It’s All About Blender

If you’re trying to learn Blender, join the club. We’ve got jackets!

It begins with a book that nobody has read. Well, that’s not really true. “Marigold’s End, a Phineas Caswell Adventure” has actually sold 9 copies. In a world of 7.5 billion people… well, you can do the math!

So, instead of flogging the marketing of a book that no one will read, it was decided that I should make a video of it. The only downside is that it takes place aboard a sailing ship in 1705 – kind of tough to green-screen that in the garage!

Enter Blender 3.1.2. Here’s where you can create a 3D world, staffed with 3D people, and all the models and skies and things that make life as fascinating as it is.

Sort of. If you’re new to Blender, and I mostly am, creating something like this is a truly daunting task. But, there are cheats and assists and all sorts of assets out there to help you. So chin up, pip pip. Onward we go.

The purpose of this blog is to share with you, step by exasperating step, the progress that my movie, The Diary of Phineas Caswell, is making. Along the way, I’ll share with you things I’ve discovered in Blender.

Before we get to Blender, we have to look at the overall plan, don’t we? Where do we start?

The Plan

The novel has a number of transitions between scenes. I am bad at writing transitions. Just bad, and they’re hard to get through in the book.

SO, the movie will have only 10 scenes, and ZERO transitions.

The scenes will be the keys to the story in the novel. By linking them together, the viewer will get the whole story.

So, 10 scenes plus an introduction and a rousing conclusion. That’s the plan.

The Settings

Most of the story takes place aboard a sailing ship called the Kathryn B, so that will be our primary set. I found an mid-18th century brig for $25 on a site called Turbosquid.com. If you want to jumpstart your Blender education, go there early and often – there’s a ton of free models to play with!

She’s not quite like the Kathryn B, lacking a forecastle and severely over-gunned, but we’ll get to that eventually.

The Cast

You can’t make a movie without actors, even 3D ones. My original plan was to build the sets in Blender, and then green-screen GI Joe-sized actors, blending 3D and stop-motion animations together. Uh, no. Hard enough to learn Blender, without going through the heartache of learning stop-motion.

Here’s another place for you to visit: Reallusion.com. Don’t be intimidated by their Hollywood storefront – it looks plenty expensive. Download their Character Creator 4 and Crazy Talk 8 free demos. The download is limited in time only (I think you get a month), but the programs are full-function.

Character Creator let’s you seriously create really cool looking 3D actors.

You probably know this already, but I had to learn it: 3D actors have something inside them called “bones.” When you animate a scene, you move the actor’s bones to make the action. It’s a simple as that.

A 3D model with bones in it is called a “rigged” model. All of the models you create from Character Creator are fully rigged.

Crazy Talk 8 lets you animate 2D objects (drawings, photos, etc) to follow an audio track. In my videos, the plan is to use the Character Creator actor to do the large motion, and use Crazy Talk to animate the face. You can see the result in this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqmEoXasXXY

The Production

So, life is nothing without a challenge. To that end, I’ve chosen to produce the video using Blackmagic Design‘s free DaVinci Resolve.

Coming from Adobe’s After Effects, Resolve is a bit of a challenge. But, the deeper you dig, the more powerful the software becomes, and the more you see that, yes, we can make a bang-up great film for free!

So, There It Is

We have our plan, we have our set, we have our actors, we have our production studio. What else is there?

Learn everything!

NEXT: The Basics of Blender

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