over the recent months i worked on a project, which could be seen as a practical example concerning some of the aspects discussed in this thread. we produced a 30min multimedia show presented as fulldome projection in a planetary. it was centered about the works of a laser artist and his cooperation with an partner coming from the field of photography reflecting artistic media and cooperation. at the end they gathered a quite respectable team of other specialists to produce somthing roughly structured like an [extremely] low budged film production.
when they asked me, to coordinate the video technical challenges of this project, they were more thinking about after effects specialists, etc. but in contrast to big commercial productions, there's a lot more of room for discussion and unorthodox approaches in this more artistic oriented low budged productions. sure, you first have to present them your crazy uncommon open source tools and their advantages, because most of them are only familiar with wide spread adobe products, but at the end we could agree on using blender as our main tool for the production. natron -- which is one of my preferred instruments in daily use -- simply didn't fit very well for the given tasks. i only utilized it for some very specific effects (especially frame blending and afterglow visualization, which isn't very easy to archive in blender), but the main criteria for this particular project were definitely the 3d capabilities.
3d capabilities are a very vague formulation. in our case it was just a projection of 2D footage in a fulldome projecting sphere -- something, very close to the typical production requirements of actual VR content. in fact, this kind of tasks could be done in most typical composting applications as well. solutions like foundrys CARA VR or the domemaster fusion plugins are well known examples, how to cross this gap. but even, if we would have had free access to one of this quite expensive specialized solutions, i wouldn't have chosen it instead of blender. if you do some creative work in 3d space, you always will be confronted with nasty details, which need all the possibilities of full blown 3d tools. the limited capabilities of 2.5d compositor extensions and projection postprocessing, are quite useful for some highly specialized tasks, but they are always a kind of compromise, if you really want maximized freedom of creativity. that's why i personally do not miss this kind of features in natron so much. in this respect i prefer complimentary applications.
in this project we used blender even for the video editing and visual mastering. i wouldn't recommend this approach for other more demanding projects (for cinema etc.). blender and its VSE simply isn't a very well video processing tool in terms of state of the art quality requirements and ergonomics. in this special case it was acceptable, because using other software wouldn't have made any difference, given the zeiss projection crap commonly used in planetariums. but for an open source workflow, it's the most problematic missing gap. i wouldn't ask just for NLE capabilities, because for real real production management you need something slightly different -- a kind of tool, which isn't only handy for editing and simple round trip exchange, but more an instrument, which has really powerful conforming features, version control and external workflow capabilities to handle a whole project from its rough storyboard drafts till the final high quality rendering. applications like nuke studio / flame/ mistika seem to be the closest solutions, but blender and other common NLEs simply can not handle this kind of job.
in our particular case, only the sound production was finally done by non free tools (first as an ambisonic mix, and later in more compatible 5.1). sure -- this would have been possible with free alternatives as well, but this decision was free of any dogmatic pressure. it was was just the preferred choice of the actual audio engineers. for the central production tool as smallest common denominator, it was very important, that it worked on any platform and was simply available to everyone involved, but for more peripheral tasks, this wasn't required.
as mentioned before, the production budged was extraordinary small. but frankly, this didn't have much effect on the final result! i was really surprised, how all this people did their job without any complaint about financial profit. sure -- it was more an exceptional project and the reality should not always look like this, but in fact most of us working in more art related fields got used to this kind of casual non-profit jobs. we all have to earn our income from much more boring and alienated other jobs, but some kind of idealism and solidarity survived.
i'm living this crazy live as an media artist and technician between the frontiers for a long time now and open source tools are IMHO an inevitable base for innovative experiments in this field. it's not only their free availability, which makes them so attractive, but the freedom to modify them and build totally new event specific tools piggyback on them with achievable efforts!
it's a very different kind of work, compared to the strict work sharing in the big film industries and traditional software development for end users. our projects were usually funded by cooperations with national broadcast stations, public art subsidization, galleries, museums and academic institutions -- niches, which work quite different than the usual business in a strict profit oriented world.
i don't think, my experiences in this specific sphere should be seen as representative or adaptable to the economic needs of the natron project and its core developers. more traditional points of view are perhaps more prolific to find realistic strategies to survive, but yet i wouldn't totally ignore this uncommon approaches. public subsidization, as for example apertus got it for their open source camera development from the EU Horizon 2020 program, should be seen as a very realistic possibility for natron as well! IMHO there is hardly any other free software project around, that would deserve public support in similar justified way for their achievements.
i think, natron should be aware of this very special role. playing just the usual big industries game, can IMHO do a lot of harm to its exceptional position.