About Blender funding.

We all (almost) understand that Blender development need funding to progress. Do you guys think that Blender funding model need to change?

Krita Foundation started another Kickstarter campaign today and gathered 25% money for initial goal in half of day. Two guys wanted to make hi quality blender tutorials for 4k GBP, campaign is ending soon and they gathered 34k GBP (I bet they hit 40K before end).
People are eager to support and learn FLOSS software. Question is, are FLOSS software developers doing everything to give them a chance? After Gooseberry fiasco (sad but true) there was some discussion about BF-own campaign site, ambiguities of Cloud service. Many of us was asking why BF didn’t used Kickstarter or other crowd-funding platform.
What you guys think of current situation?

I think you’d need to better describe what you mean by funding model.

The way I understand it, the Blender Foundation is funded though the following means:

  • Grants: I know that Blender is getting grant money but how much & if it could be improved would require more transparency from the Blender Foundation in this regard. I cannot state if they’re doing it the best they can or are terrible at it as there isn’t much in the way of information to go on.
  • Stock standard donations: Can’t think of any better way to do this, frankly. Giving money should be quick and easy. Blender’s donation mechanism (through PayPal & Bitcoin) is pretty quick and easy. Only thing I can think of to make it easier would be more prominence on their website’s home page.
  • eShop/Store Proceeds: This one isn’t that bad either, though there are a couple of things that seem odd. The Blender website is now white/bright themed, store is the opposite. Mismatched storefront & website themes always strike me as amateur hour… but then again, I designed websites for a few years and still do for volunteer organisations on occasion. I’m a little picky.

That said, the Gooseberry/Cloud site is offering videos for download that it used to offer only though their store. Not only is this taking potential sales away from the store, it is confusing the revenue streams. Store proceeds went to Blender Foundation, easy. Cloud proceeds go to… Gooseberry project? Blender Institute? Blender Foundation? Unspecified mix of all three? This could use some clearing up.

  • Crowd Funding: This needs work. The ambitions set were beyond realistic. Subsequently, the campaign failed. No, it’s extended. That extension failed to get it over the line. No, we’re going to classify it as a “success” and check if people want to pull out of their funding commitments cos it wasn’t really a success. More to the point, the crowd-funding effort wasn’t for the Blender Foundation, it was for a project being done by Blender Institute with (not so much now) external studios around the world. Oh, and there is another movie to be done with the Blender Institute coming up which will need to be crowd-funded too. This ignoring all the trust issues that cropped up regarding some of the lump sums “donated” during the campaign.

As I see it, and I may be wrong, there isn’t crowd-funding as most people would understand it for the Blender Foundation and the way it’s done for the Blender Institute is… odd. Krita have the balance right and there is no questions regarding how much they raised, how it’s spent, and that it is being spent for development on Krita (not projects using Krita, projects the lead developer of Krita thinks worthy, etc).

I think, honestly, that for crowd-funding (as most people understand the term) to succeed (as most people understand that term), the campaign needs to actually focus on improvements for the Blender community & go to the Blender Foundation. Not another film project for the Blender Institute. Not another subscription service scavenging sales from the Blender store. Most certainly not another campaign leading with a “we’re going to show the film industry how it’s done” proclamation.

  • Professional Services: The Blender Foundation is ostensibly being paid money to develop features for & support the Gooseberry artists. My understanding is that they occasionally (frequently?) get paid money by others for similar services but this is not clear.

We also need to consider that the Blender Community has a limited amount of funds to donate. If they’re giving the Blender Institute $10/mth for the cloud, that’s $10/mth they cannot give to the Blender Foundation. If they’ve given $200+ to the Gooseberry campaign, until Gooseberry see success, there isn’t a huge incentive to be giving more money ($200 is a lot to many of the Blender Community).

[SUP][SUB]Here’s hoping that this thread doesn’t devolve into another thread of the fanboys vs the trolls…[/SUB][/SUP]

My guess is (just a guess) most of the bulk of the donation/funding come from the Dutch government. Which is probably only possible because Ton is a respected member of their society, thus can be trusted.

That would be an interesting thing to find out. However, realistically speaking, it’s not very probable. Governments don’t just give you money because you are a respected member of society and they trust you.

However, there is no doubt that finding out the proportion of funds coming from grants would help understand some decisions. Let’s say the Dutch government provides 50%* of the funds going into the Blender Foundation. Seeing that would explain & go some way to justify why Ton focuses on Gooseberry, Tears of Steel, and other film projects made in Amsterdam.

