Category Archives: movies

Blender’s Open Movie Project – Tears Of Steel

This isn’t exactly open source hardware. But Blender is open source…and robots are hardware…and it’s Saturday.

This is the fourth from the Blender Foundation. The movies are intended to push Blender’s open technology forwards.

For the entire creation pipeline in the studio, we will only use free/open source software. For 3D graphics, compositing and video editing we’ll obviously use Blender. The new ‘Cycles’ render engine will be used, which includes open source projects like OpenShading, OpenColor and OpenImage. For camera and motion tracking Blender uses Libmv. For imaging and drawing we expect to use GIMP, MyPaint, Krita and Inkscape a lot. Render output and footage will be using the OpenEXR format. Scripting will be done in Python. Studio database storage will most likely be in SVN. The workstations in the studio will be equipped with 64 bits Ubuntu Linux. We have our own render farm this time, running on Debian and Ubuntu.

Since we’ll work with external providers for music, sfx and mix, we can only recommend them to include free software in their pipeline, but won’t put stringent demands here.
Obviously we’re very interested to be in contact with free/open source projects of any kind, to check on what we can do together.
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All The Uses For An Old Android Phone

Modern smart phones are incredibly capable devices. The guidance computer that got Apollo 11 to the moon and back could be simultaneously emulated 10,000 times on the smart phones that we are replacing every couple of years.

There’s got to be something better than just chucking them in a drawer.

After an exhaustive survey of the interwebs, I’ve turned up roughly 15 things that it makes sense to do with your old phone. The most obvious, and least satisfying, is to just keep it charged so you can use it as an emergency phone. Meh. An improvement would be to install a VOIP service and use it to make free calls over your home Wi-Fi network. If you don’t want to use your old phone as a phone, you can take advantage of all that memory; load it up with content and it can be an MP3 player, an e-reader, a game system, or even a full-fledged media server (yes a server). Whatever you do…please don’t just use it as an alarm clock.

All that and more after the jump. Continue reading

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Open Source Ecology Recruiting Team Members

Maybe you haven’t heard about Open Source Ecology (OSE) yet. I suppose that’s a possibility.

You’re going to be hearing a lot more about this amazing open source agriculture/infrastructure project in the near future. If you want to be a part of it, well, they’re making a big push to recruit team members right now! But first, the Indiegogo.com campaign (OSE is featured in this documentary).

Continue reading

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Apertus, Open Source Cinema

The goal of the Apertus project is to create a powerful, free (in terms of liberty) and open cinema camera that we as filmmakers love to use.

That’s the vision of  Apertus, which has a significant number of contributors and seems well on the way to a “modular camera system” based on the open source cameras Elphel is producing.

Prototype Apterus camera with a tablet-PC mounted on top. By Oscar Spierenburg.

Why an open source cinema camera? Well, as Sebastian Pichelhofer explains

If you look at recent press releases from big companies you might notice the lack of real information or technical details. Marketing departments are often able to spin slightly re-worked features as something entirely brand new by making up new words, backed up with doctored images and charts which focus only on the most positive changes that seem to create the impression of great leaps in development.

For industry professionals this is a very frustrating development as they need to invest a lot of time to find out what the camera actually does by reviewing the device from each manufacturer in person or relying on trusted reviewers. Some of these reviewers are approached by the big manufacturers to create demo footage or entire films to promote their gear for them…

This is exactly why I fight for open hardware and free software: honesty. We are not afraid to explain what exactly happens inside our camera, after all Apertus is also about open knowledge and open education.

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The fireCrow Squib Firing System – An Interview With The Creators

Sometimes what you need just doesn’t exist. And when you’ve got stuff to blow up, well…

Whenever someone or something in a movie needs to blow up or get shot, a remote controlled firing system is used. Since the firing system can’t be seen on camera, it needs to be small so it can be easily hidden. Apparently the commercial systems you can buy may or may not be small enough. They might be, like, two or three times bigger than they need to be. That was the position Daniel Arvidsson and David Jensen found themselves in. Thanks to the Arduino, and a lot of experimentation, they produced a small open source squib firing system (but they also made it modular so it can do more than just fire squibs).

