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Thread: Putting myself though a Blender

  1. #11
      Redrobes is offline
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    Top down minis with quiffs huh ? That might take a while...

    Dont know if you missed this post while you were away Torstan but if you think my 3D modeling skillz are right leet then I had better fess up.
    Boyz and their Toyz

    I have been in close combat with it again tonight and I am beginning to see that there is a principle at work with blender. In general software there is some pretty standard UI principles and one of them is "There is more than one way to do it" thing. What I think is missing from that short sentence should read "There is more than one equally easy way to do it". Thats something I think completely lost of the UI dev of blender.

    The UI is at the same time both brilliant and really really sucky. There are things so bad with it that you want to stop right now and put it in the bin and other times you think wow thats actually really clever.

    If you look at the #1 top post pic 2 that is the cube in normal camera view. Look at render pic 4. Notice that the light is from a different direction. Now in LW the preview makes a half hearted attempt to get that about right and leaves it for the renderer to get it exact. So you move a light around and the screen does not update with good shading. Bad.

    Also something must have possessed the chap who thought that having all the items like buttons on would be good gray and all the off buttons are light. Its like waiting at the curb for the walk sign to go out and then its safe. Or being in an elevator with all the floors lit up except the one your on. You cast your eye over these buttons and you have to double check your thoughts EVERY time just to make sure its really on or off.

    Heres another. If you make an object show its points then they start highlighted if the object was highlighted. If you then use a selection then nothing happens. Its as though you didnt select them. Its not obvious that they are already selected. In LW they deselect / toggle. When you save a file you double click on the file to overwrite and nothing happens. When you hit the save button then still nothing happens. The save dialog does not go away, no wait cursor, so confirmation. Only when you click it again does it save it because its changed the focus with that last click but no screen update to tell you thats what happened and no press the button AND change focus at the same time like in normal windows.

    Another dialog crazy thing is by default all the dialogs are in a bar on the bottom. Each sub panel has a close arrow which shrinks them in the X direction so that only a thin character width bar is present. But then instead of writing the name of the dialog vertically down the bar you just get the first character which is no use to anybody. Really dumb.

    And yet, the dialog docking on the panels is superb. You can drag a dialog over the top of another and it automatically makes it into a property sheet with two pages. Also you can dock these dialog panels anywhere and it really looks as though they should be in a vertical drop so when closed the thin bar is now horizontal with the name across it. Great ! So why boot the app in the default mode which is where its so bad ?

    You can hide these dialog panels but to bring them back is neigh on impossible without google. The one thing you can say is that everybody and their dog has seen these issues so theres plenty of blogs with the exact issue you have to get the answer. You have to put your cursor just over the scroll window slider and right click to get a menu to put them back up again. Why not have that menu for clicking anywhere inside a blank dialog space then ?

    Its almost like this program was designed to keep noobs out. Once you know its fine but you cant know without asking. Oh and dont try the help that gives you an index of A-Z of what the keys do. I know what the key does because I can press it. What I need is a specific function and want to know what key does it. Its like having a one way foreign language dictionary. Its no good telling me what the foreign word is if you need to look it up in the index to get to it.

    I could go on...

    So what can I say that I have learned today ? Well you can use the Alt key and LMB to move the view so I think that cuts down on using the middle mouse so much. The gesture for scale is a kind of S shape so that is good too. No more Mr Spock neck pinches required any more.

    If you press B then you get the start of a selection box which is pretty useful. You can also use ctrl + LMB to trace out a bounding lasso too. Also pretty useful.

    I have been playing with the layers too. Luckily these are just like LW and I thought that these were one of the best bits of that app so I am well pleased here. You get a number of boxes which represent layers and you can select any box and it goes gray to show that its active (Real Dumb that) but you can shift and select as many of these boxes as you like and they become the active layers. You can move an object from one layer to another by highlighting it and pressing M for move and you get a neat little set of boxes come up - just pick one. Good.

    In edit mode you can create new vertices by just using ctrl and LMB and it puts them down - it seems to know whether you are dragging out a lasso by the timing. You can select two points and press F to make an edge and three points to make a face.

    You can add two objects in like a cube and a sphere and select both and press W and get the boolean menu and once finished it seems to work just fine. Though the new boolean object is separate from the original objects and the original objects are still there so to see an intersection for example, you need to get rid of the original objects or move them to a new layer. I tried it once tho and it crashed the app and it just bailed out and died leaving no trace. When I restarted it has an option to recover last session but it didnt give me the point where I was at. Very scary ! I didn't like that at all. My LW does not crash if you dont push it to its limits. A small cube and sphere should not crash the app. We will see how bad this actually is. I bet they didnt check for a div by zero and didn't catch the exception though it never told me anything.

