1 Introduction

Apertux normally was planned to be another, of many already existing, Linux distribution with a particular focus on movie making. It becomes finally a tool, in fact a bunch of several tools, embedded in different movie production workflows. Everything being under Linux, open and free of course.

The different discussion I had with different people deeply involved in movie making, and all I could read and understand by my own on the subject, make me change my mind about the first approach, even if the creation of a Linux movie distro is always possible but on certain condition that will be explained later. The choice of dedicated tools under very precise criteria (sound, video, image an their treatment under Linux - what we can call the content), but above all, the ways we use these tools and why, become more important, and finally more logical than the construction of another single distribution (the containing) that will be always, or too general, or too specialized and that should not be able to fit the needs of all possible kind of directors wills and movie genres.

The first approach was also figured for the alone scenarist-director-producer-cameraman with a very short "guerrilla" or "indie" team style. The new approach wants to be more pragmatic and integrate as a central pivot the Production (and the role of the Producer even if this one can be also the scenarist and/or a director) that, with management and communication tools (always free and open), can master the whole movie creative process where other people with different roles and competencies, come at a moment or another, to work on it. This approach then can apply as well to an "indie" team or to a bigger one. Teams, roles, departments, etc, "picking" what they need and want in the workflows where needed and already chosen tools and methodologies are. And the production making the linkage and managing the communication, verifying the work done between the different members and "departments".

These workflows and tools being defined and chosen for the project, the members can use the Linux distro of their choice, (Debian, Ubuntu, Suse, Fedora, etc...), it doesn't have any kind of importance. The Production is gathering the different works in a centralized area and with a standardized approach (or tools). The producer can follow and react to the progression of the works done in every Department during the creation/production process.

The formula is enough flexible to cover all possible cases (from little to bigger team), for all movie genres (short, medium, or long movies) or categories (movies with real actors, or 2D, 3D animation movies) and concentrate on the core of the project: the production of a movie with Linux free and open source tools.

Now let's define all that...

2 Problematic

Titanic, Shrek, Lord of the ring, Harry Potter, Avatar, etc... there are no Hollywoodian blockbuster stuffed with special effects that can be done without the help of servers and programs under GNU Linux. Big production companies like Dreamwork, Pixar, ILM, Disney have all invested in Linux to finalize their movies. Stability, rapidity and low cost are doing that the penguin is a logic choice for the images heavy and complex treatments in big render farms. These companies have also developed their own Linux programs for some specific works like Renderman, CompTime, or Rayz(some being open source and accessible other being "private" ones) or use some already designed like Gimp, Cinepaint, ffmpeg or Blender but programmed to fill some specific tasks. The actual tendency is to "Linuxized" some commercial softwares before used under Apple or Windows and even to give them free alone or joined to a product (DaVinci Resolves with the Blackmagic camera or editing program Lightworks from Editshare that be now dowloaded for free).

It's clear that Linux is loved by producers but its work is a back office one, necessary but hidden. More, it's not the freedom (like in free speech)characteristics that attract them but the low cost and technical development easiness ones (free like in free beer). Movie making is an industry and it was logical that this industry try to invest "less" to get more rapid and bigger "benefits". For the movie industry Linux is just a tool like another with more possibilities, less problem to manage and less money to expend. Its rapid acceptance in this world like the rapid conversion of software and hardware to Linux was made possible only under a financial and technological vision.

Then we could imagine that, because of tools that can be found for free with a different logic than commercial ones, independent studios or little "guerrilla" or "indie" production houses would have followed a different way to do and think, and would have used intensively Linux and/or free and open source hardware and software tools, but it's not the case, very few actions were done, being just marginal if not practically non existing. most of young and older "free" movie maker if they have effectively new ideas and new ways to produce, make movies use what they can find in the actual market:

  • non free video cameras build with non free technologies and heavily patented codecs (there is no free camera actually except the next apertus one to come or the former apertus Elphel 353).
  • a computer for editing video and sound (generally a Mac from Apple)

This seem the standard now for the majority even for those that, if they challenge the way that the majors made, produce, distribute movies, they do not think to challenge also the proprietary and patented tools used, and created sometimes, by these majors and used by them too as "independent".

There is no doubt that Linux tools are as efficient and compliant than the commercial ones. It's clear that to work on and with Linux require some abilities but that everybody can have just with some personal work, the same thing applying also for Windows or Apple platforms and products. So why Linux tools are not intensively used today in movie making especially by the "free" and "independent" movie directors community?

3 Linux Platforms

There are as many Linux distribution, as days in a year. If they become more easy to install and use than it was in the past, they still have the reputation of being difficult to access for non-technical people and there is some questions about which one to use. Instead Apple and Windows offering only a single version of their respective OS, seem more simple to use and here there is no question of choice. Ubuntu has broken a little bit that myth by giving a "standard" Linux distribution easy to install and easy to use. It's also the case of popular "distros" like Fedora, Suse, Mageia, Debian, Mint, etc. A lot of these distros have also developed some multimedia version, enough complete to perform some works on images, sounds and videos but being too generalist and not really movie production oriented. They also lack of stability (too many tools) and are not recommended for serious job except if you make some expert changes in them. Our approach do not focus on a specific Linux distro (even if we have some preferences) but on tools to be used during the mandatory movie production steps.


4 Production steps and tools

Making a movie is to follow and to obey to 5 mandatory and essential steps or phases.

  1. Development — The first stage in which the ideas for the film are created, (rights to books/plays can be bought) and the screenplay is written. Production is roughly calculating a budget where financing for the project has to be sought and greenlit at the end of the phase.
  2. Pre-production: Screenplay is achieved, and has been split into working call sheets, storyboard is made and the preparations are made for the shoot, in which cast and film crew, material are hired, locations are selected, and sets are built if needed.
  3. Production: The raw elements for the film are recorded during the film shoot and as per the calendar and the planification made during pre-production phase.
  4. Post-Production: The images, sound, music and visual effects of the recorded film are edited. The whole picture is released.
  5. Distribution: The finished film is distributed and screened in TV, internet, cinemas and/or released on DVD/Blue-Ray. a marketing campaign is launched in several media to create the buzz around the movie.

At every step/phase there is one or several "roles" (writer-scenarist, producer, director, director of photography, actor, sound designer, etc...) acting together or in different "services/department" to perform some "works", at the same time or in delay mode. All these people will need and use individual "tools" and some other common to the whole crew. It's now time to see what are these job/roles, services/department and the Linux tools they will need to make a movie.