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You refer to the "Free Software" movement. Is this affiliated in any way with the FSF, OSI, SPI,
or any other "Free Software", "Open Source" or "Open Content" group?
The software side of this project was recently dubbed a part of GNU, so this project is now arguably affiliated with the FSF. This is a Good Thing, and software produced as part of this project will be written to be interoperable with other GNU software.
Isn't this an impossibly huge endeavour? Why not try for something less ambitious, like a "Hello World" program for a web browser?
Firstly, it only seems huge if you look at the whole thing. all in one go. But even the largest jungle is really only made up of individual trees, plants and animals. If the whole thing had to be done "just so", all in one huge gulp, nothing would ever have been produced by anyone. Ever.
That studios can make movies is proof enough that the workload can be distributed and shared and that the workload placed on individuals, even in the purest of corporate environments, is managable. When "freed", or "opened", though, you enter a realm where you can distribute almost to your heart's content.
A jungle, eh? Aren't you in danger of ending up not seeing the woods for the trees?
Only if there weren't some kind of centralisation and central co-ordination, both within any film/movie produced under this scheme and overall. Since that is exactly what there will be, the overall perspective shouldn't get lost.
Is it worth the effort to do all this work?
Well, I don't know. That's why it's such a fascinating project, to me! I do know that the resources for many collaborative and distributed projects, in terms of manpower, imagination, computer resources, etc, far and away surpass anything the commercial film industry has ever put together in a single project.
Pooling all thouse resources would be impossible, surely! How could you efficiently make use of what was available?
There is a system, under development, called Cosm, which I am intending to use in as many aspects as possivle, to simplify the using of distributed resources. The URL for Cosm is:
Are resources alone enough?
There is really only one way to find out, and that's to try!
What licence are you planning on using for this project?
I am planning on producing a licence that is specific to this project and is based on the Gnu Public Licence, that will apply to ALL project material, regardless of form or nature. However, I don't see any opposition to people using the original GPL, the "Open Content" licence or any other GPL-compatiable licence for anything they create as a part of the project.
So long as there aren't going to be licence clashes, I really don't care what people choose to release their work under.
How are you planning on providing a means for people to distribute materials under a GPL-type licence?
That's a much more complex issue. Certainly, I don't see anything in the GeoCities FAQ's or guidelines prohibiting an exchange of ideas. Quite the opposite, in fact.
On the other hand, I'm not 100% sure that I want to distribute any actual material myself. Actual "Free Software" projects do very nicely with people volunteering to maintain certain sections and making those sections available themselves.
I think that, if I keep the site here, I'll end up more providing documentation, HOW-TO's and guidelines on how to do this, at least on these pages, and keeping my contributions on pages elsewhere. That way, there can be no implication that I "own" this concept and there is no unintentional bias, either to me or anyone else.
How do you expect to get the ball rolling, if you're not willing to contribute anything yourself? Other people have their own dreams - why should they spend time on yours?
*G* But I -will- contribute! And I -will- start the ball rolling! For now, it just won't be on these pages. The pages containing my contributions will be kept seperate, for the reasons outlined above.
How do you propose to co-ordinate something on this kind of scale, with so many vastly different parts to it?
I don't, because I don't have to. That's the whole point of an open environment. I just have to co-ordinate those parts of the project that I actually create. I don't have to obsess over other people's work, which gives me more time to concentrate on what I'm doing.
So, who IS going to co-ordinate things?
Each film/movie that is developed under this project will have it's own maintainer - probably the person who created the idea in the first place. In my case, that'll be a sci-fi movie that I'm fleshing out the idea for. Depending on the interest level, rate of development, etc, there may be other volunteers who maintain different components within the film (eg: the rendered images, sound, script, etc.).
On top of that, each tool and every HOW-TO developed for this project will, again, have it's own maintainer.
Finally, this FAQ and the central indexes will be maintained by me, so that it's actually practical for anyone to get anything done.
How about quality control? How do you intend to insure that everything is of high quality?
