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About that blender thing. Gooseberry.

I accidentally stumbled over a project named “Gooseberry”, a somewhat vague plan about doing a “feature film” using open software. Cool idea, I thought, most “big screen feature films” that get published are not for me, so why not put my money where my mouth is and support everyone who is trying for a different approach?
I did. I booked into the whole thing without thinking much about the political statement I was making or the value for money I would get. It was like buying an indulgence, having been disappointed by “the industry”-level movies and just wishing that others, who think like me but actually do something about it, would take my money and make something cool.
Then I looked into it and here is what I found – and what I feel about it:
I have to stress that it was pure chance that I heard about the project. For a “community driven” large scale project that is a bit sad, to say the least. For me there is more to living than hanging on line all day, I read (real) newspapers, I talk to (real) people, I even play (real) music instruments. I heard nothing about the project anywhere outside some hidden “freakish” online community (don’t get me wrong, girls of the luxology world, you rock, you know). The gap between public coverage and realistic (text speak: big money needed) approach made me start going “uh?”

What “movie” is “my movie”?

I took a closer look at what the teasers were seemingly telling me. Well, it was about “My Movie”. Cool, that’s what I paid for: *My* Movie! How does it look like? I admit that I am more about story than about looks, but I have learned, the hard way, that looks can turn me off, even from the best stories. Well, so, what does it look like?
I do not know the answer. It’s not really decided, I buy into something “erm, well, let’s see what we see, once we start looking at what we are looking for”. Ok, I can live with that, it’s “community thinking”, I guess. Yet, if you are asking for big money, not being absolutely precise about what plan to deliver is a bit on the low side, if you claim to be … well, professional.

What’s “professional”?

The teasers (and comments by people behind the project) claim that the result, and therefore the work, should be “professional”. Ah, didn’t I use that word somewhere above? I come from a world of “professionals”, so I was interested in comparing my own perspective on professionalism and what this project offered in scope, vision and … sales pitches.
I get it, my definition of “professional” is not applicable here, which is not to say that the project is NOT professional. In fact, quite some statements from “behind the scenes” can be considered more professional than what I heard in multi-million-dollar meetings. But: It’s a “community project”, from the community for the community. So, where exactly do I submit my story line? Oh, sorry, the story is created by writers, not by the community. Ok, where do I load up my sheep model? Oh, sorry, the models are created by modellers, not by the community. So, where do I stream my music then? Oh, sorry, the music is composed and produced by musicians, not by the community. In what terms, exactly, is this “my movie”, then? Don’t get me wrong. I am the first to let professionals do what they can do better than me. But “my movie” being done by people I don’t know, in a style I don’t know, with a story I don’t know and music I might not even like?
I revisited movies/videos that were released previously by the blender community. There are some nice ones, some not so nice ones and some – like “Sintel” – that I really disliked and would not want to invest in (story-wise, looks-wise, screenplay-wise). Now, taste is a matter of taste and Schnaps is Schnaps, so *my* personal likes and dislikes are not really important, as long as the product I invest in is living up to its claims. Which are: A movie “by” the community “for” the community. Uh …

What about the practical side – the small studios?

I took a deep breath and two steps back. Let’s look at it from another side, one, that people might find cynical (or even offending). Why not see this project as a way of creating an income for otherwise starving smaller studios? I am not saying that the studios or artists involved are otherwise “useless”, I am just considering this perspective as an alternative to what is publically claimed to be the “goal” of the project (“my movie”).
I like that idea. I often have thought about starting a campaign asking for funding for me to do “cool things” about which I currently haven’t thought in detail, because I did not have the money to do so. Get my 1 Mio $, € or SFr and I can do … THINGS! I really like that. Actually, I like it that much that I consider backing the project a second time right now.
No “uh” there. Let’s face it: Having a project like this to help small studios “make it”, earn some money and improve their portfolio is everything a “community” should dream of. This is cool. We can all be in that situation one day or another, and wouldn’t we love living in a world where large, really LARGE communities constantly finance projects that keep us up and running? I mean: People give 10 bucks or what to get a project like this rolling and then, once they have some professionalism themselves, they get involved in the next big project and get a couple of thousand bucks back from the community. Does sound just right to me.

