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drawing, old man

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November 5th, 2012

So, I've been away for a while. Primarily, because I've shifted my attention to finishing my thesis this year - and also because the Funtik situation rather discouraged me. The original plan was to reupload all the translated Russian animated films that used to be on my Niffiwan account on Youtube in four new places (so that there wouldn't be a single point of failure): a new Youtube account, Dailymotion, DotSub and VeeHD. Those were the only sites I found at the time which supported separate subtitles, but all had various flaws:

•On Youtube, some videos were censored as soon as I tried to upload them
•On Dailymotion, the video quality wasn't sharp and subtitles would often just stop playing midway through a video
•On DotSub, the collaborative translation features were great but the video quality wasn't, and also I couldn't upload just a translation, I had to make a transcription of the original Russian text for every video, too
•On VeeHD, the video quality was great but all videos would need to be transferred to DivX and Sub2DivX used to put subtitles into the DivX file. And it would be impossible to change the subtitles once they were in.

I did finish the Dailymotion uploading, but not the others - in the end, it was just too much work. I started doing this because I wanted to add translations for films I like, share them with others and talk about them, not spend days and weeks transcoding and uploading video files, only to risk having everything deleted and have to do it all over again.

So I decided to wait until some technology came out that would make it easier to keep videos online - either some torrent-based Youtube replacement like the Pirate Bay's once-planned VideoBay, or a .onion video sharing site run through the Tor network.

Neither of those has happened yet as far as I know, but I've recently discovered two other new sites/services that I think might be a solution, one of them existing and one of them in the early stages.

The first is MediaGoblin, an open-source, decentralized replacement for Youtube (as well as Flickr, Thingaverse, SoundCloud and others) that's currently having a fundraising drive (ending in 5 days).



There is no subtitle support yet, but it is something that the developers want to add. Importantly, it should be possible to back up the information for one account (videos and comments) and move it to another instance or hosting provider if anything happened.

The other project I discovered is UniversalSubtitles.org aka. Amara. This is like DotSub, except that you don't have to upload or transcode any big video files, you just need a link to the video you want to translate posted somewhere online in one of these formats, and then you can create, import or export subtitles in any of these formats. This means that it's much quicker to add translations, and I could even use the officially-uploaded videos (such as ChannelAIR for Ukranimafilm/Kievnauchfilm). If a video is deleted on Youtube, it's possible to just change the video location (although this feature was broken until recently).

For example, check out the translations of the MediaGoblin campaign video:
http://www.universalsubtitles.org/en/videos/foKYE2k1sPQG
The actual video is not on universalsubtitles.org, instead it takes the original video from http://gobblin.se/media/media_entries/875/mediagoblin_campaign_pitch.webm and overlays subtitles on top. There are subtitles in English, Spanish, Arabic and Icelandic. Anybody can edit them or add a new language translation. You can also embed the video with the subtitles on a website, but LiveJournal doesn't seem to support it unfortunately.

Now, it would be really convenient if universalsubtitles.org could work with some of the websites which already have a lot of Russian animation stored in streaming video, such as mults.info - it uses JWPlayer which is supported, but they hide the URL so I suppose this can't work.

So anyway, in the coming weeks I'll try to figure this out. :) First Amara, then MediaGoblin once that gets off the ground - because it would be really nice to not lose all the nice comments and discussion when a video has to move.

In the meantime, the Animatsiya Wiki has been getting steady, consistent updates. I also have an archive of many ripped subtitle files from Youtube accounts that are no longer available, and I'll put them up for download eventually (until then, if anybody is looking for something that is no longer up, please ask).

September 18th, 2011

Funtik responds

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drawing, old man
Nearly two months after the original event, Russian-language media picked up this story and got a quote from Funtik Entertainment. I'm sure this was mostly because of Alexander Sedov's translation of my post into Russian, so thanks Alexander!

The most detailed article seems to be from RBC Daily (some others are here, here, here and here). It quotes Vasiliy Shilnikov, director of what was formerly the Soyuzmultfilm Film Fund and is now the United State Film Collection (covering Tsentrnauchfilm, Soyuzmultfilm, Lenfilm and Diafilm) saying that an agreement between them and Funtik Entertainment for licensing internet rights to their films existed since 2005, and is still in effect.