It's easy, for rendered computer graphics, to have the source files fix the quality of a given frame, so the quality of all frames in a given movie can be controlled to a large degree. This, therefore, covers all virtual sets, computer-generated special effects, etc.
The quality of the script, costumes, props, acting, sound effects, etc, are obviously not fixed in this way. The quality control here comes from users being able to submit "bug-fixes" and alternative versions. Quality isn't guaranteed, but what will survive will be the versions that work best for the most contributers.
How come this page is here, anyway, and not in the Entertainment section?
For several reasons. Firstly, only the end product is really "entertainment", in any real sense. Most of the actual work involved in something like this is likely to be computer-based and not the least bit "entertaining", except insofar as computer users enjoy using their computers for new things.
Secondly, this project has more in common with the "Free Software" movement, which is very much more computer-oriented than following Hollywood.
Do you seriously think you could do as well as the commercial film industry, given that you'd have zero budget, no studio, no props, no costume department, no special effects department, etc. In short, you've nothing more than a computer, some software and some ideas.
Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a guy called Linus Torvalds. He decided that he didn't like any of the computer Operating Systems available at the time, so he wrote his own. By sharing it and people contributing ideas, the result was work equal to something that would require a budget of several billion dollars and a programming team with about 10,000 highly skilled programmers in it.
But films are different than programs! They have flashing lights and the machine that goes bing!
That's the big question -- are they different? If so, then yes, a collaborative approach will never work in trying to produce something similar. If not, then it may even produce something considerably better.
With one scriptwriter, one script editor, one director and one producer, all -competing- with each other, there is a limit to how many ideas can be tried and how good the results will be. If you've a few hundred scriptwriters, who are also script editors, directors AND producers, you don't have those conflicts of interest, conflicts of ego or conflicts of status.
In a co-operative environment, more people means more opportunities. In a competitive one, more people will usually mean more conflict and therefore -fewer- opportunities.
What if it succeeds? Aren't you worried that someone will just come along and steal the final result?
How can someone "steal" an entirely open project? It's freely available, by definition! And, if someone -were- to "borrow" all the work, in such a way as to breach of the terms of the licence, well, that would not be good publicity for whoever tried. Most studios have policies to avoid just that kind of issue ever arising. It's something that they have clearly no intention of doing.
Ok, so what is your plan on how to go about this?
My plan is to have two development tracks running in parallel - (a) to develop the tools needed to work on a project such as this, and (b) to actually develop an Open movie.
In my opinion, the software side should be relatively straight-forward. That's really no different from any OSS project that's ever been done. (Easy it won't be, but at least it's familiar ground.) It's going to be the other side of the project that'll be the hardest and the most challanging. (And the most fun, for it!)
What sort of software tools are you talking about?
Templates & tools for scriptwriting. Graphics tools for creating and animating models. Graphics tools for rendering those models (eg: using raytracing, radiocity, etc). Tools for synchronising animations with sound. CSO utilities, for merging computer-generated graphics with "real-life" film. Easy to use film-editing software. Anything else anyone can think of that would be useful in a project like this.
How're you planning on co-ordinating all of that? There's a lot of different software projects, there!
It's not actually that difficult, as maintenance of the indvidual packages is the responsibility of the person who is maintaining that package. This means that my workload really involved maintaining the software I myself write, guides to allow developers to write programs which will interoperate with each other, and links to whatever people have written.
Ok, and what about the other side of things?
Someone starts with a script or a plot idea, and other people expand on it, if it's an idea they like. As time goes on, scenes would be "frozen" and left open for people to run with as they like.
eg: A sci-fi story might feature a space fight. Well, one person might not be able to actually animate it, but might have a very vivid image of what the spaceships would look like. So, they create the models and make those available. Someone else picks up the models and generates a sample sequence with them. The creator of the fight sequence decides that there's something not quite right and tweaks the spacecraft. Someone else generates a new, complete battle sequence. That whole section of film is now done.
Just keep doing that with each frozen scene and then use the editing suite to compose the final movie.
But what about real-life actors? Sets? Costumes? Props? How do you propose to do any of that?
