Section 5 (Part 2): Learn 3D Modelling – The Complete Blender Creator (Udemy) Course

Super excited here, folks! I am now half-way into “The Complete Blender Creator Course” on Udemy! Earlier this week, I modelled a desk lamp and rigged it to get it ready for animation (click here to read Part 1 of Section 5 on the modelling and rigging process).

Actually, before I delve into the topic of animation, there was one other thing done to the model before the animation process could begin. That is, a mathematical computation called “inverse kinematics” (IK) was performed and applied to produce a more realistic rig of the model, and thus, allowing for greater accuracy when moving certain bones within the rig (for the curious, you can read more about IK by clicking here). In Blender, this process is achieved by simply applying “auto IK” to the rig in pose mode. After applying auto IK, constraints were re-assigned to each of the bones. Here, you can see the effect of auto IK in the desk lamp model I made:

autoinversekinematicslamp

Now, moving onto the topic of animation, does anyone still remember using Macromedia Flash in the old days? I ask as if Flash support has already long phased out after the year 2020… I bring this up though as I worked in Flash years back and I have to say it was one of the best programs out there for learning and producing 2D animations. Little did I know it was just as easy creating 3D animations in Blender. For instance, the timeline viewport alone in Blender was very simple and user-friendly. Here is a side-by-side comparison with the timeline window found in Flash:

Macromedia Flash Animation Timeline:macromediaflashtimelineBlender Animation Timeline:blenderanimationtimeline

In animation, simple movement of a 2D or 3D object occurs when it starts in a certain state with a particular position, orientation, and/or size and ends in a different state. The power of computer or digital animation is its ability to calculate and animate the frames between two states, a start and an endpoint (a starting or ending point is also called a keyframe). This process is called tweening or inbetweening. In the course, the instructor demonstrates this with a simple cube on frame 0 in its default position (location), orientation (rotation), and size (scale). He then translates, rotates, and enlarges the cube about 50 frames in. The 50th frame is then automatically noted as a keyframe on the timeline by a yellow bar and frames 1 through 50 are then immediately generated to give the cube from its starting state the illusion of motion until it reaches its end state once the animation is played. Frames and keyframes on the timeline can be labelled using markers. Lastly, the frame rate is also an important consideration. Typically, 24 frames per second (fps) is the standard in filmography. With the above in mind, I began to animate the lamp by creating keyframes at which point the lamp would “Jump”, be “Mid-Air”, “Land”, “Wobble”, and “Extend Out”:

lampanimationkeyframes

Next, we learned that the active camera in the scene, an object that is used to render the image, can be animated as well. I then tweaked the lamp animation a bit before animating the camera to track the lamp’s movement:

lampanimationcameramove

Finally, after completing the animation of the lamp and camera, we learned how to render the animation in a lean fashion (you can click here to read about the concept/importance of being lean in my previous blog post). One way to do this is to render each frame in an animation or part of an animation as an image file (i.e.-.png). A series of numerically labelled image files can be compiled afterwards to create an animation rather than rendering the animation outright as a video type format (e.g., .avi.mpeg). This way, in the event of a power outage or software/hardware crash, minimal data will be lost (frames rendered already will not need to be re-rendered) and any remaining frames that were not rendered can be rendered afterwards. To stay lean, two instances of Blender can be opened on the same computer and optimally render an animation simultaneously; one instance can render a weighted set of frames using the CPU while the other instance can render the remaining set of frames using the GPU – albeit this can eat up resources and stress the computer.

Without further ado, here is an 8 second animation (200 frames; 24 fps) of my animated lamp rendered in 5 hours with a Blender sample size of 200 samples per frame:

What do you guy thinks of my animated lamp? To be honest, despite having the most fun so far in this section of the course, I did not spend as much time as I would like in order to perfect the lamp’s movements as I decided to move quickly onto the next section. It should also be mentioned that Section 5 was actually a lot heavier, content-wise, then I made it out to be in my blog. For example, at the end, the instructor showed us how to re-rig the lamp by assigning vertex groups to different objects in the lamp, joining each part to create a single mesh, and using the vertex groups to create a new armature system which parents the mesh whereby different labelled bones move its corresponding named vertex groups. This was a bit more complicated but I believe this was taught as it is crucial for designing, modelling, and rigging more complex characters – we’ll have to see if this is the case later on.

