Sintel Introduces the Next Generation in Animated Films

When I think of (a) Blender, I think of a device for making slushy adult beverages, not an Open Source tool for rendering images, despite coverage in Linux Journal by Ben Crowder, Robin Rowe, Dan Sawyer and Dave Phillips to name a few.  In fact, I am surprised I do not know a lot more about Blender.  But if you, like me, feel like you have been living under a rock, let me introduce you to Sintel, the third Open Movie by producer Ton Roosendaal.

According to the press release:

For over a year an international team of 3D animators and artists worked in the studio of the Amsterdam Blender Institute on the computer-animated short 'Sintel'. This independent production was financed by the online user community of the free program Blender, supported by the Netherlands Film Fund, CineGrid Amsterdam, and with sponsorship from international companies.


I encourage you to go and look at what they have done.  Sintel, as a movie, probably would not get two thumbs up for plot or original dialogue, but I do not consider plot any more important in Sintel than I do in any of Pixar's Shorts.  Sintel is a demonstration piece.  It is an example, not only of what you can do with Open Source software, such as Blender, GIMP, MyPaint, Alchemy, Python, Inkscape, Subversion, Ubuntu, and OpenEXR, but it also is a demonstration of what movie making, especially animated movie making can be.  

We have come a long way in movie graphics from Tron or The Last Starfighter and while bad animation or CG can ruin a movie, it is also true that without a good story, even the best tech cannot save one (The Net?  Anyone?  Hello?...). With Blender and the other tools availble to graphic artists, there is no question that what was the purview of studios like Pixar and ILM only a few years ago is now availble to anyone with the skills and the CPU.  In fact, just the other day I was watching a show where they were using Blender to create a gryphon "in real time" on what looked like a very "basic" home computer.  The end results were spectacular, and this was television.

I want to quickly highlight the funding.  Because of the Open nature of the tools and the comodity hardware that they run on, it becomes easier for anyone to create a top notch movie, distribute it and become recognized.  The potential downside is, of course, our friends in the establishment who will continue to fight against this sort of thing.  For example, there has been some consternation on the part of a couple of independent film producers who want their non-distributed (through the studio system) film listed in IMDB, the source for all things related to movies and television.  IMDB does not recognize films not distributed through the studio system, therefore they will not list it.  One also has to wonder if the various guilds (unions) will want to get their pounds of flesh out of the independent movie game as well.  

Clearly, as in most things, for every great stride we make forward in terms of the technology, we force the old guard to re-evaluate their models.  But in the case of Sintel, my hat is off to the producers and the artists and actors who made it happen. It is a wonderful example of what can be done, and I hope they continue along the path they have started.

Image courtesy of Blender Institute B.V.


David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack


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Avatar 3D was the best

curl's picture

Avatar 3D was the best example of this new generation technique.

Nice animation

Krumbum's picture

I thought it was an impressive piece of animation--though it occasionally looked too much like a video game. The story is the obvious weak point. It's trite with a student-filmesque dependence on flashbacks and obvious reveals. If this energy and talent had been spent on a better story they might really have had something.

Exciting to see how far open-source tools have come, though.

And in IMDB's defense: they need a line otherwise people would want credit for shooting wedding videos and youtube shorts which would make the site useless.

Unions and Guilds are very important. It's a sad fact that independent filmmakers are often the ones with the most abusive labor practices. I've known some of them to actually sell internships (which is outrageous).


Anonymous's picture

Renich he's right the story is rather cliché , women kill what they come to love, then turn around and realize they have become old, to then turn around, and perhaps take the next younger love under their wing and do the same thing over again ;)

The movie is awesome

Renich's picture

I don't know why you brought up the " not get two thumbs up for plot" thing. IMHO, the plot was incredible. The story is amazing and the ending is awesome.

I really loved this movie. I think there's plenty of room for movies like this and we need them desperately. It's not an idiot-proof movie; you have to observe and think about it.

I pretty much agree with the rest ;)

It's hard to be free... but I love to struggle. Love isn't asked for; it's just given. Respect isn't asked for; it's earned!
Renich Bon Ciric

This showed up in my Boxee feeds

nomasteryoda's picture

WOW! Pretty much sums it up. I felt like I was missing something every time I watched it, its that good. I've watched at least 6 times now and shown the impressionable younglings who were speechless, and like many today tend to think the latest animation (from big name studios) is the best.

Congratulations go out to the entire team who worked long and hard to produce this gem.

Remember you will... Beasts you kill, some better off alive left they are.


Looks good

Michael Reed's picture

Looks good.

My hope is that the rise of this sort of desktop technology democratises things by leading to the creation of more content than ever before. This way, people can still ascend on merit, but it's not as much of a lottery as before, where only one in ten thousand people trying to break into a creative field are able to have any success.

[tells self] - "Don't start learning Blender. You've got enough creative interests!"

UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.