June production update
team start: 29 July!

It’s been quiet on the blog, but there’s been a lot of activity in the past month. Here’s the short summary of past week’s activities and the upcoming events!

Blender CloudCloudScreenieHjalti

A new design has been implemented, a lot of software rewritten and improved, and we’re ready to add a lot more now. Francesco Siddi and Pablo Vazquez spent full time on this all of June, and will be spending near full time on it next month.

We also hired Bart Veldhuizen to help us implementing the new administration and payment backend for the Cloud and the Estore – so we can give people much better support, invoices, overviews, accont info on the credits, and so on.

Andy Goralczyk’s Creature Factory

Within a few days Blender Cloud gets its first new huge tutorial CF2series – showing and explaining the making of an epic dinosaur scene.

Blender Institute Studio revamp

We’ve kicked out a lot of old crap, fixed electricity & the ancient ventilation system, remove wallpaper, clean/sand/painted all floors, upgraded the viewing room, and much more.

Fun side projects

Blender Cloud will get BBB and Sintel upgraded to work in 2.7x Blender! Sintel with Cycles, BBB in ‘internal’. At least a minute per film, probably more.
We also asked Sebastian Koenig to upgrade his tutorial series on Motion Tracking.

Script writing commences

Esther and Mathieu worked on writing the Pilot synopsis. It’s getting so exciting :) The work will get shared with our supporters starting August, when also concept art and storyboarding starts here. We have to devise a way to share the script in a way it’s not spoiling the fun… might be on a special SPOILER area on Blender Cloud? I will think it over. For the coming weeks I prefer to give the writing process a quiet and focused period of solitude though.

Concept art and story team

Per 29 July we start working on the visuals more, this to also help the writing process. We’ve hired a special unit in this building with 20 meters of wall where piSarah Storyboardctures can be attached on. In the story room will work:

  • Mathieu Auvray (director)
  • David Revoy (concept art)
  • Sarah Laufer (concept art, storyboarding, see image)
  • Pablo Vazquez (concept art, character concepts)
  • Matias Mendiola (story boarding, starts september)
  • Esther Wouda (writing)

The Amsterdam Gooseberry Pilot unit

Here’s the current shortlist of people we will have on board (or whom we talk to). They will stream in during August/September/October period.

  • Mathieu Auvray (director)
  • Ton Roosendaal (producer)
  • Francesco Siddi (production coordination)
  • Pablo Vazquez (artist)
  • Hjalti Hjalmarsson (animator)
  • Manu Järvinen (modeler)
  • William Reynish (animator, still discussing it with him)
  • Andy Goralczyk (artist, still discussing it with him)
  • Lukas Toenne (developer)
  • Antonis Ryakiotakis (developer)
  • Campbell Barton (developer, here for 3 months)
  • Sergey Sharybin (developer, for some months here, rest works from home

More people will possibly be added, but this depends on how the script develops, and how well do financially. Some work will be done by people in one of the other units as well.

The blog & documentation team

Thanks to a very cool subsidy by the Netherlands Creative Industry Fund, we can recruit and hire a number of people who will help reporting and documenting the Gooseberry project – also to get ourselves much better connected to the outside real world. Their work is public and will be open/free for everyone on this blog. We’ll start working on this mid july, wait a bit more news on this in 3 weeks.

The Blender Cloud: our production environment, and yes we share everything!
We aim at using Blender Cloud ourselves for versioning, storage and collaboration. Several people will work remotely on the Pilot anyway! Expect a lot of concept art and storyboards to be available right away – the day it gets made.

The script is still the most vulnerable part to share, but we’ll established a nice (fenced?) area for it where people who really like to see script development can share and feedback. How this will look like we’ll have to devise further in the course of July.

Thanks,

-Ton-

 

May Developer meetings

Developer meeting may 2014Here is a quick update for what happened since the last post!

