work with computers, it would be stupid to completely ignore all the technical advances brought by 3D technology.
For instance, if the film is long, on some complex scenes with a lot of changing perspective (moving vehicle with camera “inside”, etc.), it may be wise to help our animators with some 3D-rendered scenes to draw over. Lighting also is a complicated topic in painting and 3D technology made it a lot easier, especially dynamic lighting can make static art a lot more alive.

In a movie like ZeMarmot, we really want to keep the awesome feeling of hand drawing, this raw and warm sensation on the eyes, but we don’t exclude helping some scenes with 3D technics if needed. This is a shadow job since, when it’s well done, it has to be subtle and only support the 2D. You can give more life to a background for instance, but you still want people to see these as painting. Just a more lively one. Therefore we are happy to announce getting the help of Henri in our project!
Below one of his awesome full 3D artworks.

The Last Whales, by Henri Hebeisen (CC BY)
The Last Whales, by Henri Hebeisen (CC BY)

How long will be “ZeMarmot” movie? What is our business plan?

Since we started to publish information about “ZeMarmot” project, some of the questions which often came up have been about planning and budget: how long will it be, how much do we need, and so on.

Well to answer this, we need to answer first: who are we? The answer: nobody.
Right now, this project is fiercely and intensely led by 2 people: Aryeom and Jehan. We told you who we are, our backgrounds and such already. And that’s it. We are not multi-billionaires and would not be able to hire anyone by ourselves.
What it means is that we are entirely relying on the success of the upcoming crowdfunding, which can have 3 possible outcomes:
1/ A big failure. Nobody cares, we are all sad, and we leave for other adventures. Let’s knock on wood.
2/ A huge success beyond expectation. We all hope this, but we don’t want to get our hopes too high.
3/ Anything in-between. The most likely.

Of course we could try and do it the usual way: find producers, sign contracts. But when you do this, you lose a little of your soul. We would not be able to release under a Libre Art/Creative Commons license. Granted, I did not try to ask many producers about what they think of these kind of licenses; you can try and tell me how it went! If you find or are a producer who wants to fund us with millions, go to Hollywood with our movie, and in the end release it under a Creative Commons BY-SA, just contact us immediately! 🙂
Also another of our goals is to use and improve Free Software. Now let’s be honest a moment: a full stack animation studio using Free Software cannot be immediately as efficient as a full stack Proprietary-equipped studio (with Adobe suite and such). This is how it is, no need to lie. But as long as someone does not try it, it will stay this way. You need some people willing to make the step and try it, and accept a few caveats in exchange of freedom, but not saying “too bad, you can’t change how things are”, but instead: “let’s fix all the issues”. This is the bet on Free Software: they are not perfect, but you can make them so. Proprietary software are not perfect either, far from it, and they also have a lot of issues. But the bigger issue is this one: you can’t fix them! If you want something different, if you want to improve things, this is near to impossible. Your workflow has to adapt to the tools. I want the tools to adapt to our workflow!

So after this huge digression: if we were to go the financial-worthy way, with a producer and all, we could just go the easy way, pay huge license fees, and be like any other studio.
But this is not how we chose to do things: we want to release a Libre movie, we want to contribute back to Free Software, therefore we do this project with a non-profit organisation, without a normal producer, and we take the risk of it crashing, with the hope that it will fly in the sky instead!

taj mahal
Let’s get our movie fly in the sky!

Therefore, what about our business plan? How long will be the movie? How many people would we hire? This will all depend on the crowdfunding, i.e. on you.
If we get just 10 000 EUR, this would likely just allow us to do a small movie of a few minutes, without music composed especially for this movie (but we could still use existing Libre music). And this will be quite disappointing (but still funny) adventure. And most likely we won’t be able to hire anyone with such a low funding. If we get 100 000, now we are speaking! Then we really expect to be able to give back a lot to the community: improvements in Free Software, a nice movie, people hired to work on painting, lighting, animating and editing on Free Software (and therefore giving feedbacks and bug reports on problems, rather than just complaining, and fixes when possible!), documenting…
There is no max limit. We all know how much movies cost. And before all they cost human time! And I doubt that we would get millions anyway (unfortunately!). Even the Blender Foundation tried with the Gooseberry project, and they were not able to raise as much as expected. And who are we compared to the Blender Foundation?
But I knock on wood, and hope we can get enough to make a good movie. Yet only when we finish the founding will we be able to say for sure how long the movie will be.
What I can say is that my synopsis accounts for a story up to about 45 minutes. But that’s very long for a self-produced movie, so if we get low funding, we may change the scenario into a small episode (calling for more?), or a shorter story. We will see.

Finally let’s conclude on a note about quality: someone told us he was ready to do music without being paid for the “Open” side of our project. Well if we get nearly no funding and have not enough to pay for custom musics but we decided to still do a 2 min movie (to wrap the project with something at least), we would not say no to volunteers for one song. But if we get real good funding, it is important for us to pay people.
One of the things we promote here, and with the LILA association, is to reward properly professional work. There are cases when you can work for free (for very good causes without money), and other times where a work has to be paid properly. “ZeMarmot” is not meant to be a “hobbyist” movie, made with a few ropes and drawings from someone’s daughter. This is meant to be a professional-quality job. And we don’t want people to mix up Free Software and Libre Art with “amateurish” or “low quality”.
No, at the opposite, we want people to be able to acknowledge Free Software and Libre Art as possibly “professional” and “awesome”! 🙂

If you believe the same as us, I hope you will follow our adventures, and push the project forward!

ZeMarmot Project

We are working currently with the animation artist Aryeom Han on a 2D animation project, entirely made with Free Software. This is still the start, we are mostly defining the main and secondary characters, the graphics style and the synopsis…

This movie is based off an original idea from Jehan, who had started — years ago — to doodle a small marmot who liked to sleep and nap everywhere. He started to make it into a webcomic with the help of Aryeom. It has been quicly decided to make it a movie instead.

Summary

A marmot living quietly in his burrow, whose favorite activity is sleeping, discovers there would be unheard extraordinary things outside his mountains. The small rodent decides to leave in a trip around the world.

The main character

The Marmot, our key character, is a small rodent from the western European mountains. As a consequence it would be an Alpine marmot (scientific name: Marmota marmota).

We tried several graphical styles and are now indecisive on 2 styles. Here they are.

ZeMarmot, first version
ZeMarmot, first version

ZeMarmot, second version
ZeMarmot, second version

And here are some scans of illustrations and various research drawings.
ZeMarmot walking
ZeMarmot walking

Meets a hedgehog
Meets a hedgehog

The burrow, home sweet home
The burrow, home sweet home