Sintel, a new open-source Blender movie

Sintel is a new Open Movie project that’s well underway in 2010. It’s using the open-source Blender software, and is part-funded by taxpayers via the Netherlands Film Fund…

“We have invited the best talent from the Blender community to work in Amsterdam for half a year or more, in the studio of the Blender Institute. They get excellent working conditions, and full coverage for travel and housing, including a reasonable fee.”

Pre-production concept art for Sintel.

The Sintel team has a substantial blog, which is documenting the process of putting the movie together. Well worth putting the RSS in your feedreader. Part of the aim of the project seems to be to provide a “crucible of fire” in which the just-released Blender 2.5 alpha can be forged. They’re inviting additional participation from Blender users. I must say that I haven’t used Blender before, but now that I’m getting back into 3D work it’s going to be installed on my PC today.

Perhaps most interestingly for machinima and anymation creatives is the statement that all the film’s studio assets and content will be…

“freely licensed” … “delivered as free and open content under Creative Commons Attribution”.

Which (on release, I’m guessing probably at the end of Summer 2010?) seems likely to result in a slew of new fantasy-oriented content becoming freely available to other filmmakers. I’m not sure how low-poly those assets will be, though. The previous Big Buck Bunny studio assets torrent for Blender weighed in at a mere 200Gb+!

However, there may be a set of low-poly models to be dug out of the package. Last week one of the creatives on the project blogged…

“Over the past few weeks I’ve started doing “Layout” work for Sintel. Layout is the stage where we figure out the basic character blocking (in this case choreography), camera angles and movement, as well as the timing and rhythm of the edit. At this point the sets and environments are also roughed out in low-poly form.”

I wonder if they would consider a separate download for those who just want the low-poly assets?

iClone 4 and NVIDIA

iClone 4 is running quite happily and smoothly for me on an nVidia GeForce 9600GT 512MB PCI graphics card (item code no.: 9600GT-H5GTCD), Windows 7 using 2Gb of RAM, and an AMD Phenom 9500 Quad-core CPU and matched motherboard. After a recent driver-update for the graphics card I had to go and reset the iClone settings in the NVIDIA Control Panel (to get there in Windows 7: Start / Control Panel / Hardware and Sound / NVIDIA Control Panel) to remove the worst of the jaggies from iClone. My Control Panel currently has these settings…

This works fine, but I’m wondering:

1) has anyone more closely “fine tuned” the NVIDIA Control Panel settings, with noticeable success on renders? And if so, what are your exact settings?

2) has anyone had success with using the free unofficial nHancer Control Panel for NVIDIA cards, to further reduce the remaining anti-aliasing jaggies in iClone renders?

Free city-generator for Blender – also auto-generates textures

A New York style mega-city. Normally building such a city takes a century of invention, hard work, and the profits from that hard work. But the free SCE plugin can generate one in seconds. SCE is a Python script add-on for the free open-source 3D suite Blender, and seems worth a try if you need a royalty-free 3D city for your character to fly toward/through — the screenshots + GUI shots are here.

You can adjust the size and complexity of your city, and SCE also automatically textures the buildings. It can even auto-generate “lit-up at night” textures. Nice. With a good 2D backdrop to suggest a coastal city, and a dash of water and ground-fog to cover some of the less-believable lower reaches, an SCE megapolis could look very nice as part of an establishing shot.

But don’t forget that DAZ’s sci-fi Dystopia City Blocks pack is also free now. So some of the more rounded Dystopia buildings could probably be sprinkled around an SCE city to add variety.