[SUP][SUB]* Random figure. Don’t read anything into it.[/SUB][/SUP]

I’m too lazy to go check, but doesn’t the Blender Cloud get ~$17,000 per month?

There was a recent report showing that cloud income is growing at a decent rate, so we at least know that the Blender Cloud isn’t failing as a product, especially with the Open Movie team continually unloading Gooseberry content for cloud members to download.

Eventually, they may not need to do crowdfunding attempts for the Open Movies at all, because the movie projects have impressed enough in the community to the point where they become cloud subscribers.

Just under that last I checked. Just over three times what the development fund is pulling in. As I understand it though, this money goes to the Blender Institute, not the Blender Foundation. How much makes it into the Blender Foundation to pay for general development, how much goes to pay for Gooseberry specific development, and how much goes to fund Gooseberry artists & production is not something that is public knowledge.

as far as i know, the 17k goes to the blender institute, not to the foundation. however, the same people work for both (at least in part: some of the devs, and ton himself, for example). and i think this is why it can be confusing.

Oh, and there is another movie to be done with the Blender Institute coming up which will need to be crowd-funded too

btolputt, if you are refering to “agent 327”, i haven’t heard it will be crowdfunded. i really hope not, as it is not an open project. i subscribe to the cloud (and i really hope they will start adding more training courses once they finish gooseberry), but i would unsubscribe if they will use it for a private production like “327”.

by the way, in the last blender con, there was a feedback session with ton (and others), in which he talked breifly about the finances of the foundation. i think he said the foundation is getting some 100k euros a year, in total. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmwVELp48cM

Exactly this.

Krita, Kdenlive, OpenShot and many other Open Source projects have shown that defining a clear goal is key to a successful kickstarter campaign. People want features, not some obscure statement that Blender will be improved while working on a movie. Even though that is true, it is nothing most people can relate with.

Money should go to developing blender and fixing it’s issues not silly movies. Make Blender nice enough and people/companies will make movies themselves with Blender.

To be fair, that hasn’t been the case in Blender’s history. Blender was involved with crowdfunding before it became a “thing” with websites that generalized (and, arguably, sterilized) the process. Gooseberry was the first open project that didn’t meet its [incredibly ambitious] financing goals… and even then (and I’d need to check my numbers to fully confirm this), it still pulled in more funds than any of the previous open projects at the Blender Institute.

The open projects have brought in and/or battle-tested numerous features that many of us rely on and use on a daily basis. Now, has the climate around crowdfunding changed since Blender first started doing it (when it was open sourced 13-ish years ago)? Probably. Could feature-based crowdfunding initiatives work for Blender? User-driven ones have in the past. Is that a direction that the Blender Foundation needs to pursue? I’m not so sure. The Dev Fund seems to be holding pretty steady.

hmm i can imagine people will pay for development, think of the game Elite that was a croudfund hit (1,578,316 pounds pledged)
But for movies i think its problematic, not sure why. Perhaps Elite had a reputation and a huge fan base.
The older computer generation all knew Elite since the commodore 64, people who now have a good income.

I remind an African guy who created a SF movie (parts where on blender.org), he had put lots of work in it, all high quality excellent animations. But not enough backers on kickstarter, sad i think.

Currently i see:

Chemin des Gauchoirs on kickstarter, it would be nice but its not an overwhelming succes like Elite, they did got their first round of funding goal around 5000 pound.

Then i see The Tube $40.000 pledged

Those numbers look high, but think of month salaries of a few artists and then its quickly gone (they need to pay food and rent too)…
(artists who probaply wont code into blender), but do a lot of work in their free time. Which is fine but just to give an idea that real movie length movies do cost a lot. And also reminding me that lots of the franchise income, is on things related to the movie, computer games, puppets, toys, movie theater popcorn buckets etc. (modern games get even higher fundings then movies these days).
And before the final star wars movie comes out, i’m pretty sure you will see the previous movie on your local TV’s for free (its their marketing ofcourse)… I think it would be pretty hard for opensource movies to get similar attention in the media.

For example i’m dutch, and so far i’ve never seen on TV some attention to blender, which amazes me, how come dutch media doesnt pay attention to it?. There are .25 million downloads a month!. Perhaps the biggest hurdle to take is marketing / media attention / to get a voice out to also those people who never have heard of blender (but have the ability to remind video film titles). If a loud voice is there i dont think it wouldnt matter how funding was aranged, TV spots or big Newspapers, it would work.
Maybe an idea to get media Attention offer Sintel to Dutch and other Media, and afterwards make a comercial of new movies.
Or do like lucas Arts, their animated starwars, bring goosberry as a small series for TV, not a big movie but small episodes.
That could generate some longer period income.

