I propose to complete a character animation tutorial, similar to the ”Gus the Gingerbread Man” tutorial, but covering more advanced concepts and techniques. My goal is to provide a transitional tutorial that guides a beginning Blender user to an intermediate skill level by creating a fully rigged character from scratch and a 10 second animation using this character. This tutorial will reside on the Blender wiki site and be publicly available. In fact, I have already been working on this for some time on my user page at http://mediawiki.blender.org/index.php/User:Marenzelleria I intend to provide a .blend file at the end of each major section, so if a user has difficulty getting a step to work on their own, he or she can can download the starting point for that section to work out the problem and hopefully learn from the solution.
Several high-quality rigged characters have recently been introduced to the community (Ludwig,ManCandy, Emo and Proog in particular). Often the best way to learn how something complex (like a rigged character) works is to learn how it was built in the first place. By following this tutorial, I hope at the very least that users learn how to use a rigged character to create an animation, and the very best, to use their new knowledge and make their own animation using their own unique character.
I can’t hope to cover everything, but I do intend to cover a wide range practical concepts and techniques that specifically apply to animating a character, each in enough detail that the user will have a base knowledge from which to experiment in Blender. To supplement the text and avoid redundancy, I will of course link to other parts of the wiki where appropriate (and where pages exist); sometimes external pages may be a better choice for the user to obtain further information.
I am purposefully avoiding going into more detail with lighting, materials, texturing, UV mapping, or rendering for two reasons: 1), I’m not as familiar with these parts of Blender as I am with the animation parts, and 2) they aren’t essential to setting up an animation-ready character. These topics can be better covered by others in future add-ons to the tutorial; see ”Future Prospects” section below for more on this. Some degree of overlap with the Gus tutorial is unavoidable, however, I hope that by seeing the concepts and techniques in more than one place, users will learn the tools at their disposal better than if there were just one source of information.
Modeling, texturing, and a portion of the rigging sections have already been created. These sections will certainly be revised over the duration of the BSoD; so far my aim with this preliminary work has been on quantity rather than quality with the intent of improving and fine-tuning the text later. A large portion of the time during the BSoD will be spent on developing the animation tools portion of the tutorial. The breakdown of the entire tutorial is shown below; note that the specific order may change and other topics may be added as construction continues. ² Modeling
- Mesh modeling
- Basic vertex selections and editing, extruding, proportional editing
- Modifier stack: Mirror and Subsurf, toggling views
- Creating faces out of component vertices
- Edge loops
- Basic materials
- Multiple materials on one object
- Basic textures
- IK vs FK and when to use them
- Envelopes vs Vertex groups
- Pose mode vs Object and Edit modes
- Bone draw types
- Constructing an armature:
- X-axis mirror editing
- The different ways of adding IK constraints
- Constraints: track-to, copy location, copy rotation, possibly stretch-to
- Elbow- and knee-lock bones
- Foot rig using Bassam’s technique from the Blender Conference video
- Stride bone (possibly)
- Skinning/weight painting, posing bones in weight paint mode
- Custom bone shapes
- Shape Keys
- Basic phonemes: open, narrow, smile, upper lip up/down, lower lip up/down, inner eyebrows raise/lower, outer eyebrows raise/lower, eyelids open/close
- Making asymmetrical shapes via weight painting
- Lighting and rendering(combined here because both will be simple)
- Basic lamp types
- Basic 3-point-plus light setup
- Camera setup and movement
- Basic render controls (size, output, OSA)
- Using the Timeline
- IPO curves and curve types
- Action window
- Adding keys via sliders (for shapes) and IKEY
- Scaling and moving keys to adjust timing
- Combining keys into actions
- Tweaking IPO curves
- Adding sound
- Lip synching
- Blending actions together in the NLA editor
The challenge for something like this is to write the tutorial such that very little prior knowledge is assumed—to allow beginners to follow along—while at the same time remaining interesting and engaging to experienced users. I propose to accomplish this in two ways. First, by introducing new topics or concepts using the ffNotegg template on the wiki, the new user can take the time to read these notes while a more advanced user can easily skip these visually distinct sections. Second, I will use the keyboard shortcuts on almost every step. This way, if a user takes a break for a couple days and returns, he or she will not have to page backward looking for a keyboard shortcut introduced in an earlier section. These shortcuts, which use the ffKgg template, will be the only bold text in the tutorial – providing another visual filter for users to apply at their discretion.
The primary deliverable will be a character animation tutorial on the Blender wiki, complete with .blend files to accompany each major section. The wiki markup code for the existing content is currently about 40 pages, while the actual text with images is about 65 printed pages. I estimate that the length of the final tutorial will be on the order of 150 printed pages and will cover the material described above.
I have been using Blender on and off for five years and most extensively in the last three. I use it primarily for learning character animation. You can find sample animations at http://www.ryan.anonrandomname.com/animations.html
Learning how to animate believable motion is a process that takes years, and I have a lot to learn. Please note the tutorial will not be on the art of animating, rather, it will be on how to use the tools in Blender to create rigged characters and animations. The existing portion of the tutorial can be viewed at http://mediawiki.blender.org/index.php/User:Marenzelleria
Eventually, I hope to continue work on this project and create add-on ”modules” that will upgrade both the character model as well as the user’s skills. Candidates for these modules include more advanced lighting, compositing and materials via the Node editor, UV mapping, more advanced texturing, clothing, adding rigged fingers to the hands, stretch-to constraints, hair, and a set of shape drivers for facial animation. With the tutorial on the wiki, it is my hope that in the future I and others can integrate other BSoD projects into such modules that give this tutorial more potential as a universal starting point for Blender users to advance their skills.
--timmeh 15:38, 18 June 2006 (CEST)