We had Sergey here for some weeks, and invited Brecht, Lukas and Antony to be here some days as well – to discuss planning for the Gooseberry pilot. The developers themselves will present many more details about their work here later (and they’re busy bug fixing and with the release 2.71 now). But here’s a summary.

Compositor:

  • Sergey joins the module owner team
  • Work on memory usage and converting nodes to use tiles and/or openCL commences. Main bottleneck is nodes that don’t tile yet (vblur, glare).
  • Better sampling (for scaling especially)
  • Canvas awareness (images or renders or textures all get a coordinate reference frame – including handles to interactively move/scale/rotate this)
  • Precentage update (first do quick 25% of size, then full)

Dependency graph

  • Lukas takes a lead here
  • Investigate last year’s Joshua Leung’s work here, work with him on picking this up
  • Make a final (design) proposal for how this will work, also involving physics, baking, caching, alembic, threading, nodify-everything, etc.

Physics

  • Antony continues investigating solvers for cloth or hair
  • Investigate proper integration with dependency, alembic, caching, etc

Nodes

  • Lukas checks on extending particle node design to make it a more generic “Object Node” system. This could include constraints and modifiers and python.

Hair tools

  • Antonis will look at hair editing specifically. Hair editmode might just stay as it is, but could need a recode to fit with the other new code.

Cycles

  • Sergey will join the team to help on speedup investigation in general – faster ray tracing, new spatial optimize systems, caching etc.
  • More about Cycles and roadmap is coming later here.

VSE

  • Antony will check on the video editor, what needs to be done to get this back in active development? The director also needs this… and we like to get a good “story tool” in Blender as well as online and for the asset manager…

Asset manager, cloud, etc

  • Bart will post a first analysis of requirements soon, to serve as public discussion review as well.
  • We’ll get Campbell here (most certainly) for 3 months, starting in October. He’s great in this stuff too, and can help us with the implementation of asset/project tools – especially on the python and Blender side.
  • Francesco will keep working on Cloud functionality – for all cloud subscribers as well as for the artists who will use it to collaborate on the film.

And then there’s very cool other projects already going on, of which OpenSubdiv and the Viewport recode (OpenGL upgrade to version 3 and 4) is the most relevant for us.

More details, as usual, follow. Right now we’re preparing for a big office refresh… going to paint the floors, some walls, get better lights in studio, etc. All to be ready for july when the first people come to work on Gooseberry!

-Ton-

 

 

May production update

BncQM45IUAE3g37The campaign wrap-up has been nearly completed now. Everyone should have had one or more emails about their pledges, refunds or activation of donations for the Gooseberry Pilot project. Good news is that nearly all of the bigger sponsors stayed on board, we hardly had to do refunds for PayPal either! We’re now waiting for the biggest chunk – people who pledged to join Blender Cloud but who didn’t pay yet.

Here’s a short overview of our current todo items and plans.

MAY 2014

Cloud:

  • Pablo Vazquez is now working full-time for Blender Institute. He will work on the Blender Cloud webdesign, navigation/lay-out, and migrate over a lot of more (old) tutorial content.
  • Francesco Siddi also works on Cloud – doing support, payment systems, and coordinate further development there with Inez Almeida (who’s here next week).
  • Andy Goralczyk works on Creature Factory 2 now. He will be here tomorrow/sunday to schedule the work – but for fun mostly and hangout with Matt Ebb who visits us as well. The CF2 project is meant to get a full release in Blender Cloud.
  • Sebastian Koenig will work on updating and new tutorials for his well known “Track Match Blender” tutorials.
  • There are also plans to upgrade scenes from Big Buck Bunny and Sintel to Blender 2.71. More about that later.

Development:

  • Sergey Sharybin is working here for three weeks. One week was for motion tracking and libmv, one for subsurf and bug fixing, and next week for planning Gooseberry too.
  • Next week we have Brecht van Lommel, Antonis Ryakiotakis and Lukas Toenne here for Gooseberry planning as well.  Lots of stuff to discuss and get aligned well together.
  • End of next week Bart Veldhuizen is here to help us to conclude the asset/content management research – and we’ll schedule what to do next.

