Dolf Veenvliet: “Do something awesome (or at least, something notable)”

The presentation by the Dutch 3D artist Dolf Veenvliet would likely fall under the category of most pragmatic ones of the three day conference. Veenvliet started of by elaborating on the latest landmark production from the Blender Foundation (of which he is a member), namely the fantasy feature film called ‘Sintel’. After showing the trailer, Veenvliet explained the course of pre-production and production of the film. Besides the funding by the Dutch Film Fund, a substantial part of the costs were covered by the pre-orders of the DVD. What’s remarkable here is that, in this stage, the film was merely a textual synopsis posted on the Blender community web site. According to Veenvliet, the community is so willingly to donate because they know “things get done” when the money’s there.

After Sintel was released in September, the film reached an incredible amount of views and downloads. Over the months, it has been watched on YouTube over 2 million times, and downloaded over 5 million times, while previous Blender Foundation films (i.e the Pixar-esque ‘Big Buck Bunny’ (2008), or philosophic mini-epos ‘Elephant’s Dream’) stagnated at about 1 million over a whole year.

One of the common misunderstandings of film projects initiated by the Blender Foundation is that the production itself is an open-source trajectory. Instead, the director still has a leading role in what to include in terms of storytelling and visuals. In this process, a large group of content producers (ranging from amateur to professional) contributed by submitting 3d models of characters, scenery or animation, all under the Creative Commons license.

While the production of these films is not entirely democratic, Veenvliet for the remainder of the presentation, very much stressed the point of the benefits of making your work (and source files) accessible for a world-wide audience. For example, by posting a 3d-model of a humanoid robot called ‘Petunia‘, other artists took this model and started animating it. The story of the crowd-sourcing project was eventually featured by i.e the MIT newspaper and the Dutch NRC newspaper.

In conclusion, protecting one’s work as an artist is a safe, but orthodox way to go. At the same time, alternative production methods like Veenvliet’s prove to become increasingly viable as a source of income (for example, crowd-funded), as well as a platform for content exchange. Doing things in public might not pay off immediately, but by contributing work within a peer network, future productions might as well feature your carefully crafted models.