4 TB original 4k footage available as CC-by

by - 2013/03/15 13 Comments Compositing, Development, Filming, Production

Thanks to our friends at Xiph.org we now can offer everyone access to the original source footage of Tears of Steel.

You’ll find something like 80,000 frames, each in OpenEXR half float files, in 4096 x 2160 pixels. This is 5 times more footage than used in the film, including unused shots, but mainly it’s because of long lead-in and lead-outs, and of course we’ve been cutting shots sharp.

Pictures have been shot using the (4k native sensor) fantastic Sony F65 camera. The raw files were converted with Sony software to OpenEXR, using ACES color. We then converted these with OpenColorIO to Rec709 “scene linear” which we further used for the movie pipeline.

Before we started with this VFX project we already noted a huge lack in available free high quality footage for motion tracking, keying and cleaning testing. With this huge data set this problem now belongs to the past forever!

Browse the full catalog at Xiph.org here.

Note about Creative Commons Attribution: apart from the obvious crediting, you have to be aware that the actors keep their Personal Image (Portrait) and Privacy Rights. That means the footage is OK to use for technical demos, showcases, tutorials etc. But not to use the actor for making a commercial. Read more here.

Have fun!


(BTW: xiph.org is currently syncing files from another server, arrival of all footage finishes in a few days).

Building a 4k display with 4 monitors

by - 2013/02/21 12 Comments Development, Production

So then we want to view 4k as well! Here’s a quick making-of.

  • We selected 4 monitors that can be wall-mounted, with a foot you can remove. Our 26″ Iyama screens worked perfect.
  • In the hardware store I bought “shelves rail” which is sturdy and has enough holes for the screens to mount.
  • With everything mounted, it was even standing reasonably firm on the bottom two screens

That was the easy part! Now get X11 to show a full desktop with 2 graphics cards and 4 monitors… how we got it to work:

  • You need two identical cards, different NVidia types mixed didn’t work
  • The cards have to be connected with an SLI bridge (see image)
  • Sudo mv your /etc/xorg.conf away to a backup name, restart system with all monitors connected
  • Start the Nvidia X Server Settings panel, “detect displays”, enable “twinview” and “Xinerama” for the screens, and arrange them in the right layout. This might take a couple of steps of “Save settings” and logout/login to see the effects.
  • The Gnome desktop insisted on drawing footer/headers on every monitor, and even doubling/tripling them. But with Xfce it was all perfect.

And voila, we even had Blender running! And more awesome, in the fresh 2.66 release the Blender “DPI” option (user prefs) scales a UI smoothly and crisp to double size as well. Works totally amazing :)

This is very promising for the future 4k computer monitors that soon will be available for more reasonable prices!


Developer *Fail* Moments

by - 2012/08/27 24 Comments Development, Random

Each OpenMovie project we manage to get ourselves into some fairly awkward technical difficulties – and even with the best intentions things backfire and break in strange and hard to foresee ways.

Being an open project at least we don’t have to pretend to be `professional` and can share some of the low-lights of the project as we did for Big Buck Bunny and Sintel :)


In no particular order…

  • Once NFS became mad on the server Sergey just rebooted the server. ll file systems were forced to be checked at boot time. Checking both 5TB and 3TB RAID took several hours. No internet and no production SVN meanwhile.


  • Sergey made some tweaks to file system layouts on all systems and made a typo in file system mounting rules. Next day nobody was able even to boot their computers.

  • Campbell decides to give someone else the fun of fixing broken (but awesome) 8 core XEON, we get it back from the shop `fixed` with only 2 memory slots limiting the ram making it fail at rendering the majority of our scenes.


  • For some reason Samba server (server to allow mac and window users access our shared folder) was misconfigured and files with wrong permissions were creating. Trying to fix this Sergey used a mask of “.*” to change permissions for all files including hidden one. Who knew that this mask would also match “..” folder which is parent folder. Ended up with all files granted to full access to anybody on the server.


  • In the middle of the project it was discovered a typo in automated Ubuntu installation script — it created 25GB partition for data and couple of hundreds of gigabytes for swap.

  • Campbell wanted to download all versions of a file and whipped up a clever script to grab the history of all versions at once,
    …turns out that making 120 connections to blenders svn server is enough to blacklist the blender institute from connecting to our source code repository, now artists are blocked from blender updates and devs can’t apply changes to blender. Resolved the next day by changing our routers MAC address to get a new IP.