Igor Shulzhik, the co-owner of Funtik, is quoted as saying that they only took down videos which had advertisements added to them. "We are not against the distribution and popularization of cartoons, but a situation where people are posting this content online and putting ads into it does not suit us."

Shulzhik also says that there has been no talk of trying to monetize the online distribution: "Possibly, the United State Film Collection will some day decide to monetize its intellectual property online, but so far we have not been given such a directive".


The little piglet Funtik, the namesake of the company

Some thoughts:

I have never added ads to any of my videos. I've always wanted this translation project to be noncommercial, a way to foster communication by showing wonderful art from another culture. As I said in my prior post, I wouldn't object to having ads from the rightsholders on my channel's videos (Youtube's ContentID allows this).

However, in about 10 cases or so, fake copyright groups like "QuizGroupMovies" have claimed to own a video that I uploaded to Youtube and put ads on it. I was afraid to challenge the claims, because I thought that Youtube could just delete my whole channel if it was brought to their attention. At least some of the videos that Funtik flagged indeed had ads added by these fake copyright groups, though I'm not sure if all did.

Perhaps the problem is that Youtube has no process for copyright companies to remove the illegally-placed ads from a video, yet not delete the video in question (or maybe it does. Anyone know?).

In any case, now that Funtik has deleted the videos through ContentID, it is impossible for anyone to upload them to Youtube again without the ads; they get automatically rejected. So the overall effect is censorship, whether they mean it or not.

Even Ukraine is far ahead of Russia here. The great studio formerly known as Kievnauchfilm has hired the "Agency of Internet Rights" to digitize their vast catalogue of animation and put the films up on Youtube, free to watch on channelAIR (with ads to monetize, just like on TV). The person who maintains the channel seems to be friendly, so I sent them a message to ask about letting me upload the films on my own channel, with subtitles and their blessing (and giving them any revenue from the ads). Hopefully I'll hear from them once they log back in.

Anyway, for now, a backup of the original videos on my Youtube channel is up here. No ads, of course.

To Mr. Shulzhik of Funtik Entertainment, and Mr. Shilnikov of the United State Film Collection:

If you are serious about what you say, I would like it very much if Funtik Entertainment could retract the notices, and instead use ContentID to claim ownership of those videos but NOT delete them. This will allow you to add your own ads to the videos, or simply track statistics about the audience who watches them. It will also free me to file a counter-notification to Youtube against the fake copyright groups who added those ads. And it'll allow me to make my channel, which has been such a central place for English-speaking lovers of Russian animation, public once again.

July 28th, 2011

 Внимание, есть русский перевод статьи: Именем Фунтика – вы арестованы!

If you've visited Youtube after July 19, you may have noticed that there is suddenly far less Russian animation there than there used to be. A number of accounts have been removed, including those of arjlover, crazysister, hkristus, Humanophage, julia2night, pavlovich74, TheMotionBrigades, uncloser, and Wunder8484. From those, arjlover belonged to the eponimous website and julia2night belonged to Julia who was one of the most prolific translators; she translated or helped translate about 44 Russian cartoons to English and German. My own account was hit as well (though not deleted).

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January 18th, 2011

The film known as Падал прошлогодний снег is a cult classic of Russian animation made in 1983 by Aleksandr Tatarskiy. It became very popular soon after its release, and was also critically successful; it was Tatarskiy's first to be accepted into an international film festival, where it won a medal (Varna '83; for more about that story, read the "Land!" chapter of the director's 1986 essay).

With nearly 300 Russian animated film translations in existence, why hadn't someone attempted a translation of it? Simply, it's one of those notoriously difficult texts that depends so much on wordplay and expressions specific to the Russian language. So it was my joy to discover a few days ago that axmxz (who has done a lot to help me on translating a few films, but had never done a project of her own) has completed a wonderful translation of it. As far back as March 4, 2008, axmxz had sent me a message saying that her dream was to translate this movie. It took a while, but the end result is worth it! She really had a lot of fun with it, and the result is very much in the spirit of the film (quote from the translator: "Way more fun to translate cartoons than patent papers about nuclear waste management..." I love that!)

axmxz chose to translate the title as "Under Yesteryear's Snowfall". Another translation that you may have seen is "Last Year's Snow Was Falling".

(to turn on the subtitles, click on CC in the lower-right corner):



The subtitle file can be downloaded here (UPD: link updated to 2011-02-13 version of subtitles). Actually, there was also an earlier translation made in September by neo1024 which I had missed. You can download that one here (nobody has uploaded it to a video site yet).

