Open Source Animated Movie Shows What Can Be Done Today

from the just-think-what-comes-next dept

I had another story planned for our new "case studies" series (see last week's if you missed it), but with the release of Sintel late last week, it jumped the queue, and I put together this quick case study

For years, one of the points we've raised in answering the movie industry's $200 million challenge to us (i.e., "how do you keep making $200 million movies?") is that, in part, it's asking the wrong question. No one asks "how do we keep making $10,000 computers?" Instead, they look for ways to make them cheaper (and better, at the same time). But in the world of Hollywood accounting, there's little incentive to make cheaper movies (sometimes the incentive goes the other way). And, we keep showing how the world is reaching a place where it's cheaper and cheaper to make good movies. We've pointed out nice examples of people making high quality movies for next to nothing. The idea is not that movies should be made for nothing, but that the technology is making it so that movies can be made for less. In fact, with two of the examples of cheap movie making we've highlighted, the makers later went on to score deals to do higher end movies for more reasonable budgets.

Now, lots of people are talking about the excellent new open source, partially crowd funded, computer-animated short-film Sintel:
There are so many important points to make here that relate to stuff we talk about:
  1. The technology keeps getting better and the cost to do such high quality work keeps decreasing. This movie did cost $550,000 to make -- involving a 14-person team. But, that's a hell of a lot less than it would have cost not so long ago for anything of this level of quality.
  2. The creators used some crowdfunding: They offered up a bunch of reasons to buy as a way to get people to preorder and pay up front. Note that they didn't just say "please give us money," but provided a bunch of benefits for doing so.
  3. The release is totally open source: They're using a Creative Commons license that only requires attribution. That is, they have no problem with commercial uses.
  4. The movie itself is also promoting something else: The movie comes from the Blender Foundation, and helps promote their open source 3D content creation suite, which is helpful for their business. This is a point that we've tried to make many times in the past. All content advertises something, and it's often important to figure out what that is. In this case, Sintel helps "advertise" Blender's tools. It's yet another example of content as advertising, and doing so in a way that's not intrusive or seen as "product placement." If you have content, it's important to realize what that content is advertising.
Definitely a cool example of a variety of neat ideas all wrapped up into one... and producing a great movie as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Jeff, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 12:49pm

    I loved this movie.

    From just seeing this? I would buy the DVD.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 1:00pm

    Quick, expect Congress to start passing bills to stop this insanity that competes with big media.

     

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  3.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 1:06pm

    Re: I loved this movie.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 1:14pm

    Re:

    (either that or state and local govts will find a way to tax it to death because govts feel entitled to everything that everyone makes).

     

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  5.  
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    duderino, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 1:56pm

    kevin smith

    someone send this to Kevin Smith.

    I believe he wanted a crowd-funded movie. The legal issues are his biggest concerns about it.

    this might inspire him

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 2:04pm

    costs

    I've not seen a good breakdown on the cost to make of the movie. A lot of the people who were working on it were also doing work for the next Blender release, so how you would proportion their time between "making blender cooler" and "making Sintel" is difficult. I think if you tried to do a similar movie again, but with just the modelling effort it would cost significantly less.

     

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  7.  
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    chronos (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 2:07pm

    Expensive...

    I think they should have made another, less expensive option available as well. As cool as it would be to have all of the production materials, many people just aren't interested enough in that kind of thing enough to shell out $42 for it. There should be a movie-only price that includes the DVD and HD versions of the film.

    While I'm all for supporting the proliferation of open-source projects, charging so much to support a 15-minute short film might deter many from pulling out their wallets.

     

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  8.  
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    Rekrul, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 2:16pm

    Now that crowd-funding films is starting to gain acceptance, can someone please get Joss Whedon to start crowd-funding the Serenity sequels?

    I actually suggested this back in 2005 and was told it would never work because of the rights issues of having large numbers of people help pay for the films.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 2:19pm

    Re: costs

    But making Blender better is one of the biggest reasons for making the movie. All the big animation studios have developers picking up the slack when their software can't do what they need. That said, the improvements they made to Blender here are simply astounding, especially given that they had a 14 person team, which included multiple full-time software developers.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 2:24pm

    Re: I loved this movie.

