Category Archives: 3D work

Improve Your Home Commercial

Here’s a commercial I produced last year for a local DIY event, based on a concept and storyboard by Stephen McCreight over at GraphicsGarage. The tape measure was built and rendered in Blender 2.5. The logo was comped and the commercial was finished in After Effects. I still know After Effects too well to be finishing commercials in Blender. I’ll maybe get to the stage where I’ll become proficient enough with the video sequencer and nodes, but in the meantime, I’ve been using After Effects for about 15 years now so I’m way more confident with it.
It was quite tricky to get the animated shape of the tape measure. From what I can remember I modelled a straight length of the tape then used a curve modifier on it. I then used the Rotobezier plugin to animate the curve into the shapes of the house and the pound signs, while the mesh moved along the length of the curve. It was pretty fiddly in places, the transition of the curve from shape to shape almost had to be keyframed every frame to make it move the way I wanted it to. But once I got the hang of the Rotobezier it got a little easier.

iRover in the garden

I came out to the back garden yesterday and found this lovable guy playing on the patio!

Another test for Blender using the camera tracking feature. I’m still practicing with this quite a bit, and trying to check out its capabilities since I still get quite excited by the results. Considering this was footage just shoot on my iPhone 4s it turned out pretty good. Blender currently only has camera presets for the top end cameras, so finding sensor sizes and focal lengths for the iPhone on the net can be tricky. However, I found a post over in Blenderartists where Malcando has been collecting settings which seems to have worked perfectly.

I took the opportunity to test out my iRover rig too. It was a productive experience since I’ve discovered a few things that need sorted out before I use him again, particularly his feet. They need some tweaking since they don’t seem to rotate around the z axis without twisting. I had also previously added IK/FK switches too, but I don’t think he’s going to need any FK control for his feet. I may simplify the rig and remove the FK controls. I also need to add in some custom control bones to make the rig easier to pose. And I still have to work on his textures, particularly his eyes, which I intend to have as a digital style display.


Here’s another motion track using Blender 2.62. I thought I would try something a bit more static to test a better example of how well the object is moving with the camera. Another little lesson learnt with this one, I managed to figure out how to pull out a reflection pass to add to the comp. These tracking experiments are as much an experiment in use of Blenders’ node system as they are in testing out the tracking. Of course, I couldn’t just have a completely static object, so I had to throw a little bit of character animation in there as well!

Dragon’s First Flight

This is the first relatively successful track I’ve managed to create with the new motion tracking features in Blender 2.62. I wasn’t really concentrating on the animation too much, I just gave the little dragon guy a bit of life to see how well he would sit among some live footage. I’m still trying to get the hang of it, I haven’t done much 3d motion tracking in the past (plenty of 2d though). This footage I just shot on my iPhone at my desk, so the compression and motion blur on clip isn’t overly conducive to tracking but with a bit of fiddling and tweaking by hand I eventually got a decent timeline. I had downloaded various clips from the internet, if you do a search for ‘free tracking clips’ you’ll find a few places to download them from, but I was having trying to find sensor sizes and focal length for these particular clips. I then decided to shoot some footage with my phone since I already knew these details and finally got this result. It’s far from perfect but it’s a good start with a Blender feature which I can see fast becoming a powerful tool in my arsenal of vfx tools.

Blowing Flowers

I’ve been experimenting with the Cloth Modifier and the Wind Force Field this week. A client wanted a spring season feel to their logo, so I decided to play with part of their logo which is in the shape of a flower and try to blow it across the screen with a few others before it settles in place. I found the perfect tutorial on Vimeo by the ever faithful CG Cookie, so thanks to them for helping out once again.
It took a while to play around with the force fields and get the results I wanted. The flower was set up by creating a plane and subdividing it a few times, then applying the flower as a png texture with an alpha channel. The flower was duplicated, repositioned and scaled a few times. One big thing I’ve learned is that both the cloth modifier and the force field seem to rely a lot on the global scale of the scene, in the same way that lights also seem to be related, so I had to adjust the cloth settings on the smaller flowers differently from the larger ones. It’s something I’m going to have to play around with and try to get used to building models the correct size. A simple plane was set up as a floor for collision and shadow catching. Here are a few of the experiments, and the final result.