Some personal thoughts: It seemed to me when I first saw it (and still kind of does) that the logical place for the film to end would have been at the halfway point, and everything after that was made because Tatarskiy just couldn't let go of his character. The film has a few major themes. One of them is that it's not good to be too greedy. Another one is that fairy tales rarely tell the whole truth. The narrator is constantly trying to turn what's happening on the screen into a moral, and sometimes succeeds, but the main character refuses to stop living just because the "point" has already been made. And the wacky fairy tale turns decidedly sober at the end, with the poor protagonist being hugged by the crow who had been bothering him the whole time. Have fun while you're alive, the film seems to say, but don't forget what it means to be human.

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November 14th, 2010

If you happen to live in southern Ontario, Canada, I encourage you to come to the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema. The festival schedule is here (it's from Nov. 18-21).

Especially relevant for those with an interest in Russian/Soviet animation is Saturday. At 15:30 there will be a screening of Garri Bardin's new animated feature The Ugly Duckling, and there will be a talk with the director after.

Before that, at 13:00, will be a screening of Daredevils of Sasun, the first-ever animated feature from Armenia, which they've been working on for 9 years. (!)

And at 10:00 in the morning, there will be the new feature by Czech master Jiří Barta, In the Attic.

Lots of other great animated features there as well, from all sorts of countries. :)

The new "Cheburashka"...

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...has its Moscow premiere at the 44th Festival of Japanese Film on Nov. 14 at 15:10. I earlier wrote about this film in 2009. Cheburashka became hugely popular in Japan since 2001, when the original Soviet short films were shown in two small Tokyo cinemas and were seen by over 10,000 people. And that provided the impetus for this Japanese/Korean/Russian/Belarus coproduction (the storyboards were made by a Russian/Belarusian team).

Although now, they say that it's not a feature film but 3 episodes which are 80 minutes in length altogether. The original Cheburashka films, with English subtitles, can be found here.

More details and pictures (in Russian) here.

Meanwhile, here's a making-of video that was released on November 11:



I can't stand the autotuned music in this clip, personally, but I'm surprised at the degree to which the East Asian team tried to stay authentic to the original look.


Not a second of boredom in this, one of the very first cartoons made at Soyuzdetmultfilm studio (later renamed Soyuzmultfilm). Directed by Olga Khodatayeva in 1936, it shares themes with some of her other films, such as the 1928 "Samoyed Boy" (video link) and the 1944 "The Stolen Sun" (video link).

Unusually for cartoons made at the studio at this time, it doesn't attempt to imitate Disney wholesale, but seems to carry on the Soviet animation traditions from before the founding of the new central studio and the switch to cel animation. This is seen for example, in the wide selection of shading contours - such as white outlines. Another holdover from the pre-Soyuzmultfilm era that disappeared soon after is the reuse of animation (notice that several scenes actually loop a few times). This does create a nice structure, and gives the viewer a second chance to appreciate complicated scenes. Also, there is still some influence from the 1920s Soviet art style - i.e. the geometric shapes at 4:20.

Another interesting thing: at 2:46 and 7:45, you see some examples of the background moving instead of the character, in other words a tracking shot in animation. The first example of this in Hollywood was the 1935 Disney cartoon "Three Orphan Kittens".

P.S. The film is currently in the public domain, according to the Russian Ministry of Culture.
But according to Youtube, the audio is copyrighted by someone, which is why there's an advertisement added. Weird. Also, the Public Domain Movies blog picked this up. Thanks!


там, где вечьный снег и льдины,
там, где ночь длиннее лета.
в крае северных сияний
родилась легенда эта

эта песнь о храбром Итте,
возвратившем людям солнце.

зимний мрак окутал землю
и без солнечного света
всё живое замерзало...

...но охотник храбрый Иття
в путь отправился за солнцем...

там где солнце пробегало
и бросало искры жизни,
там подводные растения
превращялись в лес дремучий.

Where the snow falls everlasting,
Where the night commands three seasons,
Where auroras light the icebergs
In those lands was born this legend.

This song tells about brave Itte
who returned the sun to people.

Winter dark the earth enveloped,
And without the sun's light shining,
Everything alive was freezing...

...but a hunter, the brave Itte,
journeyed forth to bring the sun back...

