Blender and Natron: open-source video editing and compositing

January 23, 2015

The Blender VSE was the favourite open-source video editing solution for Linux (while Blender is available for all major platforms) for the author of this blog entry and the story even made it to Slashdot this week.

So BlenderNation now posted this link to Important video editing Addons for Blender

And here some recent improvements for the Blender Video Sequence Editor (VSE) (or often just called Sequencer) in the latest Blender 2.73a release.

Natron 1.0, an open-source compositing solution, was released at the end of last December, the 1.1 version is already available now!


Blender 2.70 and The GOOSEBERRY project

March 20, 2014

Blender 2.70 splash screen

Today the Blender Foundation released Blender 2.70! Download and Release Notes.

At the same time the Blender Institute and twelve indie studios from all over the world are preparing a cloud funded, featured length animation film: The Goosberry Project. For updates read the blog. Fundraising still going on for a little less than a month…!


4th crowd-funded Blender movie: open-source VFX in Amsterdam

February 17, 2012

While unfortunately I just missed the deadline for getting a credit in the movie I still of course pre-ordered my Project Mango DVD, the Blender Institute’s new open-movie project! This one is about upgrading Blender in the visual effects (VFX) department.

I do have a feeling that they could need one or the other new feature for post production/editing on the way and this can only be good for Blender’s VSE (Video Sequence Editor) –  my tool of choice for (video) editing, a wonderful minimal style – yet quite powerful – free and open-source solution that works on/across all platforms: share/edit your .blends across Linux, Windows or Mac – this simply just works!

Concept art: CC 3.0, Blender Foundation

From the press release:

The new short film – code named Mango – is a short story about a disastrous break-up that almost leads to the destruction of planet Earth. It will be filmed on several locations in Amsterdam. A team of six artists and three developers will be working for half a year on realising the visual effects for the film. As for previous short films, the online community will be able to assist on tasks as well. Premiere is being targeted at September 2012.

The 3D tool Blender – open source since 2002 – has steadily been growing to become a popular and serious 3D package for artists. This is thanks to the very active participation of its online community; 3D artists, 3D developers, studios and universities all over the world. A recent development is that also renowned Hollywood studios are opening up parts of their technology. Blender will be the first program to bring together work from ILM (OpenEXR, Alembic), Sony Pictures Imageworks (OpenShading, OpenColor, OpenImageIO) and Disney (PTex).

Check out the project’s blog, pre-order your own copy and support open-source VFX/video post production – as recent months have shown it is indeed a very good idea to have (open-source) alternatives ready: the apple that looked so fresh only a while ago now seems more and more rotten down to the core with every day going by…!

Update: I just saw that yesterday Blender 2.62 was released: see the release log, download Blender for your platform or read the announcement and discussion on Blendernation.


Blender 2.60 is here: open-source 3D, Compositing and Video Post are about to take off now…!

October 20, 2011

From Blender 2.5x to Blender 2.60

Yesterday the Blender Foundation released Blender 2.60:

Download for all platforms.

While the previous Blender 2.5x series was all about making Blender ready for a wider user base (switch to an intuitive User Interface, a new Animation System, Color Management/linear workflow and much more) the Blender 2.60 series now focuses on upgrading Blender in some key areas important for those looking for a free and open-source all in one video post, compositing, special effects/3D package:

VSE Proxy Support now and Motion/Camera Tracking coming soon…

Sequence editor proxy support (missing in 2.5x) is now restored:

“Proxies are lower resolution versions of image or video files, that can be used instead of the full resolution for faster editing. Additionally to the way Blender 2.49 worked where you could make proxies for individual strips, you can now select several strips at once and build proxies in the background.”

Basically this means that Blender 2.60 is not only a platform independent NLE (edit/share your .blends across Linux, Windows or Mac), but Blender 2.60 with Sequence Editor proxy support brings high-end free and open-source video editing to almost any PC you might be using: the Blender VSE (Video Sequence Editor) works quite well even on older hardware recycled with e.g. Linux Mint.

New Blender versions are coming out every two months now and while 2.60 is great news the truth is that there are many now waiting for Blender 2.61 – expected to be released mid-December: Motion/Camera tracking (!) as well as Cycles, the new render engine, will be added.

You can always check out unofficial builds and test/use the new features months ahead of a release via those builds available from GraphicAll.org.

