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Thread: Putting myself though a Blender

  1. #1
      Redrobes is offline
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    Post Putting myself though a Blender

    Its time I did it.

    Its time I actually took a real good look at the application Blender which is the Open Source full on, packs a mighty punch, 3D rendering package.

    I have been using my 3D laser scanner and it dumps out zillions of points and poly's and its all geared up for light-wave 3D which is an excellent package but my copy is old and there is one major drawback which I assume they have fixed and that is it has a 65K polygon limit. Its also single threaded and lacking many if not all that important features. I like the sound of particle effects, volumetric lighting and radiosity... mmmmm

    So I know a bit about 3D apps but nothing at all about Blender so I have started to play with it. Several people have asked about it - including me - on these boards and so I thought that I would share my learning experience so that others can get a leg up on it and also maybe if anyone else would like to follow and path-beat the way with me then you might pick up some extra points that I miss and can add to the blog. So lets get this straight - this is no tutorial !!!

    So lets start and try to get it up, render something of the right size and save out a render. After that I would like to be able to model some basic shapes and then texture them up. After that we will see where we go.

    So here is the base page:
    http://www.blender.org/

    and the download is here...
    http://www.blender.org/download/get-blender/

    I looked for a 64bit version but I could not find any so I DL'ed the x86 version and it installed easily. I set the local files directory to the install directory but in all else I just chose defaults.

    When its run you are given a screen with a cube on it and a camera and a light all set up. Even this I think is an improvement over the last time I tried it as I could not figure out the UI.

    Looking at the blender wiki...
    http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Main_Page
    http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Bo..._Blender_(text)
    ... help and intro it talks about the UI being a bit different from most apps. This is true and the main reason why I gave up last time. Interestingly it says that you should use it with one hand on the mouse and one hand on the keyboard. They call this ohomohok !

    That was interesting because Del and I were discussing how my ViewingDale uses this approach and he gave up on the UI for the same reason that I gave up on Blender. I know that I can use my app real fast and this is what blender is saying is why they do it this way too. So I really need to do this now just to prove a point to myself !

    The next thing they go on about is the mouse. They insist on a 3 button mouse and bizarrely its the middle button that allows you to move around. I.e. No move no App. No 3 button mouse no App. This is a bit annoying as I use a trackball which does have the third button but its not so comfortable as the other two. Anyway - be warned - you NEED it to run.

    Ok we install and run it up and you get two windows on the task bar, one is a DOS type on windows machines and the other is the main app. You leave the DOS window alone or minimize it. If you shut it then the main app shuts down.

    Now we have our cube on the screen. First thing I tried was the middle mouse button which does do what it says but the backdrop is set to Ortho (parallel background lines) view not perspective so you can get pretty confused about depth right off the bat. Whether its the norm I don't know but I set it to perspective view using the menu. The number keypad controls the view so 7,1,3 does top bottom and side and 0 is camera view. I like this a lot. On LW you look at all four at once but you quarter the view space. Having a quick way to get around the object is very very handy.

    So we have our camera view and if you hit render on F12 then it renders it. Its smallish but seems alright. Hit F10 and get the scene properties and there is the render size and format. So 4000x3000 for me with PNG. Great. F12 again....

    So wheres the save render option ? Took me a while to figure this out but the render window is supposed to stay open so now we have three on the task bar. Press F3 and you get the option of where to save and what filename. Its obviously not a standard windows UI here so there are some foibles which I would guess those Linux guys would not see. Save the file and there it is and I can look at it in PSP. Great so job done.

    When I shut it down and reopened it was back to small render and JPEG again so I changed back again and this time saved the scene using the menu at the top of the main window. That seemed to work when I opened the app and loaded the scene in again.

    So far so good. More to come I expect in the next few days.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Putting myself though a Blender-cg_ui_pic1.png   Putting myself though a Blender-cg_ui_pic2.png   Putting myself though a Blender-cg_ui_pic3.png   Putting myself though a Blender-cg_pic1.png  
    Last edited by Redrobes; 10-06-2008 at 03:11 PM.

  2. #2
      torstan is offline
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    Brave lad. Thanks for going through this - I had a shot at it for a while and managed to get a few basic animations going but it was heavy going. I'll be very interested to see what you make of it. Repped for bravery!
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      RobA is offline
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    Ditto!

    I tried Blender once, and gave up, sticking with POVRay (which, I'll admit is NOT easier to use, but I already know the script format from years ago...)

    Looking forward to the on-the-go-tut! Consider recording 5 minute screen casts detailing your progress....

    -Rob A>

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      Redrobes is offline
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    Thanks both of you and I agree that its notable as not being easy to use but I know it is a powerful program so the rewards would be great. The screen casts are a good idea. Often I am just messing with it randomly and getting some eureka moments which are distilled. You wouldn't want a screen cast of all the faff tho. The scripts run on Python tho so ill be looking for some help in that dept later on. I am a Perl nut and know that Ruby and Python are popular and probably more powerful but its another effort to learn another language isn't it.