Film:

  • After next week, Mathieu Auvray and Esther Wouda will work here with us on the story, synopsis and scheduling the work for the coming months.
  • A more solid financial estimate will be made this month, so we can also define how many people can work here, and/or in other units.
  • Recruitment calls could go out end of May too! We might need a full-time storyboarder here in july/august. Contact me.
  • We have a very nice grant to hire writers/reporters to make sure Gooseberry is well documented and communicated. This should get started up now too.

JUNE 2014

  • Aim is still to keep the month calendar clear to do Blender Institute office reconstructions. We’re already using it since 2007 – it’s getting shabby.
  • Gooseberry blog and cloud.blender.org will get a lot of upgrades

JULY 2014

  • Antonis+Lukas start working here full time (and live in Amsterdam)
  • Mathieu starts working here on the script + storyboarding, with Esther too.
  • David Revoy comes over as well! He is on board as concept artist but will work mostly from his quiet home studio.
  • Aim is to have story and concept development (text, art, storyboards) all be available for our cloud subscribers! But we’ll share a good amount here on the blog for everyone too.

AUGUST 2014

  • Same as July.
  • Siggraph is this month too!

SEPTEMBER 2014

  • Either this month or some weeks or a month later the rest of the team members come over to start working on the Gooseberry Pilot. This will be more clear end of May only.

Yep, we’ll be busy :)
-Ton-

Shading Kenny the Caterpillar

This 3D model embed was made possible by the Cycles engine baking capabilities currently available on the Blender development builds and by the folks at p3d.in. Make sure to hit the full screen button for maximum enjoyment!

The source files for the caterpillar scene can be found in the Blender Cloud.

In this article we will talk about how a particular shader is achieved, in this case the main body. We believe that the same kind of approach can be used to solve many other shaders.

The first step is to have a clear idea of the final desired result, aka a reference. A good reference marks the difference between poking at buttons hoping for a nice result and actually visualizing the expected result and planning a way to get there!

Caterpillar_Color_v04

Digital painting by  Sarah Laufer

First let’s have a look at the entire shader node tree. Hopefully this can be used as a reference to locate the components we’re going to talk about next.

Caterpillar-BodyShader

I’ve rendered cropped / zoomed versions (let’s enhance!) of the caterpillar in it’s different shading stages, not all but at least the most important components.

First we start with a color diffuse texture, this texture is relatively small (2048*1024) since the level of detail is not very dramatic.

Crop_Diffuse-Color-Basic

The bump is generated procedurally using a couple of  Voronoi textures with different scales and mixed together with a Perlin noise. This simple trick helps us avoid patterns that are too regular and predictive. See how the scale changes along the surface.

Sidenote: Since we used a lot of Voronoi in this scene Lockal decided to optimize this type of textures on the CPU and as a result we got a 15% reduction in render time! (on our AMD CPUs).

Crop_Bump

A second procedural texture is made to simulate the veins under Kenny’s skin. This is created by using 3 differently scaled Wave textures and a Perlin for the mix.

Crop_Veins

First we mix the veins texture and the bump with the diffuse texture. No shading is taking place yet, we’re only mixing a painted texture with the very detailed procedural textures. This technique is awesome because we get a highly detailed texture without the need to take much memory space. Procedurals are very light in memory, but a bit expensive in processing time!

Crop_Diffuse-Color

Now for the shading components. We start with the most important which is of course Subsurface Scattering. SSS is key to achieve the nice translucent look of a caterpillar. Go back to the p3d.in embed and notice the enormous amount of light present in the shadow part that is coming from the sun lit part. SSS is the best thing that ever happened to CGI and in cycles we’re lucky to have one of the best modern implementations there is! The downside is it can be quite noisy, and more noise means more render time.

