Sunday, April 07, 2013

Everyone should learn Blender

Moved this really long post to here:

My Blender Manifesto

Kinda long, so it should be on its own dedicated page.


MrGoodson2 said...

I'll have to look into Blender. You'll take a hack at anything Ronnie. Your view of corporate software is more of a Leo LaPorte power user notion. The people that call Leo, the ones that can't get windows they're used to seeing to open up, they're going to stick with software that has user guides and such.
I think I'll look at youtube videos on blender first

MrGoodson2 said...

I'll be an expert after watching these three youtube tutorials

Looks very rewarding to learn the program.
Are you an elance user Ronnie? I just joined the free version of that. Looks like what I needed to survive in Culver City. Even though they take a cut, I like the idea of two entities that want to get paid. Not just the easily abused artiist.

I'm removing the Messerschmidt sculpt post. It's too large. Here is the sculpt if you want to look at it.
(original post wording)Marty probably knows all about him. Died in 1783. At age 41 or so. Thought to have had mental problems.

MrGoodson2 said...

I've found this guy to be informative to follow on Tumblr. He's tried out every cintiq alternative. Here he's trying out a new monitor arm he likes.

Surly Bird said...

I wrote that scree last night right before bed. Maybe not the best idea, since I was tired and might have said something I would regret later, after the benefit of sleep. But, I generally stand by my words. I probably spend too much time exploring and learning tools when I should be just making art. I find that is the hardest thing to balance in the digital world.

Once you learn how to use a pencil or brush, you generally are not penalized for switching brands. If you switch from Eberhard-Faber to Grumbacher or from Strathmore to Bristol, you don't have to completely start over and the costs involved are reasonable.

Trying to being current with the ever-changing digital tools landscape is like herding cats. There is a lot of conceptual carryover from one application to another, but becoming fluent in any particular tool requires a lot of patience and practice. I guess it's more like learning to play a new musical instrument. Switching from guitar to piano is probably a better analogy than using traditional art tools.

Blender is a very satisfying tool to learn and use. I really do think it is the future in many ways. It is in sync with the new development model of distributed, remotely-connected teams who need to work on a shoestring budget. It doesn't require an IT guy to be on hand to deal with licensing or anything like that and it is the most scalable solution I've ever seen. You do have to be technically minded to use it, but most people who play games and tinker around with other technology should have no problems, especially with the dearth of solid training easily and freely available.

Good idea going with the blendercookie tutorials. Those guys have taken off in the past few years. They have a subscription site I have wanted to join. I've heard nothing but good things about their site and tutorials.

I have only heard of elance, but haven't really used it. Need to take a look at it because if there is a service that can level the playing field between customer and client, then I'm definitely interested.

That Cintiq arm looks really great. I'm still struggling with my setup. I might give his rig a go.

Benjamin. said...

Yeah, I started playing around with Blender a while ago.

I'd like to learn enough programming some day to add to the code. Another reason got back into programming.

It has a game engine attached too. Haven't used that much, but it is interesting. Scripts in Python.

MrGoodson2 said...

No mistake about it. Free is awesome. I've downloaded it. I'll install it on the Imac eventually.

Benjamin. said...

I'm surprised you guys hadn't heard of Blender yet. They say its just as powerful as any thousand dollar professional software you can buy.

Surly Bird said...

I've played with Blender on and off for years and was always impressed with what I saw. I first tried it in the early 2000s. Back then, the interface and tools were very different than they are now and, to be honest, it was just strange and different of a workflow for me at the time. And I had my hands full learning programs like 3dsMax, Maya and Softimage. I kept an eye on Blender, but I always felt it was missing the polish the other apps had and while I acknowledged its power, there wasn't a compelling reason to learn it.

That all changed with Blender 2.5 and on. The UI and workflow was radically overhauled and Blender is now much more approachable and easily in the same class as Maya, Max, Modo, etc. I dove into Blender in a fairly serious way about 2 years ago, and actually started to get pretty fluent with the tool, but stopped when other projects required I stick with industry-standard tools. Which leads me to the following observation:

The main thing keeping me from going all-in with Blender is that most of the major companies or studios, at least in the States, have built their pipelines around either Max or Maya and if you want to be employable to these studios, you really need to be able to rock with either one or both of those tools. Blender can stand on its own and it also fits into those pipelines nicely (and some studios use it as an adjunct), but most large studios still expect the lion's share of the work to be done with the Big Two. This has been a bit of a problem for users of other tools, not just Blender. I'm a big fan of Modo. It has exceptional tools for modeling, UVing, texturing, rigging and animation and now particles, and has been around for years, has a devoted following, etc. -- but I doubt it's market presence will grow beyond where it currently is unless something completely unforeseen happens. It's a really awesome tool, but the market is pretty much sewn up by Autodesk. Companies who use Max and Maya have too much invested in those programs -- assets and tools they've developed over many years -- to really consider a major paradigm shift like switching to a new tool that shows promise but doesn't do anything fundamentally different than what they've already got.

