ZeMarmot, open animated movie to be made with GIMP, Blender, Ardour

ZeMarmot, open animated movie to be made with GIMP, Blender, Ardour

Jehan Pagès, Aryeom Han et al. launched a campaign to crowdfund an animated road movie made entirely with free software.

"ZeMarmot" will tell you a story of a cute marmot who wakes up one day to break out of his comfort zone and explore the world. There will be new friendships, exotic islands, and even flying carpets.

The team will only usee free software for all of production, including soundtrack: GIMP, Krita, Blender, Ardour etc. All project data will be released under terms of CC BY-SA, so that you could freely study the animation process and share what you learned. The team already released the project data of the teaser.

There's also some development work expected to be done: improvements in GIMP's animation features, extending OpenRaster to support animation, improving Blender VSE.

The imminent goal is to collect 9,000 euro, but would it suffice? We asked this and a few other questions to Jehan Pagès.

Jehan, it's hard not to notice a certain resemblance: the marmot will travel eastwards from Alps, while you yourself have an experience of motorcycling across all of Euroasia eastwards as well. This can't be a coincidence! :)

Yet that's still a fiction. The Marmot is not taking the same route as I did. I went much higher north (Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia…).

ZeMarmot

My current scenario is taking Marmot in some places I've never been, for instance, like Iran. Of course the script may evolve, but the point is that it is not a autobiography anyway. I'm trying to have more funny and exciting experiences for the movie. Not that my adventures were not exciting, but differently. :-)

You mention Krita as one of the tools to be used, and the Krita team have some grand plans for animation. But you will be hacking on a subset of animation features in GIMP rather than joining Krita. Why?

Krita is not used right now (that is, it has not been actually used at all in the teaser). We did mention Krita, but this is mostly to mean that we are not closed to other software, since a lot of people will just cite Krita, when we talk about painting with FLOSS.

I know that's not a popular view, since some people continue to spread the word that GIMP would only be good for photography editing, but that's just not true.

Yes, I expect you'd get a lot of questions about that.

We were actually asked a question during our LGM talk, whether Aryeom did some of the drawing physically first, then scanned and edited on GIMP, since the image has a very nice and warm "hand painted" feeling. But her answer was unequivocal: nope, 100% GIMP, from start to end! These are 100% digital drawings, and I think we could show these to anyone saying GIMP can't be used for serious painting.

But you aren't exactly married to using single software for digital painting?

We are open-minded, and if we happen to work with other animators who will want to use Krita or MyPaint, that won't be a problem at all. And, of course, there is also a possibility that Aryeom would switch to Krita or MyPaint, if ever she felt the need or if she suddenly decided that they were much better than GIMP, or whatever.

Being a GIMP dev does not block the situation. These applications are still free software and good at what they do. And if needed, I would gladly contribute code to Krita. I am very software and technology-agnostic. I don't care about Qt or GTK+, or whatever.

You have already made some improvements in the GIMP's animation plugin, haven't you?

I had already been working on it, on and off, for a bit now. Some of the changes have already been in the unstable branch since 2013, most are in a private branch on my computer, because I don't like to show unfinished code. So it's not like I just started a new project. I was working on it long before. Aryeom tested various versions of my modified plugins.

As for animation in Krita, I have never been good at waiting for others to do things, when I can do them myself. If I were to wait, who knows when it would be ready. We all know an announcement is not the same as a release. And finally: I like getting my hands dirty. ;-)

Regarding improving animation in GIMP: do you expect to pull anything from GAP at all?

I will have to have a closer look, but I don't really think GAP has much to offer us. The core feature of what I want to do is not extraordinarily complicated anyway. The main job will be to get the right UI, and for this GAP won't help at all (I'm sure it is good for various use cases, but not for cell animation).

Your patch for Blender from about two years ago hasn't been accepted yet, what's up with that?

Well, Ton Roosendal told me by email that they discussed the topic during one of their developer meetings. Basically people seemed to like the feature on the bug report, this is not the problem. The problem is that they had no maintainer for Blender VSE. So they would not approve (nor reject) any new features without a maintainer. This applies to features only, bug fixes are accepted — I submitted two of them, both have been applied.

Ton even told me at the time that I could propose to become the new Blender VSE maintainer. Unfortunately, I really don't have the time right now to go that far into my Blender involvement.

I have other features I want to work on Blender VSE anyway, so I will push further things. If I can, I will work these as plugins now, but some features I want to work on definitely can only go to core, I think.

The script so far accounts for ca. 40 minutes, but you are aiming for mere 9K euro. For anyone who follows crowdfunding at all that would ring a not-going-to-deliver bell. Do you expect to cut the script and maybe make a ca. 10 min animation movie? Or do you expect extra funding coming from elsewhere?

Basically yes, we would just do a very short animation instead. Maybe a small episode which calls for more. We will also adapt the animation quality with funding. Rather than aiming very high and do nothing if we fail, we chose to be flexible.

Now that's not ideal, and if we get 9000, that would not really be a real success for the operation in my opinion. Seriously it barely reimburses what I already used from personal funds for the last few months to prepare for this all. But hey, that's life!

We wondered about this for a long time (even until the very last second when we clicked the "Submit" button on Indiegogo), and pondered pros and cons. But yeah — that's what we ended up doing.

A lot of people have also grown wary of flexible funding on Indiegogo, because it's an easy way to run off with the money. Do you think the choice you made would affect you, because even people in the GIMP community probably haven't heard about you as much as about e.g. Mitch Natterer?

Both Aryeom and I have been working with Free Software and Libre Art for some time now. If the funding fails, we won't disappear, I will still work on GIMP and other Free Software, as I've done for the last 3+ years. I will likely implement anyway what we were planning for this project, except that it will probably take years, on and off, on free time, instead of a few months.

Quick demo of symmetric painting implemented by Jehan, expected in GIMP 2.10

Aryeom will still contribute designs to Free Software (she started to do so for GIMP with an icon, and probably soon others), and do Libre Art, like our Wilber & Co. comic strip (notably in GIMP Magazine).

But in any case, we would not be able to work on the movie itself. That takes a lot of time and is a lot of work. This just need some full time dedication.


ZeMarmot campaign is using flexible funding which means they will get the money even if they don't the requested 9,000 euro. You can support them on Indiegogo.

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