About this Manual
This manual is a mediawiki implementation that is written by a world-wide collaboration of volunteer authors. It is updated daily, and this is the English version. Other language versions are translated, generally, from this English source for the convenience of our world-wide audience. It is constantly out of date, thanks to the tireless work of some fifty or more volunteer developers, working from around the world on this code base. However, it is the constructive goal to provide you with the best possible professional documentation on this incredible package.
To assist you in the best and most efficient way possible, this manual is organized according to the creative process generally followed by 3D artists, with appropriate stops along the way to let you know how to navigate your way in this strange territory with a new and deceptively complex software package. If you read the manual linearly, you will follow the path most artists use in both learning Blender and developing fully animated productions:
- Getting to know Blender (Introduction, Starting, Interaction in 3D, Data System).
- Models (Modeling, Modifiers and Deformation).
- Shading (Materials, Textures, World and Ambient Effects).
- Animation (Rigging, Constraints, Animation, Effects and Physical Simulation).
- Rendering (Rendering, Compositing with nodes, Editing Sequences).
- Beyond Blender (Extending Blender).
- Interactive 3D and Gaming (Game Engine).
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This manual is written for a very broad audience, to answer the question “I want to do something, how do I do it using Blender?” all the way to “What is the latest change in the way to sculpt a mesh?”
This manual is a worldwide collaborative effort using time donated to the cause. While there may be some lag between key features being implemented and their documentation, we do strive to keep it as up-to-date as possible. We try to keep it narrowly focused on what you, the end user, need to know, and not digress too far off topic, as in discussing the meaning of life.
There are other Blender wiki books that delve deeper into other topics and present Blender from different viewpoints, such as the Tutorials, the Reference Manual, the software itself, and its scripting language. So, if a question is not answered for you in this User Manual, please search the other Blender wiki books.
Learning CG and Blender
Getting to know Blender and learning Computer Graphics (CG) are two different topics. On the one hand, learning what a computer model is, and then learning how to develop one in Blender are two different things to learn. Learning good lighting techniques, and then learning about the different kinds of lamps in Blender are two different topics. The first, or conceptual understanding, is learned by taking secondary and college courses in art and media, by reading books available from the library or bookstore on art and computer graphics, and by trial and error (i.e. practical experience!). Even though a book or article may use a different package (like 3DSMax or Maya) as its tool, it may still be valuable because it conveys the concept.
Once you have the conceptual knowledge, you can easily learn Blender (or any other CG package). Learning both at the same time is difficult, since you are dealing with two issues. The reason for mentioning this is to make you aware of this dilemma, and how this manual attempts to address both topics in one wiki book. The conceptual knowledge is usually addressed in a short paragraph or two at the beginning of a page or chapter, that explains the topic and provides a workflow, or process, for accomplishing the task. The rest of the manual section addresses the specific capabilities and features of Blender. The user manual cannot give you the full conceptual knowledge – that comes from reading books, magazines, tutorials and sometimes a life-time of effort. You can use Blender to produce a full-length feature film, but reading this manual and using Blender won’t, in itself, make you another Steven Spielberg!
At a very high level, using Blender can be thought of as knowing how to accomplish imagery within three dimensions or phases of activity:
- Integration – Rendering computer graphics, working with real-world video, or mixing the two (CGI and VFX).
- Animation – Posing and making things change shape, either manually or using simulation.
- Duration – Producing a still image, a short video, a minute-long commercial, a ten minute indie short, or a full-length feature film.
Skills, like navigating in 3D space, modeling, lighting, shading, compositing, and so forth are needed to be productive in any given area within the space. Proficiency in a skill makes you productive. Tools within Blender have applicability within the space as well. For example, the video sequence editor (VSE) has very little to do with the skill of animation, but is deeply applicable along the Duration and Integration scales. From a skills-learning integration perspective, it is interesting to note that the animation curve, called an Ipo curve, is used in the VSE to animate effects strips.
Most people’s interest lies at any given time at the corners/intersections depicted in (The Blender knowledge space), which are destinations, if you will. For example, there are many talented artists who produce Static-Still-CG images. Tony Mullen’s book, Introducing Character Animation With Blender, pertains to using CG models deformed by armatures and shapes to produce short animations. Using Blender fluids in a TV production or commercial is at the “Shape/Sim-CG Integration-Commercial” intersection. Elephants Dream, Big Buck Bunny or Sintel are found at the “Armature-Computer Graphics-Short” space. Therefore, depending on what you want to do, various tools and topics within Blender will be of more or less interest to you.
A fourth dimension is Game Design, which incorporates all of this knowledge with gaming wrapped around it as well. A game not only has a one-minute cinematic in it, but it also has actual game play, story line, programming, etc. – which may explain why it is so hard to make a game ! You have to understand all this stuff before you can actually construct a game. Therefore, this Manual does not really address using the Game Engine (there is a Game Engine chapter, though), that is a whole ’nother wiki book.