Learn 3D Graphics

Animation Prep: Story & modules

In preparation for a long term animation, begin by deciding upon a story and creating modular units.

Story Development

To plan for a long term animation assignment, we will begin by doing some basic story development. The animation itself will likely be on the short side and will likely just tell a brief part of your overall story.

In Classroom, you'll find a worksheet to get started on the story. The worksheet should include a summary, list of assets to create in Blender, and some questions/answers about the main character and world as a whole.

Choose a subject you really enjoy for your story - we will spend the rest of the semester working on pieces of this animation. If you have trouble choosing your own idea, it is fine to use a story from the public domain as a starting point. For example, the original versions of fairy tales and myths are all part of the public domain and are not under anyone's copyright.

3+ Modular Units

Create 3 or more modular pieces for your long term animation. These should be reusable, reconfigurable units that can be a starting point for a more detailed environment. DO NOT create any characters - they will look better if you practice more first.

  1. In Finder, create a new folder to keep all of your animation resources
    1. Go to the Documents Folder
    2. Click on the gear icon
    3. Select "New Folder"
    4. Name folder as desired - this could be something like "Library" or the name of your animation
  2. Each module should be saved in a separate file with a descriptive name (this makes it easier to reuse objects in multiple animations/games)
  3. In each module file, use default shapes as a starting point - or draw with vertices like we did for the flower petal. Subdivision, loop cuts, extruding, the mirror modifier and proportional editing could all be helpful.
  4. Make sure to customize the materials and use original textures
  5. Name the objects descriptively as you make them - this makes it easier to keep track of what is what in more complex files later on.

Reference images (either photographs or scanned drawings) can help during the modeling stage to make the proportions of the planned model more accurate and consistent. These images only display in the Blender workspace and not in any renders

Usually multiple reference images (where each image shows a different viewpoint) are the most helpful. When working with multiple viewpoints (ie. a front and side view), it is important that the reference images are made in the same scale.

If using reference images as part of your workflow, make sure to draw or photograph your own references - we want to keep our models original.

More detail coming soon.

  1. In a .blend file for the object, go into "Object mode"
  2. Make sure the pivot point is at the world origin (Shift+S → Cursor to World Origin)
  3. Line up the view of the workspace to match the view of the future reference image:
    • Front view (Numpad 1 or the green circle for -Y in the view widget)
    • Back view (Numpad or the green circle for Y in the view widget)
    • Right side view (Numpad 3 or the red circle for X in the view widget)
    • Left side view (Numpad or the red circle for -X in the view widget)
    • Top view (Numpad 7 or the blue circle for Z in the view widget)
    • Bottom view (Numpad or the blue circle for -Z in the view widget)
  4. Add a background image to use as a reference:
    1. Shift+A → Image → Background
    2. Use the file browser to choose the image for the specific viewpoint (ie. front, side or etc.)
  5. Select the background object and sdjust the background image properties as needed:
    • Size - adjust as needed
    • Offset X - adjust the position along the X-axis
    • Offset Y - adjust the position along the Y-axis
    • Depth - set to front or back to control whether the background displays in front of or behind other objects
    • Side - controls which sides of the image are visible:
      • Both - background is visible from the front and back
      • Front - background is only visible from the front
      • Back - background is only visible from the back
    • Perspective - controls whether the background is visible from any user perspective view
    • Orthographic - controls whether the background is visible in the straight on, Orthographic views (recommend keeping checked)
  6. Add other reference photos from other viewpoints as needed

Appending allows you to move a complete copy of a resource in one Blender file into another Blender file. This could include a variety of things from collections or individual objects to materials and more. All of the modules need to be appended into a single module file.

  1. Open a new file (CMD+N)
  2. Save and give a name that includes your first name, the inital of your last name and modulesp at the end: ie. JohnS_modules.blend
  3. Delete the default cube
  4. Create a collection for each group of modules
    1. In the Outliner, right-click on "Scene Collection"
    2. Double-click on the name of the new collection and give it a new, descriptive name (ie. modules)
  5. With the new module collection selected, go to "File → Append"
  6. Find the file with your first module & select it
  7. Open the "Object" folder
  8. Select the module
  9. Click on "Append from Library"
  10. Position the module where desired
  11. Repeat as necessary to place each module in the module file
  12. Combine the modules together into a few potential arrangements
    • Try changing size/proportions/rotation/materials

In Google Classroom, submit both a render of your modules altogther in a couple different configurations & submit the modules.blend file. Make sure to line up your camera and adjust the lighting as necessary before rendering an image.

If using image textures, make sure that the textures are "packed" in the .blend file - otherwise they are only linked to the file and will not move with it. (File → External Data → Automatically Pack Into .blend)