Project Gooseberry puts Blender to the test

The crowd-funded open production will unite 12 global teams to create a feature-length animation using only open source tools, including new Blender Cloud.

The non-profit Blender Institute has launched a crowd-funded, open production computer animation movie project. The Gooseberry Project will use the open source Blender 3D animation suite and the newly launched Blender Cloud service.

Michel the sheep longs for a more interesting life in the crowd-sourced feature film being produced by Project Gooseberry, sponsored by the Blender Institute. (Source:
Michel the sheep longs for a more interesting life in the crowd-sourced feature film being produced by Project Gooseberry, sponsored by the Blender Institute. (Source:

The main purpose, says Blender Institute chairman Ton Roosendaal, is to help bring open source 3D creation to a higher level of support in the creative community. The demands of feature animation teams will define the work for 15 full-time developers. Targets will include asset and project management, new hair and cloth simulation, advanced animation/simulation dependency handling, and work on rendering and compositing. All movie production data will be available under open source and Creative Commons licenses, including sound effects, mix, and music.

French animation director Mathieu Auvray (Babioles) will develop the script, together with Esther Wouda (Sintel). Both will work in Amsterdam with producer Ton Roosendaal, in the studio of Blender Institute—where central production coordination and development happens as well. The story is about Michel the sheep, who longs to get a more interesting life. “It will be a funny, absurdist and adventurous love story,” says Roosendaal. In total 70-80 people are expected to work for 18 months on the Gooseberry project, in 12 different countries on nearly every continent.

The crowd-funding target is to get 10,000 people to subscribe to the Blender Cloud, which already offers all the tutorial DVDs, movies and 3D data from previous Blender Institute projects. Monthly subscription is €10 ($13), supporters who stay on board for 18 months get a film credit rewarded.

People who want to support the project can choose to split their contribution into small monthly payments, which gives them access to the same Blender Cloud. This way the supporters will be able to watch and share the progress of the animation teams, and even participate in it.

Software is moving to the cloud. Commercial 3D design and content firms like Adobe and Autodesk are making cloud technology the linchpin of their efforts going forward. Blender Institute’s Roosendaal sees benefit in cloud technology for open source software, but on different terms than the commercial vendors. “They present this as ‘benefit for the users’ but they actually just pull up an Iron Curtain to safely hide their software. We can find out ourselves what the real user benefits are, but in openness and by truly respecting user freedom.” The far-flung Project Gooseberry teams will use Blender Cloud to coordinate their work.

What do we think?

Lest we dismiss Project Gooseberry as an idealistic campaign by hippies with computers, remember there would be no Internet without open source software. Blender remains a popular 3D animation suite, despite the crowded marketplace of commercial products. The indie game industry has its roots in open source software, and there is a considerable open source edge to the Maker Movement.  A healthy open source animation community is an important part of the industry, especially if Blender breaks new ground in what it means to use cloud technology in a non-proprietary setting.

Below, a clip on the development of the falling sheep sequence from the upcoming Project Gooseberry feature animation.