The props and costumes are relatively straight-forward. Live Roleplayers have been making their own (very high-quality) props and costumes for a long time, now. Just ask a local LRP group to help out.
Sets aren't much more complex. Just use CSO to create virtual sets, for the most part. The only things that would need to be real, then, would be anything actors physically interacted with. That, in itself, reduces the problem to something that is managable.
Actors are the single-most complex part of the whole thing. How do you get hold of good actors, who'd do something like this for nothing? Even here, though, it's not impossible. If you fancy yourself as an actor of talent, problem solved. (Remember, the advantage of using CSO and GPL-type licences is that if someone else disagreed, they would not be stuck with what they were given.)
If you aren't a good actor, but fancy playing cameraman, then you can always ask the local amateur dramatics societies, live roleplaying societies, living history groups, etc. In short, there is no lack of people who might be interested.
What is CSO? And how does it help?
Colour Seperation Overlay (CSO) is a commonly-used technique for combining computer-generate graphics with "real-life" film.
In practical terms, it means that you can have most of your set exist entirely within the confines of a computer, without anyone being able to tell the difference afterwards.
In turn, this means that anyone with an active imagination, a suitable drawing package and some free time can create masterpiece sets, animated activity, etc, that really could be used in a film. All without spending a dime*. (*Substitute for nearest local equivalent, if outside the US. :)
This sounds really neat, but why would anyone be interested in doing any of this?
Because some people enjoy drawing. Others enjoy building. Here's a chance to do both, with as little OR as much artistic freedom as the artist happens to want. The artist isn't dictated to, because the open concept prevents that. The artist(s) combined imaginations have as much influence on the direction of the film as those of the scriptwriter(s).
Maybe there's something that (from an artist's perspecive) -has- to be there, for an image to make sense, but the scriptwriter missed because they weren't focussing on that aspect. This kind of environment allows for the experimentation to find out.
Isn't it going to take years, rather than Hollywood's months, to produce any film worth seeing?
Quite possibly. On the other hand, there are probably many great film ideas, and maybe some potential blockbusters, which will never see the light of day, either because traditional methods are simply too expensive, none of the major studios are interested in that specific theme or the creator just doesn't have the writing and selling skills needed to get key people interested. If you had such an idea, would you rather it took a few years, or never see it at all?
You talk as though nobody sees the good stories. There can't be that many high-quality stories overlooked, can there?
The mere existance of the so-called "independent" film industry shows that there are more sellable, workable ideas than there are companies to produce them. The bottleneck isn't in the imagination department.
Are you some kind of out-of-work writer, disgruntled by an "unfair world"?
Actually, no. I'm a skilled computer programmer, but I'm not a professional writer. Nor does that side interest me, that much. I'm much more interested in what can be done, using technology, to allow fully Open artistic creation. To me, that is far more fascinating than seeing any particular idea (mine included) on the big screen. I hope ideas that come out of this project -do- end up on the big screen, but that's very different than tying the whole idea of co-operative art to one specific project or person.
But you do write?
Sometimes, but nothing significant, to date. A few fanfics here and there, a few unique short-stories. Nothing to write home about. I -do- have some ideas, which I -am- writing, which I'll be placing under this project, but I'm no latter-day Nero. If my ideas will work, they'll get worked on. If they aren't, they won't. This isn't about inflating my ego, but about providing a means for people to explore their ideas and/or the entire film/movie scene -without- needing to be millionaires and have all the answers by yesterday.
You've no vested interest in this at all?
None. Otherwise it wouldn't be workable. To produce a workable, realistic approach requires that I concentrate on the concept, not on myself.
But what about your contribution to the project? Isn't that a kind of interest?
No, not really. That's one big reason for keeping my contribution off these particular pages.
How on earth can you picture hundreds of volunteers all doing this work, without them expecting more of a reward than credit and acknowledgement for their contribution?
Because it works elsewhere. (eg: Linux, Open Source software, etc.) Because there are good reasons for believing that, psychologically, people are motivated less by external rewards than is often believed. Because people enjoy having fun and a lot of people consider volunteering for things like this fun.
