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Elephants Dream Creator Talks to Wikinews 86

An anonymous reader writes "Three days after the Internet release of the free content 3D short Elephants Dream, Wikinews exchanged e-mails with Ton Roosendaal about the reaction to the film, open source filmmaking, and the changes to Blender that resulted from the production."
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Elephants Dream Creator Talks to Wikinews

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  • my opinion (Score:4, Informative)

    by Toba82 ( 871257 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @03:38AM (#15378719) Homepage
    The movie sounded like a feature film - it wasn't. It was a very thought-provoking piece, however. I've got to say the graphics were impressive.
    • Graphics were very impressive, yes. But the lipsync was very poorly done. It's really distracting at times.
    • It was a very thought-provoking piece, however.

      And what thoughts did it produce? "Gosh this doesn't make any sense"?
      • And what thoughts did it produce? "Gosh this doesn't make any sense"?

        Well, to be fair, it seemed nonsensical at first. However, now that I've watched it a few times, I'm finding all kinds of dimensions and plots from it. Then again, I'm perfectly capable of looking at at a cloud and coming up with a novel-length story of whatever it resembles in my eyes. Or a blade of grass, or a grain of sand.

        I guess that means that the sense is in the eye of the beholder.

        • Well, in that case, it would have been quicker for them to rent a DV cam and film clouds for a few hours instead of wasting all that time with a renderer. Because I didn't get crap out of the movie other than, "hey, look, open source is so great you can produce high-quality animation using it! ... and a team of 20 animators! ... and over a year of work!"
        • Re:my opinion (Score:1, Flamebait)

          by dangermouse ( 2242 )
          Art is expressive. If a work does not convey a specific message or emotion from its creator to the audience, but instead leaves everything to the interpretation of the audience, it is not art.

          If the intent to evoke a particular thought or emotional response is there, but the work does not do so, then the creator has failed to create art.

          If there is no such intent, then the creator is just screwing around and wasting everybody's time.

          I can't tell whether this movie was a failure or just screwing around, but

    • Re:my opinion (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well, I thought it sucked badly.

      Everything have been already said to the stupid story. We could add things about the camera movment et al, but it is overshadowed by the failure that this story is.

      We've seen this stuff in Imagina dozen oftimes. Teenagers trying to be deep and arty.

      It is very unfortunate, as I, as many others, can't send show this movie to anybody I know, without feeling ashamed. Compare this to the first Pixar shorts. It is such a waste...

      Ok, storytelling is hard. I can admit that. In that c
    • Sometimes less is more....a LOT more.
      • And sometimes less is less. Yay tautologies!
        • It doesn't surprise me that some people are totally lost on the meaning in this animated short, nor does it surprise me that people would label something they don't understand as inferior in some way. It would be a refreshing change of pace to see someone provide some intelligent discourse as to what was so lame about it, other than, "the plot sucked," "it was too short," blah blah blah...
          • I consider myself a pretty intelligent, literate person. If I watch/read/listen to something, and I don't understand it, I'm inclined to not think "IT'S SO GREAT, BECAUSE I CAN'T UNDERSTAND IT!" If I don't get something out of the experience, it is not of value to me. Sometimes, I can go back and get something out of it. Sometimes, I go back, and it's still impenetrable. Philip Glass is in this category.

            Does that mean it has no value? Surely not. Simply that I (me this carbon unit) didn't derive any
  • Creating Extra Buzz. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by crhylove ( 205956 ) <> on Monday May 22, 2006 @03:43AM (#15378727) Homepage Journal
    If you really want to draw people into the whole FOSS arena and generate pieces in the real world, make it applicable to real life. I think an all CG documentary about LOTS of subjects would dominate text books, and making one under GPL or GML or whatever would make it an editable improveable piece that could be used again and again, and improved over time by every viewer or instructor who used the material. Plus I can imagine quite a few topics where CG graphics would help clarify the subject matter for the student. Maybe even some computer lessons. Now granted, clippy sucked, but maybe FOSS can do a whole shit load better...