Blender Cycles render tests

I fancied having a play around with Cycles, so I downloaded the Cycles trunk (2.60.5 r42078) from I really love how easy it is to work with, I was getting some really nice results using the Nvidia Quadro with Cuda. You can get some gorgeous lighting setups quickly and easily, once you have a play around. There’s still a few things to iron out, for example I found that there didn’t seem to be any fresnel effect with glassy textures (maybe I’m just missing something). Here’s a few results:

Here’s a scene I set up with a few objects I had lying around from various jobs. I just threw them into a scene adding a floor plane with a texture I downloaded from Again, it was pretty easy to set up, although I did get a couple of crashes along the way, but then this isn’t a stable trunk I’m using. The first image is a setup with just one sun lamp. The second I added some cubes to the right off camera to simulate some building shadows and added some depth of field, again surprisingly easy to set up. The first two images are the Cycles renders from the 3d views. Where I hit a little trouble in the third image was with a final render, it seems a lot darker than the preview render. I’m not sure if something was set that I don’t know about, the only thing I thought it might be was the exposure button, however this didn’t seem to fix the problem. I’ll have to investigate further.

Sally – wip mesh

This is Sally, she will be the other star of the iRover short, in other words iRover’s owner. I built her head over the past couple of weeks and her body was adapted from the Pepper model I built a while back. I was never happy with Pepper’s head, the topology was very messy and didn’t animate very well. Here’s my initial sketch of her, I did play around with her proportions quite a bit.

So I did a bit of searching and found a few good professional workthroughs on youtube that helped me sort the head topology out. So a quick thank you to Angela Guenette of Ponder Studios for her ‘Sintel’ making of videos:

And also a thank you to Glen Southern over on 3D World’s youtube channel for his 14 episode topology workthrough. Be warned his whole tutorial is around 2 hours long.

After studying these videos for a bit, I started building Sally’s head and got a better feel for the flow of the curves, it’s looks and feels a lot better now, and I’m 100% confidence that it will animate a lot better.

iRover Rig test

This is another work in progress of the star of the short film which I’m working on with Craig Smith, mentioned previously in the Apartment mockup post. Obviously he’s not textured yet, and the animation is pretty rough at the minute, I didn’t spend so much time on the running cycle since this was just a test to make sure the rig was working okay. Although he’s a robot dog, I still think I need to use some artistic licence and loosen up his legs a bit, his movement doesn’t feel quite right yet. I also think his feet may need tweaking, they’re too long as they are. The rigging is all pretty simple, it’s mostly all ‘hard’ rigged, in other words there aren’t many soft areas in the vertex weights.

Here’s some of the original sketches I did, I think he looked a lot more like K9 back then, when I really wanted him to look more like Gromit. I definitely prefer the floppy ears as they are now, than these antennae types…

I’d started building him in C4D version 8.5 a few years ago. I’d managed to get some really nice renders there, but the rigging wasn’t so hot in that version, so this was as far as I’d got…

But now that I know Blender a lot better, I’ve a better feeling about getting further with the story. I’m still working on the animatic, so I’ll post that when I get the first draft done.

Apartment mockup

I haven’t had much time for posting recently, but I have been doing a few bits and pieces here and there. I’ve finally moved up to Blender 2.59, and looking forward to some of the integration from the GSOC developments, particularly the tracking feature. We’re all gonna have a lot of fun with that, tracking robots into our backyards, etc!
In the meantime, I’ve been trying to plan out a set for a short animation of a script written by Craig Smith over at Motion Comics. It’s been in development for what seems like forever, simply because I can only get working on it between work. More on all that later. I’ve so far been trying to build an interior to get an idea of how things will act out, and roughed in some furniture. I’ve also put some figures in there to get an idea of scale. I had originally built it as an apartment, but I think it’s going to end up being a house, therefore I’ll be losing the bedroom. Still a lot of work to be done with it, but it’s a start, and it’s the first time I’ve ever built a proper interior set before.

Stop Staring Test – Beautiful People

I recently bought a copy of ‘Stop Staring – Facial Modeling and Animation Done Right’ by Jason Osipa. For anyone wanting to perfect their character animation and acting, this book is a must. A couple of things though, firstly, the book is mostly geared towards using Maya. However a lot of the basic principles can be translated to many other software packages with a bit of tweaking, which brings me to the second point. In my opinion you would need to have a good intermediate knowledge of your chosen 3d program to be able to work with the book if your not using Maya. All that aside, there is an amazing amount to be gleaned from the book, from lipsync, the main principles of mouth shapes or ‘visemes’ and how to control them, all the way through to the correct topology when building a head. Well worth the money.
So I’ve been trying to translate the principles of using one bone in the armature to control Shape keys with IPO drivers in Blender to get some basic lipsync working on a rig. I haven’t gone into any of the eye controls or expressions yet, but that will just be an extension of what I’ve created here. I’ve only used three shape keys here, the X location of the bone controls the narrowness of the mouth and the Z location controls the openness. Just a basic setup to make sure I know how it all works before I take it onto a proper rig.