Blender – 15 Days Later – Open Source is Home

First question that most have is,

“What is open source? You mean free?”

Yes, it’s free and more.

Open source means that not only are you given the product, but you are given the blueprints as well. If you need to make changes, you have the ability to go in and change the software yourself (or find someone to do it for you). Thousands of copies/variations are out there floating on the Internet. Some flavours are simplified, some complicated, all are customized to various degrees. This means that even if you loose your copy of the product, another copy can always be found…    somewhere.


Web developers are very familiar with this concept, as may of their tools are open source. Some may use commercial software but, in the end, the media itself is open source. You only really need a text editor to do most everything for the web.

Some common things I hear whenever I mention Linux, Gimp, Blender or virtually anything that is open source:

“Because it’s free, it must not have powerful features.”

Over the past 6 years I have probably spent $15,000 on software. I own licenses to multiple versions of Photoshop, yet I still use GIMP because it loads super fast and I can install it on all my computers, or any machine I come to contact with (yes, it was me who installed it on your PC). There’s an unbelievable amount of online support from all over the world, and more tutorials than anyone could ever ask for.

“Linux is complex and the interfaces are confusing.”

Most open source software, in the beginning, can be pretty crude. That being said, most of my multimedia applications have been around for a decade or two, and most of this software is pretty finely polished nowadays. All the open source applications I use are MUCH simpler than the commercial counterparts. In many cases, this simplicity was the primary reason I migrated to many of the free tools. As an example, look at how effectively Blender lets me scale the entire interface. I’ve personally never seen something like this. As for Linux being crude, take a look a this UI demo.

“Gimp, Blender and other open software is buggy.”

I honestly don’t see a difference, though if someone twisted my arm… I would say that commercial software tends to crash more on me that the open source counterparts.  This could be due to the fact that most of my commercial software is on Windows (sorry Microsoft) and that Linux is known to be more stable and recover well from crashes.  Problems are bound to happen and, because open source can be altered, problems are never true show-stoppers. You are probably not alone if you are having trouble, so the answer is almost always already out there to be discovered.

“No professionals use open source software.”

Take a look at the following image.


Darwin by David Revoy

This was created by David Revoy, an artist that has been using open source software for 100% of his work. He uses GIMP, Krita, MyPaint, Blender, all running under Linux. While it used to be a pain to find compatible hardware for Linux…   it’s pretty simple nowadays. Personally, I find that nearly all my devices (including my Wacom drawing tablet) were working without having to download or setup drivers. Real *cough* plug-n-play.

David shares why he chose to go to open source, back in 2009.

Am I happy about this personal choice ? Yes 🙂 and I can without any remorse put my old software license in a box for long term storage, just to show to my ( hypothetic and not yet existing )  grant-children what were …. the proprietary 2D software I started with.

To become more familiar with David Revoy’s work, I highly recommend purchasing his “Chaos and Evolutions” DVD.  If you can’t afford the purchase right now, he’s made the video available on Youtube. He’s using some of the software mentioned above, including Alchemy (tool that Android Jones assisted the develop of).

As I mentioned before, I’ve easily spent $15,000+ on software over the past 6 years (since going independent). I’m putting energy into open source tools because of my own personal issues with licensing commercial software, as well as issues I’ve witnessed my clients struggling with.

I am not saying that commercial software isn’t needed, I’m just saying that it should not be the foundation of a creative production. If the core of a project is open source, this means that all the base products will be available to everyone on the project. If animators want to do a bit of audio testing with their animations, they have Audacity to do some light sound editing of their own.  If a project manager wants to make some slick diagrams in Inkscape, a tool is available to them without spending a few hundred on Adobe Illustrator.

Please keep in mind.  These software are not trying to clone commercial software applications. They have developed and grown over the years, based on feedback from users all around the world. There’s always a learning curve but, like when you learned touch-typing, you’ll be zipping along faster than before, once you get over the initial hump.

Not convinced? Perhaps you have preconceptions based on what you saw 5-6 years ago.  Well, I’m here to tell you that times have changed. Checkout Vimeo and Youtube for some tutorials and you’ll be amazed at what you find. If you’re fortunate enough, perhaps the Vimeo video has a “Download” option available. If that’s the case, then you can save a local copy and watch the video in VLC, where you can use the “[” and “]” keys to control the speed of the tutorial.  I typically run at 130-150% of normal speed.  😉

If you’ve got your checkbook out, you might want to support the current Krita Kickstarter. They’re planning on adding animation functionality, amongst other features.

Blender Day 10 – 3D Cursor and Painting


Sidetracked by this Frankenstein texturing video, which shows an earlier version of Blender’s built in texture painting tool, which also performs cloning of photos right onto the 3D model.

