Welcome to this series of posts on learning the open source 3d animation tool Blender.
I’ve been in the animation industry for a long time – almost 20 years! I’ve used many 3d animation applications in my time. My first was back in the early 90’s using Infini-D (if you’re interested.. I can show you my first animation “Happy Happy Bee”.. it doesn’t look very happy, nor does it look much like a Bee). I then quickly moved over to using Wavefront’s Advanced Visualizer and TDI Explore packages on an SGI.
As Alias and Wavefront merged, I joined the company and began using Maya in its infancy. I used Maya for over 8 years, both at A|W and then at Weta Digital on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. When I moved to DreamWorks in 2004, I began using their proprietary animation tool EMO. In 2010-ish, I started working with the development team at Dreamworks to help design their next-gen animation toolset, focusing mostly on Premo (which was first used on How to Train your Dragon 2).
So as you can see, over the years I’ve used a number of 3d animation packages. I love learning new tools and figuring out the ins and outs of why they work. Seriously, for some reason, I find real joy in digging down to understand why developers made the choices they did, how I can manipulate the tool to do what I want, and in what way I can help push the tool to be better in the future.
Blender is one of those applications that I’ve downloaded in the past, but have never really given it a fair shake. Each time I opened it I was immediately thrown by the selection paradigm (right mouse button? really?) and the confusing interface. I would open the package, try and pick the cube, get frustrated, and then close the tool, only to download it again a year or so later.
Recently, I’ve decided to give Blender another try. I’ve been extremely impressed with some of the things I’ve seen artists create with the tool – and it’s really improved over the years. Just check out one of the latest short films created with it, Cosmos Laundromat.
The quality of what the team was able to create is pretty darn impressive. Especially since Blender is free.
So I’ve decided to learn how to use Blender – and I’d like to share that journey with you. However, like all journeys, I’ve got some rules I’ll be following.
First – I don’t want to just learn the tool, I want to become part of the community. I’d like to support the developers in their efforts to really democratize the creation of animated content. Thus, I’ve joined the Blender Artists website, and am paying for the Blender Cloud.
Second – I’m not going to jump in and immediately switch my interaction paradigm to one I’m familiar with – Maya. I want to learn it the way the developers intended. Yes, that means I’ll have to get used to the Right Mouse Button selection. There may be a few addons that I’ll install to add functionality – but I’ll be selecting each one carefully and not do it to try and force another tool’s paradigm onto this one.
Third – I’ll be documenting my journey here through all the successes and failures – and I hope you’ll join me in this process. Please feel free to comment and add to this with your own experiences!
So stay tuned over the next few weeks as I learn Blender and share any tips or tricks I find!