Crop_SSS

This one is the Lambertian Diffuse component, it’s almost always a good idea to mix in some diffuse into your shaders, in this case the shader is quite heavily SSS dominant, but still some diffuse will give it that solidness it needs. Te bump map will certainly affect the diffuse noticeably. For the bump we’re reusing the Voronoi textures we used already for the diffuse map. The cool thing about nodes is how you can reuse stuff everywhere! The veins are NOT used for bump since they are supposed to simulate an under-skin feature.

Crop_Diffuse

And the third and last shading component is the reflection. For the caterpillar we’re actually using an Anisotropic shader. This shader is very similar to Glossy but it also allows you to stretch the specular reflection in a given direction (controlled by tangents). If you look at the reference image you will see how the highlights are stretched too. We don’t want any boring circles, we want elongated reflections (I’m using the words reflection, glossy, specular and highlights interchangeably.. messy terminology). The reflection component is dramatically affected by the bump as you can see.

Crop_Specular

Now let’s combine all the shading components. Here’s the SSS + Diffuse mixed together.

Crop_Minus-Specular

And this is how the reflection pass looks added on top (except I’ve removed the bump temporarily to show the difference). It’s looking too perfect and polished for the real world.

Crop_Minus-Bump

Now with bump! The difference is huge, bumps are extremely useful to break the clean surface look of a shader, they make light interact with the surface in a much more realistic way.

Crop_Final

Thank you for reading and special thanks to all the folks that continue supporting Project Gooseberry and the Blender Cloud!

keep blending in,

Daniel Salazar - patazstudio.com

20_watermark

Campaign wrap up – the Pilot

After almost 2 months of campaigning it’s time to make some final conclusions about the results sofar. I think it’s fair to do this now, and not whip up a lot of energy and stress to make it to the final goal in just two days. Let’s wrap it up! The conclusion is clear:

  • There’s not enough support to make a feature film. Yet!

And here is a plan for how to move on and keep the good things we’ve achieved sofar.

  • We will make a 10-15 minute high quality Pilot of the film, which gets released as stand-alone short film. Working period will be September 2014 – April/May 2015.
  • We will go full steam ahead with development projects to make Blender awesome, work on Cloud (content and features), on digital asset management. This was made possible by the already granted EU Media subsidy anyway
  • We put involvement by the 12 other studio partners on hold. Some might help on the Pilot though, but most of the work will be done here in Blender Institute.

Mathieu Auvray, David Revoy, Esther Wouda will continue work on this starting in June/July.

Similar to the previous plan, all work will be done and shared in open production with Cloud members, available as Creative Commons for everyone (CC-BY or CC-BY-SA).

When the Pilot is ready, we have three options for how we can continue, make the full feature film, and bring back the studio teams (and/or recruit new teams).

  • Amount of sponsors and cloud subscriptions has grown substantially (10k Supporters).
  • The Pilot creates substantial interest and financial support by big sponsors, distributors, or tv/web channels.
  • Accept loans and investments, also for smaller amounts (crypto shares?).That could be organized as a short period of additional crowd-funding.

If the Pilot just doesn’t give market/community interest we just happily move on to a next project.

For everyone who has supported us until now:

  • Anyone who pledged can get a refund, get it canceled or activated. Everyone will be contacted for this within a few days. We will handle it all carefully, it might take some manual work so it can take up to a week to process everything.

But of course we prefer you to stay on board. :) Rewards for this will be:

  • Film Download sponsors: your donation is worth a full discount on purchasing a Gooseberry support product later.
  • Cloud subscribers: your Pilot credit will be rewarded if you stay on board for 8 months.
  • Credit pledges + 18 month prepaid subscribers: you get a special bigger credit in the Pilot scroll.
  • Bronze/Silver/Gold pledges: you get an even bigger credit in the Pilot scroll.