    Topic Ideas: Something about ancient architecture. A biography about the works of Leonardo Da Vinci. A Mortal Kombat game featuring Leonardo Da Caprio. I'd love to do that fatality.
  • What... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ...are you tallking about? My spelling is perfect!
  • Download it here (Score:5, Informative)

    by LetterRip ( 30937 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @04:06AM (#15378774)
    For those who didn't see it the first link here are the movies again, hope you enjoy it []

  • by krunk4ever ( 856261 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @04:18AM (#15378795) Homepage
    to remember never to post mirrors to 400meg or 800meg files when they think they're going to get slashdotted. those servers that were mirroring the video were litteraly hammered to the point of non-recognition. Even the edu server they had was trailing less than 10KB/sec.
  • by Ithika ( 703697 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @04:22AM (#15378800) Homepage
    Nice interview, although he sidestepped a couple of questions... like the one about closed source sound software. He just seemed to go off at a tangent there.
  • omgponies (Score:1, Troll)

    by taskforce ( 866056 )
    Wtf? A half decent article on Wikinews? A full page long?


  • A review: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @05:28AM (#15378896) Homepage
    Well... yes, the graphics were quite impressive, however the animation looks very clunky at times. Although the static and slow-moving graphics looked fine, the walking motion and some of the fast action looked very bad (I actually checked to see if my player was skipping frames).

    The audio wasn't fantastic - a little jingle of music, a few sound effects and Emo has a very strange accent (and, BTW, what is the Colossus of Row-Des, I thought it was Rhodes, as in "roads"... maybe that's just me being on the right side of the pond). There's little emotion or character in his voice, either.

    The "plot" is just plain weird but we'll excuse that on the basis that there isn't supposed to be any plot (read into the plot what you like but it's not present so you can say that anything "represents" anything you like... I hereby declare that the plot could be about Emo the technophobe not wanting to use the clunky old tech that his father used, in the same way I use CD's where my dad used vinyl).

    By making the plot weird and the animation clunky, they've actually achieved the opposite of what they wanted - they relied on DVD pre-orders and grants to get this off the ground and, now people have seen the result, they won't be getting many of those for their future projects. Plus, when people next say "we want to use Blender to make X", everyone's going to remember this.

    I can't see this being something that people will share around to go "wow" at with their friends (unlike that short about the little robot who wakes up in a room on a spaceship (Blue?), anyone remember how much that cost to make?) so very few people are going to realise this even exists. If they do, they are going to be one of the people here just disappointed with what's been produced after they've spent a lot of money on a DVD pre-order.

    The arty-farty types will adore this film if for no other reason than nobody else can understand it and it's been called art.
    • Re:A review: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Eloquence ( 144160 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @05:49AM (#15378938)
      There's more to CG than character animation, and as Ton explains in the inteview, the artists got better during the course of the project. I think judging by the amount of blog buzz the thing has received, it is being shared and copied quite heavily. I see many potential benefits:
      • Be taken seriously by studios and animators. Having a tech demo like this out means that people who make decisions about spending money are more likely to take a closer look at Blender as a highly capable free solution for 3D graphics.
        • As a consequence, a studio might even say: "Sure, Blender is cool, but it's lacking features X, Y, and Z. So we'll pay for developing those, it's still cheaper than what we would pay for licensing." Studios are first and foremost about making films, not software, so open source makes strategic sense for them.
      • Get young artists interested in using Blender. "That movie had a weird plot, but man, I'd love to do graphics like that." This in turn may lead to increased uptake in academia, as kids want to use their favorite software in university.
      • Help people learn basic 3D filmmaking skills. Remember that the DVD contains the 3D models, storyboards, making of, etc.
      • Establish working relations with artists, organizations, and so on that can be built upon in future projects.
      • Identify key areas where Blender needs work -- this was done during the process, and any new movie project will help to further refine the software.
      I don't dare to predict if future movie projects will be successful. I think there's a good chance they will, especially if the basic idea (without spoilers) is published upfront and well-received. I think it would be neat to cooperate with a major webcomics artists on characters and plot. This is a community artform that has already established itself quite well.
      • It's certainly being shared, my torrent lists over 30000 seeders right now. Might have something to do with slashdot, yes, but it's still pretty impressive. That's basically as much as the newest episode of lost gets.
    • My impression (Much like parents):
      Decent graphics.
      Weird albeit interesting plot.
      Crappy sound effect (Horrible actors).
      Crappy animation.

