In 2008 I vowed that the only animation software I’d switch to, once I had to give up Macromedia Flash 8, would be Free software. Why? Because Adobe bought Flash and ruined it. Among their other unforgivable crimes was crippling Quicktime video output. Old Macromedia Flash could export to any video codec Quicktime supported, including the luscious and useful “Animation” codec. Adobe removed high quality output options to force users to process .swf files through After Effects. I could have lived with the insult and expense of being forced to buy After Effects, but not of having my workload and production time increased just so Adobe could try to squeeze more money out of its customers.
Now it’s 2013 and I’m still using the same copy of Macromedia Flash 8 from 2005, on an old Mac that supports OS 10.5, because old Flash doesn’t work on newer computers or newer operating systems. I’m frozen in time, and it’s starting to hurt.
5 years have passed and there’s no viable Free vector animation software for me to switch to. Synfig supposedly can do all sorts of wonderful things, but it’s simply not useable by anyone not actually developing the software. I devoted quite a bit of time and effort trying to switch, even getting a devoted Linux box for it; it didn’t suck from lack of effort on my part. That said, I do trust that the problem is with the user interface, not the back end; existing Synfig could conceivably serve as a starting point for making some really good software I could actually use.
Whether it’s a massive Synfig UI overhaul, or something new built from scratch, I need a good, Free vector animation program to switch to. I’m talking Free as in Freedom. It’s not the price of the software that puts me off. I’d pay to switch to ToonBoom, for example, if I thought it would be reliable. But no proprietary software is reliable. At any time its “owners” can cripple it and otherwise screw over their customers, in pursuit of whatever misguided business model they fancy at the time. It’s not the loss of my good money I can’t tolerate, it’s the loss of ALL MY WORK. Meanwhile the world moves on, new file formats and codecs are developed, and whether my work is compatible with progress remains at the mercy of my software’s corporate overlords. Even now I can’t export my Flash illustrations as .svg files; SVG wasn’t in demand when Macromedia released Flash 8, and because Flash is proprietary no one can add an SVG export feature to it now.
I need vector animation software I can use in the years and decades to come, that can grow with the times, and allow the future access to the work I do today.
What else do I need? Things like Flash 8*:
Mac compatible (I’m a pragmatist, not a purist)
Timeline similar to Flash 8
Visible audio waveform in timeline
“Symbol” grammar, where symbols can be animated and nested
good vector drawing tools
expansive video export options
and things Flash 8 doesn’t have, but should:
parent-child registration points
“bones” (maybe – aww, who cares)
custom vector strokes (beyond just dotted and dashed lines)
fewer bugs 😉
Time alone has not made this elusive software come into being. Could money? How much would I have to raise to commission an excellent programmer or two to give me what I want? Should I try a Kickstarter? A project like this should have a million dollars; I would aim for one tenth of that. Would even $100,000 be possible?
The result would be excellent Free vector animation software for everyone in the world.
If that doesn’t work I’m going to have to switch to some other proprietary software for the near future. That would be very disappointing. But I can’t stay in 2005 forever.
*What I don’t need is anything related to .swf files or the Flash Player or ActionScript. Almost all of Flash’s development since Flash 5 has been around “interactivity” and “web delivery”- things professional animators don’t use. If only we could separate the animation production part of Flash, from the “web player” part! The former has been almost perfect from the beginning, the latter has become a bloated monster that needs to die.
“40 Years in the Desert,” a talk I gave at Copycamp in Warsaw, Poland, on November 26 2012. Audio is a bit messed up until 02:49, so just start there. I talk a bit about Questioncopyright.org and Minute Memes, liberally quote Rick Falkvinge, mention Fair Use and Creative Commons before getting into Intellectual Disobedience. Toward the end I discuss Seder-Masochism’s release plan.
