Following my review of the Blender CG animation software this is a report on my progress with learning to use it.
The gingerbread man illustrating this post was modelled by following the Your First Animation in 30 plus 30 Minutes exercise at wiki.blender.org. It is a written exercise that guides you through the process of modelling the figure and making a walk animation. It has numerous illustrations and a concise description of the steps required. However, it took me much longer that the suggested 30 minutes. This was mostly due to clicking the wrong keyboard shortcuts and then working out how to recover from the errors. I eventually decided to save a new copy of the file before each major step so I could go back to it if things went wrong.
A little known Blender secret is to name your files so that they end with a number. For example name your file anyname_1. blend. Now when you save as, just place the mouse over the name field, and press the + key on the numpad. The number will increment. This also works when saving a rendered image.
The exercise shows how to add a texture to the model. It produced a rough biscuit-like surface which looks good in the still picture. However, when he was animated the granular surface moved around for each frame in a distracting way. I played with the various textures available and the size settings until I got something I was happy with. It is called clouds.
The model is animated by adding bones that control the outer skin. The gingerbread man is a very simple figure and the exercise only added bones for the arms and legs. In order to make him leave the ground I added a spine bone and made it a parent to the arm and leg bones. In this way moving the spine bone up took the whole model up. I also added a head bone to give that some movement.
The animation of the jump was done with three key frames; one on the ground, one in the air and a repeat of the one on the ground. It was spread over 40 actual frames with the software creating the in-between frames. I rendered the movie with 39 frames because frame 40 is the same as frame 1. That way the animation can be looped to play continuously. The jump animation could do with some refinement but it is just to show how the key frame system works.
Above: My test animation of a jump.
The next challenge I have set myself is to get to grips with the Blender bar sheet system.