The next section, Section 6, will be the longest yet as it consists of 40 lectures with a total of 6 hours and 40 minutes of lecture time. The title of Section 6 is called, “A Fluffy Bunny”. I may have to split this next section and blog in several parts again.

As always, thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! I look forward to writing the next blog post!

– Taklon

Section 5 (Part 1): Learn 3D Modelling – The Complete Blender Creator (Udemy) Course

In my previous blog post, I mentioned that I will write about Section 5 in the Blender 3D modelling Udemy course I am currently taking in parts. Today’s blog post will be the first of a two-part series.

Section 5(39 lectures, 5hr)An Animated Lamp, continues to utilize and build upon the knowledge learned so far in the course. In this section, the instructor first reminded everyone on the importance of “being lean“. This was an expression that was also used earlier in the course to explain a concept which, at that time, was relatively difficult to grasp. Basically, the idea of being lean is to not wait until the very end to see if something actually works. In 3D modelling, one should always plan, perform a task, and see the result before moving onto the next task since this would avoid having to potentially deal with a greater number of issues later on – as any problems would be detected and fixed earlier. Perhaps another way to think of this concept is to try and aim to develop a tendency to single-task and focus on one thing at a time rather than work on many moving parts and assembling them together at once. This way, it will prevent the sudden discovery of a plethora of problems with the individual pieces at or near the end. Interestingly, I have discovered that in my work as a Radiochemist, the concept of being lean is utilized to quite an extent in method development while the opposite of being lean is rather analogous to performing routine tests and analyses… I find this is an example of a work skill that is very useful as it can be used across multiple disciplines.

The next few lectures in Section 5 then had us switch over in Blender to a different internal rendering engine called “Cycles Render” (the “Blender Render” engine was used previously for the Low-Poly Chess Board and Pieces in Section 4). By using Cycles Render, an image of a 3D scene can be generated using a computer’s GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) instead of its CPU (Central Processing Unit). However, rendering with the GPU may not necessarily be better than with the CPU; The idea here was to update our graphics card driver if necessary and optimize our own computer such that the fastest rendering speed can be achieved without compromising quality – albeit the latter can be adjusted if a faster rendering speed corresponding to a lower resolution would suffice. After all, render times for one image can take from seconds to minutes to hours to years even… (LOL)! As such, in animation, rendering in 24 frames per second (fps) – the typical, cinematic frame rate in filmography – takes a while. So you can imagine being lean during modelling and doing test renders earlier on can save a lot of precious time!

Alas, with the the above in mind, we moved onto designing and modelling a desk lamp. First, we were asked to design a desk lamp and consider all its joints and moving parts. After the planning stage, I started to model the lamp base. Much like the bowling pin modelled in Section 3, a Bézier Curve was used as an outline to generate the shape of the base with a Bézier Circle:

lampbase

Once the shape of the base looked acceptable, it was converted into a mesh so that new geometry could be added to or constructed from it. Next, I modelled the lamp stem connecting the base. During this time, the Armature System was introduced. In 3D modelling, adding an armature to a static/stationary mesh object to allow its parts to move is known as rigging. A rig comprises of bones and joints (two bones that meet). And so I started to rig the model by first adding and placing a single bone within the stem:

lampstemandbone

I then modelled the lower arm of the lamp by using a mirror modifier to create two prongs (recall that the mirror modifier was used to construct the knight chess piece in Section 4). At this time, I was taught how to connect additional bones to the armature by extruding the tail of an existing bone. I also learned how to constrain the movement of the bones by adding bone constraints and limiting/locking their rotation to certain axes.

lamplowerarmandbone

Afterwards, a sphere was added to serve as a joint to connect an upper arm that was modelled next. Then, using a Bézier curve and Bézier circle again (which were used to create the lamp base at the start), the lamp shade was created. A solidify modifier was then added and applied to control the thickness of the lamp shade before it was converted into a mesh.

completedlamp

The last thing left to do in completing the model was to create and assign materials and adjust the specularity in different parts of the model. However, because we’ve switched over to Cycles Render, the instructor suggested the use of the Node Editor instead of the the basic parameters found in the material and lamp properties. The node editor was used in Section 4 to create the blurring effect in the chess scene for the last render I posted in my previous blog post. Here, the node editor was used to adjust colour and specularity for materials and (light) emission in lamps.

