Archive for September, 2005

Equipping the studio

  / by Ton

I’ve already started contacting potential hardware sponsors before Siggraph, and met with a lot of hardware manufacturors there. Contacts with especially Sun, HP and SGI were promising. Unfortunately everyone went on holidays afterwards, and told me to discuss follow-ups on the IBC tradeshow in Amsterdam. This discussion is still ongoing, but we’re getting the picture of how our studio might be equipped now.

Since no single sponsor is going to provide us with all machines, an interesting solution would be to equip the studio with a variation of OS’s. Thanks to the discounts we got from Apple, we’ve purchased 2 G5s with 23″ screens now. We’ll also purchase two or three Linux workstations (AMD, Nvidia, widescreens too) and – fingers crossed – get a free Sun Solaris station and/or a SGI Prism. That would enable our project to do a nice wide range of software and release testing!

Of course, we also need a good file server. Toni, our TD, is already making a list for what we need for storage (hundreds of gigs!) and backup. Luckily Montevideo can provide us with hardware to get this working easily.

It’s mainly thanks to the ongoing support of the DVD presales, that we have the funding to purchase what we’ll need for the project. But I can’t stress enough the importance of the campaign to continue still. The thermometer still should hit the 1000 one of these weeks… or better, go to 2000 by xmas!

(Oh btw, for those who wondered, after the project we might have to sell the purchased hardware again… I’ve also checked on rental possibilities, but renting for six months good equipment is nearly equal to buying it. Of course we’ll try to have a 2nd Orange project ready by then, but I rather not worry about that now!)

concepts, cleaning and compositing

  / by Andy

And another exciting day at studio orange!
This week we’re busy doing heaps and heaps of concept sketches, tests and all the other thingies that help us mastering the surprisingly difficult task of making a movie – well, our movie! But we’re also wrestling with extremely bland things like cleaning the apartment(s) or figuring out who’s next doing the dishes :)
At this point we’ve done our best settling down and getting used to everything But then… Amsterdam isn’t exactly the other side of the world – well, at least not for me. It’s been easy so far, everyone is extremely friendly, helpful and encouraging.

Currently there’s a lot of research and development happening. From an art director’s point of view this involves everything that defines the final look and feel of the movie: lighting, shading, texturing, a bit of modelling and finally compositing and matte painting!

compositing test compositing test screenshot

Here you can see a little matte painting/compositing test I made. It has virtually nothing to do with our movie, it’s just a prove of concept of how someone can yield great results in a minimum amount of time. The scene was originally modelled in blender, then rendered and taken into gimp. There I added additional details for the rock surfaces, clouds and snow. Then I used blender as a 3D compositing tool to relight the result and combine the (manually UV mapped and displaced) mountain panorama with particle snow flakes and procedurally animated clouds.

Easy! It took one day to make, but the render time was pretty low. I made another test recently and was able to render 50% of an HD frame consisting of 8 separate scene passes in 40 seconds! (on my private dual cpu machine)

Well, of course that’s only a tiny fraction of the things we’re developing at the moment. Yesterday we finally got our missing tables, the studio is more or less entering its fully equipped state, and while I’m writing this, the concept sketches start filling our virtual and physical desktops.
And this is only the beginning… :)

bendy bones!

  / by Bassam

One of the coolest new features in blender cvs is the new bbones- bones that act like bezier curves- they can even deform an armature along a curve. To make a bbone, simply increase the number of segments for any bone in either edit or pose mode. (you need to turn the armture draw mode to bbone to see the result)

bone panel
The “In” and “Out” number buttons increase or decrease the length of the bezier handles governing the bbone. In the test image below, I’ve set this to zero on the bbones in the arms, to give me a straight bone that twists along it’s length in the forearm:

The back and neck use bbones for smooth curves, while the arms use them for straight twisting bones- the solution is not 100% satisfactory for twisting yet- it follows parent child chains, so the parent will twist to accommodate the rotation of the child. sometimes (like in the shoulder) I’d like to reverse this, but don’t know exactly how to accomplish that in the current system.
Here’s the little test dummy with the new bones: test rig

Pre-production scheduling

  / by Ton

First of all, I’d like make compliments to Matt and Toni, for putting this blog software and website into place in such a short time. We will use this blog to post -hopefully daily – updates on all aspects of the Machina movie production. You can expect contributions next week from each team member on the issues they’re working on..

Last week we had the first meeting with the scenario author, Pepijn Zwanenburg (already nicked Pippin by everyone!). Pepijn is a very cool guy (dreadlocks, red goatee), with especially experience in writing for theatre. The purpose is that we feed him with the concept, character and environment designs, and with ideas for the (spectacular!) events that can happen, so that he can ensure it’ll all be merged into a good dramatic storyline and dialogs. Pepijn is working on this now, we look forward to see the first results next week.

For the entire next week focus remains on further developing concept designs, especially for the characters and environment. Next week friday 16th – during our “weekly” – the results of that work should lead to sufficient clues for us to define the direction we’re heading at. So we then can spend the last two weeks of september on doing the breakdown, storyboards and first “animatic” (or moving storyboard) editing. End of this month we then also meet with composer Jan Morgenstern for the first time.

Read the rest of this entry »

Initial Movie Concepts

  / by Matt

We’re releasing some of our initial concept ideas and drawings to give an idea of what we’re going to be working on. In order to keep our energy focused and coherent, we can’t reveal everything at once, but here’s a brief description:


A small group of engineers and helpers explore a giant machine that forms their world. So vast that it defies explanation, the machine eludes the engineers as they traverse its dense networks of wires and automata, until one day a conflict arises that throws out all assumptions about the world they inhabit.

This 3D animated short movie couples passionate characters with a truly epic story line

And some initial visual concepts:

Storyboard Concept Environment Concept Action Concept

Stay tuned for more!

Studio Orange Begins Pre-production

  / by Matt

The Studio Orange core team is now complete, together in Amsterdam and we have begun the pre-production phase of our open movie project!

We have a brand new website, with a blog that we’ll keep up to date with snippets about the movie, concepts and shots, technical tests and info, and general ramblings from the team. Explore the site and keep checking back often to see our progress! Feel free to post your comments here, too. We hope to use this to enable more open interaction with external volunteers, but more on that later!

For the next six weeks, we will be working on concept design, scripting, storyboards, technical research and development, in order to present a teaser trailer at the 2005 Blender Conference in Amsterdam. From here on, production will begin in earnest and continue until our deadline next year.

To help make this project a continued success, please help us out by pre-ordering the extended edition DVD with the movie, making-of documentary and all production files as Creative Commons open content. Check it out at the e-shop!