We had a showing of Nina Pasley’s fantastically animated “Sita Sings the Blues” here at DebConf last night. It’s great watching Creative Commons on the big screen and it was great to see Nina there and the reception she got for this and her meme shorts.
One question that we asked was what software was used to make all the artworks and as it turns out all the works were not made with Free and Open Source Software. So what is the problem?
Well Sita was made before Nina was aware of the FOSS community and any of the tools available, as so often happens. The workflows that one builds up as an artist is critical to how one thinks about making art and focusing creativity. It’s hardly surprising that an artist would be reluctant to change workflows.
But then there is the other problem of how to make the resources available in the original source files (available under CC-BY-SA) actually available in useful and open standard formats. Converting from swf to svg actually has more code written than to try and convert from fla to svg. Which is interesting.
FLA is the source format to Adobe Flash creator, it’s an OLE2 stream (Microsoft creation) which is often used for Microsoft’s binary office documents and other such files. It’s like a mini basic fat system inside the fla containing all the resources that make up the animation.
There is a tool in Ubuntu called ‘ripole’ but it doesn’t yet extract the contents of the fla sources successfully, libraries pole and libextract seem to do the same trick so perhaps it’s just some glue required. Perhaps the first step to being able to offer artists the transitioning tools to open standards is to extract the resources from fla files, either as an archive module (open it like a zip/tar file) or mount it as a local drive (bit like iso loop mounting). I favour the archive approach as you could extract all your resources and just keep them in a directory or re-tar them up for storage and distribution.
Obviously once this step is over there will be a conversion of the elements to open formats. But that probably is just another case of finding existing tools that convert swf and seeing how similar they are. We may even find some fla resources are actually just xml.
Update: With a python module and a lot of hacking, I’ve managed to decode all of the media in an fla into their component files. This includes the aif audio and the flash animated elements. Email me if your interested in the python script to do this.