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An experimental animation about the pursuit of immortality; a love letter to free software and open culture
An experimental animation about the pursuit of immortality; a love letter to free software and open culture
An experimental animation about the pursuit of immortality; a love letter to free software and open culture
1,031 backers pledged $40,233 to help bring this project to life.

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Website update

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We're gearing up for the summer (more on that soon) and decided to update the Wires for Empathy official website. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Updated teaser! Lots of new shots, updated some older ones. This started as a an excerpt reel for Libre Graphics Meetup, and got edited down from 3 minutes to a more appropriate trailer length
  • Credits! Please check for your names on the credit list and yell at me if I missed you or got it wrong
  • Updated images! some of the images were from old renders - FIXED
  • Lil' tweaks to the readability of the blog previews embedded in the site

Ok that's about it! More soon on our summer plans!

Bassam

The language and font

8 likes

Hi folks,

I'm currently continuing the work you saw in the last update - building a library of time-lapse assets and tools. So far I have posters, aging tiled walls where the tiles break and fall out over time, security cameras, a guard tower, and various types of 'wirey' messes, like the stuff that is tucked away under the platform (but is visible in shots) and the wires feeding into lights, etc. I'm currently working on integration and interaction: creating tools to easily put them into shots, and methods they can 'talk' to each other, so that, e.g. a falling tile rips out the posters in front of it. All of these result in 'normal' blender animation curves, even though many are using animation nodes to build.

In the meantime, I'd like to show some earlier work we did, namely, our imaginary language/font we're going to use in the film:

Soomerian Modern!
Soomerian Modern!

 

Early on we decided the film would be wordless - no written or spoken words - and we would rely on images, shots and animation rather than language.

Our location is everywhere and nowhere - but it still needed diagetic written words: signs, advertisements, propaganda, etc. Not as language but as texture.

We want the dream to be universal - inspired by specific events, specific places, and deeply colored by them, but not speaking 'only' to one group of people. So instead of betraying that desire by using a specific language, it became more obvious that we should use a unique typeface with glyphs that don't really correspond to an existing script. Since our film is based on the epic of Gilgamesh, we thought it fitting to imagine a modern Sumerian language, evolved from ancient writing over thousands of years to the point of unrecognizability.

Initially I came up with some rough designs, mostly jokey references to 3D graphics elements (axis, cursors, rotation icons, nodes, etc.) mixed in with slightly corrupted versions of letters in English and Arabic, languages that I understand. Last summer, one of our interns further made several quick variations on those ideas, experimenting further.

I spoke with a number of well known font experts in the free software world, and one of them advised me to avoid the following:

  • Difficult to read or write symbols, as those would give the feeling of an 'alien' font
  • Symbols too close to existing letters
  • Joined scripts as those are tricky to make work

As a result, I went back to square one (or is it zero) and tried to come up with a design that worked better with those restrictions. The result is a typeface I'm calling "Soomerian Modern" that we can use with Blender, Inkscape, Krita or Gimp to make our various 2D elements. The first instance of this is on a train ticket, visible torn on the ground in the first shot.

Ticket stub with "the font"!
Ticket stub with "the font"!

Look forward to stencil and other variations of the font, and to seeing it appear on the poster assets I'm now coding/noding :)

Propoganda Timelapse dev continues

7 likes

Greetings comrades!

So as promised, here's a more in-depth update, about poster timelapse . In our (hopefully just in the movie, but you never know...) dystopian future, the subway walls need to get peppered with images of successive ruthless dictators, bent on making us love them through propaganda. This effect is sometimes very close to the camera, and sometimes in the background, throughout many shots.

Posters need to be added to the walls over time, then removed, and perhaps just have other posters put on top of them, with attention to the images (which image in the succession) overlaps (they need to be on top, rather than intersecting each other) and order of removal (posters under other posters can't go first). In addition, the materials of the poster need to age, and posters under other posters can't e.g. accumulate dirt, and could get ripped when the top poster gets removed... and .. and.... and.....

*deep breath*

So I'm building a poster control 'machine' using a brilliant blender addon called animationnodes - that also allows mixing nodes and python via script nodes. This is what my code and nodes look like right now:

python script nodes
python script nodes

 

All the animation node trees
All the animation node trees

And this is what they do:

 project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with
sound

 There's a lot of hidden stuff there too: they make oclusion masks using vertex colors and vertex groups so the posters "know" when they are under or over each other. This will allow me to combine it with.....

....my poster material nodes! :

Cycles poster material nodes
Cycles poster material nodes

 Lets see what those look like in animation:

 project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with
sound

 Phew! pretty cool - still missing a few details and tweaks, but that's the basic idea. the strange purple rectangle represents an occluding poster. the image is tweaked from a beautiful poster made by Michael Kalinin for the movie, and is just a 'test image'. The text is using our custom made font "soomerian modern" which all the text in the movie is written in.

So what's left? well, combining the animation nodes for the posters with the poster materials.

In addition I have similar systems (not shown here) for the wall itself, that have to interact with the posters, so for instance, the posters change the dirtiness levels of the walls, and falling tiles rip out the posters.

Hope you enjoyed this mini update!

Mini Teaser Update

7 likes

Hi folks!

I've fallen into the trap of wanting to post a big, intense update, and then putting it off to squeeze one more thing in, so I'm making myself post this quick mini update to push myself not to do that :)

We had some really nice results from last summer's internships, I'm especially happy with some amazing texture work and 2D design work for signage from Alice, and some progress on a complicated timelapse shot (not finished yet) which is getting close. I'll be posting these soon.

Since then I've discovered an amazing blender plugin called 'animation nodes' which is allowing me to do timelapse shots at an amazing level of detail. Sadly it's quite 'technical' in nature and very few people know how to use it safely, so, so far I haven't found a way to delegate work in this area - meaning it's just been me cranking on these nodes.

So consider this a teaser for the next update, during next week I'll post images and gifs or mini movies, and talk about the neat things I've accomplished and expect to accomplish with these amazing nodes.

Cheers

Bassam

Workflow document and new internship announcement

5 likes

Hi folks, two small updates in one here:

First of all, Lukas Tönne, one of the amazing blender developers, is working on the project to create blender 2.8 - which will be a milestone release of Blender, with new functionality and workflows.

In the process of designing, he's interested in seeing current and future workflows of Blender artists and projects, which led me to create a document of the Wires for Empathy workflow. I thought it might be interesting to share here too:

http://cloud.urchn.org/index.php/s/BhF91ARuakrocEf

The document is in odf and should open in Libreoffice, openoffice or google docs.

The second bit of news is that the summer internships are now open for students wanting to work on the project - the following is copied from the urchin blog:

"

We're happy to announce a new round of summer internships through bitfilms on Wires for Empathy aka the tube open movie project. Read the details in this document - it should contain everything you need to know, deadlines, how to apply, etc. In brief we're going to be working on two exciting main areas, timelapse animation and lighting. In the run up to the internship period I'm working on documentation for our lighting pipeline and timelapse animation workflow and tools - so if you're into lighting with cycles, would like the chance to work on our color-managed lighting pipeline, or if you like the idea of animating things changing over time, or modeling snapshots of aging objects, this could be a good fit for you.

"

Other than that, we're still working - I personally had a small hiatus due to a bad cold, but I'll have a production update soon, including a new animator who's joined our team to do fix and timelapse animation, some of the teased animation previews (I haven't forgotten) and more about other parts of the project. Stay tuned!