I just uploaded super-high-res versions of the This Land Is MineViewer’s Guide illustrations to archive.org. As so many of you pointed out, I didn’t explicitly name Persians in the guide. But the Assyrians and Babylonians I made up are based on Assyrian, Babylonian, AND Persian art! Did you know it’s all from the same region? Did you know This Land Is Mine is a cartoon? Did you know the pictures in the cartoon are more important than the labels on a blog post? Did you know none of the characters is an accurate historical representation, because (again) it’s a cartoon? Well now you do! As always, my work is Free-as-in-Freedom so you can use these images for whatever you want, except imposing artificial monopolies. Print ’em! Share ’em! Re-label ’em! Use ’em in your Ph.D. thesis, but don’t blame me if their accuracy is called into question! Download the whole set (as well as the whole short movie) at archive.org.
Here’s the interior of the Tabernacle known as “The Holy Place.” Behind those cherub-adorned curtains (“the veil”) is the “Holy of Holies”, the remote chamber containing the Ark of the Covenant with its cherub-adorned Mercy Seat. For a deity that prohibited graven images, YHWH sure demanded a lot of graven images of cherubs.
From my online research it seems there’s some demand for tabernacle pictures, and some sites charge a pretty penny for their use. Ironically, my blasphemous film will result in excellent Free, high-res, high quality, carefully rendered tabernacle assets that anyone can copy, modify, play with, and use for any reason (except to establish an artificial monopoly). When Seder-Masochism is finished, I’ll post all the source (.fla) files, just like I did with Sita Sings the Blues.
I envisioned This Land Is Mine as the last scene of my potential-possible-maybe- feature film, Seder-Masochism, but it’s the first (and so far only) scene I’ve animated. As the Bible says, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Mamluk of Egypt
Wikipedia sez, “Over time, mamluks became a powerful military caste in various Muslim societies…In places such as Egypt from the Ayyubid dynasty to the time of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, mamluks were considered to be “true lords”, with social status above freeborn Muslims.” And apparently they controlled Palestine for a while.
Did I mention this is a cartoon? Probably no one went to battle looking like this. But big turbans, rich clothing and jewelry seemed to be in vogue among Ottoman Turkish elites, according to paintings I found on the Internet.
A gross generalization of a generic 19-century “Arab”.
The British formed alliances with Arabs, then occupied Palestine. This cartoon is an oversimplification, and uses this British caricature as a stand-in for Europeans in general.
The British occupied this guy’s land, only to leave it to a vast influx of….
Desperate and traumatized survivors of European pogroms and death camps, Jewish Zionist settlers were ready to fight to the death for a place to call home, but…
State of Israel Backed by “the West,” especially the US, they got lots of weapons and the only sanctioned nukes in the region.
Guerrilla/Freedom Fighter/Terrorist Sometimes people fight in military uniforms, sometimes they don’t. Creeping up alongside are illicit nukes possibly from Iran or elsewhere in the region. Who’s Next?
The Angel of Death
The real hero of the Old Testament, and right now too.
Note: If you want to support this project, please notice I have Paypal and Flattr buttons. TAX-DEDUCTIBLE donations accepted via the nonprofit QuestionCopyright.org.
With all the false copyright claims happening on Youtube, I’m lately asking myself why I use it at all. I guess the main reason is the Network Effect: Youtube is the most popular video host, so that’s where most people go to find videos. If my vids aren’t on Youtube, there’s a chance they won’t be found.
But I’m not sure that’s a good enough reason, in light of all the Content ID abuse. Thanks to Brewster’s comment yesterday, I’m embedding archive.org video below. If this works, it’ll be an ideal alternative.
Another alternative to Youtube is Vimeo. I’ve had problems with Vimeo’s speed, and have embedded videos fail to load. But maybe those problems will resolve.
A bonus feature of both of these: they don’t seem to use Flash (which my current Chrome browser doesn’t support anyway).
Anyone care to comment on the quality of the archive.org and vimeo embeds above?