      The sound effects have nothing to do with the tools used, that just shows that the crew isn't all that good at making cartoons.
      The animation might be an outcome of the bad tools, but it may again just be the animators who don't have the proper skills.

      In the end, this "feature" could be a lot more impressive, and failed in showing that OSS tools can be as good as the professi
      • Re:A review: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Helios1182 ( 629010 )

        This sums up my impressions as well. In the previous thread someone said that this should scare the crap out of Pixar and the like, but I still think that is wrong. They may have the tools to make a good film, but the pure level of talent and experience is lacking.

        This would provide an excellent opportunity for those with talent to show it off and strive for a job in the field though. As nice as Free software/media is, you still need to pay the bills. And there is nothing stopping you from working on

    • unlike that short about the little robot who wakes up in a room on a spaceship

      I seem to have missed this one. Any chance you could hunt down a link, if it is that cool? I don't know enough about it to find it on Google.
    • I agree with what you say, but I would go even farther to say that the facial animation is absolutely awful. There is coherency between facial movement and audio. I couldn't even call this a technical achievement other than it was incredibly inexpensive to make, but at the cost of embarassing animation. Free software may make great pictures, but free animators are not worth the loss of quality.

      I have nothing to say about the story, since there is none.

      Once you get the glitter of open source eye candy (a
    • The "plot" is just plain weird but we'll excuse that on the basis that there isn't supposed to be any plot (read into the plot what you like but it's not present so you can say that anything "represents" anything you like... I hereby declare that the plot could be about Emo the technophobe not wanting to use the clunky old tech that his father used, in the same way I use CD's where my dad used vinyl).

      Just because it was over your head doesn't mean it lacked plot. :) It was definately aimed at a more arts

      • Okay... I'm not desperate to understand the fuss around this (I can accept that some people are seeing things that just aren't there) but I did *SPECIFICALLY* read these posts, consider them carefully and then re-watch the entire thing again with this in mind. I was sure that I must be missing something that other people are somehow seeing.

        And you know what, it's rubbish. The first 7 minutes of the film DO NOT tie in with the theory you have linked too, not at all, most especially the dialogue just does n
    • I believe another Blender Foundation movie would definitely draw in just as many, if not more pre-orders and donations than the original Project Orange did. Why? Becuase it was a humongous success among the Blender community, the majority of people who did donate and pre-order.

      The movie might not have the best plot, the animation might have it's issues, but this whole project has brought the communities strength to new levels. We love Blender, but we especially love those behind its growth.

      If this project h
    • Well... yes, the graphics were quite impressive, however the animation looks very clunky at times. Although the static and slow-moving graphics looked fine, the walking motion and some of the fast action looked very bad (I actually checked to see if my player was skipping frames).

      Agreed. With human characters, you have to work extra hard to make their motion human. The walking lacked weight, and the feet had a tendency to glide along the surfaces. The animators need to spend a lot more time working with

  • Great questions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nEoN nOoDlE ( 27594 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @05:39AM (#15378918) Homepage
    I thought the questions asked were really great compared to most animation interviews I've read which usually just appear fanboyish. I'm glad the interviewer asked about the story and character animation which I felt were the films biggest weaknesses. It's too bad that Ton decided to side-step the issue and not admit flaws.

    "Yeah, the challenge the artists set themselves - to use quite realistic personages - is also something that easily works against you"

    yeah yeah, we all know about the "uncanny valley []" (and if you don't, there's a link :]) but that wasn't the problem that Elephant's Dream had. The animation was just bad. It was obvious that most of the people working on it were better at modeling, texturing, and lighting than animation. This is something that's fairly common in CG animation. It's usually broken down into "character animation" and "everything else." Where you'll find lots of great generalists who know about modeling, texturing, lighting, rendering, particles, etc and then you have the animators who don't do the technical stuff as well but can bring the characters to life.
    • I do wonder how much of these problems can be at least partly solved by having actors to help the animators. If you can watch what real people do as they move and talk, it would help alleviate problems of unrealistic movement, if not prevent jerkiness and the like.
      That said, the lipsyncing was really poor, and I don't think there was any excuse for that. In some places it was painfully obvious.
      • Re:Great questions (Score:4, Interesting)

        by nEoN nOoDlE ( 27594 ) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:10PM (#15381195) Homepage
        Any animator worth his salt studies real actors, and is a "real actor" in their own right. Acting is a huge part of learning animation, and books [] have been written on the topic. That said, acting is also a later step in the learning process. Before that, animation teaching is usually started with the 12 principles of animation which are:
            1. Squash and stretch
            2. Anticipation
            3. Staging
            4. Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose
            5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action
            6. Slow In and Slow Out
            7. Arcs
            8. Secondary Action
            9. Timing
            10. Exaggeration
            11. Solid Drawing
            12. Appeal

        These principles were defined by the original Disney animators in the 40s and 50s, and are widely used today as the base of animation learning. You can check out a great resource about the animation process, written by 2 of Disney's Nine Old Men, here [].

        Ton in the interview said: you accept a certain level of non-realism easily. (Check the weird walk cycles in The Incredibles for example).

        This kinda just goes to show that he's just spouting off a "factoid" he's read or heard about. The "weird" walk cycles in The Incredibles - while maybe not "photorealistic" - are done that way for a purpose, following the principles listed above to make the character and animation more appealing. Animation is often about getting an appealing looking movement than a "realistic" looking movement. It's just that oftentimes, if you make a movement too unrealistic, people who are used to seeing such a movement will notice that there's something wrong with the animation.

        Also, whether the character is "realistic" is irrelevent. The 12 principles still apply, but are just toned down. These things weren't pulled out of a hat. They were observed in human movement and exaggerated to make those movements more clear. Nobody could deny that the original Disney animators really observed what they were trying to animate. In fact, during the making of Bambi, Disney brought in a deer carcass so that animators could study the skeleton and muscle systems in a real deer. One of my professors in school who used to work for Disney showed the class the resulting book they made out of that research.
  • Here's some more information about the background of this project: -first-open-movie-released/ []


  • It is interesting that Slashdot crowd got a little bit trollish about quality of movie and skiping it as "unimportant". I tend to disagree here.

    Movie by itself is truly piece of art. Yes, technically there ARE many problems. Character's movement where out of place in lot of moments, lip-syncing was heavy problem. But in overall, I have checked out movie about three times - first time got me confused - and I say it made me think. It is quet interesting in short movie genre and I would disagree that is just "
  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <> on Monday May 22, 2006 @07:15AM (#15379101)
    I was at the premiere in Amsterdam and had a chat with some of the creators at one time or the other. Allthough we all grieve a little over the jerky anims one should keep in mind the following:
    1) The timeschedule for a project like this was extremly tight. Remember they didn't have *anything* when they started. Not even a basic plot!
    2) They had less experience in film project management than a guy that doesn't do blender all day but watches 'making of's'. Bassam (the director) said that he learned a storyboard and animatics are really important but it's important to move on fast from there on. I could've told him that right away. Then again I don't know a tenth of what Bassam knows about Blender.
    3) They got stuck in the middle and took the time for experimenting and redoing animatics, which they, sadly, didn't have. Final anim started to late. Even the extra month they added in the end wasn't enough to give them room to breathe.
    4) They didn't prerecord. Very big mistake. One guy said "There was so much emotion in the voices we had to redo some anims". Would've you thunk? Actors can act. It's what they do for a living. *ALLWAYS* prerecord unless you've got an acting director who has the skill to railroad the actors into the anim stance. And even then it's still better to prerecord.
    5) Blender was extended with features they needed while they where requesting them *without* having a reference to other packages. All these guys are the elite when it comes to blender. IIRC none of them has any notable experience with any other package. Matt likes to toy around with ZBrush but Andy, for instance, is a 100% Blender guy. Watching him Blendering gives you a good reason why. When he's doing a little doodling in a break at the blender conference there's allways a bunch of people crowded around his workstation looking over his shoulder with amazement. It's absolutely fascinating just to watch this guy work. Then again, whith a feature list beforehand the parallel development of Blender would've gone quicker and features would've even been there before they where requested.
    6) The jerky anims are paid of with awesome details that you usually don't notice at first viewing. In fact, one could say that the '2nd unit shots' are the actuall piece of art in this. That fits the lack of experience the Orange team had with larger productions. Bassams mechanical characters just plain rock. That's a fact.
    7) AFAIK they where rendering in production which took away some time. Usually you outsource that or another dept. does it. I don't think they used renderplanet, which, if not, they should have.
    8) All OSS Tools. Thats the single largest obstacle. The OSS tools are impressive, but OSS NLE and Compositing is just plain no match at all for, let's say, Apple Shake or Digital Fusion.
    9) The benefits of compositing only became aware at the beginning of the project and key personell didn't have enough playing time to try things out, imho.

