What is Free & Open-Source software (FOSS)?
There are actually a couple definitions of “free” in regard to how it applies to this website. Open-source software makers like to say their software is “not free as in free beer, but free as in freedom”. I like to think it’s both. There is also free software that is not open-source, and I’m grateful for that software, as well. The fact that someone took the time to write code that does something that I can benefit from, that I can actually use to make a living, and they give it away free, that’s just amazing to me. So “free” can mean freedom to do whatever you want with your software, code and all, or it can just mean you don’t have to pay for it. Either way, you win.

Open-source means that the code is available to you. If you want to recode some part of the program, change everything, or just see how it works, you are free to do that. You can do whatever you want with the code. There tends to be large online communities of people who contribute to open-source software, which is one of the main benefits. Commercial software, in contrast, absolutely does not want you seeing their code, and they protect it vigorously. When you “buy” commercial software, you don’t actually own the code. You are leasing it to use it. If you bought a brand-new car, and then wanted to take it completely apart to see all the technology in that car, you are legally allowed to do that, because you own it. When you buy commercial software, you are absolutely not allowed to look at the code. That means you didn’t buy it. You bought permission to use it.

Not only is FOSS software free of charge, but you actually own it. Pretty cool! Don’t forget to thank the programmers every chance you get!

Where can you find entry level tutorials?
There are many great places to get started if you’re completely new to some of this software, especially for Blender. CG Cookie, Blender Guru, and the official Blender Cloud are the first places that come to mind and are the places where I learned Blender myself. CGBoost is also a great place to learn. For all the other programs, of course there is YouTube, but to search on those sites, you’ll need to have some idea of what to search for. Most of the websites for the different software have links to tutorials, so that’s also a great place to start.

Am I going to be making any plugins or add-ons?
I can’t code, so not regularly. Occasionally I manage to talk someone who can code into scripting a tool for me.  I have many ideas for them, simple ones we could share for free and complex ones that could be offered for sale. Contact me if you’d be interested in helping out!

Why does Natron look so much like Nuke? Isn’t that illegal, some kind of copyright infringement?
I asked Alex Gauthier (the developer) the same question when I first met him. He told me it’s that way for a couple reasons. Basically, code is able to be copyrighted, but not a user interface (UI), so it’s perfectly fine for it to look similar to Nuke. Also, they like the idea that people can use it for free to learn with, and then when they move to Nuke, everything is familiar, even the keyboard shortcuts. In this interview, Alex says:

…when you implement an application which will be used by professionals who potentially have a lot of background in the usage of such software, you want to make sure you don’t break all their habits, otherwise they won’t bother.

There is nothing wrong in re-using the strengths of other user interfaces, as long as no copyright is infringed regarding artistic work (such as icons etc.), and the underlying source code is different.

Would I recommend any books on visual effects or specific programs?
I do have a bunch of books that I think are amazing resources, but something to keep in mind is that books are a snapshot in time. Whatever version of the software was available at the time of writing, that’s what the book is built around. FOSS software typically gets updated far more than commercial software, so the books tend to be outdated faster than you would expect.

Something else to understand is that just because we’re using open-source software doesn’t mean that books for commercial software are not relevant. Those books have great techniques in them, and often they are very easy to adapt to the programs we’ll be using here. In fact, Natron and Nuke are similar enough that a Nuke book is probably a great starting place for learning Natron.

With that said, here’s a list of books that have been beneficial to me. I’ll probably do blog posts on them all at some point.

The Art & Science of Digital Compositing by Ron Brinkmann
Digital Compositing for Film & Video by Steve Wright
After Effects CC Studio Techniques by Mark Christiansen
DV Rebel’s Guide by Stu Maschwitz
Blender Cycles: Materials & Texture Cookbook by Enrico Valenza
Killer Camera Rigs that You Can Build by Dan Selakovich

What OS do I use?
My main workstation is Windows 10. I keep it from updating itself without my knowledge so there’s no chance of it catching a virus. I have a laptop I use for internet. I also have 2 Mac Minis that I use as a small renderfarm when I need it.

At various studios over the years, I’ve worked on Macs, Windows machines, and Linux (Suse OS) machines. They’ve all locked up, crashed, and had their weird quirks. They’ve all also worked just fine, and we always got the job done.

What are my computer specs?
In 2020 I purchased my first Falcon Northwest machine, and I’m absolutely loving it so far. Previously I’ve used Boxx Technologies workstations since about 2006.

My current computer has an Intel Core i9 10850K CPU at 3.60GHz  (10 cores), 128 GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 (Founders Edition) graphics card, many internal and external hard drives, a Wacom Intuos 6×8 tablet, and a Benq PD2700u monitor.

Can you use the free stuff from OpenVisual FX in commercial projects?
Absolutely, use it for whatever you like, commercial or not. And no need to credit me, either. Do whatever you want, have fun!