Making a snail in Blender

I poked around some online examples and tutorials.

This snail was super cute and ended up being my inspiration! Can’t get any cuter.

And then this was a nice and straight-forward tutorial for making the spiral shell, which I stuck on top of the snail.

snail
snail in Blender3D

He’s a little lop-sided and one-eyed, and after all, that shell on his back looks kind of unappetizing, but that’s what I have so far.

This is the snail that goes with the animation I’m making with one of the fifth-grade classes at Wolf Meadow, who are doing a great job animating so far. Yes, we have already started animating – can’t believe it’s gone so fast!

Quiet pause in the class

After some rough days, just had one of the best lessons I conducted today at Wolf Meadow. This was with a group of kids whose lesson last week was a complete wash, mostly due to some miscalculations on my and my partner teacher’s part. Well, we tried again this week, and it went so well.

When I do these lessons, I get so nervous about keeping a flow going; or I get nervous that if I don’t keep the pace relentless, I’ll lose the kids — they’ll start daydreaming or get distracted. Or if I don’t keep talking, then it will seem like I don’t have things straight in my mind, and the kids will start smirking.

That gets tricky when you get to a part of the lesson where you’ve been demonstrating and showing the kids things for a while, and you’ve piled on tools and tricks and tips, and now you have a new twist to show them, and — and — you’re out of breath yourself, but still feel like you need to plow right along.

Well, today, when I got to such a point, I took a breath instead! I took a pause. And the kids didn’t explode into chatter. I asked them instead: what do you think about this?

Positive claps all around.

Anything that’s really sticking out for your?

Ah, one kid said something, I just don’t remember what!

Then I told them: okay, there’s a bit more teaching to do before I let you all come up and practice yourselves, so let’s all take a deep breath. And we did quietly take a breath.

Way back when I was an actual teacher, I remember some of the “veteran” teachers would say things like: you can use silence so effectively in the classroom. Pauses and check-ins can be very helpful. Well, it’s a very nice tip, but I never made it to the stage where I was actually an effective enough teacher to be able to employ such nifty techniques. But here I am!

A film with different speeds

A few months ago, I was trying to create a film of various images and clips of footage. However, all the footage was in various speeds – some in 6 frames per second (is that speed a crime in the film world?) and some in 30 frames per second. So when I added in the 30 frames per second bits, it was in super slow motion.

Today, the issue came up again, but I searched a bit and I figured out how to get around this in Blender’s video sequence editor. I’m pretty happy to have discovered this! And it was super easy, ALTHOUGH I messed it up the first couple of times.

It also took me a few times searching to find the simple solution (for my case). I found this stack exchange Q&A, from which this was the important tip (the tip was actually in the question being asked) …

The method I have been using, up until now, is to import all the movie strips. Then set the frame rate for the project to 30f/s and on the 120f/s strips, add a speed control effect strip, to change the speed to that of the audio.

So I learned about the whole speed control thing, lovely!

Still took me a while to get it to work right. You think you’ve done it right, but then you add a ‘transform’ strip and it messes up. Or you try to edit down your video, not for the sake of speed control but because you want to chop a piece of it off, and it messes up again. This speed control has to be done with tender gloves.

I found some tutorials to help out, but they were both super annoying! One of them, you couldn’t hear the audio. The other had to give a whole introduction and blab on before he got to the point. But when he finally got around to it, I was able to see a demonstration of how the speed control works.

Video editing

Usually, I make animations, so I just have the rendered images all in a row, and then a single audio file –  somewhat chopped up, but still coming from a single file.

But a few months ago, I made more of a traditional “movie” made up of single images, bits of videos, and lots of added text. It seems to be the new ‘trend’ for ‘granting agencies’ to now require you – that is “highly encourage” – to include a video in your application submission. It’s not because they’re going to choose you – oh, heavens, no – they just want to get the satisfaction of making you do more work for nothing.

Well, any case, this was what my video editing sequencer ended up looking like:

video sequencer.JPG

Pretty interesting to see that outcome! The turquoise is the audio; the black at the bottom is a black background for any blank space; the purple is various mages; the gold is text; and the green is to changes the sizes of the images. I forget what the blue is for, though!

This is the sequencer in Blender, by the way.

First viewing party – Butterfly story

It was really nice!

IMG_20181217_134829

The kids in the two classrooms said their movie was ‘amazing’, ‘awesome’, ‘terrific’, etc, etc. This was all in front of their parents.

I was really happy with the number of parents who showed. In one of the classrooms, there were like 10! I got surveys from each and every one. What I forgot to do was to ask for their email addresses, so I can keep sending them future videos. But that time will come. I’ll remember next time.

My first partner teacher was so amazing. She was the one who’d written a note to the parents and gotten so many of them to come. Then she gave me a little present at the end 🙂

And I had presents, too, for the kids. The Walt Disney Family Museum had sent them little souvenirs – bookmarks, pencils, postcards. It was great. The only thing with the postcards is all the characters on them are exclusively white. So I am going to use the more landscape-y scenes and figure out what to do with the character postcards.

post cards from the Walt Disney Family Museum
Post cards from the Walt Disney Family Museum

I also made certificates for the kids:

Animation certificates

Do they look bad? The blue/yellow/pink/green shapes that were glued on – I’ve been lugging those around for about 5 or 6 years. They were from some event in the Chesapeake Bay, when I used to work there. I don’t even remember what the event was, but they had cut out all those designs so nicely, and I felt so bad about seeing a whole lot of left-overs all tossed in the trash. So I grabbed them and have finally found a good use for them.

