Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'inspiration'

Mat Tomaszewski

The recent Ubuntu Free Culture Showcase competition produced some good work. Lots of great photos and plenty of interesting music tracks were submitted.

But only four videos

This made me think. Why only four? Was it because we didn’t talk about it enough? Or maybe there’s just not that many Ubuntu users interested in video and animation? Or… maybe it’s simply too hard to create a nice video piece on Ubuntu?

To answer this, I set myself a challenge:

Create a short animation to promote the competition, using only free software on Ubuntu.

To be more specific: only a GUI software, no scripting or programming allowed.

Artistically, I’ve set myself some interesting constraints, too:

  • only two colours can be used: Ubuntu orange and white,
  • all visuals must be built using only one element – a circle.

You can’t get more Ubuntu than that, I thought.

Being familiar with many proprietary animation packages, from Flash to AfterEffects and 3dsmax, and having some experience with GIMP and Inkscape on Ubuntu, I estimated five days of work for a 50-second animation with music.

And here’s the result:

Ubuntu Free Culture Showcase – animated intro from Mat Tomaszewski on Vimeo.

Also, check a hi-res OGV.

The Making Of

After some initial sketching using the ancient tools of Pen and Paper, I knew what I wanted to achieve. The animation would consist of three parts, introducing Music, Video and Photo part of the competition. The background music would be (of course) the winning track from the 10.10 edition.

Since the whole animation was to be made of dots (circles), the package had to support timeline-based animation of multiple objects, I thought. That rules out tools like Processing, as they require coding.

Something like, say, Flash or AfterEffects, just Free and Open Source and running on Ubuntu.

This was the first hurdle. Neither PiTiVi, nor kdenlive or any other package I tried could do that.

Fortunately, there was Blender.

Blender’s great. Not perfect, but getting there really fast. It’s very powerful and the UI is logical and consistent, even if initially some things (like right-click to select) may seem counterintuitive. One introductory video tutorial (loads of them on YouTube) was enough to get me through the initial learning curve.

To create the effects you see in the video, I mostly used the array modifier, which can be animated using controller objects, like a path (which lenght controls the count) or an Empty (to create rotation or scale effects). Again, many great examples and video tutorials are available online.

Once the three parts of the animation were ready (each one in a separate Scene) I used the Sequence Editor to put them together.

I then used Audacity to trim and fade the soundtrack (no problems there), Inkscape to create the credits and finally rendered to MP4, using the Blender’s native renderer. To convert to OGV, I used kdenlive, which again was very smooth.

Problems? There were a few. By far the biggest of them was lack of sound in Blender. I ended up googling for solutions, but the command-line magic I applied didn’t help. I’m still not sure what was wrong, and it slowed me down quite a bit, as I had to preview using the rendered movies, rather than instant preview within the app. If there was anything that would stop me from using Blender professionally, it would be that.

Otherwise, I had some really great time. :)

Oh, and if you want to start blending right away, here’s the source file for the animation. Enjoy designing on Ubuntu!

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Mat Tomaszewski

The future of books?

Check out these lovely ebook touchscreen concepts from IDEO.

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.

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Mat Tomaszewski

…and a can of paint instead. Check out this nice interaction concept [1], designed for the opening of a new Chanel store in NY.

Graffiti fades off gradually, to be replaced by a new one

It’s good to step away from the computer sometimes.


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Inayaili de León

dConstruct 2010

Once again Brighton-based Clearleft prepared something special for those who attended this year’s dConstruct conference. Ivanka and myself had the pleasure to be amongst the lucky ones who managed to grab a ticket.

The line-up was formed by some of the most prominent names in design thinking:

  • Brendan Dawes
  • David McCandless
  • Hannah Donovan
  • James Bridle
  • John Gruber
  • Marty Neumeier
  • Merlin Mann
  • Samantha Warren
  • Tom Coates

Other people have written in-depth write-ups about each of the talks, and the podcasts of the sessions are freely available here (along with more information about each speaker), so I’m going to focus mainly what the highlights of the conference were for me.


Brighton Dome

My personal favourites this year were David McCandless (‘Information is Beautiful’) and James Bridle (writer and publisher at Bookkake).

McCandless’ presentation was about data, lots of data. He showed us how he has been bringing clarity to the amalgam of undecipherable information we are faced with every day, in the papers, the Internet, etc; how some of that data is contradictory and confusing instead of clarifying. McCandless does this by analising the data and translating it into beautiful, clear infographics. Not just the aesthetics, but also the relevance of the graphics made for a rather amusing and inspirational presentation.

David McCandless
Photo by David Parsons

Bridle talked about “the value of ruins”, not physical ruins, but online ones. What happens to forgotten websites, where do the ruins of the Internet go, and historiography — the history of history. I have to confess Bridle’s talk was my favourite one: it was brilliantly presented, entertaining (somehow some speakers forget that the audience is there to be entertained, not sleep), and clever without being patronising. The highlight of his talk came when he presented us with 12 printed volumes containing the whole history of Wikipedia’s page “Iraq War” page (shown in the photo below). To be honest, he probably had us all at “Geocities”…

James Bridle
Photo by Marko Mrdjenovi?

I also really enjoyed the message from Merlin Mann’s (of 43 Folders fame) presentation. He talked about being a nerd, which for him meant being interested and passionate about something, the uneasiness of knowing that there is always something more to learn, and the importance of always looking for ways to improve yourself. He also mentioned Ubuntu and Canonical in his talk…
Mr Mann talked for almost one hour without the aid of slides, which was rather impressive and very well done.

Everything else

As a regular conference attendee, I’ve made some friends over the years that are too ‘conference junkies’. It’s always a pleasure to see everyone again, have a few drinks and enjoy a nice chat. The couple of nights that I spent in Brighton for dConstruct weren’t an exception.

Brighton also charmed everyone with a beautiful weather on Saturday morning, so a few of us had a stroll around the seaside and on the famous Brighton Pier (including a terrifying visit to the Horror Hotel!).


I’ve uploaded some photos (mostly of Brighton) to Flickr, but a search for the ‘dconstruct’ tag will produce far better (and more relevant) photos.

Looking forward to the next one!

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