This is the final blog post of the semester, and because of that, I wanted to use this entry to discuss my journey with Blender and learning 3D modelling. What did I learn? Was it worth it? What would I do differently if I did this again? Below are my thoughts and impressions throughout my seven-week journey to learn Blender.
The first week was spent trying to iron out what exactly I was making and how I was making it. I know I wanted to use Blender to learn 3D animation. From the beginning, I knew this would be a very tall task because I had never used a 3D animation software before and I had absolutely no idea what went into making a 3D animation. My original proposal was to make a one-minute short film that would include key framing, fully animated characters and scenes, as well as intense rendering and compositing. After looking up project proposals and realizing that an animation of this magnitude will take an experienced 3D animator about seven months to complete, I needed to rework my plan to make a project in seven weeks for someone who has never opened a 3D modelling software before. I settled on using Blender to make a 3D animatic for a one-minute short film. I did not have to render nearly as many frames, and there would be no animating or compositing at all.
The second week was spent planning my project. I used Trello to create my five step plan, which involved preproduction, character modelling, environment building, scene rendering and postproduction. Here is where the issue comes into play: that’s all I did this week. I had so much time to get the plan out of the way and to start working on my project, but that just did not happen. At this point, I had only opened Blender once, which was in Week 1 when I completed one quarter of the donut tutorial I found on YouTube. If I were to redo this project process once again, I would have knocked out the project plan early in the week and spent the rest of the week doing the entire tutorial. That way, I would have fully understood the basic of Blender and would be ready to dedicate the last five weeks of the semester to making the actual project.
Week Three was a pretty productive week despite not touching Blender for the second straight week. I began the process of tracking down the time I spent working on different aspects of my project, as well as recording artifacts as I continued making my project. I created the script for my short and I made the storyboards for it as well. Despite having experience writing scripts and drawing storyboards, I needed to change my thought process when thinking about these artifacts in terms of animation because writing scripts for animated stories are a little different and a lot more detailed than live-action screenplays.
If I had the chance to redo this project, I would have spent my fourth week starting my project instead of drawing my character sketches and finishing the donut tutorial. Drawing the character sketch was very helpful because I was later able to import the sketch as a reference image into Blender. I still had not, however, started my project production process, as I was still doing preproduction for my project despite half of the semester being gone already. At this point, I started questioning whether or not I was really going to get my project done in time. I told myself I had no choice but to get it done in time, so I continued on with my schedule as planned.
I had finally created my project file in Blender and have gotten to work on my character during the fifth week of the semester. I built the full character during this week, which caused a lot of issues and trial and error. I spent most of my blog post from last week discussing my character design and why I went for this simple look, as well as the process of downloading free Blender models from the internet to use on my character in order to save time. As someone who aspires to professional 3D animated projects, such as Toy Story (1995) from Pixar, seeing my character model look like this makes me a bit envious, but I need to realize that I built this character after about two weeks of using Blender while Pixar operates with a team of hundreds of professional animators who have been doing this work for years.
This week saw a jump in the amount of progress I’ve made on my project. I would say that as of writing this piece, I am roughly 85% finished with my environment and upon importing a sky backdrop, will be ready to render my frames and build my animatic. The image below shows my current environment. Believe it or not, the hardest part about building this set was to get all of the trees to appear the way they are. I followed a tutorial on how to build a tree, which was pretty easy, but then all of my issues came along when I needed to set my tree object as the particle that would be simulated across my landscape mesh. Originally, the trees would spawn but the leaves were nowhere to be seen. After about two hours of attempting to correctly attach the leaves onto the tree and about one hour of searching online, I found a 50-word WordPress blog that gave me the exact answer I needed.
And that is where I’m at with this project. I have one week to finish my environment, render each of my frames and build an animatic. That all may seem like a lot of work but it really isn’t. Once the environment is built I just need to move my character and camera and render each position. Once that is done I will take the images into Final Cut Pro X and I will be back into familiar territory.
I really have enjoyed my Blender journey over the past seven weeks. It’s a very powerful software and the fact that it’s free and open source for anyone to use is astonishing. In my opinion, seven weeks is not enough time for someone who knows nothing about 3D animation to learn the software and create a portfolio-ready project. The final project will not be the most impressive 3D modeled scene, but I am very glad that I have pursued such an ambitious project and am looking forward to more opportunities to continue learning Blender as I expand my skillset as a content creator.