Without further ado, here is a fairly high-quality render of my completed desk lamp! The following render took 5 minutes and 30 seconds with a render sample size of 2000 using the Cycles Render engine:

taklonlamprender(2000smp,5min30sec)

What do you guys think? Myself, I’m super excited to start learning the animation process in Blender to get this bad boy moving… Be sure to stay tuned and thanks for reading!

– Taklon

Section 4: Learn 3D Modelling – The Complete Blender Creator (Udemy) Course

A few days ago, I wrote and shared some of my progress in a course I am taking on Udemy. I began “Learn 3D Modelling – The Complete Blender Creator Course” at the very start of this month and after three weeks in, I have just completed the next section in the course. While Sections 1 to 3 taught basic 3D modelling skills in Blender, Section 4 (34 lectures, 4hr+7min), Low-Poly Chess Board & Pieces, introduced more advanced modelling tools and techniques. Using the Staunton Chess Set image as a reference (pictured below), the goal was to model to-scale all of the pieces, create a chessboard, apply appropriate materials and textures to the models, set up a scene with proper/adequate lighting, and then render some images with some form of interesting camerawork (e.g.-angles, blurring effect, etc..).

Staunton Chess Set

After creating a simple chessboard (with the knowledge acquired from the first three lectures), one of the requirements in modelling the pieces themselves was to keep them “low-poly”, as this is often preferred or even essential, for instance, when exporting and using 3D models in a game engine. This means that each piece must be designed and created with a limited amount of geometry. The basic Pawn was the first chess piece constructed keeping this requirement in mind:

pawns

One way to achieve a higher detailed look is using the bevel tool. With the bevel tool, smoother ridges on the chess piece base and neck/body can be achieved. Conversely, deleting “redundant” and joining any remaining edge loops using the bridge edge loops tool can be used to construct a low-detailed, low-poly model.

The next chess piece to model was the Bishop. Here, a boolean modifier was introduced and used to create the notch in the bishop’s hat:

bishop

After modelling the bishop, a quick explanation was provided on the importance of using “quads” (polygons comprising of four vertices) to achieve good mesh topology; Ngons (polygons with more than four vertices) on the other hand may deform the mesh and create distortions when the model is rendered, rigged (for animation), or exported. In some cases, triangles are also acceptable such that numerous triangles can converge on a single vertex called a pole. After all, most graphic render algorithms and game engines actually convert meshes completely into triangles! Still, quads are universally preferred and so the Queen and subsequent pieces modelled after were created with this in mind:

queen

The fourth piece to model was the Knight. To set the stage for modelling the Knight, Michael Bridges, the instructor, brought up the idea that symmetry could make modelling something much easier and quicker. And indeed, in the world around us, symmetry can be found in just about everything. As a result, the mirror modifier was used to create the Knight:

knight

Alas, only two pieces remained: the Rook and King. Here, it was up to me to model them however I desire with all that I have learned up to this point. After modelling the Rook and King, proper materials (i.e.- white and black colours) were applied along with the introduction and usage of textures (e.g.- wood for the chessboard base) as well. The concept of diffusion and specularity were then taught. By using the diffuse and specular material shaders, the pieces and chessboard were made to appear more realistic such that light shining onto and reflecting from them were visually accurate. Finally, the chess pieces were appended to a scene containing the chessboard created earlier. A few lamps were then positioned and adjusted accordingly to fit the scene. Behold a few renders of the final chessboard and pieces I’ve modelled:

ChessScene

ChessScene(DOF)

Looking at the instructor’s models and final rendered images of his scene compared to mine, I think I truly made it my own! I’m proud to see that my chess set looks quite different than many other students taking the course that have shared their work on the discussion forums.  I especially like using the smooth shading tool in Blender and prefer the models that way over having them flat-shaded.