    So to round up. The UI still sucks but theres more than one way to do things except that everyone who must use this darn thing must be using the way that does not appear to be the default way your expected to do it as a nooby. Only then does it make itself humble to your requests. You get the inkling that if you use it the way the pro's and the developers use it then it could be alright. Nothing is going to make me think that dark gray is on tho. Does this app have UI skins ?

  2. #12
      Redrobes is offline
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    I have found a few more good things about the UI.

    If you have a totally bizarre and unnatural urge to drag down the main menu at the top of the page, then quite extraordinarily there are more buttons and stuff above it hidden from the user. One of these is themes and it comes with the default and one more. It appears as though the default is fixed but the other one can be changed and I presume saved. Well, for each type of window you can change stuff and there is a button style. I cant figure out how to change the color of a button so that when pushed in its lighter but I can get it rendered so that when pushed it it has a 3D pushed in look to it which helps me immensely.

    If you select the "Specify Theme for..." panel and put in "UI and buttons" and then hit the minimal style then you get this.

    I have also found that this main menu is actually the Preferences window type in case you lose it like I did. Thats not obvious and its also half way down the list of window types...

    There is another that appears to be essential and that is the Outliner. Its basically the scene graph and lists all of your objects, lights and camers etc. The beauty is tho that you can click on any of these and it selects it right away. So now if you name your objects then its easy to find. This should have been on the default start window structure IMO. Selecting stuff is a bit of a pain. Attaching objects together has been a bit of a PITA so far so this ought to help immensely. Obviously the... "Theres only one proper way to do it." way here.

    Mine now looks like this...
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Putting myself though a Blender-cg_ui_pic5.png  
    Last edited by Redrobes; 10-07-2008 at 08:11 PM.

  3. #13
      su_liam is offline
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    There's a really good set of tutorials for Blender in the Dojo at scifi-meshes. Look, especially at the, "Blender for the Faint Hearted" threads, starting here.

    I learned to be the Blender-god I am now using those... Well, okay, I suck, but these tuts rock!

  4. #14
      Redrobes is offline
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    Thanks su-liam, I looked over some of their work and its well good. Seems to be a star trek in old style theme running through a lot of them. I havent looked at the specific blender tuts in there yet tho. I think when I get the hang of it ill look at more wordy tuts to see if there are better ways to do things. I like to discover stuff even if thats a bit painful to start with.

    Tonight is (console) games night so I havent been at it hammer and tongues but I did have a play earlier.

    I discovered 'Sculpt' mode. Wow is all I can say. How much I would have killed to have this in LW. Its nothing extra fancy but what it allows you to do is have a sphere on the screen for example and it has been subdivided up quite a bit so there are a lot of polygons in it. Then in sculpt mode it moves the surface of the sphere using brushes like 3D paint. So you can draw a line and it raises that line up on the mesh. Also you have smooth which is exceptionally nice to work with. Theres about 8 brushes in total - cant remember them all but between them they seemed to do everything that you might want with them.

    Now heres the thing. Its not that hard to do what they are doing with this but its done soooo well. The UI here is just succulent. You press S for smooth, D for draw, etc. If you press F then it resizes the brush with a nifty UI circle thinger. If you press shift F then it changes the brush power. I.e. lots of soften to hardly any change.

    With the easy mouse move to pan around the object, quick buttons to change brush and style and very nifty cursor pick up on the brush its like dipping your pen in ink and drawing out lines of 3D magic. It is so amazingly easy to create organic bumpy shapes with it. So I now have a snowman body !

    I am definitely warming to this app now. There's definitely room for improvement but theres a lot that is particularly nice about it too.

    I'll try to finish off Mr Nooby the snowman and get some basic textures on it and then we shall see how we can use this for mapping.

  5. #15
      Redrobes is offline
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    I just finished off my snowman. Got most of the basics of the app down now so will look at mapping stuff on it soon.

    I made Mr Nooby with a few spheres boolean unified together then sculpted. The top hat was two cylinders unified in the same way then sculpted about a bit. The nose is a cone and the coal are more isospheres.

    I textured the snow with white but with a normal map cloud effect texture. Same sort of thing with the carrot nose too.

    So if you want to ask me any questions about using to this sort of level I can do it. They might not be the best answers or ways to do it tho.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Putting myself though a Blender-myrender4.png  

  6. #16
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    Nice job for a first time with a new piece of software.