Isn't this a new-age, new-fangled utopian peachy-keen dream, not having a rigid heirarchy and offering all this freedom stuff?
Why do the words "Round" and "Table" spring to mind, all of a sudden? It's hardly a new idea, being around for thousands of years. All I've done is added a different twist to the idea and applied it to a form of media which hasn't existed for most of that. If it had, and computers & the Internet had existed back then, I'm sure early story-tellers would have devised something that was fairly similar in concept.
Advertising and promotion is probably the single-biggest cost in mainstream film-making. How do you intend to deal with that?
Advertising to the audience can be done via word-of-mouth, the way Open Source projects already are. It's proven to be very successful and self-editing. (The more popular a project, the more people involved, so the more advertising & promotion it gets by word-of-mouth.)
Advertising to theatres and cinemas is more complex. Alternative cinemas tend to show this sort of stuff, so it's nothing new to them. I have no idea if the sorts of films a project of this kind would produce would appeal to them, though. That's something that can only be found out by giving this a try.
Then, of course, there's the question of why you'd want to sell this to Theatres & Cinemas to start with, anyway. It'd be just as easy to run the finished version(s) onto video tape and/or put them on the web as MOV or AVI files, and/or show the program over RealVideo or the Multibone. It's not as if we'd be tied to Big Name cinemas, in order to recoup costs, as there wouldn't really be any to recoup!
Not that that should stop any enterprising people who WANT to see these productions on the Big Screen. If companies can make money selling free software, companies can make money selling free films, too. In the event that this project is successful and films are actually made, there would be nothing to stop a person from setting up a company, creating their "cut" if needed, and selling it to the mainstream theatres & cinemas.
But if they did that, they would keep all that money to themselves, surely!
Ummm.... What money and how? I doubt any such company is going to rival Hollywood, even if some collaborative blockbusters were written. Secondly, if you don't want to give them your money, under the GPL you would be able to download your own copy of the movie, put it on film and see it yourself in the comfort of your own house or the local alternative cinema. And any company that is set up to bring Open Films to the Big Screen will know all this. They can't even stop the major theatres getting together, buying one copy between them and duplicating it, which would end up with them earning nothing substantial anyway.
The only way to make money via Open projects of any kind is by not getting greedy. Anything else, under the GPL, will end up with the company loosing money & business from it's greed, not gaining it.
But if there's no money in it, why should anyone bother?
There's a big difference between none and some. If a company charges a reasonable amount for the finished film, people will pay the cost for it, to save themselves the time of doing the work themselves.
What about the unions?
Actors unions are notoriously finicky about unlicenced acting in their territory. The point is, we wouldn't be -IN- their territory. It's not like this would be something done in the US, the UK, France, etc. The studio, "filming", etc, would all be done in cyberspace, not real space. Nobody's toes get trodden on. (It would be -nice- if the unions actually suported this, as it would empower their members and give them essentially equal status with even the largest of studios.)
Ok, what about the studios, then? They're hardly going to like something like this, are they? Especially if it gives their already troublesome actors more power.
It does empower actors, yes, but it doesn't do this by robbing others of theirs. Nobody has to be "one down". In fact, if actors didn't feel that pressure to cause problems, maybe the actors would actually be -easier- for studios to work with!
Hmmm. I'm not sure they'd see that as a good reason to like this kind of model.
They don't have to like it, any more than Microsoft has to like Linux, or Sun has to like the Free Software Foundation. It wouldn't compete with them; they wouldn't compete with it. Nobody has to get their toes trodden on.
Another way of looking at it is to look at the success of the GNU computer programs. Precicely because commercial companies can use them to cut their own costs without impacting their profits, they are extremely popular. Likewise, here, if any of the development tools ever got written, studios & special-effects companies could use them just as easily as we could, to reduce their costs without impacting the quality or profitability of the films they made.
OK, you've convinced me.. Where do I start?
Ah, finally! You'd better read our help-page then..