  • Sergey powers up all remote DELL renderfarm nodes and manages to overload their PDU (Power Distribution Unit) 4 days before the premier, our main renderfarm is totally broken… what now?…


  • Campbell & Koen want to copy some footage on a USB disk, but the server is configured to cache gigabytes, while Koen is illegally parked and wants to rush the files out to DELL but the disk won’t unmount, killing all processes that use the disk to force and unmount manages to kill _every_ process on the server including our render farm and studio internet connection, also in the panic some shelves got knocked over in our server room by accident with glassware breaking… We ended up copying most of the remaining files online.


  • Kjartan asks for a render hack to simplify some specific scene, the workaround only gets applied to one of our farms causing 5+ hour render times.


  • Francesco¬†adds computers to the renderfarm without copying over the servers SSH key causing the renderfarm to lock up trying to login to a the system.


  • Our fallback system for storing footage during the shoot, mysteriously fails to boot the morning of the shoot,
    making things worse real life sysadmins on set are playing as `extras` in the first scene and have to get makeup and costumes done. – We manage without the backup system.


Things are eerily relaxed here at the studio a day before the premier, with luck we manage without too many problems this time.

– Campbell

xiph.org: F65 RAW, Linear EXR, cleaned, and finals!

by - 2012/06/21 28 Comments Artwork, Development, Production

I’m very happy that our friends at xiph.org have agreed on hosting all of the files we’re producing now and in the next months. In total we expect to have 2 TB of material;

  • RAW files from the Sony F65 camera (4k)
  • Linear OpenEXR files in Rec709 gamut (4k, half float), converted from the Linear OpenEXR ACES gamut files as is output from the Sony F65 player/converter software (closed sw).
  • Cleaned OpenEXR files with alpha (4k)
  • Final renders in OpenEXR – before grading (HD 1920 x 800)
  • Final graded files, in OpenEXR, PNG, etc (HD 1920 x 800)

Here’s already the RAW and OpenEXR from two shots in the film (60 GB)! Everything will be released (entirely!) after the film went to premiere. The files then can also be used to complete the DVDs we’ll make for our sponsors; that way they can fully recreate the pipeline with originals!


Weekly – June 8

by - 2012/06/09 57 Comments Development, Weekly meeting

The previous blog posts already show our weekly progress well, so here’s some additions to this – like an evidence we have a full shotlist now!

This weekly I spoiled the fun a bit by ringing the alarm bells; if we want 9 minutes of film to be done in 10 weeks, we need to start delivering finals now… and not only a few shots, but more like 10-15 shots per week, 50 seconds every week! The two main bottlenecks to overcome urgently;


Planar tracking preview

by - 2012/05/18 22 Comments Development

I flew to Amsterdam the other week to hang out at the Blender institute writing some code and maybe get a second or two of screen time. We decided that one of the most useful features I could add for Mango was planar tracking. Over the last week, this is what I wrote. The video below shows the new Ceres-based planar tracker. This is on the Tomato branch and is not ready for trunk yet.

Note: this planar tracking is not as sophisticated as some of the other planar tracker packages, but give it time.

Special thanks to Sergey for integrating Ceres into Blender’s build and fixing some UI issues.

Original footage, now with ACES gamut

by - 2012/05/16 44 Comments Development, Filming

Brecht is checking on Open Color IO, he did a quick export which results in the jpgs below. Interesting but not sure if this is 100% correct, it feels too much contrasted. We keep digging :) This is what Brecht did:

  1. setenv OCIO /path/to/ocio/aces/config_1_0_3.ocio
  2. oiiotool –colorconvert aces rrt_srgb in.exr -o out.jpg

Weekly – April 27

by - 2012/04/28 23 Comments Development, Filming

Just one week left before we’re going to film! This will be on May 7 8 9 in Amsterdam Studios, and on May 10 at a bridge in Amsterdam. If you want to see us in action; then check on the set on thursday – visitors in the studio will be too disruptive and keep us from working.

Above you can see a floorplan of the studio (with 2 limbos), we will add a temp greenscreen in the white limbo for sets as well, so we can film on 1 set while the other is being prepared by the crew.

On location (exact spot will be announced asap) we’ll have a huge crane for the opening shot and some of the dialog break-up scenes.

All will be filmed with Sony F65 – brilliant 4k footage – which generates 250 MB per second. Go figure! Better not to do 48 fps then? ;) Although for slomo shots we will be using it, obviously.

Below video is Jeremy’s crazy awesome robot arm rig.

Powerlib addon for libraries management

by - 2012/04/20 10 Comments Development, Production

A very important aspect in daily production, is to keep assets organized and easily accessible. We needed some system to link complex environments into a scene and being able to toggle the visibility and complexity or their components.
With the vital contribution of Olivier Amrein (oenvoyage) we realized an addon called Powerlib, that allows toggling visibility and level of detail (high and low resolution) of subgroups contained in a linked group.