Blender Tutorial: Wobble GIF

spiral

CLICK TO SEE IT MOVE.

You see these on Tumblr a lot, sometimes as photos and sometimes as 3D generated. Fortunately, the 3D kind are easier to work with since you get perfect camera control.

Essentially, you’re hijacking the brain’s sense of parallax to create depth. The background is moving left and right, the foreground is a little bit. Whatever the camera pivot point is stays “fixed” as the depth when the brain puts it together.

So. Super simple setup, and you can use basically any model for this, though some will look cooler / work out better. Ideally, you have three planes: foreground, focus point, background.

Acrylo Wobble Camera Setup

So you have your model – whatever it is – and your first camera positioned where you’d normally put it. I just UV mapped a spiral image to this wavy line I rotated; whatever. The important thing here is that my focal point is the cursor and that I’ve rotated two extra cameras around that point (+/- 5 degrees, but that’s arbitrary. Too much angle will lose focus because you only have three frames to work with – jumping around too much is just confusing strobe. Try less, maybe, for a more subtle wobble). The only thing that matters is your cameras make an arc (so they’re the same distance away. You can use constraints against an Empty if you want, but rotating in one axis works too) and the angles converge on the focal point.

Render the three frames. I’m labeling them here that the left camera is 1, middle is 2 and right is 3. Protip: you can activate another camera as being the camera to be rendered from by using CTRL-0 on the numpad with that camera selected. It’s exactly like the normal 0 going into the camera view, but the CTRL bit also makes that camera the active one.

Spiral 1

Spiral 2

Spiral 3

You can use GIMP / Photoshop or any number of .gif assembler programs for this part. I Googled this and it seems to work well, but my five minute using it isn’t exactly a full review. Take your frames and assemble them 1, 2, 3, 2 which creates that loop back to the beginning frame. Mine is a 50 ms delay, but play with that too, probably working in conjunction with how far apart the cameras physically are. If it’s a more subtle wobble you don’t need it to go as slowly, simulating your one physical head moving around the object and the time it takes.

That’s basically it. It’s super easy, you just need to take a little care with how the cameras are positioned.

Isometric Blender Tutorial + Download

I made this years ago and am just now sharing it. Sorry for the wait you never knew you were waiting for.

There’s two different ways to do isometric projection when using a computer screen:

True, exactly like isometric grid paper and the angles are 30° from horizontal as shown on the Wiki

Super easy to do in blender, just use the provided angles.

which gives you this:

…and digital, which for the benefit of smooth lines and consistent video game sprites uses a slightly off angle.

Habbo Hotel:

When zoomed in we see a pattern with lines using two pixels over and one pixel row up. You can do the trig yourself, but this is not perfectly 30°. It is, however, much easier to make by hand (as old games often were) and easier to calculate grid position (and thus, the imaginary 3D space the sprites occupy in “depth”).

A bit harder to do in Blender. I wish I could say I slaved over a hot calculator and furious pumped through calculations but honestly? I just played until it worked.

Some things to note:

Orthographic camera. As opposed to a perspective camera, orthographic means all of your lines are parallel. Since our isometric grid is an orthographic grid, we’ll be needing this. It’s in the camera settings of Blender.

Now, since we want that fixed viewpoint angle, we can’t rotate the camera or move it to look at things. We can, however, use the Shift X and Y to look around our scene and scale to zoom in and out. The physical camera should never change once we’ve set it’s proper location.

Setting up the 3D space. We’ll need two things, one or both you probably already have: a camera and a cube (or empty).

The cube can sit at 0,0,0 (X,Y,Z) and the camera should be moved to (pressing N and inputting the numbers at the top right) 12.05713, -12.05713, 9.84465 (X,Y,Z). Go ahead and lock those numbers if you’d like, to avoid accidentally moving something in the future. Now, the important part. Add a Track To constraint to the camera and target the cube. Play with those axis until it’s back to right side up (for me, -Z and world up is Y).

Pressing 0 on the numpad to see the camera’s view, you should be seeing your cube in isometric. F12 to render. Good? Good. If you want that old school Habbo / Roller Coaster Tycoon look, turn off AA in the render panel and make your resolution 640 x 480. You should notice your render is following that 2×1 line pattern we described above.

Of course, this works just as well with an empty, if you don’t want to see the cube in the render (for building scenes around it, etc.)

Fun fact, this is how to make a geometrically perfect Acrylo logo: Make cube. Join all four top verts into central point, making a pyramid. Move point up two units, so whole thing is four tall and the base 2×2. Smile and clap in delight.

If the instructions aren’t working out for you, or you’re a lazy bum you can download the .blend file here

Enjoy!