Ok, you got me, kind of – what do I get, personally?

So, I found my way in. Let’s see, what’s more that I like? Ah, yes, the “cloud thing”.
“Clouds” are cool, as long as they’re floating up in the sky. Clouds on the internet are plain *BS*, on the other hand. Giving your data out of hand usually is the second most stupid idea a creative company can do. Not so much in the context of this project, being “open” to everyone in the first place, naturally. So, storing copies of assets and whatsnot “on the cloud” is … ok. Me having access to it, if it all works out, is “ok-ok”. Then comes the “uh?”: I already have access to thousands of 3d objects, textures, materials, render settings, even tutorials. Just because the “new stuff” is made with blender does not make it stand out from what is already available. So what’s left – for me – are “tutorials”, “making-ofs”, “ideas of how to approach problems”. Working in a creative environment for me is problem-solving. Seeing others solving problems is inspiring. The tool they use is of second-to-no importance, it’s about their thinking. So I jumped into the cloud to browse through hundreds, thousands of cool inspirational videos to get me …
There’s virtually “nothing” in it right now. There are seven (7) tutorials in the cloud, covering topics that can be found on every streaming platform in every detail desired. Some of these tutorials, to me, are turning a modest “uh?” into a “WTF?”. That’s not to say that the content is bad, it’s just not what I expected to see (and, in parts, not what I would want to pay for). True, there may be more. True, IF the movie is made, IF artists involved create tutorials, IF stuff gets uploaded, there will be more. Only that by the time that MAY happen, my subscription probably has died, rotten and turned into a recycled tomato. My money might just as well go to DigitalTutors, a road that I, so far, have happily avoided.

Well, what’s all the fuzz about?

I do see a great idea, that is extending the features of a tool by putting it to the test. That’s cool. But it’s not the tool that makes the final product “good” or “bad”. It’s the artist using the tool, that creates the “quality” (however measured). Have a look at all the “relaunched” TV series from our childhood days, reborn in sterile, horrible looking, plastic-wax – but 3d! – style with no stories told (or stupid ones). Those (professional!) studios have the tools. What they produce must be appealing to their customers (TV stations), but it surely isn’t “great art” and it is not appealing to any “fan” of such series that I know. And I dare to say that about 98% of “Hollywood’s output” is just as appealing to *me* as the rotten recycling tomato I mentioned before.
I have given up going to the pictures, they don’t play “my movies” there any more. Yet, the studios use “professional tools”.

Finding my positive POV

Extending the features of a tool “in the field” is R&D. It is NOT for the benefit of the hobby user. It is definitely NOT for the benefit of the movie-enthusiast. Improving the quality of a tool is nearly never ever the same thing as extending its features. For me, the main issue with “Blender” has always been its usability and therefor its productivity *for* *me*. I do not use tools just for the sake of using the tools, I use tools to MAKE something. If a tool does not fit into my hand, I use another tool. “Improving” a tool, for me, would mean to improve on its fitting-my-hand.
Making a movie, for me, is about telling a story in a two-senses-involved way. You can make GREAT movies by using pencil and paper (and lots of time, true). You can make GRAND movies by taking pictures of birds crashing in a phone booth. Fixing bugs in a software tool does not guarantee a good movie, though.

These two approaches don’t mix up well. Personally I feel I have to decide on what I want to invest in: Getting a GOOD MOVIE from a community (where I have to put a lot of faith in them making something more appealing than Sintel) OR investing in improving a software. My initial spark was “a community movie? Cool, I always wanted that, let’s go for it”. That’s where my 45 Euro came from. Having seen what, so far, has come up on the Goosberry site, I lost confidence. I see it as a semi-academic tech-demo, slightly detached from the “professional movie making world”. Which, from the movie-loving point of view, has its positive aspects, but it doesn’t come with a all-happy-guarantee. So, what’s left for me is the idea of doing “R&D” in the field and, at the same time, giving some small studios the chance of making some money. I do not expect great visual (or otherwise) results, but I hope for impulses to both the blender development (in terms of usability) AND the 3d-tools world in general (in terms of “hey, look what they can do”).

That’s a hope. Not a scope. It’s cool with me. I just wish the world would work that way more often.