Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Open source production pipeline thoughts

Alright, let me introduce my pipeline in a few words. Actually it’s not even a real pipeline - even less when compared to bigger studio pipelines - just a collection of programs working quite nicely together. But ‘pipeline’ sounds so nicely professional, so I’ll stick with that ;)

I come from a Linux background, so I’m pretty used to using free open source programs. Recently, I switched to a Mac and was pretty happy to see that most of these applications are also available for OSX. Some aren’t though, and I’m still looking for a feasible alternative to them. But let me go through them one by one.
  • Blender: The main production tool, used for pretty much everything except texture painting and concept art. Runs on all mayor platforms (and also some not-so-mayor ones).
  • GIMP: Main tool for texture painting (which often also involves some image manipulation). Runs fine in OSX with X11 installed. (OSX not officially supported, but you can get recent builds from here)
  • Inkscape: A vector image application, used sometimes for convenient bezier curve manipulation which are then converted to raster format and imported into GIMP for further processing. Also runs pretty fine on OSX with X11, get it here:
  • Mypaint: A natural painting tool, mainly used for concept art and quick digital scribbles. Runs ok with some minor issues, installable through macports (tutorial coming soon).
  • Celtx: a screenwriting application based on the Mozilla codebase, so it runs on all major platforms. Does an awesome job managing the script and various ideas floating around.
Now some of you may wonder why I use a screenwriting/managing application in my pipeline, although this is pretty much a one-man project. I first thought so too, and used a simple text app to write down my stuff. But as soon as it gets to shuffling scenes around, incorporating additional ideas or just get a quick overview over the props and characters involved in a scene, this approach shows it’s weaknesses. Celtx can output a list of stuff that’s present in a certain scene (or the whole script), and provides a quick way to see what has still to be done beforehand or, more general, if the scene is still doable or if it’s already grown beyond that point.
As an added bonus, you feel like you are making an actual film with a correctly formatted screenplay, which can’t be a bad thing after all (and a justification for the title “filmmaker” that’s present on my twitter bio and others).
One thing that makes me a little sad is that my beloved painting application Krita isn’t yet available on OSX. It seems they are working on it, but at the time of writing it doesn’t work (for me at least). It’s also great for manipulating openEXR images, so have a look.
What I really like about this pipeline is that it works flawlessly across the programs. Blender and GIMP can import Inkscapes .svg vector files, all three can produce .png images which can be used to storyboard in Celtx and so on. There is no external app needed to convert the output to be compliant among those programs.
The program that is probably most used  during production wasn’t listed yet, and isn’t even a graphics application. In my case, it is Clementine - the best music player I’ve come across ever. I cannot work without having some music in the background, your mileage may vary. It also manages iPods on Linux without any hassle.

One more thing: if you’re like me, and you get distracted way too easily by the various formatting options when writing, or the email-notification, or twitter/facebook/google+/whatever, do yourself a favor and take a look at FocusWriter (Linux, OSX, Win). Minimalistic options, just text on a background taking up all your screen estate, so nothing can blink and distract you. Except when you un-maximize it of course.
So, with all those tools in place, we can now officially enter preproduction stage. Actually, this stage is almost over for Love Bites, but I’ll probably write one or two things about finding ideas (and, even more important, throwing them away again), look development (which involves a bit of color theory and psychology) and a few thoughts on file management. And soon I will introduce the two main characters to you. Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading, feel free to comment below!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ready... set... go!

So, this marks the official start of my 'Love Bites' project. I tampered with the idea for quite some time now, and I think it's ready to tackle the production itself. At first I'll post on an irregular basis during preproduction stage. Not because I'm lazy (well, maybe I am...), but because not every bit is interesting. As soon as there is some concept art to show, the postings will become more frequent, all the way through the very end.
I'd like this to be a blog that I would want to read on that topic - detailed technical information, peppered with some geeky stuff and maybe topped with a few video tutorials (if need be). I am by no means a total expert in this field, this blog will merely describe my way of doing it and also document my learning process - so I might also hit a few dead ends on the way.
If you have any critique, questions or suggestions, feel free to comment!

Now I wish you a pleasant stay here, maybe you find some of this stuff interesting (or even inspiring). It will be quite a journey until the end, so I hope you will stay with me for a little while.