The next section, Section 5, is entitled “An Animated Lamp” and will be the longest section yet! It comprises of  a set of 39 lectures in 5 hours worth of lecture time. So I will probably blog this next section in parts. Thanks for reading as always and I look forward to writing the next blog post and sharing more of what I learned in Blender with all of you!

– Taklon

Sections 1 to 3: Learn 3D Modelling – The Complete Blender Creator (Udemy) Course

A few weeks ago, I began taking a course on Udemy, a website where one can teach or enroll in courses online. The course is called “Learn 3D Modelling – The Complete Blender Creator Course“, by Michael Bridges (and Ben Tristem as a secondary instructor). It offers 288 lectures in the form of 51.5 hours worth of videos along with a discussion board where students can post/answer questions and/or share their work.

The course is broken up into eleven sections. In this blog post, I will share my experience thus far after completing the first three sections. Subsequent blog posts will cover the remaining eight sections. My aim is to finish this course by the end of September.

Section 1 (12 lectures, 2hr+10min), Introduction and Setup, was a great refresher to Blender for me. There is a saying that one never really forgets how to ride a bike and I felt like this applied to me as I worked through this section. The interface, viewports, toolsets, and hotkeys were exactly how, what, and where I remember them making it fairly easy to re-familiarize myself with the software. Section 1 had ended with simple geometric transformations (translation, rotation, and scaling) of various objects:

section1pic

Section 2 (23 lectures, 2hr+46min), Your First 3D Model in Blender, introduced basic modelling concepts in creating new geometry beyond simple extrusion of vertices, edges, and faces. In my opinion, I think Michael Bridges has cleverly designed this course in a way that allows the student to use what was just learned in each lecture to progressively build the next feature in a given model. In this case, the goal was to eventually model a simple version of a Mayan pyramid. Here, the inset tool (which is basically a combination of extrusion and scaling) was used to build the platforms, edge loops and loop cuts to construct the stairs, array modifier to quickly make and lay down steps for the stairs, and further loop cuts (facial) and subdivision to create the entrance:

section2_mayanpyramid

At the end of Section 2, we were asked to think of everyday objects to make simple 3D models from. Here is an electrical outlet I modeled in under 30 minutes:

electricaloutletSection 3 (15 lectures, 2hr+23min), Bowling Ball and Pins, had then shown several advanced modelling tools such as using a Bézier curve and rotational extrusion to create a bowling pin to-scale (with the aid of a reference picture):

section3_bowlingpin

A bowling ball was also modeled next. To finish Section 3, the final task was to then import all the modeled assets and set up a bowling alley scene and use Blender’s physics engine to mimic to-scale a bowling ball hitting a set of pins. I had so much fun – as you can see, watching or rather making something come to life is a pretty spectacular sight:

bowlingalleyphysics

The next section, Section 4, is entitled “Low-Poly Chess Board & Pieces”. It comprises of  a whopping set of 34 lectures in 4 hours and 7 minutes. I hope I can find the time to complete this section in the coming week. And, of course, I looking forward to writing the next blog post!

– Taklon

Is Blender my calling? A Free and Open-Source 3D CGI Software Toolset

Ten years ago, I was assigned a project in the topic of Evolution for Grade 12 Biology. The task was to research a hominid species and to give a presentation on the findings to the class. At that time, I coincidentally came across a free, open-source 3D computer graphics software called Blender and even picked up a book called “Introducing Character Animation with Blender” (by T. Mullen). I didn’t get a chance to flip through the book until then. I remember thinking what a great opportunity it would be to learn a bit about Blender and integrate it into my project. Somehow, in my head, I convinced myself I could learn 3D modelling, rigging, and animation in just under a month. Yes, a mere month! That was the deadline I had to work with.