Extend Blender, Mango and links for new users

Blender can be extended via Add-Ons (scripts), either write your own in Python or get those from the Blender 2.5 Scripts Catalog (learn how-to install an Add-On). For new users e.g. the Compositing Presets or for editors the Jump to Cut Add-On may be of interest…

The Blender Foundation’s current open-movie project (previously Elephant’s Dream, Big Buck Bunny, Sintel) is called Mango, a “Sci-fi in Amsterdam” and “with real actors, 3-5 minutes”. Basically this one is about upgrading Blender in the SFX department.

For documentation see the BlenderWiki.

For community support see the Blender Artists Forums.

For “Fresh Blender News, Every Day” see BlenderNation.

For “Developer musings on Blender” see the Blender developer Blog.

For more about Blender and video post production see the Blender’s VSE blog.

You can also still check out my old Blender 2.4x Presets for editing and 2D titles via my tutorials page. (Learn the basics using the old/classic Blender 2.49b and then switch to Blender 2.60.)

If you want to report a bug here is a good place to start.

Blender is a truly amazing piece of software. Blender means high-end 3D, video editing and compositing for everyone. On every platform. For free.

Blender is Power to the People.


Space Visual – Early Period (v2) (2011)

May 24, 2011

Video may need to load first for smooth playback! A smaller Flash and a high-res open-source encoded version will be posted later. Thank You! (You can also right click “Click To Play”, then “Save Link As…”  to download the video and use the VLC for playback!)

Space Visual – Early Period (v2) (2011), 3:48

Music: Jan Joachimsen Video: Valentin Spirik (CC) 2011 BY-NC-SA

The above video is version 2 of this project first posted last October.

Some thoughts to the project

Overall Space Visual (v2) is closer to where I want it to be than version 1 was, yet a couple of things are not quite there yet:

technical:

– there is an issue with the toon edges, they appear in places where there is a certain 2D/3D logic, yet where they don’t make real sense. Not sure if this can be fixed easily… Overpaints (can be time consuming and not so much fun) will be the most practical solution here. If so then for a full HD rendered version:

– it is still only rendered in 960×540, Full HD simply takes that much longer and files are that much heavier to handle (in compositing). A hardware upgrade will make it much easier to go full HD with my online videos.

– there are a couple of features missing that I originally wanted for version 2 but then left out for various reasons: a believable cam shake, stars and grass (on the outside)

– it’s not been colour corrected in a technical sense, most of my online videos are not. There are practical reasons (effort vs necessity) and then there are artistic, or rather philosophical questions that I still have: basically the artist in me wants this to be a fully trust-your-own-eyes-and-feelings-process whereas the reality of colour correction is a rather cold, technical one with neutral-Grey-workplace-calibrated-monitor-trust-the-scopes-readings.

I want to understand how a Leonardo, a Van Gogh or a Turner could do what they did in a pre-digital time and why we today need all this complex high-tech equipment and then still are rather limited and have to make sure we don’t e.g. broadcast “illegal colours”. The artist in me says: no colour can be illegal. It’s simply a limitation and therefore can/should be challenged.

concept:

– while the minimalism of it is fully on purpose, I am wondering if part 1 (going down) works as well as it could. Since in part 2 we see halo light it may work to have dust/sun rays in part 1, this could further help with getting a feeling for the room (this I already tried to improve via textures and light:)

workflow:

– this was my first Blender project where I was not able to do an all in one render at the end: (in addition to a Sun and a Spot, and Sun/Sun for the Color/Shadow pass layer) I was using AO, Environment Lighting, toon edges and that Color/Shadow pass. So I had 3 copies of the same mesh in different layers for light/compositing reasons. Now in this setup, even if you exclude AO/Environment Lighting from the Color/Shadow pass layer, it seems that you will still get an “overall” AO/Environment Lighting render for this mesh once combined in the Compositing Nodes (=unwanted effect of meshes on top of each other)…! There is a certain logic to it, yet it also seems limiting (at least in this setup) and not quite right at the same time. So I ended up rendering my main layer first without any nodes, and then do a second round and render toon edges as well as Color/Shadow over that first render plus add other 2D effects on top (all by going through the Compositing Nodes, loading the first render and adding the rest).

As with all things 3D: there may well be a better solution for this workflow, I just may not have figured it out yet… Non photorealistic rendering (NPR) can be more tricky than you first think!

(Note: The 3D/visual part of this project was entirely made with Blender 2.57b.)

encoding:

– I still find it ridiculously hard to do open-source video (e.g. VP8) encoding (and no Blender is not the problem…). I really want this. I’m really trying. (See here and here). I’ll get there, our tools are about to get there.

