2D Camera Rig

As you may have heard, we at Les Fées Spéciales have been using cutout animation techniques extensively on our previous projects. Some aspects are explored in other articles, but the film layout is one of particular interest to us. A problem commonly encountered during layout of a 2D film is that of getting nice and smooth camera movements when your camera is zooming and panning, that is, rotating about its center.
This article demonstrates a camera setup we created to solve this problem.

Opening the Museum of Lodève

In january 2017 we started working on the ambitious reopening of the Musée de Lodève, Lodève’s museum, a small town in the south of France. The project was already years in the making, and we jumped onboard to create more than an hour of movies for the three main themes: Geology (540 millions years of life and tectonics), Archaeology and Beaux-Arts (fine arts). In the near future we will be releasing some tools and making of made for that production. In the meantime, allow us to introduce the project and the grand opening which took place early July. Nothing technical for now, but the production background of that project which took us so much energy.

This article is available in French on the studio’s website / Cet article est disponible en français sur le site web du studio.

Image background transform

If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation where you had to correctly place a background reference image in Blender, as we have, you may have felt frustrated by the limited controls offered by the Background Images panel. We couldn’t find an add-on to facilitate the process of correctly placing images, so we wrote one. It uses controls close to Blender’s own transformation tools (Grab, Rotate, Scale, etc.). You can move multiple images at once, rotate and scale around the 3D Cursor, or around each background image’s center.

You can download and test it right now on our GitHub repo.

Art © David Revoy 2009, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

How to Choose a Software License for my Blender Scripts

One of the stated missions of Les Fées Spéciales is to publish as much of the code we use in production as possible. Publishing these scripts and programs falls under the copyrights laws—or author’s rights laws in our case, since we operate in France, a country under a civil law system.
In order for the community to use these scripts, the scripts need to carry a software license. Writing an overview of the history and inner workings of software license, and free software in particular, is way beyond the scope of this article, however it seems useful to remind scripters what they may do with their scripts, should they choose to publish them, particularly in the context of Blender scripts.

2018, An Exciting Year for Free Software

Dear Visitor, the Technical Department wish you a happy new year!

And this incoming year is a very exciting for a lot of reasons!
Let’s start in terms of projects for us. Next October will be released the feature film Dilili in Paris for which we worked hard for the past two years. Hopefully you will see it in festivals before then. And you’ll have more articles about that production soon.
This summer will be seen the opening of a very nice archeology and geology museum. The museum is located in Lodève, next to Montpellier in France. We are currently creating more than 45 minutes of animation, interactive programs, and multiple 3D reconstructions for the museum. It’s improving a lot our tools, methods and pipeline and we will share more on that too, later this year.
And we have other nice projects. So we are very busy, but we have a lot of things to share along those works, so stay tuned.

But it’s not only about us, it’s about huge releases in free software too!

Mesh To Bone Shape

When rigging, you usually want to add custom shapes to your bone controllers. It helps to simplify the selection of these bones and moreover it gives information to help the animator to understand quickly what a bone can do. In Blender, the default procedure can be really tedious so we have created a script to help handle adding and editing custom shapes to bones.

Cut It out: our talk at the #bcon17

We attended the 15th Blender Conference and it was a blast! Every year we gather so much energy and ideas during those 4 days. Kudos to the organizers for this hard work. And this year we were invited to present part of our work on the feature film Dilili in Paris.

Damien took 20 minutes to present the solutions we had to develop to handle this 90 minutes feature film. And more particularly, the creation of the 500 characters needed to populate the early 19th century Paris. Those characters were built using an old cut-out technique, like flat paper puppets but in a digital process. For more explanations, we’ll let you watch the talk, for which we were kindly authorized to show the very first shots of the movie, which is yet to be released in October 2018.

We will go back more in detail on the processes and other solutions we deployed in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!

Making Of Antarctica

Antarctica is a documentary directed by Jérôme Bouvier and Marianne Cramer co-produced by Arte France, Paprika Films, Wild-Touch Production, Andromède Océanologie. It depicts the expedition led by Luc Jacquet to show and raise interest in the effects of climate change in the polar regions.

We produced animated sequences to illustrate the two films with cartographic images, to show natural phenomenons about the oceanic current, circumpolar current, ice melting, etc. We have also made “overlay graphics ?” to show how the fauna is adapted to the harsh climate.

In this article, we show two experimental processes using scientific data to make our cartographic animated sequences, with art direction by Eric Serre.

How to install python libs in Blender (part 1)

EDIT 2020: This series is now obsolete since Blender 2.80. Please see this answer on StackExchange. Here is a possible function to install modules inside Blender, provided you can modify the Blender directory:

import subprocess

def install_pip_dep(module_name):
    python_path = bpy.app.binary_path_python
    subp = subprocess.run([python_path, "-m", "ensurepip"])
    if subp.returncode != 0:
        return False
    subp = subprocess.run([python_path, "-m", "pip", "install", module_name])
    if subp.returncode != 0:
        return False
    return True

if __name__ == '__main__':

In this article, we share some tips to install third-party python libraries for your scripts and add-ons. This is the easy way, when the library exists on repositories accessible to package managers such as pip.

Making Blender tools outside of Blender (part 1)

Two years ago, when I started working with Blender coming from Maya, I was very frustrated by Blender’s GUI limitations for TDs. The options for creating tools looked too limiting, and still are as far as I’m concerned.

Don’t get me wrong, there are great designed features for TDs. Creating an operator is easy and then you can use it everywhere you need, the API is strong and I like it. My complaint is more about windows and widgets. And I had to find solutions.

Opening the kitchen

La Cuisine is the blog of the technical department of the French studio Les Fées Spéciales. Established in 2015, based in Montpellier (in the south of France), the studio creates animated images, CG and digital 2D animation for feature films, shorts, museums or other companies. The studio relies on two main aspects: social innovation, through the use of a cooperative structure, and technical innovation, using and participating on free software solutions as much as we can. You can find more on the french website and blog of the company : www.les-fees-speciales.coop.

Willing not only to be free-software enjoyers, we have decided to talk about it, share our tools (as imperfect but as useful as they may be), and explain experiences and methods. This is why we have created this blog, La Cuisine. It stands for “The Kitchen” in French, a place where the process of creation is mixed with a lot of technical skills, looking for new recipes.

This blog reflects some of the works of the company but also our opinions and struggles. We share a certain way of doing things: our way. It might not be perfect, it might even be wrong sometimes. But we share it because we haven’t found a better solution, so it might be helpful for others, and because we learn by sharing.
Of course articles are open to discussion: react to our posts, be free to say what you feel or think. Is there a better way to do something? Tell us, we’d love to hear from you and learn best practices.

Today the technical department is composed of:

  • Flavio Perez, co-founder and co-owner of the company, technical supervisor.
  • Damien Picard, co-owner of the studio, he is doing a PhD thesis on free software pipelines, within the company.
  • Duy Kevin Nguyen, also co-owner of the studio, has a PhD in physics. A long time Blender and real-time enthusiast, he joined the team at the end of 2016.

We will introduce ourselves later, but we do not consider ourselves developers or computer engineers. We are graphic designers who love coding and we are curious about almost everything. We love experimenting stuff; playing with whatever material we have. And it is not limited to the company projects or field of expertise, either. We’ll try to share that too.

Expect to find in this blog technical making-ofs and postmortems of some projects, code and tool explanations, thoughts and research about how we work, conferences notes, and hopefully many more things. If you have any questions, feedbacks or comments you can also contact us by email : la-cuisine [at] les-fees-speciales [dot] coop