Funded! This project was successfully funded on May 16, 2012.

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An experimental animation about the pursuit of immortality; a love letter to free software and open culture

In Under 1 Week, Tube Surpasses Barebones Goal! Onward to full production funding -- next target: $50K.      

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Animation with substance. The crowd funds it, the crowd owns it. Tube is the experimental production of a 3D animated short about the dream and failure and achievement of immortality. It's also a love letter to free software and open culture that marks their convergence with independent filmmaking.

Your support will enable us to finish a movie in which a passionate volunteer team has invested years of hard labor.

    

WHAT IS THIS MOVIE YOU SPEAK OF

A SHORT TIME BACK I DISCOVERED AMONG THE ASSYRIAN TABLETS IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM AN ACCOUNT OF THE FLOOD
- The Chaldean Account of the Deluge, George Smith. 1872

The Tube Open Movie is inspired by the Gilgamesh poem, which comes down to us as an incomplete, conflicting set of fragments and variations, the clay tablet remnants of more than a few ruined libraries. The epic centers on the Sumerian king who ruled Uruk, in ancient Iraq, who for his tyranny the gods teach friendship and loss, and through them, the fear of his own death. In the end, the immortality he achieves is different to the one he first seeks. Nearly five thousand years later, Gilgamesh, a woman and a soldier, rushes into a station in pursuit of a fragment of paper blown about by the passing of trains. In an ever-accelerating vortex, her hero's progress becomes the animation's own frames.

Elephants Dream, the original open movie directed by Bassam Kurdali, proved it possible to make high quality 3D animated films using free, libre tools in a studio setting. The Tube project is a new experiment in distributed collaboration. From an undisclosed base in New England, it unites a team of local and international artists using cutting-edge tools for independent filmmaking based in - what else - the hypertubes.

Tube will be licensed as CC BY-SA 3.0. Follow the open movie production process at URCHN.ORG

    

PATRONS, YOUR PSEUDO-CELLULOID NEEDS YOU

As a frame of reference, Elephants Dream cost €100,000 to produce; Sintel more recently, €400,000 -- or $550,000. We got to this point in our experiment by placing Tube in a teaching context, and through the participation of a lot of talented people who have worked so far for next to nothing, but also need to eat. In the course of making Tube we are developing useful tools, and we would like to release the movie with its impressive data assets before they obsolesce! Our aim is to prove the open movie model as a viable way to create independent animation. So, in order to finish production in the next 7 months, we ask for your support. 

We have set our 30 day Kickstarter goal to a conservative sum that can maintain momentum by going quickly into work already in production. It will fund key artists from our team, and potentially some new hires. If community patronage can exceed that target, it will ensure that we are able to work better and faster, and help us establish the open movie as a model we and others can continue to use.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution please contact us; we also have fiscal sponsorship.

Other ways you can help!

URCHN is an animation group developing an internet-based production pipeline rooted in free/libre tools. It is perhaps the first studio of allied artists outside the Blender software’s own Institute to take up the experiment of producing ambitious and costly computer animated films with content and data CC licensed to the public. Using a business model that invests in commonwealth, and which feeds directly into education, our goal is to explore the versatile medium of animation independent of typical commercial pressures that restrict it to genre. Enhancements we develop to the free/libre software toolset support the proliferation of varied creative works. At the same time, our participatory media encourage literacy in the underlying tools and systems that aid or impede expression, to influence how we assemble not only in culture, but as a global society.

URCHN is affiliated with the Bit Films incubator of Hampshire College, where students and graduate artists work alongside professionals to develop their skills, their reels, and gain screen credit in animated filmmaking. We open internships to application each summer, fall and spring.

  

LAST WORDS FOUND IN A BATHTUB

Bassam had hardly discovered the very cool 3D software Blender, then available as freeware, when in 2002 its parent company NaN announced bankruptcy. Despondent at the threat of its demise, users rallied to the news that Blender's primary author, Ton Roosendaal, had brokered a plan with creditors to free the source code under the GNU General Public License, for the sum of €100,000. In a few short weeks the community achieved the target of the Free Blender Fund, and the libre Blender CG suite -- modeller, animator, video editor, compositor, renderer and game engine -- was born.