Now, studios are going under left and right, and there are blossoming opportunities in the world of indies. One of the main problem with indies is one of funding and one thing that could eat your budget in short order is software. A few seats of Maya will cost you nearly eight grand right out of the gate. If you grow with just a few artists, then you can expect to pay more per seat. So, I think if I were to start a studio now, I'd pretty much insist everyone get on the Blender train. It makes a lot more financial sense. It might be harder to attract seasoned talent, but if you look at the global market, there are a ton of awesome Blender artists out there and I think those numbers will continue to multiply.

MrGoodson2 said...

Good essay Ronnie. I'll get back to the youtube tutorials tomorrow.

Surly Bird said...

I get paid by the word. ;)

Sorry if this comes across as some kind of weird CG manifesto. Artists and their tools in the world of games/entertainment has been something I've given a lot of thought over the years. Not sure how healthy that is.

MrGoodson2 said...

Real proficiency at the tools, especially the in house engine tools, makes your place in games.
Concept art has gotten moved beyond being a sketch artist like myself.
Any sketch gets moved straight into a painting at this point. Blender looks like a natural for giving the artist a great, quick way to have backdrops and to manipulate color and layout.
I want to watch the video today. Might be a great shortcut for comic book work as well.

Benjamin. said...

Yes. I was wondering whether it was worth saving up money for an industry standard tool, but it looks like the entire video games industry is changing right now. I'm seeing these independent projects sometimes make tons of money, and I think its got lots of people excited to try to make it on their own.
I'm watching from the outside still, so you'd know better than me.

How do starting indie game developers pay their staff? Is it all volunteer or do they have contracts for payment depending on the success of the game?

MrGoodson2 said...

Benjamin, most start ups are breakouts from people fed up with their current employer. In a lot of cases, especially programmers, they have cash in the bank for the early proto stages of the game. A lot of artists have to stick to the old job, freelance etc and contribute assets for a later stake in the game.
The programmers could even treat the artists as work for hire if they have the money to do so.
Artists making a game is tougher. Someone has to be techy enough to make it app worthy. That's not real common with artists.

MrGoodson2 said...

But the artist, if he has cash or a promising design and the confidence, could always reverse the situation. Hire programming to make his game happen. Stephen Silver can either o the rudimentary point and click programming for his apps or he's hiring it done.

A good artist could do a point and click adventure game with dreamweaver and simple html as the code. Good visuals pay offs might make you a million on something very simple.

But usually people think of tuned feedback from a player character when they think of a modern game.

Benjamin. said...

Well, all the more reason for me to continue learning programming then.
(Though some of the math require for programming with 3D environments is difficult.)

MrGoodson2 said...

Benjamin. I'd say follow Ronnie's advice and learn blender. You can't beat free. Looks a lot like Maya.

Surly Bird said...

Benjamin, if your thing is math and programming, but you have an artistic bent, then my advice is to go full-steam ahead towards becoming a technical artist or director (TD).

TDs are in great demand and they have a lot more job security than the average artist. If you have an eye for UI/UX design, you pretty much can write your own ticket these days. Or you could focus on VFX... those guys are also hard for companies to source, therefore they are highly sought after.

Python has become the language of the land for most TDS and the good news is that Maya, Modo and, more specifically, Blender, all can be customized and extended with Python.

You could make a full game or set of tools in Blender and port them to Maya at some point. In fact, that would probably be a great course of action. Build assets in Blender and use your programming skills in that environment and I think you have a very compelling thing to show to a studio.

MrGoodson2 said...

I watched the 3 youtube videos. How to do the atmospheric island. I'll have to through the steps some time. The node/ material editor, connectivity stuff is very Maya like. Actually looks easier than Maya.
I'd be interested in any pieces you do with it Ronnie. Post them. I want to try to use the emitters to do about 5 types of buildings. Whip out cityscapes by painting in the density of the emitter.

Benjamin. said...

Yep, I've played around with Python in blender. Interesting stuff. It isn't my favorite language, but it'll do.

I had thought about becoming a technical artist because of the dual interest, not sure what they do still. Clearly something to do with being a bridge between artists and programmers, but not sure how.