Normal Mapping in Blender Cycles

It’s probably old hat to a lot of you out there, but I just discovered this and there wasn’t any high ranking Google help directly pointing to it, so:

Which takes normal maps (the rainbow coloured kind) and turns them into something useful in Blender’s Cycles renderer.

Neat.

In case that ultra difficult node setup is getting you down, here’s the .blend file to play with. You’ll have to link up your own normal texture(s) and my “UV map” is literally just the default U press. Whatever. I just found this in Google images quickly, but you likely have your own.

Blender Tutorial: Super Basic UI

You open Blender for the first time. You panic; there’s buttons everywhere. You close it again: “I’ll figure it out some other day.”

Today is that some other day.

Okay. First things first: Blender is of the mentality that everything should adapt to how you want it. You can edit, move and change basically everything you see to your liking. You’ll notice that mine, below, is slightly different from the factory default.

You’ll also notice that I’ve outlined some buttons in the corners of some boxes. Two things: you can have as many boxes as you’d like and each one has that button in the corner which denotes what that box does. You can click and drag the boundaries of the boxes with the line that separates them (when you hover over the line your cursor should change to the double edged arrows). You can split and join them by right clicking when you’re in that hovering arrow area and selecting the appropriate option.

If you select “join” you’ll be given an arrow pointing towards one or the other of the boxes on either side of the crease you selected (note, you can’t join one of those three right boxes into the bigger one left box, it must be a crease where there’s only two sides. For example: joining on of those three boxes vertically into another = good) and if you move your mouse into either of the boxes that’s the one that will “fill” with the other, joining into one big box.

If you want to split, it’ll allow you to place the new crease. Obviously, you can always move it after it’s placed.

That was a mouthful. Basically, if you right click a crease and want to join things, it’ll give you the option of which kind of box you want to keep. Remember those little buttons in the first photo? Let’s go there next:

Those are the kind of box it is. The large one on the left is a 3D view box, showing you the 3D view. So is the middle one in that group of three; it’s a 3D view that I keep set to my camera’s view (we’ll get there later). There’s also a timeline in the middle bottom and a node box in the middle top – two more things we’ll cover much later – and on the far right the “properties” menu, which is to say the main panel of doing things. In the factory default there’ll also be a box above this menu that is a tree of all the objects in your scene; I’ve found this mostly useless. Preferences vary, obviously, but if you’re low on screen real estate that’d be on my list of things to not need. Right click on the crease, join upwards (so the arrow is into the outliner box) and click to confirm.

Cool.

So, when you’ve played around and set things up how you like them you can save them so that every time you open Blender (and every time you click “new”) it’ll go back to that state. Your UI will be saved with each file, so if you have an animation and a bunch of animation boxes, it’ll load exactly like that next time. If you don’t need them and have gotten rid of them, it’ll save and load exactly how you leave it. To save the UI you’ve made as that startup default, it’s in the top menu like so:

And there’s the factory default setting just below that if you screw it up and want to reset.

Protip: in the load menu, there’s a toggle on the left for “load UI” which is what it sounds like: you can choose to load the file’s UI as it was or load the file with the UI you currently have.

$5 Best Made Axe Treatment

We’ve had this old hatchet as long as I can remember and I thought it time to give it some love.

Now, if you’re a regular reader you’ll probably recall that I rant and rave about Best Made Axes – they’re just gorgeous.

I happened to be at Home Depot for a different reason and wandered past the paint section. They sell little $5 bottles of sample interior house paint – the idea being you paint a section of the wall and decide if you like it – and I figured that’d be perfect for how much I needed. I had them mix up this “Pacific Coast” colour for me. It’s CIL brand eggshell, if that matters at all.

Best Made’s go higher up the handle, but I like the more minimal tip colour. Simply clean up the handle and dip it in however far you want. I should note that the sample bottle is way, way more than you’ll ever need. You could do hundreds of handles with one sample, if you really wanted. I’ll keep it around for other things; it’s a lovely colour. Multiple colours could just be done one over each other (waiting for the previous coat to dry, of course) or taped off.

Haven’t gotten a chance to test it in the wild, but just handling it now seems like it should stay for a good long while. I don’t foresee it being a fragile thing in any regard, but we’ll just have to wait.

And it gave me an excuse to use my stamp! I removed the print on the head though – didn’t look as good in person as I thought it might. Until I get a letter punch set I can’t do any text, but that’ll come eventually (hopefully I can get in on some more blacksmithing this summer).