Size comparison between the firecrow v1 and the Holatron, a professional squib firing system.

What are your names and backgrounds?

  • Daniel: My name is Daniel Arvidsson and I’m a former glass worker. 2004-2005 I attended a year of film study at a folk high school, after the school I got into pyrotechnics  and SFX. That’s the main reason why the idea of an wireless firing system came up! Now a days I have an ordinary job and do some SFX in my spare time and of course I’m developing fireCrow v2.0 ;-)
  • David: And mine is David Jensen, I’m a software developer and sort of a nerd. Bearded nerd. Not the big guru beard though. I’ve got two small kids, a wife and a house, no dog.

Did you have any engineering experience before you started?

  • Daniel: Hardly no electronic experience at all to start with.
  • David: About a year before we started I heard about something called the “Arduino”, bought one and started playing with it a bit. Prior to that, no experience at all. I did know  how to program though. But not C/C++.

What made you decide to open source the project?

  • Daniel: It’s a congenial way to make stuff and I like the idea of a contributing to a lifestyle where you build up a community; where everyone can help or be help without  paying for support and updates.
  • David: I’m a big fan of free software and a long time Linux user. I wouldn’t have found my way into electronics if it wasn’t for open hardware, especially the Arduino, making it easily accessible and fun, so I felt it was natural that whatever we did should be open hardware and open source.

Did you choose one particular license over others? Why?

  • Daniel: TAPR – because it’s created by people who mainly makes wireless applications. I thought our system fitted that description well.
  • David: GPL3 for the software since it has copyleft clauses that protects against being engulfed into a proprietary project. Also, copyleft licenses spread more freedom into the world.

Were there any tools/resources that were vital to your success?

  • Daniel: I use Cadsoft Eagle to make the schematics and PCB design, and we’ve used the Arduino as a development platform for the remote control.
  • David: We use a port of the Arduino library in the firmware to ease development, without it it would take a lot more time. GCC, avrdude and gedit for development.

Could you suggest one really important skill people should learn first?

  • Daniel: Only to be patient and accept that it will take time if you don’t know what you’re doing to start with. Of course it helps a lot to have basic knowledge of electronics (and coding)!

Did you ever make a major shift in the direction of the project? Why?

  • Daniel: First the pyrofyro was only a 2 channel firing system, then it became a MCU board (the fireCrow). Our idea was to get it out to a broader range of users and to make it easily accessible for Arduino people. Mainly because there’s already a great community with a lot of coding examples and help to get. Pyrofyro became the name of plugin cards (2, 4, or 6 channels) dedicated to firing pyrotechnics. We also have plans to fork the MCU board into a “firing system” fork with intergrated transceiver and an “Arduino-ish” fork (same as now)
  • David: The change to a modular system also interested me since I don’t have a license to blow things up :-)

How much of the project was individual effort and how much was social?

  • David: If by individual we count the both of us you could say that most of the effort right now is individual. But it builds upon community efforts like the Arduino library. We wouldn’t be able to build it otherwise.
  • Daniel:  Also, in the beginning I got some help from electronic forums and googling the net about things that I didn’t understand, but otherwise no.

Do you plan on selling anything when you’re finished?

  • Daniel:   Yes, hopefully we’ll be able to sell kits or even a finished product. The most difficult part is to get a reasonable price, because there’s no economy to buy enough components to reduce the cost per piece. Maybe if we get founding somehow ;-)

What do you think about open source as a philosophy? As a strategy?

  • David: As stated above I love free software, I think that as a philosophy open hardware and free software gives us creativity and power as a community to change the world. As a business strategy for software I believe it’s the future, everyone should do it. Open hardware as a business strategy is a bit different though, but there are business doing well. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.
  • Daniel:  I agree with previous speaker! ;-)

In your wildest dreams, what would be open sourced next?

  • David: Totally open hardware and drivers for the next Nexus Android phone, with easily accessible connectors.

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