Computer animation is today's cathedral, an overarching art that collects disparate forms (programming, architecture, sculpture, painting, music, literature), and which collectively they advance. In 2005 work began on the first 'open movie' -- Elephants Dream. Another early example of crowdfunding, the short was conceived in part to demonstrate the contested viability of libre tools in a production environment. It not only saw a dramatic real-time overhaul to the Blender software, but captured a wide audience and galvanized the entire ecology of libre tools and culture: its influence was recognized from CG festivals to financial newspapers to the Museum of Modern Art. The success of the project enabled the Blender Foundation to set up a permanent Institute, with further productions organized to drive software development and showcase its capabilities.

Open tools have become an important global resource. While One Laptop Per Child brings the wealth of open computing to little-developed areas, comparatively affluent countries where PC infrastructure (hardware + connectivity) already exists lag in adoption. Developed countries promote increasingly restrictive and monopolistic standards that impoverish social discourse and capital. Copyright and Patent, meant to feed inventors, but also experiment and the public domain, are today used in defense of a regressively feudal system from which neither cultural nor economic benefit can easily flow. Lofted by the most powerful elements of industry, such developments also lay the groundwork of a control society: important historical films cannot be shown because of permissions issues; Ian McEwan is charged with plagiarism for citing a WWII memoir -- or, referencing collective memory; and in the United States, we use uninspected election software to institute government if it has been judged "Intellectual Property". URCHN implicitly critiques the role of IP in formulating the terms/structures of public discourse – because Property as applied to Speech creates vacancies in memory; its fantasy is criminalization and control. Perversely, it may be that no quarter has done more than the entertainment industry to promote dystopian technology (e.g. DRM, DMCA, ACTA, SOPA, PIPA). Now, in this moment, copyright has metastasized to threaten not just the cultural economy, but the internet we live on. There is no copyright policy, only Internet policy; there is no Internet policy, only policy.

Reformulating Biko's observation that the most powerful tool in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed in market terms gives us the problem known as 'mind-share'. A populace conditioned by unregulated industry will be slow to notice the freedoms it is losing, or to be aware of rich alternatives even when they are almost under its nose. Open tools and licensing standards have ripened; Fedora and Ubuntu Linux have made it easy; peer-to-peer networking (e.g. BitTorrent) is positioned among the vital organs of grassroots media. But a fork is in place between the collaborative and competitive systems: closed tools are standard, perceived to be king. For students and professionals, working outside that standard can be fatally babelizing. For this reason, interest in open media far exceeds its present ecology.

Purely synthetic, 3D animation has a remarkable expressive capacity, and by its uniquely modular nature holds the potential to grow a public archive of reusable data. The medium is also labor intensive. The challenge animators face, the challenge we are all trying to solve, is of how to fund the expensive work of really interesting independent animation. Despite numerous successes of permissive distribution in a variety of media in recent years, there is no other CG studio outside the Blender Institute yet founded on the open model. URCHN wants to see the commons as fertile terrain, and not a marginal zone beside which the real business of culture transpires. With the Tube project, our central experiment is to produce high value, radically open work, assuming the principle that what you feed into the global commons will inspire the commons to feed you.

When the medium and means of production is digital, we don't need to endlessly mimic economic behaviors derived from material scarcity. Instead, we can respond to the condition of digital reproducibility in pursuit of a new mode of production. Promoting a libre toolset, URCHN offers the full data of its filmmaking pipeline -- usually a closely guarded asset -- and invites the audience to take apart our work to advance its own.

We continue the trend begun by the Blender Foundation: demonstrating a model of independent production that invests in commonwealth, URCHN seeks to engender a new industry of participatory media. Tube will be released in formats from handheld to High-Definition; without closing off traditional distribution avenues, its licensing status as an open movie is also its passport to new ones. In a popular medium, when allowed to roam at will, such animation acts as a wide ambassador for free/libre tools and culture.

-- Fateh Slavitskaya, Executive Director, URCHN; Writer + Producer, Tube

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FAQ

  • Tube will use the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike (CC BY-SA) for most content; some assets we might license as CC BY, and all code (software, Python scripts) we produce will use GPL v2 or later. Software and assets that we do not produce ourselves will be under their own respective license, but we will only use freely licensed software (as defined by the Free Software Foundation) and free culture licensed art (usually Creative Commons) as defined by freedomdefined.org, to keep the project as accessible as possible.

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    All of the above + From your photo we will create a character and immortalize your own fabulous self (or whom you choose) in a memorable cameo role. *Natural persons only*

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