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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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!