Finally, I’ve realized I need help.  Learning on my own can be painful as software is never perfect. There are going to be pitfalls (bugs) and IRC and Blender forums can help me save time navigating known issues.  Going to linger on the #blender IRC channel for a few days to get a feel for the culture, before jumping in.

Blender – Day 6

Setting up a new Linux build w/ Ubuntu 14.04.

Have you tried it yet? Imagine booting from a USB stick and being able to test drive Linux. Without even having to install Ubuntu Linux, I was able to connect to my local library’s WiFi, read my Gmail and use my Wacom tablet. I then double-clicked the “Install Ubuntu” icon that was sitting on my desktop and let the installer run in the background…   as I continued to browse the internet.  If you haven’t yet, I recommend trying it.

I’m not a big fan of the Unity user interface, which is the default UI for recent versions of Ubuntu. However, installing Gnome Classic was stupid easy *clicks button*. This style of UI is more comfortable for most users.

Next, I’m testing out the graphics card using the Sintel character rig in Blender.  All looks good, and we’re mobile!

Oh yeah… isn’t this supposed to be about Blender?

To finish off the day, I felt I should actually create something…  anything. Why not follow a geeky trend on 3/14 and pay tribute to Pi?  I followed this tutorial and was able to being in an SVG file to extrude in to a 3D shape.  Not incredibly impressive, but for those that are spooked out about 3D softwares…   well, I say, “Ave no fear!  Iz EZ!


Blender – Everyday – Day 1


Talking about it enough, but time to “put my money where my mouth is”. I will never really know just how viable Blender is as a base 3D animation software, till I try it.

Once per day, for about 2 hours, I will invest time into learning Blender. One I get the basics down, I will challenge myself to producing sharable artwork.

Here’s some inspiration to drive me. Blender is no longer just a hobbyist’s 3D animation software…   and hasn’t been for some time. Seems that “first world” countries are the slowest places to catch on to a growing trend.

Started with some interface basics here.

Learning Houdini

Simple Houdini pipeline. from Vlad Yudin on Vimeo.

Houdini recently released it’s fully functional and commercial “Houdini Indie” product for $200 (for companies making under $100k per year).

With that annoucement, Zak had asked me, “Where a great place to start learning?”  Yes, it can be very intimidating, but if you have a specific use in mind it is TOTALLY doable without the years of experience that some expect. That being said, ya gotta know the basics and here’s some resources to get you started… starting with the free stuff!

Peter Quint: This guy is my hero and his videos are priceless. Here’s a direct link to the “Basics”… but don’t forget the other 150 videos that he has online.

3DBuzz: Houdini Fundamentals for H9

SideFX: Creators of Houdini have a huge selection of tutorials, including an introduction to the interface. Once again, don’t forget to check the sidebar to see the massive collection they have available.

Paid source for training include CMIVFX and Digital Tutors.

Other sources include the SideFX online forum or odForce.net.

Windows 8 – Effective Visual Communication?


Seems that Windows 8 has a bit too much of the classic Microsoft inconsistency problem.  I will be avoiding it.

Glad I’ve been putting so much energy in to Linux (Ubuntu) lately.  2 years as my primary OS and will not be going back anytime soon.  The best part is, this is MY operating system.  It’s free and open. I breath easier.

Windows 8: The Animated Evaluation” by Brian Boyko has more details.

Alchemy – Digital Inspiration Creator

Thanks to Dan Laczkowski for getting me to seriously check this out. The following link will lead you to a demonstration by Android Jones.

Alchemy – An open drawing project


More Houdini Created Environments

Although I do update my “Recent Thoughts” (forwards from my identi & twitter feeds), I shouldn’t let me think that can be considered “keeping my website updated”.  Because it’s not.

I just ran across this video at odforce.net.  A VERY slick road generator.  Now what CAN’T this program do.

3D curve sketching

With a tool like this, maybe there wouldn’t be such a strong aversion towards using NURBS in the entertainment industry.

ILoveSketch from Seok-Hyung Bae on Vimeo.

Thanks to Drawn! for the link.

Softimage’s ICE


Softimage has introduced ICE (Interactive Creative Environment) in XSI 7. Taking strong cues from Houdini’s procedural workflow, ICE finally brings XSI a particle system and much much more.

Despite what the general public thinks, there is a LOT that can be done on a 3D production that does not require a programmer. Using node networks, we are attempting to keep it that way. However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t some serious logic puzzles to figure out, it just means that the keyboard and typos are less prevalent.

If you are a 3D professional that is curious or if you’re a newb that wants to see a slick way produce do 3D effects, please take a look at Softimage’s XSI 7.

– = UPDATE =-

The Softimage community website has a list of videos with some jaw dropping examples of how ICE is being used. You can dissect the IK solver? Uugh… geek heaven.