The ‘great job’ stickers I got from Staples. They were in the clearance bins for 75 cents or something, and there were like 72 stickers in each packets. And this is the Staples attached to the mall to which I can take the bus or walk, so I felt really good and resourceful.

And I felt wonderful after the viewings – like we really had done something good and meaningful. I kind of flew into this whole project more on gut instinct, rather than as part of a carefully considered career pathway. But it’s been pretty cool. I feel really entrepreneurial. It’s a nice feeling. I feel like we’re doing something fresh and nice.

The film itself – well, I think next time I’m going to have to do something with the flipping pages. It makes me dizzy to have them fly past all the time. But other than that, I thought the caterpillar scrunching itself along was super cute. And the drawings and everything looked so good. And the kids’ animations are just lovely! And so are their voices.

Here it is: “All About Butterflies!”

So that’s one film down, 5 more to go!

Other animation software

I’ve heard of AfterEffects, and it just struck me I should search for some material that shows what exactly this software can do. I found this video on YouTube, it was pretty cool.

It looks like AfterEffects doesn’t do the exact sort of 3D computer animation that you can pursue through Blender. But on the other hand, this AfterEffects video shows lots of techniques that I don’t know personally how to do in Blender; and I’m not sure if some of them can be done. I’ll have to look into it.

It’s pretty interesting because some of the animation techniques I just saw are things I would like to incorporate, especially the ones where things look old and frayed. Now, I don’t have the money to be using AfterEffects, so I’m going to look into if there are free similar programs. Any thoughts?

Update: Found another AfterEffects video. I don’t like it though. I know it looks slick and cool and sophisticated, but that style of animation, where things are bobbing and sliding and everything is smooth and acts like it knows it all, seems so dull. The pictures don’t even really match up to what the person is saying. It’s too corporate!

How to make a crescent moon in Blender

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but I googled “crescent moon in Blender”, and there wasn’t a whole lot of help. There was one tutorial that purported to show how to make a full moon, with all the craters on the surface. I’m not sure if it actually does because I didn’t watch to the end of it. I didn’t want a full moon, just a beautiful crescent moon with a soft, otherworldly glow.

And another video showed how to make a crescent, all right, but it’s a very ancient version of Blender, and I don’t think those same controls exist.

So then I googled, how to make a crescent in blender (didn’t mention ‘moon’), and this explanation of how to use the “bend” tool showed up. I’m not exactly sure all the mechanics of it, but I pressed shift+w and then played around with where the red cursor and my mouse cursor were located. And low and behold, my flat sphere started doing very strange things, and then all of a sudden it looked like this:

moon 1

Which is a kind of ugly and doughy looking moon, but at least I had the shape.

Now, I wanted a beautiful pearly glow to my moon, but all the tutorials I found on this topic were in the “Cycles” mode of Blender. This is the more powerful mode that gives you more realistic images. I don’t usually use it, having less familiarity with it and usually getting by without it, anyways. But, my beautiful moon demanded it!

This meant I had to do some things over. I had to color things back in according to the Cycles dictates. I first looked up how to make my Earth have the proper texture, or image, plastered over it, that is to say, how would I unwrap a texture in Blender cycles mode.

Then I figured out how to add stars in the background, thus replacing the simple image of stars I’d been using before. It worked great, and the guy doing the tutorial is Norwegian, haha.

stars

That picture’s a bit dark, so I took away all other lights from the background and from the images, and increased the strength of the sun.

moon 3

Now for the moon itself. Still prowling after an unearthly glow. I really like this tutorial-maker called Sardis Pax, so I went to his “Dark Tower” tutorial. About four minutes in, he shows how to making a glowing light atop his dark tower. However, even though he makes very interesting scenes, as ever his methods are very complicated and I got lost.

Searched for other tutorials, went through about five of them. Unfortunately, I got lost with all of them, and after about four hours I finally realized that the “glow” these tutorials are promising isn’t going to help me anyways. Their glow was something you edit into just a SINGLE image. It was not a glow you’d add into the many images needed for an animation. So that didn’t help. At least I used the ‘compositor’ for the first time ever and kind of know what its purpose is, now, although I didn’t really even want to know.

So I went back to the complicated ‘Dark Tower’ tutorial, got lost again, and now I’m super fed up, because all of a sudden, after all that work, I finally stumbled upon a quick and easy tutorial that does the glow without requiring Cycles. I didn’t even stumble across just one of these, I stumbled across a couple. So I went into the more complicated and taxing version of Blender for nothing. Except even this ‘easy-to-make’ glow isn’t going to work exactly right for me. All the tutorials show the glow happening from a ball against a wall, so the glow shows up and looks soft and cozy. My glow is just enervating out into the emptiness of space, so I don’t think it’s the same.

I had to re-do everything in the simple version, and figure out how to put stars back in, and I’m sorry, but the glow looks really dumb and silly. Oh, and not just that, but it makes the girl and the earth glow, too. So much for the beautiful effervescence I thought I’d attain.

moon in blender with glow

This is the most ridiculous moon ever made.