    What I am going to try next is to make some objects, maybe see if there are some boolean ops, hopefully some extrude, lathe, stretch etc. See if maybe I can make a snowman.

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      torstan is offline
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    The dice tutorial is pretty good for getting the hang of subdividing sides, colouring different areas and bevelling. I think that was the most useful beginner tute on the wiki. The one on modelling an eye is a bit of a waste of time if I remember correctly as it was a royal pain to get the texturing right.
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    Community Leader Facebook Connected Steel General's Avatar
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    @Redrobes - You are a braver man than I.

    I tried Carrara years ago, and like a lot of things I simply ran out of patience with it.
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      Ascension is offline
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    I've tried just about every 3D app out there that has one of those free 30 day trials 'cuz I've always wanted to create virtual worlds. Blender, IMO was neither easier nor harder than the others...it just takes getting used to like everything else. I would like to get back to it so I am really looking forward to how you progress. Good luck and kudos for bravery.
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  8. #8
      Redrobes is offline
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    Cheers guys. Well, for a while I made some objects and started on my snowman. Got a body and head + top hat and then went into the materials and texture editor and got real stuck there for ages. I mean, could they make this UI any harder ? But there are some shortcuts when only once you accidentally come across them make life incredibly easier.

    Firstly, I found that LMB on the main window once gave me a context menu but for the life of me I could not get it back and wondered what I did ? Well if you hold the LMB down and keep it down for about a second then it appears and allows you to place down new objects on the screen like spheres and cubes etc.

    Another handy thing to know is that whilst they whitter about the one hand on keyboard.... the key stroke to move an object is Ctrl + Alt + G and to rotate is Ctrl + Alt + R etc. ONE HAND ???? Are you kidding ? Only if your Vulcan I think. Well, it turns out that it has gestures built in. So if you select an object by RMB over it you can use LMB near to it and drag a line away from the object and after a short while it picks up the object and drags with it. Also, if you make a mouse LMB arc around an object then it picks up and starts rotating it. No more Mr CTRL + ALT + Key. Dont know as yet what the one for scaling is so I have to resort to Ctrl + Alt + S for a mo.

    So adding, scaling, moving and rotating objects is not so bad. Making half a snowman was not all that difficult if you dont mind it looking a bit naff. The spheres come in all blocky. To smooth them out there is an object editing mode on F9 where there is the options to make the object smooth or hard. This fixes up the normals.

    I tried the light-wave import and that worked well too. So no prob. It also has a wavefront text file .OBJ import which will be excellent for my scanner.

    Right - now materials. These hurt bad. It took me ages to get to grips with even the basics of what it was asking for. I think I have some semblance of it now. Normally in 3D apps you create a material and then apply it to an object. This is no different except that the bit to create a link for a meterial to the object which is the first thing you need to do is in the middle of the UI. Thats under the Link to Object on the materials editor F5.

    Then you can set the base col (diffuse to old timers like me) and also the specular color. There is also a mirror color for reflective stuff. Whats obviously missing as far as I can see is that there ought to be an ambient and a luminosity colors in there too. Not exactly sure whats going on there. I think the base color can be applied to the ambient so you can have specular ambient color I think ???? I dont quite get that at this stage.

    Then you can set the shader. Theres a good selection. Given I had Lambert diffuse and Phong specular only, having a pull down for each is sheer luxury. Would be good to have a custom option tho. Maybe that will be later. So I kept with lambert and phong for a while as they are nice n easy stuff. Nothings gonna go spectacularly odd with them.

    The texture bit threw me for a bit. I thought texture meant what they call material. What texture is for them is some image mapping. You can use built in procedural or image based mapping and whilst I had sphere, plane, cube, blender also has some extra ones which I am gasping for like U/V.

    I got stuck for a while but when I read up a bit there is a hidden F6 required to take you to the texture editor. From there you can select the type of texture to use like cloud effect that we all love on this site. All sorts of marble, wood grain etc. Havent loaded an image yet tho.

    Finally played about with the mirror and refractive index effects. They were pretty straight forward but you must remember to use F10 for the scene editor and switch on mirror and refractive effects in the renderer or else they just dont come out. Thats similar to LW so I was not caught out there.

    Whooping it all up together I made this and it rendered it with 4 threads for 4 cores in a short amount of time. My old LW is just treacle compared to this and I like the mirror and refraction better in this too. There were always bugs in the version of LW I had.

    So its kickin ass right now. Got loads more to discover. Its still a bit painful but not as bad as I first imagined. Parts of the UI still suck tho.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Putting myself though a Blender-cg_ui_pic4.png  
    Last edited by Redrobes; 10-06-2008 at 09:42 PM.

  9. #9
      jfrazierjr is offline
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    Great job. I am waiting for some nice top down minis to be rendered... heh...
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  10. #10
      torstan is offline
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    Looking good so far. How long did it take you to model that quiff?
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