Big Buck Bunny

Big Buck Bunny, Blender’s open source movie has been released! Yes, I know I’m a little late on this announcement, but better late than never. I received my DVD in the mail a few weeks back and was stunned at the quality of the short. The story is a little odd and violent, but entertaining! The deformation of the character rigs is wonderful and the animation was surprisingly flushed out. They certainly put more time and focus in this area than they did with their first open source film. Not too shabby for a 3D application that’s less than a 10MB download.

The DVD contains the full short film, plus all the assets used in production. Including the 3D characters, sets, storyboards and animatics. If you are curious about what is used in a 3D production pipeline, this is a priceless resource.

Did I mention that this was created entirely with open source software? The primary pieces of software used were Ubuntu, Gimp for textures & Blender for 3D and compositing.

I’d recommend downloading the HD version of the Big Buck website, but for those that are lazy and willing to sacrifice the quality, it’s also viewable on YouTube:

UI Design: BumpTop 3D Desktop Prototype

Could this make file management tasks enjoyable? They just need to throw in some batch renaming tools and pretty much anything that ACDSee does, and it’ll be purrrrrfect.

NaturalMotion’s Endorphin

I’ve heard of this as an “Animation Synth”. Being able to take keyframed animation and then applying it to a dynamic dummy. Why haven’t I played with the demo yet? I’m disappointed that I haven’t yet animated a cartwheeling fool roll off a cliff… and then drop a safe on his head.

Combine this product with Massive, get yourself an animation library of some sword hacking and it sounds like you’d have hours of fun w/ a virtual camera. I mean… why leave the house?

Dan passed over this cool link to a TED talk presented by Torsten Reil. He explains how the study of biology was used in developing Endorphin or Euphoria.

King Kong Dynamics

Without a doubt, there’s going to be some serious destruction in Peter Jackson’s rendition of King Kong. Word is, Weta Digital is currently using BlastCode to handle some of the tricky dynamic simulations. I’d highly recommend checking out some of sample movies they have in the gallery. Yeah. YEAH! NUKE THAT HOUSE!!! I love the smell of… the hum of computers simulating… boom.

Plastic Animation Paper

Finally gave Plastic Animation Paper a try and HOT DAMN is it fun and simple to use. The free version functional enough to have fun with although it doesn’t include the blue sketch pencil or the ability to import sound. I hear that the application runs in 8 bit mode, which is probably why sketching runs so smoothly. Also, no prerendering is neccessary to view your animations. Currently I’m using it for my gesture sketches. I have a slideshow running in ACDSee and I sketch in PAP. I just tap a single key for a new cell, every time a new pose pops up. A home version of the gesture sketches often done in life drawing classes. Haven’t tried this on a single monitor setup yet.

Houdini and Mr X Inc

I just finished watching Resident Evil Extinction. It’s the third movie of the Resident Evil series and I was pleasantly surprised. If not for any other reason, the FX don’t feel so fakey and the action is continuous. How about the story? Mad Max w/ zombies? It worked for me.

beatiful Houdini 9 UI

Working in the industry, it’s hard for me not to take note of the effects that make me loose my breath as I gasp “whaaaaaa?”. The effects are killer (pun intended) and they reminded me of another action/horror move I’d seen recently, Silent Hill. Mr. X Inc. was responsible for the FX in both Resident Evil & Silent Hill, and the Houdini software upped the awe factor. From what I’ve read, Houdini’s procedural workflow was essential in speeding up the process in receiving director feedback. How? Well, if something needs to be tweaked or a step backtracked, it’s instant with Houdini. No build history is lost, which makes it a snap to make modifications to prior steps. Fantastic! <insert geek snort here>. This also makes the program a dream to work with, as you can rely on networks of nodes instead of spending your days writing lines of code.

Been reading some other interviews about how Houdini is improving the lives of TDs around the world. I plan on improving my life as well, just as soon as I find a little more time to dive into the free 3D Buzz online class. Speaking of which, even if you have no prior experience in 3D applications, I’m sure you’d be able to follow along in Buzz’s free video tutorials.

Voice Recognition in Linux

I’ve been using voice recognition, on and off, for over a year now. It has advanced way beyond what I would have dreamed. I mentioned it to my mother and she said, “Yeah, that’s great to hear. It’ll put me out of a job.”

I was sorry to hear that, but it sounds like we ALL could save our typing fingers from overuse. It also helps me practice at speaking clearly, as it doesn’t like when you mumble.

VoxForge was set up to collect transcribed speech for use with Free and Open Source Speech Recognition Engines (on Linux, Windows and Mac).

We will make available all submitted audio files under the GPL license, and then ‘compile’ them into acoustic models for use with Open Source speech recognition engines such as Sphinx, ISIP, Julius and HTK (note: HTK has distribution restrictions).

I’d be very disappointed in myself if I didn’t donate my time to this.

Wikipedia has a nice list of other Voice Recognition projects for Linux.

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