Tube: The Next Generation Animated Film

Discovered yesterday, 7 hours too late to contribute, this is nonetheless the Kickstarter project that was made for me*.

Animation with substance. The crowd funds it, the crowd owns it. Tube is the experimental production of a 3D animated short about the dream and failure and achievement of immortality. It’s also a love letter to free software and open culture that marks their convergence with independent filmmaking.

As the almost polar opposite of the Kickstarter project mentioned earlier in the week. Tube is not only a slick, well thought out campaign, it also has all the hallmarks of the next generation of animated films in concept if not in content.

For you see, the goal of Tube isn’t just to create an animated film, it’s also to release everything (and I mean everything) under a Creative Commons license after production is finished.

“Surely that’s no big deal” I hear you say “loads of independent animators have released their works under Creative Commons licenses”. Ah, true, however this is a full-blown animated feature. On top of that, it’s entirely open source; that is, once production has wrapped, all the sets, animation, sounds, rigs, etc. will be freely available for anyone to use and modify. Watch the video if you haven’t done so already, it explains everything.

What a significant idea! What animation studio do you know is willing to give away all their tools after a film is released? None! Need a CGI subway car? Sorry, you’ll have to either build it from scratch, or why not re-use the one from Tube? Thanks to the CC license, you can do the latter, and modify if for your needs, all without paying a cent.

Why is this so significant though? Why does should you even pay attention to a diverse group of animation and free culture geeks harp on about making a film and then giving everything away? Well, it’s a massive pointer to where content is eventually going. In other words, Tube is a very early prototype for the animated films that will eventually come.

Think about it for a second. The group is requesting donations. Why? Because making a film has (and will) cost money. Unless loads of people are willing to give up a lot of free time, films will require money to be spent in order for them to be made in a timely fashion. Secondly, and this is the really salient point, The point is to make something entertaining, not exploit audiences. The animators are still compensated, they aren’t reduced to working for free; highly ironic considering many artists in studios working on massively profitable properties continue to whittle their lives away at the studios’ pleasure. Also, because it is released under a Creative Commons license, the film will go on to further assist and benefit anyone and everyone.

So where is this going to end up? Well, eventually, films will only be financed as far as time spent, in other words, if rigs, sets, etc. are freely available, the only thing that will cost money is making them move the way the director wants them to, in other words, the actual animation itself. And with only that and various post-production work to pay for, animated films are likely to become much more common and freely available.

Crowdsourcing will also become much more widespread. Instead of studios coughing up the money themselves and keeping any profits in return for the risk, they can simply crowdsource the funding, pay the animators to make the film and build a solid reputation off of their products. All this doesn’t preclude making profits, in fact, if the filmmaking model is simplified, there are even more opportunities available to make money; as mentioned last week, merchandising will always be there.

On top of all that, the greater proliferation of these kinds of films there are, the greater the quality will be. I can’t wait for the day when an independent, crowd-sourced, collectively animated film wins critical appraise.

*Yes, I am an open source junkie, in part because Steve Jobs set the price of the PowerBook way to high for me, so instead I turned to Linux and haven’t looked back since.


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