    All in all I have to say that I am extremely impressed with the results. As for the semi-finished anims: As it is entirely open, there is no one at all stopping us from reanimating the entire move. The strange background of the story offers countless oportunities to extend the original and the fact that the riggs will be published gives pure animators a chance to show off their skills. Everyone can say: If you don't like it, redo it. A true OSS project indeed. Once again the Blender Community has shown true spirit. Ton and Team Orange rul3Z0Rz!.
    • Qbertino,

      good post some things though I think you might be mistaken,

      "Then again, whith a feature list beforehand the parallel development of Blender would've gone quicker and features would've even been there before they where requested."

      They had a partial feature list beforehand, and for instance, much of the animation coding work happened before the Orange team gathered. They ended up having a bigger list of desires than was anticipated I think though :) Ton was coding an insane amount of time and there
  • I must say... it is breathtaking in the visual department, but as everyone here with logical minds have already stated, lacks any form of coherent dialogue or story.

    So.. the simple solution, seeing that the film is open-source, is to get all the source material and re-dub the dialogue to something which doesn't resemble the ravings of lunatics at a mental hospital.
  • I've been teaching CG/animation in a high school for the last three years. I pushed hard to use free software so that my students could continue working on any projects they got excited about. One of the biggest challenges I faced was wiseacre kids talking smack about how much better Maya/3DS max is, as an excuse for not doing great work in Blender. (Don't get me wrong - those are amazing packages - I'm a Maya user, but wanted all of my students to have legal access to software we used).

    I'll show Elephan
  • Does anyone know what the title means?

    • *scratches head*

      Something about... pachyderms... dreaming that Wikinews is... hosting an interview with... God?

      Beats me. I think the real question is : an African or an Asian elephant ?
    • Re:The title (Score:3, Informative)

      by Qbertino ( 265505 )
      It's derived from the dutch way of humorously finding a quick end to a childrens bedtime story quickly. Roughly "... and then came a Elefant streched his snoot and blew the whole story away." The original title (can't remember) had the word 'dream' in it and after Ton told the team the story of the typical ending with the elefant they quickly all agreed on "elefants dream". There was a little discussion wether it would be "elefant's dream" or "elefants dream". Being educated europeans they agreed on the gra
      • Hmmm. If the title was meant to be "the dream of one particular elephant" then it should be "Elephant's Dream". If it was supposed to state that elephants can dream it should be "Elephants Dream".

        It would suck - and be a simple testament to the fact that basic grammar and the internet do not work well together - if the title was misspelled. It's simple 5th grade English grammar here in the US. A product with such a high production value and that is a showpiece for their technology should NOT have a miss
  • I guess I misread the title when I first thought of: ElephantDream.html []
  • Who do I see about getting a refund on my wasted bandwidth?

    Seriously! I know they made it primarily to showcase the open source software, but they could have at least made an attempt to make it mildly entertaining!

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire