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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
Imagine you’re learning to paint and every brush you use requires you to hold it with a different body part. The fan brush requires you to use your left hand. The bristle broad brush requires your right hand. For some odd reason, the sable round must be held in your mouth. And in order to use the sponge you have to strap it to your elbow and flap your arms like a funky chicken.
You would find that instead of learning the subtleties of each tool.. you would be spending lots of time focused on learning to be comfortable simply getting paint on the canvas with that particular body part. It would take you much longer to learn to paint than if you simply always used your dominant hand to hold the tool.
This is a ridiculous example of what I’ve been doing while trying to learn Blender! In one of my earlier tutorials on Blender’s 3D Viewport, I discussed using the hotkey ‘ to focus your 3D view on the selected object. A very handy modification, however I didn’t carry it through to ensure consistency across the application.
In fact, as I’ve been preparing my next tutorial, I have been jumping between the 3D View and the Graph Editor and just suffering and muttering through inconsistent interaction! It’s been frustrating.. but it wasn’t until I watched Haley’s tutorial: Maya – Will is Blend(er)? that I realized how lame I’ve been. I hadn’t been consistent in my customization, and it was causing me to not learn the tool as fast! The only thing I was being consistent about was getting frustrated every time I went to the Graph Editor and tried to focus on a keyframe by going to the View -> View Selected menu… but I wasn’t doing anything about it.
So today I’m fixing that.. and I’m going to demonstrate a great way to keep track of your customizations as you do them so you can ensure consistency and learn faster.
And then I can also have the satisfaction of being less lame. 🙂
First things first.. we’re going to review the customization we made with viewing your selected object in the 3D Viewer in Blender.
The default View Selected and View All commands in Blender sit on the number pad of your keyboard. If you’re like me and don’t often have a number pad handy, you will want to change these hotkeys.
I ended up changing them to the following hotkeys ' and " respectively. Partly this is because it’s easy to get to and close to the ESC key, and the other reason is because Charles Wardlaw recommended it, and he’s quite smart.
I’m going to introduce you to a trick that I’ve been using for years to ensure consistency as I plan new software, create a character rig, animate shots, and even do my taxes. I make lists. I love lists. It’s not that I’m a neat freak.. or OCD.. or tidy.. or a neat freak.. or that I have a good memory.. or a neat freak. It’s that I want to make sure I spend my time focusing on the things I want to focus on, and not re-thinking about things I’ve already thought through.
When finessing a shot in animation, I’ll often watch the shot through a few times and write down every adjustment I need to make all at once. I’ll note the eyes.. the head.. the arms.. the torso.. everything. Then I’ll rank the notes based off body part and adjustment hierarchy (adjust the torso first, then arms, then head, then eyes.. not the other way around!) and order them appropriately.
Then I’ll tackle them one at a time, working my way through until I’m done. That way I know exactly what I’m working on and I can focus on the task at hand. If I didn’t do that, I’d wander around my shot, fixing things willy nilly never really being sure if I was doing the right thing. It’d be easy to be distracted.
So today, we’ll do the same thing when adjusting Blender’s hotkeys. We’ll create a tracking document to make sure we adjust everything.
As you can see, I’m using Google Sheets to track my hotkeys. I’ve got a document set up where I can enter the Editors, and then mark off as soon as I complete the hotkey change. I’ve even got a space on the side just in case I decide I need to add another hotkey for some reason.
You can use a piece of paper if you want, or create your own tracker tool! It’s not important what you use.. it’s more important that you use something.
One way to do this is to go to your Header Bar and click on the Editor Type button, you will get your list of editors available. The easiest thing to do is just go through this entire list and make note of all the editors that View Selected and View All exist.
After running through the list, there are definitely a few items which don’t need to be tracked. The Python Console, Text Editor and Logic Editor to name a few.
I ended up with something that looks like this:
As you can see, I added a View Frame and a Notes column. The View Frame is a function I found in some of the animation editors that allowed me to focus the view on the current time frame. The Notes section shows when some of the commands do something similar to the thing I want, but they’re not necessarily named the same things.
Now it’s time to get going. Go through each item one at a time, making sure the hotkey works as expected. I like to set up my window so that I’ve got the 3D View available as reference so I can see if the hotkeys feel like they’re acting consistently.
To change the hotkey for the Graph Editor
Doing the View All hotkey is a little more complicated because it involves a double-click action.
Finally, we have the View Frame option available in the Graph Editor. We haven’t defined a hotkey yet for this, so now is the time to do it. Think about where your hand is while you’re working, and what feels natural for this type of action. For me, I’m currently thinking that ALT ' works well. It’s easy for my hands to reach, and it “feels” intuitive. This is totally up to you, by the way.. just make sure you pick something you like and then write it down on your spreadsheet so it is consistent.
At this point you should now go back and forth between the 3D View and the Graph Editor to make sure the actions feel consistent. If they don’t, then re-think and adjust. But if they do.. then it’s time to do the rest of your preferences!
Blender’s input preferences comes with a very handy Search Bar. If you know the name of the command you’re going to replace the hotkey for, you can simply type it in and it will filter the list.
For example, to find all the places with View Selected, simply type that into the search bar and… tadah! You can change a whole bunch of things very quickly!
Since you already made the list of the commands you were going to replace with hotkeys, you don’t have to hunt and peck as you’re filtering! You can filter for exactly what you already found.. what a time saver!
Make your way through the list until you’ve got every single item checked off. Don’t worry if you don’t find some of your items.. I had a few that were causing me trouble to find, too! In particular the View Fit item in the Image/UV Editor and the Clip editor was not easy to find. That’s because it’s not labeled “View Fit”.. it’s labeled as View All but has a special option turned on which makes it fit. Why they didn’t change the label, I’m not sure.. but here’s how I found it.
If you take the time to make these adjustments to ensure consistent interaction with your editors, you will find your transition to learning Blender much easier.
The only negative side effect I’ve found is that we have fewer dollar bills in the swear jar – not a bad thing for my children’s ears, but certainly doesn’t help the wine budget at the end of the week.