Animated Experiences

Note: I actually started doing this about 2 weeks ago, but I was so interested in doing the animation that I didn’t have time to get WordPress working so I could start writing a blog. I’ll be posting each step from my original write-up on it until I catch up with where I am now.

I’ve always wanted to learn 3D animation. I’m intrigued by the idea that someone like me, without drawing or artistic abilities, could create an object out of lines and curves, decide what shape it should have, then pick the colors and textures for the materials, and end up with an object that looks like it could actually exist in space and with mass. Even as a kid, before the movie Tron, I knew there should be a way, using equations, to plot shapes and have a computer animate them by moving them and figuring out the light and shadow effects.

I found a program called Blender, which is open source and free of charge. This program is completely free (and it’s open source, which, for anyone that knows me, is something I am always excited to see). Since I’m not using Windows, and using Linux instead, I check and see Blender is available via the Advanced Packaging Tool, so I type one line: “apt-get install blender” and voila!, Blender is automatically downloaded and installed on my system. The harder part is finding a good guide. There are plenty of guides and tutorials online, for free, at blender.org, where you can download the program for free, but I find it hard to switch back and forth between program windows, so I make a trip to Borders and buy a good guide.

It took me a while, since I was not used to Blender’s unique interface, but I was finally able to create my first animation. It’s a gingerbread man walking. I didn’t really do anything creative with this. I just followed the instructions (or at least almost all of them), and made a gingerbread man, then made him walk. He only walks one step, but if your media player is set to loop or replay animations, then when he finishes the step, he starts again and it looks like he is walking continuously.

It’s not a great animation, but it’s nice and fun to create something like this and see it work. Here’s a link to my first animation, the GingerbreadMan.mpg.

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