Suffice to say, I had several sleepless nights, especially as the deadline approached. In the end, I had done my best to model and rig Paranthropus robustus, the hominid species I was assigned to. Check out a few of the progress pictures I took along the way below:

With such a tight deadline, a lot of things didn’t turn out properly or as well as planned. But in the end, I did get a fantastic grade and most of all, I had so much fun learning about Blender. Two years later, during the summer, I remembered about Blender. For some reason, I decided then to model to-scale some of the furniture in my room:

I guess there is something about manipulating simple geometry in 3D space to low-polygon objects and then further to complex high-detail models that intrigues me. What further greatly interests me are the ways one can go about bringing motion and emotion into inanimate objects and virtual computer-generated models. I think most people tend to overlook all the work that is put into the media they see every single day. Having done some work in Blender has made me appreciate all the efforts that go into making many forms of entertainment the majority of us enjoy nowadays.

While there are a lot of other great 3D CGI software out there, I feel like Blender is my calling. I have recently started taking a course on Udemy called “Learn Blender – The Complete Blender Creator Course”. The course offers 51.5 hours worth of lectures for $12.99 CAD. I figured the high school days of self-learning are over and I best do it a bit more professionally with an appropriate instructor. As of writing this blog post now, I am approximately 25% into the course material. And so my next blog post will cover a bit of my progress in this Udemy course.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to writing my next blog post!

– Taklon

Taklon’s First Blog Post

So I finally decided to start a blog. I’ve thought about doing this for a while. I think I’ve been hesitant because I figured there wasn’t anything in my day-to-day life really worth sharing on the public domain. Yet I say this and call myself a variety streamer on Twitch, a live-streaming platform… but I digress! Perhaps blogging is for my own sake as well – that one day I might be able to look back and see how much I’ve learned, discover how much I’ve grown, and realize how much I’ve done. I guess that notion sounds worth it to me.

For my first blog post, I want to begin by sharing something personal. Growing up, I literally had little to no direction as to what I wanted to be when I’m older. While the public education system here in Canada where I live helped open up a fair number of paths for me, I did not let my personal interests nor my educational strengths and weaknesses dictate my decision ultimately. Somehow, I ended up with a major degree in Biochemistry with the option of co-operative education (meaning alternating school and work semesters for those who don’t know). Perhaps more interestingly, I now work as a Radiochemist and have been in this field full-time for more than five years. Looking back, I honestly can’t answer why this all happened, only how at times to a certain extent. “Why did I decide to study this? Why did I choose to do this?” These are likely tough questions I’m sure many young adults like myself have asked at least once throughout their lives pertaining to their careers.

I think it is well-agreed that in life, in society, it is really difficult to find work that you both enjoy and at the very least can make ends meet. However, I think finding a job that you are both passionate about and can provide for a decent living is rather challenging, maybe even near impossible (for the naysayer in me). I am quite fortunate though when it comes to my job – I really do enjoy both learning and doing the work that I do and am pleased with the salary and benefits it provides; I guess then, for these very reasons, I have answered for myself those very two questions posed earlier: Why did I decide to study this and why did I choose to do this? What lacks then is passion. And what remains then is motivation.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about where and how I’m spending my free time outside of work. For those who aren’t aware, I actually have quite a few hobbies and interests some of which I’m especially passionate about like gaming for instance. Animation, exercising, racquet sports, music (I play the violin), and travelling to name only a few are further examples. “Man, I only wish I have more time to do more of these things!” is something I then tell myself quite often. Still, I try and schedule most of these things during any free time that I may have outside more important priorities and responsibilities.

Nowadays, I am intrigued with the possibility of whether I can make a particular hobby or interest become something so much more. I feel now is the time for me to re-discover my passion in designing and making games rather than just enjoying and playing them. And this, essentially, is what my blog will primarily serve to share and document; This blog will be a record of what I learn, how I grow, and what I achieve in my desire to re-introduce to my life a passion of animation and game creation and to also see where my motivation would take me in both of those areas.

Thanks for taking the time to read my first blog post. I look forward to writing the next one! If there is anything you would like to share, feel free to reach out in the comments section!

– Taklon