Blender – Let’s move this thing… there!

Getting Started in Blender

As a long time CG Animator, Jason is interested in giving the free and opensource tool Blender a try. This series of posts documents his journey as he learns the tool and becomes part of the Blender community.

full course
  1. Learning Blender.. why?
  2. Blender – Controlling the Interface
  3. Blender’s 3D Viewport
  4. The Most Controversial Topic in Blender – Selection
  5. Blender – Let’s move this thing… there!
  6. Maya – Will it Blend(er)?
  7. Blender Customization – Keep Customizing And Blender On!

 

Selection in Blender was a fun topic to cover, and certainly can cause a lot of discussion!  The big focus of this particular blog post is about doing something with the selected object.   And that something is … moving it!

I like to move it, move it.

– King Julian

There are a number of ways to affect the position of an object in Blender, but instead of giving you a laundry list of how to manipulate objects, I’m going to focus mostly on using the 3D viewer and keeping the concepts simple.  In fact.. we’re not even going to get into rotationscaleconstraints or anything like that.  We’re just going to get you comfortable with the most common way you will be moving objects.

As part of getting comfortable with this technique, I’ve created a fun Jenga game for you to practice with!

Having fun playing with the blocks!

Blender Jenga!

Follow along, and have fun!

When animating, my goal is to get appealing poses, so I’ll be tumbling my view and moving pretty free-form and loose.  When modeling and rigging, my goal is precision.  I want to make sure I’m moving along a particular axis, and keeping things relatively constrained.  Luckily, Blender provides the capabilities to handle both!

Supplemental Material: If you are dying to jump ahead and learn more about manipulating objects in Blender, there are a metric ton of pretty great tutorials out there which will help you learn how to move objects.  I highly recommend the 2.7 tutorial series from BornCG.  He takes you through much of Blender’s capabilities step-by-step, and is one of the first resources I used that helped me really get used to the tool.  In Blender 2.7 Tutorial #1 : Navigating in 3D & The Basics, at about 8:13 he starts talking about grabbing objects and moving them in space.

To start, create a new scene and select the cube.

In the header of your 3D View you can see some of the transform controls (remember, for most people the header is on the bottom of the frame.. see Blender – Controlling the Interface for a refresher).

Blender's translate manipulator.

Blender’s translate manipulator.

These allow you to choose between translate (move), rotate (orient), and scale (uh.. make bigger and smaller) manipulators.  It will also allow you to toggle the display of the manipulator (on or off) and decide what space to operate in.  Don’t worry about that for now.. let’s focus on the basics!

To simply move an object, you can use the g hotkey.  As soon as you hit this hotkey, you will be moving the object in 3D view space. Click the LMB to accept the new position, or ESC to exit out of the mode without accepting.  This takes a little getting used to.. but is quite easy once you practice a few times.   The important thing to realize is that when you’re moving the object,  you will be moving it in the plane of the 3D View.

If that’s a little confusing, enjoy the following animated gif.  In this image, we’ve got two 3D views.  On the left, we’re looking at a cube at an angle.  On the right, we’re looking down on the cube.  In the properties panel on the right, you can see the transformation location.  Notice, when the mouse is on the left and I hit g and start moving the mouse, the cube moves in that 3D View’s space.  Watch on the right and you can see the cube moving in a diagonal space.  If I move over to the right panel and do the same, you can watch the cube move in its space, and on the left the cube will be skirting along the ground.

Moving An Object In Blender

Animated gif of moving a cube from two views. Click to enjoy!

Most of the time when I’m animating, I’ll use this method of manipulating.. just hitting g and moving something where I want.

Sometimes, you may want to limit an object’s movement to a particular axis, especially when rigging and modeling.  For example, if I want to constrain the motion to the x-axis, there are two ways to do it from the 3D viewer.  First, I can simply select the x-axis on the manipulator and move it.  Pretty straightforward.  The more powerful way is to hit the x key after hitting g.  This will constrain along the world x-axis.

Go ahead and try it a few times.  Select the cube, hit and move the mouse around.  Before accepting the new position, hit x and drag. Notice how it’s only moving in one axis?  Now hit y.  What happened?  Suddenly the cube is moving in the y axis.  Try hitting z.  Notice the difference.  It’s moving along the z-axis!

Z… UP?!?!?! If you’ve been paying attention, you may notice that the Z-axis points “up” in Blender.  This is different from Maya and some other 3D packages.  It is consistent with gaming, 3D Max and some CAD tools.  It’s also consistent with folks who draw on paper, where Z is in and out of the page (imagine looking down on the grid as if it’s a sketch pad).  There have been many many many many posts about this on this in the various Blender forums.. and from what I can tell, this is deep in the code and not a huge priority to change, so it’ll most likely stay like this until there are no other features worth spending time on developing.  So.. all I can suggest is.. get used to it.  🙂

Now, let’s say you want to move something along two axes.. like.. slide something along the ground.  You could adjust your camera until you’re looking straight down, or go into an orthographic view (which we haven’t talked about yet), but this can be quite annoying.  Instead, use the SHIFT modifier when selecting your axis.  In other words.. select your object, hit g and then hit SHIFT z and you will be moving in the XY plane!

To restate.. once you’re in grab mode, choose SHIFT and the axis that is the one you don’t want to move in.

Want to move along the floor?  SHIFT z.

Want to move along the wall?  SHIFT x.

Give it a try and see how it feels!

As I said earlier, there are a bunch of other options to movement that can give you quite a lot of control, but for now I want you to focus on really feeling comfortable using the skills we’ve taught so far in this series.. selecting an objectnavigating the 3D View, and now moving objects.

Practicing motion on your default cube is quite boring.. so in order to make practicing more fun, I’ve created a blend file that has some blocks for you to work with!

Fun file for learning to move objects!

Fun file for learning to move objects!

When you load the file, it should open with two panels – the 3D View and bits of a the text editor showing.  You will need to Run the Script in order for a special panel to show up on the left.

To do this, simply slide open the frame a bit more and click Run Script.  Then you can close that panel.

Clicking Run Script in the Text Editor to enable the Nimble Panel.

Clicking Run Script in the Text Editor to enable the Nimble Panel.

Running A Script: Blender should have the ability to automatically run this script, but I couldn’t get it working. If anyone is able to figure it out.. please comment below!

Once the script is running, click Start Game and you can then start grabbing and moving blocks!  To reset, click New Game.  You can pause at any time by clicking Pause Game when the simulation is running.

Try using your standard Move hotkeys to manipulate the blocks and see how well you can do!  Have fun!

Having fun playing with the blocks!

Having fun playing with the blocks!

Jason Schleifer
Jason Schleifer

Jason and his mad scientist eyebrows have been pushing the boundaries of CG animation and sharing his knowledge for nearly 20 years. Widely recognized as an industry leader and mentor to hundreds of animators, Schleifer, formerly of Weta Digital and Head of Character Animation at DreamWorks, now works as Head of Content and is a co-founder of Nimble Collective.

10 Comments

  1. Maybe you know that but when mov, rot o scale if you press X, Y or Z key twice, you manipulate in normal (local) axis not global.
    and when you are mov, rot o scale in one axis (rot in x for example) and type in the keyboard “-35.4” the object rotate -35.4 degrees in X axis.
    and (again 🙂 if you pres G key to move, when you are moving the object you press middle mouse, the x,y.z appear in the viewport and you can choose one puting the
    mouse cursor on it.

    I used a lot this options

    Daniel

    • Nimble Collective says:

      Yep, this is a great tip! I plan on showing that when we get into rotations! woo! 🙂

    • Dale Cieslak says:

      I’m sure you’ll likely do a whole post on camera movement someday too, but Daniel’s tip works great for certain camera movements. If you’re looking through the Camera (keypad 0), G+X+X, G+Y+Y (or G+Shift-Z+Shift-Z) will give you a perfect pan, and G+Z+Z allows you to zoom/dolly.

  2. mark says:

    Hey Jason,
    Try blender’s gestural axis picking with G. Start moving your mouse in screen space, then middle clicking to “fix” the axis you are moving in. Works with scale too – though not rot.
    It always surprises me that I prefer the whole G S R thing to the manipulator – which I spent a career using!

  3. Very nice tutorial. I love the idea of the game to make it more entertaining while learning some basic functions!

    One thing that I didn’t see, or maybe I missed it, is holding shift white moving, rotating or scaling to give a lot more precision. I find that It’s really something so useful in blender!

    But again, really cool tutorials! I love them!

    Mathias.

    • Thanks Mathias! Yep, we feel people learn more when they are having fun, and working towards a goal.

      You’r right, that is a great tip! Hold Shift becomes almost second nature after awhile.

      We’re glad you are digging the tutorials. 🙂

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am new to Blender. I NEED these tutorials. So…you are a kind GENIUS!!! Thanks for helping out the little guys!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Where can I download the sample Jenga file from?

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