Yet I also know who is to blame for high-quality open-source video encoding not being there today in every video “app” – on all platforms – in the year 2011, about 15-20 years (!) after the digital post-production “revolution” took place:

There are forces out there, multinational corporations as well as specialised law firms, who want a monopoly on a particular video codec since:

– it would be the key to control content ($$$) (imagine the possibilities if you were to own parts of a Hollywood film studio at the same time as well as an online store for movies…)

– it would be the cash cow of the century if you could just get people to pay fees for every single frame of video that is shown (“commercially”) at every given moment on this planet!

Just think of it: you could first sell them the cameras (or better: sell them a “smart” phone with a camera), and then make them work for you! Imagine a whole generation of minors, working for free for you and uploading their videos to Web 2.0…! You could make the video platform pay licensing fees and those stupid kids who work for free for you will on top of it then pay for it via having to watch yet more ads! Wouldn’t that be a plan or what…?!

I know who to thank if high-quality, open-source audio/video encoding still does not work out of the box in 2011.

I know who took care of this and who is to blame.

And I won’t forget!


Open-source 3D, compositing and video post upgraded: Blender 2.57 is here!

April 14, 2011

The wait is over – they did it:

Download Blender 2.57

More about this release on Blendernation.

I’ve been using/switching to the Blender 2.5x beta releases since around late last summer (my first test project “space visual – early period” done in 2.5 from last October) and found it more than usable while still being labeled “beta” for a coupe of months already…

Now that the transition from the classic Blender 2.49 with the old loved/feared interface is mostly done (I first feared it, then loved it) expect a quite significant addition of features to Blender for the next couple of releases.

Open-source animation and platform independent video post production have just been upgraded and there is so much more to come now…!


Lightworks: (sort of) open-source NLE available now, first impressions

December 5, 2010

Lightworks is the grandfather of NLEs and went open-source, well at least sort of, a couple of days ago: it currently only works under Windows (so no use for me at this point) and you need to register. There is no source code available yet and Mac and Linux versions are said to be available later in 2011.

So this is basically like an Alpha/Beta test run for getting started with Lightworks if you don’t mind using Windows and know what you are doing.

Having seen Paul give a Lightworks demo at our last final BUG meeting I was still quite impressed. So assuming the source code will be released in 2011 and all remaining issues they might have will be solved I definitely can see the potential here:

* I believe after seeing that 30 min. or so demo I’d feel comfortable enough to start editing/working on a (short test) project without any further manual reading (assuming I’d have a stable version already installed). Lightworks is pretty easy and intuitive to use while also being different to others NLEs:

* Basically there is not much to see at first except for that left hand (floating) side bar with those icons. What you then do is choose the tools you need for the particular task you wish to perform. So at first it’s tabula rasa and not the usual timeline with the player/recorder (or whatever they might be called) windows on top. Experienced Blender (2.49b) users will be familiar with this kind of philosophy…

* It has advanced trimming features some of which not even Avid has. Again these tools are easy to use, also easier compared to what you need to do in Avid and certainly much easier and much more useful than what in comparison seem to be only half hearted trimming features in FCP.

* While the Blender VSE (see my Tutorials page for more) is a wonderful, minimal style NLE that already works on all major platforms and will most probably remain my tool of choice for my own (3D) shorts, Lightworks has the potential of becoming something like the LibreOffice (was OpenOffice) of the NLE world: it’s a specialised tool for (film) editing, it’s very powerful, quite elegant and has a well known track record in the industry.

From the Lightworks website:

Having cut hundreds of films such as Pulp Fiction, The Departed, Centurion and Shutter Island, it includes a full feature set of editorial tools, from advanced trimming and media management, through to stereoscopic support and realtime effects including multiple secondary colour correctors.”

In any case: competition is always good for the users. :-)

There will be another Lightworks session at the next final BUG meeting, so drop by if you are in Berlin and want to check out what may well turn out to be the (open-source) film and video editing solution in the not so distant future.

So Avid, FCP and all others beware of that shark…!

Und der Haifisch, der hat Zähne

Und die trägt er im Gesicht

Und Macheath, der hat ein Messer

Doch das Messer sieht man nicht

(Source)

Oh the shark has pretty teeth dear,

And he shows them pearly white

Just a jack-knife has Macheath dear

And he keeps it out of sight

(Source)


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