This is true. They also developed a variety of half-finished, hacky features that were used for the project and discarded at the end. In some of these projects, you needed the special “file project branch” of Blender (with said hacky, half-finished features) to properly use the files provided as open content.

The open projects bring money into the Blender Institute, which does pay for developer time the Blender Foundation otherwise wouldn’t. No arguments there. Exactly what proportion of the Blender Institute funding for these projects goes into Blender Foundation development that persists in trunk as compared to spending on making the film (and developer effort towards hacks to have that happen) is not known by members of the public, or even key members of the Blender Foundation development effort crew given comments about this in the past.

True. However, it is holding steady at about one-&-a-half to two developer salaries (as based on salary averages in Australia at least). Given the other costs and the fact the Blender Foundation hires more than just two people, it’s not enough.

Whether the answer is focused Blender Foundation crowd-funding, more Blender Institute projects, or something else - I don’t know. I do know (and anyone that’s been around for more than a year or two will have seen this), there is increasing public conversation about how the money is earnt/spent by the Blender Institute & Foundation. Kind of expected when the Blender Foundation “developer fund donations” are making 1/3rd what the Blender Institute’s “cloud subscription” is making.

The Foundation is created for the purpose of developing & promoting Blender. That’s it. The Blender Institute is for developing & promoting creative-commons licensed projects using Blender. They also hire and pay for developers, but (as mentioned above) that is not purely for the benefit of Blender, but often includes quick hacks, temporary workarounds, and otherwise dumped features meant & developed for the purpose of finishing a particular film project.

Deliberate or not, there does seem to be a blurring of public perception/promotion regarding the roles & funding of the Blender Institute and Blender Foundation that I personally don’t think is healthy. It’s that blurring that caused the backlash against the “Steam donation” to Gooseberry, for instance. The two organisations are not the same and do not have (even according to the official mission statements) the same goals (if related). Promoting them as if they are/do is, to me, worrisome.

Fairly put (again ;)). However, with one exception (see next paragraphs) none of that really addresses the point I was responding to (the “people want features, not movies” sentiment). The history of open movie projects has been good for Blender and most people recognize that… and have recognized that with their wallets.

Yes, some features developed during open projects were incomplete or abandoned. And if all of them were incomplete/abandoned, I’d be as unhappy as anyone. However, you know that in any development or production, some things work, some are false starts, some are poorly conceived hacks, and some are failures that provide enormous information. A side effect of working in the open is that we all get to see these things as they play out. The effect that can have on public perception would be terrifying for a traditional proprietary software vendor. Blender isn’t that, though, so the openness is instead a pretty rare and valuable thing.

Case in point: Cycles. Cycles, in large part, was born from the learnings (and failure) when trying to to modernize BI during Sintel’s production. Periodically, we see people (many of whom may be new to Blender) make recommendations for “just improve BI.” And there are multiple responses of “we tried that, it didn’t work out so great.” The work (and failure) during Sintel to improve BI was in the open. Yes, that meant we all felt the disappointment of that work not making it’s way into Blender proper, but it also means we all understand why… and our developers gained enough understanding and experience to put together Cycles.

Even at a 50% success rate (arbitrary stat… my guess is that the success rate is higher) for features developed during an open project, we (both users and developers) learn just as much from the incomplete or failed developments as we do from the successes. Sure, the failures sting more (because we can see them), but we get to see what works, what doesn’t, and what seems like it would work, but is actually horrible in a production environment.

Long story short (too late?): The “open movies/projects are useless” argument is total bunk.

How many times were working features from an Open Movie actually discarded anyway? I only remember Sintel having that problem. Even as rough as that production went, it still succeeded in its primary development goal, which was to get 2.5 out of alpha. As mentioned, the hacks also inspired Brecht to make Cycles – so that instance is entirely water under the bridge if you ask me.

As far as half-finished features; I think we, the Blender Community, should take more responsibility for that than we do. We’re supposed to test and give feedback on things in development, and we have a dubious track record at best.

When a dev does solicit feedback on something they’re working on, far too often their response is either chirping crickets, or people ranting about tangentially related pet peeves.

