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'Tears of Steel': a Completely Open Source Live Action/CG Sci-Fi Film

09.29.12 @ 2:56PM Tags : , , , , , , ,

Open Source doesn’t always have the greatest reputation in the filmmaking community, often because many believe it means unsupported and infrequently updated — and sometimes they’re right. We’re going to be getting the first open source camera, but open source software has existed for filmmaking for quite some time and there are plenty of options out there that can produce spectacular results, like the 3D animation program Blender. The Blender Foundation has been working with talented people to make films using the software, and Tears of Steel is their 4th completely Open Source film. How open? They are releasing all of the materials for the short film completely under a Creative Commons license (free to reuse and distribute with attribution). The film is streaming, and also available as an HD download (which is the way I’d recommend watching).

Here’s a little more info about the project:

Tears of Steel (Project Mango) is Blender Foundations 4th Open Movie, again produced and realized in the studio of the Blender Institute in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. About 8 artists and 2 developers have been invited to come over to Amsterdam for 6-7 months to create a short vfx-based sci-fi movie with Blender…Just like project Orange, and Peach and Durian, the end result itself and all of the production files are being published under the Creative Commons, free to be reused and for everyone to learn from. More importantly, the team will challenge Blender itself to the max, inspiring the developer community to prove Blender is ready for feature quality VFX production. Special attention will be spent on motion tracking, color pipelines, Global Illumination render, grading and masking, and just ensure the Blender 2.6x series keeps being well tested and improved.

You can go here to download the film, Tears of Steel, or watch the streaming version below:

Since this is an Open Source project, they are still looking the support of the community to buy the DVD which contains the movie in both HD forms, VFX breakdowns, and all of the source files, and will be released in October:

An example of the kind of VFX breakdown that will be available on the DVD — you can watch the entire film in this split screen mode:

The movie was filmed on the Sony F65, and the reported total budget was around 300,000 Euros. I’m always impressed by animation, especially of this scale and this well-done, but to me, the sound design was one of the most incredible aspects. Visuals and story are great, but bad sound is the first thing that can kill a movie, and thankfully, the sound is spectacular. It’s one of the few things that most people pay attention to, unless it’s terrible.

The best part of the project is that the Blender software is now a complete and open source software package for all aspects of visual effects — so if you’ve got a project you’re working on, you could certainly use this software to accomplish many of the tasks that far more expensive programs can do. The newest version should be released sometime next month.

If you’re interested in watching the other three films, here they are:

Elephants Dream (download options available here):

Big Buck Bunny (download options available here):

Sintel (download options available here):

All of the links to the downloads are available below. It’s unclear if the source files will ever be available in a torrent file, but they are obviously encouraging users to buy the box set in order to play with all of the data produced during the making of the film.



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  • Great effects but very hard to get passed the terrible acting.

    • I wouldn’t say terrible, but I can see how they kept the budget so low.

      • David J. Fulde on 09.30.12 @ 12:09PM

        300K euro’s for a 12 minute short does not count a a ‘low budget’ in my opinion. That is an incredibly high budget short film.

        • FX hours cost.

        • Yes but the 300k payed for full time employees, sets, studio space, camera rental, and software development.

          • David J. Fulde on 10.1.12 @ 10:25AM

            Oh, I’m not saying it was a waste! I’m just saying: It is not a film that you can say “oh, it’s good for the money”. if it was 10K or 100K: Yeah! Great for the money!

  • I saw Sintel at the NFFTY film festival and was completely blown away by it! Really validated Blender in my eyes as a professional tool.

  • Well, it’s true the acting is not the best we have seen, but the special effects are really great. And the sound design too.

  • Blender is a full featured 3d suite that can do everything the big boys can do. For me I have 2 problems which may have changed since I used it in the past.

    The interface is non traditional and and took way too long to acclimate to

    Also since blender comes as a very small download it lacks some of the expansions and plugins that the big 3d programs have. These plugins help make life easier for some types of cg pros.

    I would like blender to further develop there non linear editing capabilities which were very basic the last time I tried. The compositing was top notch though. In some ways blender is on par to maya for animation.

  • Travis Jones on 09.29.12 @ 11:51PM

    I think the best part is that the assets, files and tutorials will be available on DVD. That is amazing.

    • David J. Fulde on 09.30.12 @ 12:17PM

      the footage will probably be compressed to hell though. It was shot on an F65: I want raw files! (I found a bunch though so… yeah!)

      • Maybe not though, they released an uncompressed 4k 16bitis tiff sequence of Sintel if I recall correctly.

        • David J. Fulde on 09.30.12 @ 4:36PM

          They actually have, I believe, 4K png sequence of this online (Not sure if it is 4K. Just saw the image sequence) doesn’t seem to be zipped though so…

  • What was this story about?

    • Proving that the world needs more storytellers than blender artists.

      • Raoni Franco on 09.30.12 @ 2:33AM

        Ha!! Good one, I agree.

      • You can’t be both?

      • You could say that about the current generation of “film-makers”. It used to be more difficult to get your hands on equipment so people specialized.
        When everybody grows up they’ll all realize that an editor is always going to be better at cutting than a camera op. and a script writer is always going to be better at writing than a compositor.
        And all of them are going to be better than some kid with a credit card, a 5D and FCX on a MacBook.
        Jack of all trades and all that…
        Just sayin’.

    • Go play Portal and Portal 2 and it might seem more apparent.

      If you can’t be bothered I THINK that it’s about either an AI or someone that has been synced into a robot body (Portal storyline in a nutshell) and they are trying to replay a situation for something. Maybe to get the robot to realize what it has done to the world because of it’s anger (potentially) which is much like Portal’s AI Robot (GLaDOS) did, flooded the lab with deadly neurotoxin killing everyone. Maybe the rbot in the film had more power than they expected and it went rampant killing everyone. At the end, they either tamed the AI and made it realize what it was doing.

      That doesn’t explain some other aspects, but I have a feeling that that is close-ish the basic idea behind it.There is heaps of room for discussion but I feel this explains a lot of concepts about it.

      Once again, the Blender Foundations main priority is to create a work that shows the use of the software so more people use it and ultimately donate to them to keep it going.

  • Very nice visual effects! To think that they did that with Blender. I have worked a bit with blender in the past, but couldn’t get past the horribly un-intuitive interface. The application is obviously powerfull enough to get awesome results, but I don’t think they will replace commercial tools like 3DS Max, Maya, etc. if they do not start focussing (a lot) more on being user friendly. In their defense, I did hear that there were a lot of improvements in this area starting version 2.5.

    • Thanks for talking about a two year old version.

      I don’t think you can pick up any software that is intuitive. If anything, the icons in Blender make WAY more sense than those in 3DS, mainly because they have a picture of a lamp and not a circle with an X and some squiggles. (not actually that but just as an example)

  • Why all robots has to sound like Transformers these days? :) Anyway, nice direction, but the ending was pretty stupid :) Some of the effects was pretty cheap (many of the textures lacked details), but it doesnt hurt the story.

  • Really tired to see movies that are not a story but a 3d and compositing tutorial. That is why Hollywood and the other companies will rock many years ahead, though now it could seem that indi or low budget may take the leading role. Really.. Great directors don’t know СП to make a movie. They know the stories.

  • I know this is not proper place to post, but:

    please feature this project in front page. These people deserve it.

    (and they also deserve to get Sony F65 for free loan, because this is kinda the indyproject Sony should support).

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