    I bought the DVD after seeing Elephant's Dream and Big Buck Bunny. It's really exciting seeing you name in the credits and knowing that you had a hand in making the film. Being able to follow along on the blog and even having the option to contribute a small bit of modelling or animation have really made this the best $51 USD I ever spent.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 2:27pm

    Re: Expensive...

    That price is free plus the cost of internet service and blank DVDs. They put the DVD images and source files online. You're really paying for pretty packaging and that warm fuzzy feeling of supporting them.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 2:30pm

    Re:

    I think the key is to avoid having each funder hold a stake in the legal ownership of the film. Even having funded Sintel, I don't hold the copyright strictly speaking or have a percentage share in the film. This was made clear up front, and I'm happy with what I did get. I think the issue of stakeholders was also the issue for Kevin Smith.

     

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  13.  
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    Nina Paley (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 2:38pm

    Feature film

    I'm really pleased with the success of this project. I hope they do a feature film next. If anyone can prove that Free Software and Free Culture are viable contenders in the "marketplace," they can.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 3:59pm

    Re: costs

    Sintel is the third time they are doing this and each time more money comes in.

    Check Elephants Dreams and Bucky Bunny.

    Elephants Dream was used by Sony and others to advertise their HD TV's for free at the time.

     

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  15.  
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    MrWilson, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 5:24pm

    I watched it last night, right after Elephant's Dream. Awesome animation. Great endeavor.

    My only problem was the ending. It was depressing as hell. I know the story wasn't the main point, but...geez.

     

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  16.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 6:07pm

    And All Done With Free Software

    You forgot to mention, this was done with the Blender 3D modelling package. And furthermore, not only is the finished movie available under a Creative Commons licence, but so are all the raw materials, models, characters, graphics etc. So you can use them in your own projects!

    This is the fourth time (3 movies and one game) that the Blender Foundation has done something like this. Not only do they use Blender heavily, but the projects are also testing grounds for new features added to Blender, just to prove that they are robust enough for industrial-strength use.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 8:25pm

    Re: And All Done With Free Software

    Actually, no he didn't. Read the bullet points under the video, again.

     

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  18.  
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    Ben, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 10:02pm

    Currently I'm doing most of my 3D on a pirate copy of max, but this is seriously making me consider switching over to blender. Awesome work.

     

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  19.  
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    Nick Coghlan (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 12:16am

    Helping people do nifty things

    I always like seeing cool stuff done with Blender. Even playing a small part* in making the things people do with it possible is a good feeling :)

    (* I'm one of the devs for Python, which Blender uses as its embedded scripting language: http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Doc:Manual/Extensions/Python)

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 2:10am

    Re: Re: And All Done With Free Software

    The audio you say?

    Because the video is all open source.

     

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  21.  
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    spc, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 9:50am

    Unfortunately poor story ruins great visuals.
    Nonetheless film is amazing.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 1:09pm

    Re:

    I can't say I agree with this. The story is very moving. It's very condensed, but the story is very well told. This is noticeable on the second viewing.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    SuperSparky, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 1:42pm

    Re:

    I have to agree. What a depressing story. I'm really getting sick of depressing stories. What is with movie maker's desire to be "dark" now days? How about something uplifting that doesn't make me wish I hadn't watched it in the first place. All it has done for me is to be added to my list of movie makers to avoid.

    I can turn on the news and find a plethora of stories that are depressing. Why bother watching this?

     

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  24.  
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    Jose_X, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 9:42pm

    Re: Re: I loved this movie.

    The best part is that this can simply be the beginning if people want to extend and create a longer series.

    [Through all of that, the original authors (and greatest contributors) will get the most promotion and direct monetary contributions. It's a pyramid kind of thing where a few people tend to get repeat thanks even several generations/forks/derivative works away from the original.]

    Anyway, even if you don't want to use the 3d models, feel free to cut scenes from the film and use on your own website, etc. [That's what the copyright license allows.]

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 6:41am

    Re: Re:

    I think the key is to avoid having each funder hold a stake in the legal ownership of the film. Even having funded Sintel, I don't hold the copyright strictly speaking or have a percentage share in the film. This was made clear up front, and I'm happy with what I did get. I think the issue of stakeholders was also the issue for Kevin Smith.

    I tried suggesting that, such as having people sign a disclaimer when they donated their money and I was told that it still wouldn't be possible and that the only way it could be done is if they were selling some kind of product rather than just asking for money to finance the movie(s).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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