When so little testing and feedback happens, we really don’t have much reason to wonder why the feature doesn’t work well. :spin:

No arguments from me in regard to debunking the “open movies/projects are useless” meme. Anyone rationally looking at the development of Blender will note certain leaps forward during & just after these projects. The new 2.5 user interface, Cycles, even Rigify are all improvements stemming from work during these projects.

My concern/query isn’t whether the open films/projects are useless (they’re not), but more about how much value the Blender Foundation (& hence Blender software) is getting from them as compared to the value the Blender Institute (& film makers working with/for it) get instead. That is, are the projects the best way of funding Blender and, if not, what is the best way?

Deliberately or otherwise, it seems impossible to give to the Blender Foundation without the film-making side of things being able to take a cut. Regardless of whether one thinks there are benefits to game development in Gooseberry or not, the donations from Steam were sent to the Blender Foundation, yet were redirected to a Blender Institute campaign. The Blender Cloud is providing the same content as one used to need the Blender eShop for and the money is going to the Blender Institute. And so on.

I was under the impression from Ton’s earlier commentary on the venture that the Blender Institute was meant to be a separate organisation so the Blender Foundation would be insulated from the commercial success/failure of Institute projects. However it is, more & more, looking like the Blender Foundation has been made somewhat subordinate/subsidiary to Institute activities & funding.

Now, I could be wrong about all this, but there are no public financials with which to counter that impression. :wink:

Well, there are also instances where user feedback is sought, receives the desired testing & commentary based on that from the community, and still the feature doesn’t make it through.

Somewhat hard to blame a user community for failing to test & provide feedback when popular features are tested, feedback provided, and the feature gets vetoed. Especially when said feature comes from a trusted developer, the feature doesn’t replace any existing functionality, and we’re told the person vetoing the feature really doesn’t have anything against it… but still doesn’t want it committed to trunk.

This isn’t to drag that feature up for a decision change but simply to provide the other side of the coin. That is, the view from those in the community that become discouraged from providing said feedback/testing.

My understanding of the structure differs somewhat. The Institute was created to do all of the heavy/risky lifting. The Foundation is meant to be small and not do very much. It’s essentially an IP and liability shield for Blender, its trademark, and a few smaller things that I’m sure I’m not aware of… and not much more than that. I think there’s something in there about shepherding source, but I don’t think that’s meant as development focus. Thing is, the Foundation existed first and was doing some of the things that the Institute was made for. I don’t think all of those tasks have been fully migrated to the Institute yet. That’s why there isn’t a big conflict between the e-shop and the cloud… and all the other stuff you said.

Granted, those last two sentences are mostly based on inference, so grains of salt and all that, but I’m pretty sure I got the purpose/structure thing right. In any case, it’s not healthy or wise to extrapolate based on supposition, so I’ll stop there.

Let’s not beat that drum here. You have one of a small handful of examples in contrast to a large number of counter-examples. It’s not related to funding and it’s not evidence of any kind of trend or systemic problem. You’re welcome to disagree with me, but do so in another thread (preferably one of the many that already exist).

Can’t say you’re wrong, Fweeb, but there are a few things that make me feel that, if the purpose is as you describe now, it’s been changed.

The Foundation started in 2002, the Institute started in 2007 after the success of the first open project. True, it was done to help facilitate the Blender Foundation, but (& I quote) “especially to coordinate and facilitate Open Projects related to 3D movies, games or visual effects”. There are similar comments about this purpose across the website and in the original email Ton used to announce the Institute.

More importantly, if it is indeed the case as you describe, there is simply no way to contribute to Blender that cannot be co-opted by film projects, used to pay artists, etc. Not everyone wants to support any film project the Blender Institute dreams up. A reasonable proportion of users aren’t even using Blender for the kinds of film/animation project that the Blender Institute is undertaking.

Architectural visualisation, game asset development, scene/portrait stills (both final & as a basis for paint-overs), 3d printed model development, etc are all focuses that people want to give money to… but it is hard so long as the Blender Institute is keeper & distributor of the funds AND doing it’s own open films. For many of us, Blender is not synonymous with Blender Institute films, but that is not how the funding arrangements are setup at this time (whether that be intentional, as per your view, or not).

I agree, it is not a funding issue. That said, it was in direct reply to xrg’s comment. I wasn’t intending to “beat the drum” so much as to point out there are two sides to the issue he presented. As you probably already know, I do disagree with you but I don’t think there is anything either of us can say we haven’t already.