And:

  • Everyone who paid 20 euro ($25.60) or more (incl. download sponsors): your 20 euro discount will be valid for any Gooseberry support product in our e-store (shirts, dvds, blurays, usb sticks, posters, etc).
  • We will ONLY reward this 20 euro ($25.60) discount to people who supported us during the campaign! That’s our special thank-you for helping out.
    (Subscribers or donations after thursday 17h CEST don’t get this discount.)

And most of all: if we do the feature film, your original perk will still be valid:

  • Early digital download of the film
  • Cloud subscribers: a credit if you were on board for 18 months minimally
  • Credit sponsors: what we promised you’ll get.

So!

All in all it has been quite a ride this campaign. We do have over 4000 people who supported us in one way or another. I really like it to reward their trust in us and do something great the coming many months. But I also hope everyone understands that doing a full feature animation film is not an option to start with right now.

Thanks on behalf of everyone,

-Ton-

 

How the numbers work

Supporters

Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 12.40.39A supporter is someone who decides to support the project by donating about $225 for a film credit, paid in advance or in monthly terms via subscription.

For teams and companies we offer group discounts (25 to 40%). In total we added about 250 Supporters this way.

To weight our Bronze/Silver/Gold sponsors similar to group accounts, we count them as 3, 7 or 20 Supporters respectively. Some might actually convert their sponsorship to a corporate cloud subscription later.
All these bigger sponsors count in total for 370 Supporters.

Startup funding

This is the actual amount of money that’s been pledged and/or has been paid already (for the first 3 months cloud especially). The startup costs will allow is to invest in preparing well, and give the studio partners an advance as well.

Note that almost 2000 people in total have pledged or donated for Gooseberry already, every small donation counts!

Grand total

This is the startup funding + the 15 months of additional cloud subscription income. The grand total we expect – with 10,000 supporters – is almost $2.5M. That then is 1/3rd of the total film budget still.

The actual numbers

5720: Total amount of cloud.blender.org registrations
4400*: Total amount of people who donated, or pledged, or joined cloud.
3380: The amount we call “Supporters”
2760: Total amount of paying cloud subscriptions (not including the ‘free’ accounts for teams, companies, sponsors)
1870: Total amount of people who pledged a donation (can overlap with subscriptions)

These numbers add up to very impressive totals already. All of these people want us to make awesome free/open content and software – and be involved with it, in one way or another. Where is the threshold to define if or when we can do a feature film? That’s the next blog post – about feature film budgets and the work it takes to do film.

-Ton-

(* to be confirmed, needs additional sql magic, will check asap :)

The beacon of hope

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 18.30.40

Lighthouse – Promotion Studios, Sydney

The Blender project and the Blender Foundation are a lighting example for many. People have high expectations of what we do at blender.org. They love the software, the freedom, the community, the responsive developers online, and hanging out together.

During the past 7 weeks, the Gooseberry campaign has whipped up a lot of energy in thousands of people. It made them act to contribute to us – out of passion, out of trust and confidence.

Continue reading

Reactions from supporters

I took an hour to copy quotes from emails I’m exchanging about Gooseberry recently. Just to share with everyone how much Blender and our films mean for people.

(USA)  You must already know that the dev community you’ve got is MUCH more responsive, professional and humane compared to any other out there. (…) The Blender Foundation is a beacon of hope for so many.  Don’t lose sight of that.  How you deal with this will influence how your users and developers deal with their end.

(Poland) I am very impressed with the way you progress with Blender.
Project Gooseberry and Blender Cloud are ground-breaking initiatives!

(UK) Let me and rest of the Blender community know if we can do anything else to help, I really want Gooseberry to be a success. This is a very exciting time to be a Blenderhead :)

Continue reading

Last two weeks

After the sprint to get us over the 3000 mark, we’ve had quite a relaxed week. That doesn’t mean we’re sitting still!

Everything is (and keeps being) targeted at driving more traffic to the Gooseberry campaign site.  This will get built up during the next few days, and increases in the course of the coming week.

And of course for all our fans: THANKS for the great support sofar!

-Ton-