    Though it looks like Mr. Nooby may have spent some time in the sun

    I dub the 'Newly Repped' *bonk*
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  7. #17
      torstan is offline
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    Colour me impressed! Good work.
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  8. #18
      su_liam is offline
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    You'll find that, "Blender for the Faint Hearted," starts with some really basic UI instructions: moving around, setting the cursor, remapping the mouse buttons, etc. It looks like you figured a lot of that out on your own, but there is a lot of depth and breadth to that UI. I still refer back to that tut fairly often.

    Good work there.

  9. #19
      Redrobes is offline
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    Thanks guys and especially Su-liam (repped). I looked over those tuts and they do indeed progress through the most important bits in the order you need them. The one thing about the materials that was really killing my google fu was the ME: bit as google sorta ignores that search term for being too common. No other tut mentions it and whats going on.

    So what the tut was saying was the strategy of the UI is to make a giant data file which is your scene with everything in it. Within that scene are data blocks of various types and some are objects and others are textures and others are materials and these data blocks are linked to each other. The UI has these shown by the two alpha code like OB for object and MA for material but ME is apparently a material entity which is a kind of virtual material container to shovel in multiple materials so that you can assign an object with one of these and get a whole load of color goodness applied to your object all at once. For the programmers amongst us its just another layer of dereferencing for sheer convenience.

    It also told me about the 'F' buttons all over the place. This means 'Force' or basically - depart from the default. So now a lot more makes sense too. When in that sculpt mode you can change the brush size and strength by 'forcing' a new value overriding the default.

    Another thing that was mentioned was that many of the power users of the site holding this tut use either trackballs or wacom pens ! So the app is geared up for these input devices. I have to say that I like my trackball and its certainly easy to move the object with it if only that my middle button is not so convenient - the ball bit of it is great tho.

    Also interesting to see the references to LW in there too. There are some obvious similarities between the two apps. I think blender is without doubt more powerful but one of the great plusses of LW is it feels like its doing what you expect all the time whereas this one needs to be bottle fed on sweetened warm milk. It can do it but its a bit belligerent to make it do it until you know just how to coax it. LW has been good to me but I have to move on from my copy.

    I think I know enough now to try something a bit more challenging. How about a space scene - planets and ships etc ? Should be good to try some wacky texturing and sphere mapping - CWBBP texture for instance.

    BTW su-liam, do you have anything that you have rendered as some gratuitous 3D space porn for me to ogle at ?

  10. #20
      Redrobes is offline
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    One of the things in su-liams tut pages was that the chappie reckoned that blender must have been dev'ed by a left hander because the selection is done on the right hand mouse button. He suggested the option of reversing the buttons for select. Now my opinion is that id like to stay with most of the defaults of blender so that I follow everyone elses tutorial and dont have a big set up when moving to another machine.

    But I have to say swapping the mouse buttons over is essential. Playing with individual virtices when you have to click click click to get three for a triangle is a nightmare with RMB. So I think I will do as advised and change.

    To do this, drag down the main menu bar with the hidden system controls on them and find the View and Controls and the Select with Left Mouse Button option.

    Playing with the points, edges and faces bit I found that I had non-manifold faces in my Oct Challenge LW space ship. Non manifold means that an edge has either 1 or 3 or more faces on it. Normally you want exactly 2 so that its a close surface. I had polygons nearly touching but actually there were two points there close together but not quite in the same position. So the edges butted with a microscopic hole there. That's an issue caused from the LW slice process and me not fixing it up properly.

    So if you want to merge those points together you can select them 2 at a time and merge them with Alt M. But thats a slow process. I wanted to do that for all points. So google fu again... It seems that many people have asked this and there is a way of doing it. On the Mesh Tools panel there is a selector for the amount of distance for the merge. I dont know if that is in proper units but it seems more like as a multiplier of the current selection bounds. So 0.001 is big if the model is big and you select all. BTW selecting all is just 'A' but this is also used to un-select all if you have a few points on too.

    LW did all modeling in real world units but I have never seen any real world units in this app at all so far. It is *incredibly* easier to model in real world scale so that if you have a chest with a padlock and rivets around it, you might be able to reuse an old padlock or rivets without having to scale them.

    Even on Mr Nooby my snow texture had to be hacked a bit because he was so much smaller than the ground he was stood on. In LW you would set the texture size to say 10cm and it would be applied at that scale to all objects owning that surface material type. I hope to discover that this is true here too but its another feature well hidden from first timers if it is.

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