The new version of Blender was recently released. This release is impressive by any standards and includes significant improvements from the Durian Project. Because version 2.64 contains several features that I am really excited about, I would like to list them here with short overviews of each.
First of all, there’s new masking, tracking, and keying tools. The Mask Editor looks like a dandy addition that allows the user to create masks simply and easily. Based on my initial tests, it seems to have an extensive feature set and has some interesting handle types for splines. The ability to assign tracking points to spline points is both exciting and unique. My only complaint is that it is too easy to add points in the along the length of a spline rather than at the end. I once tried to use the RotoBezier tool but gave up as it wasn’t intuitive enough for me when I already knew how to create masks in After Effects. The Camera Tracker developments look promising also. I miss the choice of trac
king methods, but tracking seems to work quite well with the Hybrid tracker only. The new planar tracker is something that I have been interested in for months, but sadly have not had the opportunity to test it out. One of the areas that Blender has been weak at is greenscreen keying. The good news is that the Compositor has received major updates to its keying capability. The new Keying node works quickly and allowed me to pull a high-quality key with little work.
A more minor update is the new color management system for Blender, OpenColorIO. This gives the option of setting image properties for different color spaces. It’s actually much more important than it seems due to the way that linear and gamma-corrected images work. Now you don’t have to worry about sRGB images being gamma-corrected both before and after rendering. This has really prompted me to work with linear images now more than ever. There is some more detailed information here.
The modeling tools have also received substantial upgrades. The Skin modifier is, in my opinion, one of the best new features to have been developed this year. It uses a similar concept from the ZSpheres featre in ZBrush to quickly create a mesh object based on the position and scale of an armature. This results in an object that already contains all of the bones needed for rigging. We also have the BSurfaces retopology addon included within Blender. I can’t say how it compares to the Shrinkwrap modifier, but I plan to do some further researching in that area.
Blender 2.64 is an excellent update, and the software continues to get better on a regular basis. It’s no surprise that Blender won the ‘Software Update’ award at the 2012 CG Awards. I plan to continue to explore this release further, so look for more updates in the future.
Broken Reality is a new short film that I am working on for my senior animation project at Huntington University. It uses a mix of live-action and animation to create the film’s visuals. The film opens with two thieves breaking into a futuristic computer facility and hacking into one of the computers. They succeed, but are spotted in the process and must escape while being chased by robot guards. It climaxes with a confrontation between human responsible for setting off the alarm and his robots and the two thieves.
The CG elements in the film will mainly consist of set extensions to enhance the exterior environments (buildings, trees, etc.), 3D modeled and rigged robots, screen replacements, and fully CG interiors. Most of the 3D work will be completed in Blender, while also using Maya, Photoshop, and After Effects.
The target date for completion of Broken Reality is May 2012. The work will be done primarily by myself with some assistance from fellow 3D artist James Clugston. Because of the small team and the complexity of the effects work, the full film has been broken down into approximately 7 shots. This should allow for a high level of quality to be achieved.
View the official film blog here.
AtomKraft is a fantastic plugin for After Effects. It provides an alternative to the native Classic 3D and Ray-traced 3D renderers, using a 3D unbiased renderer based on the Renderman-compliant 3Delight application. As such, it is really excellent at previz, making composites, and 3D motion graphics. It supports OBJ, Alembic, and RIB file formats. You can find out more at Jupiter Jazz, the makers of AtomKraft.
I have a set of tutorials about AtomKraft, although I apologize in advance for the poor quality. I will hopefully have a better series on AtomKraft 1.0 shortly.
Live Photoshop 3D is a feature that allows loading 3D layers in Photoshop into Adobe After Effects. It’s costly in terms of performance and now outdated by plug-ins such as Element 3D and AtomKraft and the new 3D tools in CS6, but it can be an option if these tools are unavailable. Note however, that this feature has been removed in CS6.
These are some tutorials that briefly explain how to bring in 3D Photoshop documents and work with them.
Something that I’ve gotten excited about lately is Photoshop 3D. You can create simple 3D graphics, turn images into 3D objects, import 3D models from other applications, access a pre-built library of materials, and render using the Mercury Graphics Engine for raytracing. Enough stuff to constitute a run-on sentence!
The most exciting thing for me, however, is the ability to texture models using 3D projection painting, which allows you to texture models in 3D space and see the texture being applied as you work. Of course, you still have the ability to paint on the UV-map if you choose, and Photoshop makes this easy and simple to do, whether you’re painting diffuse, specular, bump, or transparency maps.
To learn more, you can check out my tutorials below.