Tiny Tutorial: Proper Photo Vignette

I’ve seen this problem a number of times and it’s a subtle difference that can improve your photo editing infinitely: using ‘overlay’ instead of ‘normal’ when adding a vignette layer over your photo in Photoshop.

So the above is a photo I took last summer and here’s what I’ve seen people do:

Notice how the corners are all grey and gross looking? Even the sun, which in real life optics and natural vignettes would be it’s proper lightness is obscured by our vignette layer. These sorts of fake effects are particularly noticeable when they cover over light sources because we know that shouldn’t happen, even subconsciously. When we look at real vignettes we see that they fade to dark, not to black, which is a distinct difference.

By the way, if you don’t know how to make these it’s basically just new layer -> paint fill black or dark brown and then big soft eraser the middle as desired.

Here’s the exact same everything except the vignette layer is set to ‘overlay’ instead of the default. Notice how the corners fade to dark but don’t cover over the brightness of the sun, but we still get that nice popping gradient towards the middle. Much better, and such an easy fix.

 

Blender Bokeh Overview / Tutorial

Covering both internal (node based) and the new Cycles version built into the camera settings.

On the left we have the node and on the right the Cycles camera panel. I’ll come back to that after some photographer’s physics:

Inside a camera lens is a diaphragm made up of an iris, which is a number of blades that can open and close to varying degrees allowing various amounts of light into the film / sensor. Fortunately in the digital world we don’t have to deal with things like exposure and shutter speed, so we can focus on making the aperture hole whatever we want purely with intention for depth of field (DoF).

As the aperture hole gets bigger, the F/stop number gets smaller, and DoF becomes more pronounced (bokeh gets bigger):

Confusingly, there are two numbers that both photographers and Blender programmers use. One refers to the F/stop of the aperture and one to the size of the hole it makes. They’re referring to the same measurement in reality, but for some reason the standard isn’t really upheld to use one or the other. F/stop (denoted f2, f4 etc.) is for all intents and practical purposes arbitrary (they were set holes for the old old film cameras – each hole (each Fstop) is exactly twice the amount of blur as the last). All you really need to know is that typical camera lenses are between f1.4 and f22 but most commonly around f5-f10 when taking into account the film’s exposure and whatnot. Conveniently, the Blender node simply uses this directly. Plug in some value around 5 and you’ll get a decent result.

But. You’ll notice this F-value gets smaller as the hole gets bigger. A pain. Cycles interface uses this number directly. The bigger the number, the bigger the hole, the bigger the bokeh. It makes sense and I applaud them for taking the straightforward approach for strictly digital users, but a lot of us are photographers and more comfortable with the old notation. Personal preference, I guess. Anyway, values between 0.1 and 1.0 seem to work well, based on focal point (more on that later).

There is a conversion ratio, apparently, but I tried it in a few experiment renders and it didn’t seem to be very accurate for me, so I’m not sure I’ll both posting it. Mostly, do it by test and eventually, feel.

I’ve been lurking various forums and subreddits and there have been a few comments on bokeh, what it is and how to get it. The node system sort of did it, but unreliably, and the Cycles system does do it much better. You can download my test .blend HERE to play along. It’s just an array of cubes and a few other cubes that have an emission material.


150 samples :: 23.79 s :: Cycles: 0 | 0 | 0 (appearing in order of interface: size, blades, rotation)


300 samples :: 48.04 s :: Cycles: 0.1 | 0 | 0

You’ll notice the more blur the more samples you’ll need to keep it smooth. Mine aren’t quite done yet (still a bit grainy) but I’m still in the low range of samples (150-500)

Bokeh is the word they use to describe the shape of the out of focus parts. Because of the lens focus and physics of optics and so on it takes the shape of the diaphragm the light is focused through. So, if the lens has a lot of  blades in the iris it’ll be more circular (common) and sometimes the aperture only has 5 or six blades, creating penta and hexagon bokeh respectively. You will see in movies triangle and diamond bokeh for stylistic effects and if you put a cutout in front of the lens you can make it whatever shape you want. Typically, circles are the smoothest and hexagons are used for science fiction movies. Subtle differences, but those angles can really change the feel of a scene.


500 samples :: 1.21.23 :: Cycles: 0.3 | 0 | 0


500 samples :: 1.21.60 :: Cycles: 0.3 | 6 | 0

The difference between 0 (circle) and 6 (hexagon) bokeh. Notice the best looking bokeh comes from the smaller cubes in the back (to the left) – the large ones just blow it all out.

