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In Amsterdam, a Tale of Love and Killer Robots

Nerds crowdsource a sci-fi adventure that imagines the city as a post-apocalyptic wonderland.

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Blender Institute

The lesson of the sci-fi short below is clear: Don't be a jerk to your girlfriend, but really don't be a jerk if she has a bionic arm and is adept at making killer robots.

Tears of Steel is the latest release from the Amsterdam-based Blender Institute, a coalition of artists and programmers making open-source neatness with 3-D software. The film was partly funded by Google and computer-graphics giant NVIDIA, although a lot of the cash came from geeks around the world throwing in donations. Did they get their money's worth with this tale of thwarted love and bounding 'bots in the post-apocalyptic Netherlands?

As with anything that smells of sci-fi, that question can be hotly debated for weeks across the Internet. But what Blender's team did visually in just 12 minutes (seven months in real time) is impressive. The Amsterdam we know today lurks behind piles of smashed houses, unchecked vegetation and glowing growths of circuitry. The filmmakers found a naturally impressive base in the Oude Kerk, one of the oldest churches in Amsterdam, and gilded it with all kinds of special-effects wizardry.

Die-hard action fans will rejoice knowing that there is indeed one character who yells, "NOOOOOOOOO!" The costume design is pretty good, too, although the shirt that the monocled Brendan Gleeson-looking guy is wearing makes him seem like the victim of a mischievous yarn-bombing. You can watch Tears of Steel below; previous Blender projects are posted here, including a game starring an "evil rodent Frankie, who explores the forest seeking for other animals to harass."

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