Youtube has been so rife with Content ID abuse – including multiple false claims on our Free Culture anthem, Copying Is Not Theft – I decided to try a Chinese video host. I’m embedding it here just to test how it works. So far the audio seems a little out of synch – anyone else getting that? Comments welcome below.
I’m finally using this great plugin for Flash, that even works with Ye Olde Macromedia Flash 8 (considered by most animators to be the best version ever made, far superior to Adobe’s crippled messes). The Library Symbol renaming tools alone have made me a fan.
This afternoon I gave a Sita Sings the Blues talk to a roomful of 15-to-17-year-olds. Near the end I explained Free Culture and my stance against copyright, which led to some interesting discussion. Turns out most of them are manga fans, and familiar with publishers’ complaints about scanned and translated manga shared freely online. They all read them anyway (except one, who prefers to read entire manga in the bookstore). I asked them how they would choose to support artists they liked (once they had some disposable income) and they said:
Donate buttons – with the qualification that they want to know as much as possible about where the donation is going. They said honesty and transparency are important.
Kickstarter – They all knew about it (which was notable because none of them had heard of Flattr) and valued pitch videos that explained how the money would be used.
Live Shared Experiences, including ballet, museum exhibits, and concerts. The event aspect was important; they wanted to be able to say, “Remember that one time when that awesome show was here…” They agreed seeing things in person is a more powerful experience than seeing things online, and worth spending more on. One said she would buy CD at a live show because “it reminds you of the show.”
One said he would support artists by promoting their work to his friends.
Semi-related, I took an informal poll of how many would prefer to read a book on paper vs. an e-reader. The vast majority said paper, but what they really seemed to want was dual formats: paper copies to read comfortably and collect, and digital copies to search and reference. Makes sense to me. Only two of them had iPads, and none used them for “enhanced eBooks.”
My favorite quote of the afternoon:
“We don’t want everything for free. We just want everything.”
Guess what I found at my parents’ house in Urbana? A VHS tape called “NINA PALEY DEMO REEL 1998.” It contained my very first animation as an adult (my very very first was when I was about 13, but I’ve lost those Super-8 reels). I didn’t go to school, I just taught myself from books and asking friends. It helped that I was dating an animator; he owned an animation table, which I’d never seen before let alone used, and it was on that that I made this:
Straight out of Nina’s Adventures, right? Audio is from Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide.”
The first stop-motion clay animation I made, Luv Is…, is Not Safe For Work and is embarrassingly neurotic, but the same characters appear in this, my second stop-motion clay animation:
I Heart My Cat was shot on a 16mm Krasnogorsk camera with a light leak, and you can see the adorable Desi at the very end. Nik Phelps made the fantastic score, one of my favorite scores ever.
For “Cancer” I drew, scratched and painted this directly on an old 35mm porn film. My boyfriend-at-the-time’s sister had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Music is the Del Rubio Triplets singing the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.”
These all have copyright notices on them, because I believed in copyright back then. But I hereby release them, consider them CC-BY-SA but better still ignore all licenses no matter what they are and do whatever you want. Thanks to Ken Levis for digitizing the VHS tape. You kids today should be grateful you have all these digital formats instead of VHS! It was awful to work with, and as you can see the quality was crap too. Hooray for technological progress! Power to the people!
If anyone needs to download Sita Sings the Blues or copy Mimi & Eunice or anything from any of my web sites, including this blog, do it now because they’re all going dark for 24 hours in protest of SOPA/PIPA and the lobbyists and bought politicians who wrote them and will write the next stupid bills attempting to break the internet even after SOPA and PIPA “die” only to be resurrected zombie-like under new stupid acronyms.
Although I’ll truly miss Wikipedia while it’s down tomorrow, maybe I’ll use the time to get some actual animation done instead of just “research.”
Over at Techdirt.com, pro-SOPA/PIPA commenters continue to call copying “theft.” Since their main argument for breaking the Internet is fundamentally erroneous, now seems like a good time to re-post this riposte: