Adobe Offsetting: March 2014

This month I gave to The Gooseberry Project which is an initiative coordinated through the Blender community to bring the world’s best talent together to create a full-length animated film. I stumbled onto the project this month when I decided for the umpteenth time to try to learn 3D.

Will the next Walt please stand?

There are many benefits to supporting an art initiative like The Gooseberry Project. It helps people understand that open-source software is a viable solution. There’s no bigger testament to Blender as  professional software than making a 3D feature film. The project also highlights all the talented artists and studios that are out there. With supporting individual artists directly, it gives the opportunity to create another “Walt Disney”. Corporations have creative control of much of what we see and  it’s prohibitively expensive to get independent projects off the ground. With the advent of fundraising sites and people consuming more content online than on cable or in theaters, it gives independent voices a greater chance of being heard. Having the ability to champion new visionaries in the field of animation is an exhilarating prospect.

Trying 3D, again…

For the past year I’ve helped organize and coordinate a local meet-up for animators which we lovingly call The Starbucks School of Animation. We meet at Starbucks once a week to go over projects and discuss goals. It’s a great resource for asking workflow questions or getting feedback on story ideas and character development. Everyone comes from different disciplines and have their own strengths. Two of the 3D people in our group, Maluchi and Mike, have been encouraging me to try 3D. This month I finally decided to take them up on it and start learning.

In the past, I’ve attempted to learn Blender. For those of you that have never seen Blender, it’s an amazing open source tool for creating 3D models and animation. I’ve tried buying manuals for the software and going through the steps. In the past I’ve only gotten so far in and then either was sidetracked with other work or became confused and frustrated over the 3D process. This time I wanted it to be different. I don’t blame the software for my inability to stick with it. It was my own motivation.

So what changed this time?

There are two big things that have helped me commit to learning 3D this time. The biggest benefit is the support structure that I have with Maluchi, Mike and other members of our animation group. Even though everyone works in different programs (Maya, Blender), they offer encouragement and best practices for creating work. It’s really helpful to have people that you can talk to about the struggles or obstacles you’re facing while learning. The other benefit is being inspired. Seeing what other people can do really gives me the momentum to be able to do it myself.

There’s one artist in particular whose work has spoken to me and really made the light bulb go off. His name is Turi Scandurra and you can see his work on Vimeo. His focus is storytelling but he uses animation as his medium. Turi’s entire toolset from start to finish is open source which is pretty remarkable. When I watched the making of his student thesis and saw how he used Blender for compositing 2D scenes and lighting, I was sold. His work gave me the confidence to make the leap and try learning Blender.

Finding the right learning tools

Over the past years I’ve bookmarked site, and tutorials for learning Blender, knowing that they may come in handy in the future. When I decided this month to get serious, I tried out one of the links that I previously flagged. It’s an online 3D class that’s offered free through Tufts University. The online class resources are provided by the instructor, Neal Hirsig. Neal has a wonderful way of reinforcing the basics while explaining the modeling process. For each lesson, there are multiple video lectures explaining the tools. Working along with Neal’s videos is really helpful to learn all of the quick keys and navigating through the software. With each lesson that are one or two project to do. You can download the PDF with steps you through the project and all of the support files. I really wish I would have tried his class materials sooner. He’s an incredible instructor.

Where I’m at right now

So far I’ve made it through Neal’s first 3 lessons in the past two weeks and look forward to learning more. Thanks to Turi, Blender and Neal for making all of this possible:)

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