Where the sun would run in passing,
And its sparks of life leave scattered,
There, the underwater seaweeds
Would transform to thickest forest.

September 13th, 2010

A 2010-08-27 news report by RIA Novosti says that work on this Soyuzmultfilm animated feature, which I earlier wrote about in 2007, 2008 and 2009, is actually still progressing. I've added English subtitles so you can watch it below.

(if the subtitles don't show, click on the "CC" button)

UPDATE (2011-08-13): The video below won't work now; watch it here instead.



They've been working on this on and off for the past 9 years. The first 20 minutes were already finished in 2006. More info on Wikipedia. I can't quite understand if, according to the video, they spent the past year making a further 30 minutes, or if that includes those 20 minutes from 4 years ago.

It also looks like there's a new official website for the film (the last one was closed a while ago):
http://alkogolik.com/index.html

Based on the strange URL, outdated material and some non-working links, I'm guessing it's not meant to be public yet. The English and German-language versions are non-functional.

There's also a new photo-gallery that goes with this video over here. Here are some photos from itCollapse )
In 2008, this project started as an attempt to create the first Moldovan 3D animated short. In 2009, rumours started floating around that it had morphed into a feature film. Now, AWN reports that STV Film (from Russia) is going to fund a planned 5-year production with 5 million euros, and Sympals studio will be hiring 100 workers.

Normally, this would all make me very skeptical, as a number of similarly-ambitious projects in Russia have failed (either stopped production or were released as bad films) because of incompetence and inexperience by the producers and artists. In Russia, budgets for animated features today almost never rise above $1-1.5 million, and are made either over a short period by a large crew (i.e. Melnitsa Studio) or over a long period by a small crew (i.e. Stayer Studio, Master-film, Soyuzmultfilm). This is partly because the commercial market for domestic animation is small, and partly because the government will generally not give funding over $1 million to any one project, and most animation in Russia is still funded at least in part by the government.

However, these guys seem to actually know what they're doing. They've released some excellent scenes from the upcoming film; you can watch some of them below. So, with some trepidation, I'm expecting something good 5 winters from now. I hope they keep the combination of 3D characters with painted backgrounds; it looks excellent.

The official website is http://www.gypsycartoon.com/



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July 19th, 2010

This continues from part 1. The Russian original is here.

Again, good morning. Our guest today is Garri Yakovlevich Bardin, a man who's made around 15 wonderful, very talented animated films.

Twenty.

Exactly twenty, yes? Then it's twenty already. Among them are cartoons that you probably know, such as "Adagio", "Conflict", "Banquet", three "Chuchas", "The Flying Ship"...

"The Flying Ship" is the most...

It's the most famous, yes. Well "Grey Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood" is also a fairly popular film. Four "Nika" awards, a "Palme d’Or", a huge collection of prizes from Shanghai, Leipzig, Los Angeles and so on. Now on to "The Ugly Duckling". Now... answer one question for me; of course it's a rhetorical question, but still try to answer it. Here's the question: You've made an animated film, feature-length, 1:16, a musical. You have Spivakov (well, not even to mention Tchaikovsky). Andersen, Tchaikovsky - these are already brands. You yourself are a brand. Spivakov, Rutberg, Turetskiy and so on. And now you're telling me: "You see, it's unclear what will happen with the distribution, because you see, we don't have some miserable 2 million rubles to print the copies, and so maybe it'll be in the autumn, or maybe there won't be any at all". What nonsense is this? What's the deal? While at the same time distribution slots are filled with "Let's Go To the Moon", "Let's Steal from the Table", and more Hollywood rubbish!

Lena, what can I say? This is truly a rhetorical question, because I cannot answer it.

Okay, wait. Maybe you're an unpleasant person? Maybe you're unable to have normal relationships with people? I don't understand, what's going on?

If I was an unpleasant person, I would have been left alone in my studio. Everyone would have abandoned me. So, probably, I'm not that unpleasant. That is, for my profession I'm of course a tyrant, but in a soft package. I'm not being abandoned; on the contrary, I love my colleagues, and I hope that they feel likewise, because without love a child is not born. There were three years of filming and preproduction; we passed a very big stage. The difficulties were enormous, and I raised the whole team, how shall I put it, in an atmosphere of acceptance, of wanting to do good work, and in this sense I was very lucky with the team I had. We came to the end with the sense that we are doing something that is very much needed.
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