Update #1: Learn 3D Animation with Blender

It’s now been quite some time since I published the post called «Goal: Learn 3D Animation with Blender» and I am happy to share an update on the project. I spent several hours practicing Blender the first week after the post and I definitely feel that I learned a lot. Unfortunately I have been very busy with other things, so I have only worked a little bit with Blender after that. I hope to find some more time soon so that I can learn more!

First impressions

When I first opened the freeware Blender, I was scared by its graphical user interface. Everything seemed so complicated and I had no idea where to start. The default settings in the program are in addition programmed to have the right mouse button as the selector instead of the left. This felt very weird for me and I quickly changed this setting under “User preferences”.

In order to understand something about the program, I started to watch tutorials on Youtube. Luckily there are many great tutorials about Blender on Youtube and they have really helped me. The first tutorials I watched were some of Blender Cookie’s introductory videos about Blender. These videos were incredibly helpful because I felt that I got a simple understanding of some of the main concepts behind Blender and 3D-animation.

First animation

I then proceeded to experiment with making simple 3D-objects and animations. Here you can see my first animation:

Although this isn’t very impressive, it was a great feeling to be able to make something!

I did not find it very difficult to learn the basics behind animating in Blender, partly because it’s very similar to the video editing that I sometimes do in Hitfilm (keyframes, position of camera and elements in 3D-space etc.).

Creating a character

One of my goals is to be able to create characters as soon as possible. I also worked on this the first week and my characters turned out …well, horrible. There’s no doubt that creating a great character will take some time because there are many things I need to learn first. This is my understanding of the basic process behind creating a 3D-character:

1) Draw sketches of your character and import photos of them into your Blender-project.

2) Model the character (make a 3D-model of the character). Modifiers are very useful in Blender and perform various tasks. When you make a character, it’s a lot easier to get everything symmetrical if you apply a modifier called Mirror. This means that you only have to make one half of the character, because everything you make will be mirrored to the other side.

3) UV-map the character (I haven’t really understood what this is, but this is apparently important).

4) Apply textures and materials to the character (colors and materials of the character).

5) Rigging the character. Here you add the ‘skeleton’ of the character, called armature, which makes the animation a lot easier if you set it up correctly. When you animate the character, you basically move the bones in the armature.

I don’t remember exactly when I did this, but I eventually managed to make something that I liked. Say hello to Jim:

Jim - Animation Character

More animation and 3D models

Here are some animations and models I made in order to practice:

The last animation was a test where I tried to import models into another project.  I modeled the television and the table in two separate files before I imported them into the file containing the room.

Keyboard shortcuts

There are very many useful keyboard shortcuts that I use in Blender (I learned them in the tutorials that I watched) . This speeds things up and makes it easier to work in my opinion. Here’s a list of some shortcuts that I think are really useful in Blender:

1) Tab = switch between Object mode and Edit mode.

2) e = extrude. This basically means to extend the length of the object.

3) r = rotate. Rotate meshes, faces, vertices and edges with r.

4) s = scale. Change the size.

5) a = select everything.

6) b = box select.

7) c = circle select. This is very useful for quickly selecting a large amount of faces, vertices or edges.

8) z = toggle between wireframe and solid (viewport shading).

9) j = join objects together.

10) p = separate objects.

11) f = fill in gaps in your mesh.

12) g = move things around.

13) x = delete something.

14) ctrl+tab = mesh select mode. When you’re in Edit mode you can use this shortcut to quickly choose the select mode (faces, vertices or edges).

15) shift+a = add a new object to the scene.

16) ctrl+r = add a loop cut. This is a simple way to split objects in edit mode.

Conclusion

It was really fun to work with Blender and I am looking forward to learning more! Do you know how to animate? Have you tried Blender before? What are your tips for people who have just started?