A lot has transpired in the Tube project since the fall, when factors beyond our control collapsed the finishing plan we’d been about to announce, and it was back to the drawing board. To be clear, Tube never sleeps. But it takes more than a few people to make this kind of movie, and without full funding in place, it’s an enormous challenge. From the beginning we’ve held Tube to the highest possible standard, because it’s not just some bottom line job or product — Wires for Empathy should be a piece of art that stands as a testament to the collective effort of its contributors, and a film that showcases what can be done with Free/Libre tools in a way that holds up with time. (People often ask how we get artists to join a project like this. The answer isn’t simple, but the first principle is this one.)
That also makes it expensive work, in terms of time, money, and even render power! There is an adage that among Fast, Cheap, and Good you can pick any two. Tube is a vastly underfunded experiment that we took on out of a crazy compulsion, because we wanted to see what kind of film we could make, and what we could learn, if we approached independent filmmaking in the mode of free software development, and threw commercial concerns into the canal.
Tube is a very particular entity that’s evolved and whispered its needs, which we obey because they are necessary, even when they’re a bit mad. Find a way to tell an epic poem as a short with no words?!! Give it stylish, hyper-realistic *humanoid* animation in 3D?! And an *army* of *sextopods* — when it’s hard enough to animate one creature with just two feet?! And complicated time-lapse VFX?! And a human *crowd* scene?! Add mayhem, decay and gore?! AND you need to figure out how to make it all, in Free Software, over the internet?!
So for the Tube project, often the first thing hasn’t been to go and make the movie, but actually to go and build the tools to make the movie. It’s incredibly challenging to make such ambitious work on a shoestring, but its curse is also its freedom: because it’s not a commercial work under the absolute rule of numbers (or any sort of properly funded work where you have a set schedule) we are able to be exacting. And we are getting closer all the time. Unlike in Free Software, you can’t release a film in versions. But even before it’s finished, Tube is already being published, in the Art of Blender and featured in the Gooseberry pitch book. It’s already feeding field expertise back into the community, and providing interesting production experience and kick-ass shots for the employment reels of its many wonderful artists. We are also collaborating with some of the most exciting Free Software projects like MediaGoblin and Pitivi to advance the libre media ecology in ways that we plan to talk more about soon.
Wires for Empathy may have started off as an intellectual, aesthetic exercise, but when war zones erupt around loved ones, or we are faced with illness and the transient mortality of those we hold dear, it’s taken on a profound reflexive feeling. Each time the film we’re making aligns in some new way with the most meaningful parts of our own lived experience, I remember again why we thought it was important, and why it’s a story people have been retelling for more than 5,000 years.
Your notes of support really keep us going. Thanks for being part of the adventure!