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Random thoughts, bright ideas and interesting experiments. In short the ramblings of a fulltime nerd.


First steps with Blender

Jakob Westhoff

Just some history

In the old I days when I were still using windows as my main operating system, I used some proprietary 3D modeling software to create some really basic and simple renderings. Unfortunately I didn't find the time to get a more in detailed knowledge about the art of creating 3D models.

When I had some spare time last weekend I incidentally read a news entry about Blender, which popped up in my feedreader. I had read about Blender before. I even saw the some of the work done with it -- Elephants Dream is just a great piece of animation film. But I never took the time to take a closer look at the software itself. Therefore I decided to give it a try and play around with it a little bit.

Taking a first look at Blender

I just installed and launched Blender, hoping I could control the user interface quite intuitively. Unfortunately this did not happen. You definitely can't blame the Blender guys for that. They have done their best to keep the interface as clean and simple as possible. But there is one of the main problems arise. A powerful 3D modeling and rendering suite isn't simple at all. Therefore the interface kind of feels intimidating if you take a first look at it. It is well organized but without a deeper knowledge of 3D modeling techniques you just do not understand most of the options and configuration parameters. Instead of reading the documentation I decided to look out for some video tutorials. There are a lot out there. I found a set of quite interesting ones which explain all the beginners stuff quite well. They are a little bit lengthy at some parts, but after you have seen them you will start to understand the user interface a lot better. The tutorials are available at Blender Underground:

First modeling tryouts

After watching these tutorials -- Actually I fast forwarded a lot of the stuff I already knew -- I had a quite good understanding about the absolute blender basics. I started experimenting and tried to create my first model. After about an hour I had a model of the glass cup ready to be rendered. You might ask why did he create a glass cup for his first model. The question is easy to be answered. I was drinking some coffee out of cup made of glass, which was standing right in front of me when I thought about a nice modeling idea.

Screenshot of the cup model as wireframe in Blender

Screenshot of the cup model as wireframe in Blender

After the cup was modeled I wanted it to be rendered like it was mode out of glass. I googled a little bit but finally found a nice website with free Blender materials. The site is called Blender Open Materials Repository, At first I found it quite hard to create my own materials therefore took some materials from this repository and rendered the cup in different angles. During the time I waited for some of the renders to finish I remembered an article about a Fluid simulation engine added to Blender during a Google Summer of Code. I read some forum posts about how the basics of this engine work and created some fluid for the cup to hold.

About 2 hours of rendering time later these renders had been written to my disk.

Cup filled with black oil

Black ceramic cup filled with water

Glass cup filled with coffee

I really like the outcome of my first experiences with Blender. After having worked with this software only for about 1 day I can tell that I like the kind of handling in Blender a lot better than the one of the windows tool worked with long time ago. Even being complex by the fact that 3D modeling is quite complex, Blender makes a really good job at presenting the user with a coherent and harmonious interface. I really hope to have some time in the near future to take a look at the more sophisticated features of Blender.