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.