Both the node and Cycles has this easily built in, simple select the number of sides you want from 0 (perfect circle) to octagon. After that, polygons tend to look like circles anyway, so there isn’t any need to go higher. Or, in Cycles, simple type in a number for # of blades. (0, 3-9). Both have an angle / rotation as well. This is the rotation (in degrees) that that polygon gets rotated. Say if you’re using a pentagon and you wanted the point up or down, you could angle it as you’d like. If you’re trying to simulate a specific lens just find a source image and look at how it’s diaphragm is rotated to rotate your bokeh accordingly. Note this does not effect the size at all.


500 samples :: 1.21.24 :: Cycles: 0.3 | 6 | 30

So we can rotate the hexagon bokeh 30 degrees to make the flat edge down. 360 / 6 / 2 = 30


1000 samples :: 2.51.62 :: Cycles: 0.6 | 6 | 30


1000 samples :: 2.51.29 :: Cycles: 0.6 | 9 | 0

Taking it to the extreme: 0.6 creates a lot of blur and needs a lot more samples. Almost 3 minutes vs. 23 seconds for the 0 DoF control render.

Since bokeh is the effect of light’s focus on the film / sensor, the amount of light defines a lot about the resulting effect. Light sources are often the cause of the prevalent bokeh in the background of scenes – makes sense, they’re putting out light. Specular reflections on geometry can also make bokeh, but the effect will typically be diminished because the material is absorbing some of the energy in the bounce. Likewise, glossy materials are better than matte materials for this; rarely will you get any real effect from a matte material since it absorbs and scatters most of the light.

The size of the bokeh, as mentioned briefly above, is directly linked to the aperture size – the amount of DoF blur. If you aren’t getting the desired effect it’s because either there isn’t enough light power to create it or that the ‘lens’ is too in focus, meaning there isn’t enough blur to get anything good. Typically, it’ll be the former. This is where the node DoF struggles, the threshold for creating bokeh seems a little off and it takes a really intense light value in the scene to get results. It’s a tradeoff, though, because you can easily make things too blurred and start moving into tiltshift area.

Now, there is another reason the camera might be too in focus and it has to do with the focus distance. The closer the focus is to the camera, the more DoF blur you’ll get, even at the same aperture size. If the focus is extremely far away, you’ll have to compensate with an irrationally large iris to maintain the same amount of blurring effect.

It seems, in my informal tests so far, that the node based one is much faster but Cycles is much more accurate, especially when reflections are concerned (node isn’t smart enough – will reflect perfect focus instead of realistic reflected bokeh). The more blur you have, the more samples you’ll need to make it smooth. There seems to be a curve to this, where minor blur increases = major extra samples. Just keep it in mind. You can use nodes compositing on top of a Cycles render, so it isn’t limited just to internal.

Let’s review:
-F/stop between ~2-10 (2 being lots, 10 being less)
-Cycles size between ~0.2-1.0 (0.2 being less, 1.0 being lots)
-Shape defines the appearance of the bokeh
-Rotation rotates that shape
-Distance to camera and lighting power do effect bokeh intensity / size
-Nodes are faster, Cycles and more accurate

Credits to everyone who’s image I googled; all link through.

You can download my demo scene HERE to play with.

BST :: Portal Cake

It’s my good friend and colleague’s birthday, so this tutorial is both for him and for him and the rest of you can learn from it too.

The texture can be found here. It isn’t by any means good, but it’ll work. Ideally, you’d have a layer of nuts, a layer for icing and so on set at different tile sizes, so they never loop as obviously as using just one image.

I should have made a texture for the background core spheres but I’m sure you can figure it out.

Tutorial for Blender 2.6 based on the ending of the first Portal game, which, I’ll say on more time: you need to play.

Happy cakeday!

BST :: Making HDRi Maps from Scratch

“In order to make an HDRi map from scratch, you must first create the universe.” – Dr. Carl Sagan

Or something like that.

No, but seriously, it’s not even that hard. No deity powers necessary. Just Photoshop, or any image editor with 32-bit / pixel capability. Speaking of which, if you’d like any pure Photoshop tutorials, I can start running through a few of those too.

And remember, you CAN use regular everyday .jpgs as reflection maps, this is for proper .hdr lighting when necessary (so for Keyshot or Yafaray IBL lighting etc.)

Blender Supernoob Tutorial :: Request Modern Kitchen

Had a request from one of the readers to briefly walkover how I would approach modelling a kitchen from a photo I posted.

Certainly not a full build, but I think it gives a good start and goes over the basic approach leaving room for you to work with and finish things.

The main thing with modelling is learning to recognize the geometry in the image (or what you’re imagining in your head) and break it down into the basic shapes. Like sketching, most things are made just by adding in basic geometry (cubes, spheres etc.) and then combining and modifying them to build the detail.


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