Learning Blender: A crash course experience


At my uni (FH Kiel), every semester there’s 2 weeks of “do whatever that isn’t in your usual curriculum”. So if you’re studying electrical engineering, you can get ECTS identifying mushroom or something. For me, it wasn’t as far fetched, but there is no “how to blender” course in my curriculum. And what a course it was: 5 days, 6 hours per day intense blenderization. And this is a result:

Now, I could write a rather boring “We did all these awesome things and it was great” blog post, but I think it’s more interesting to focus on the mistakes I made and the lessons learned.

  • When making an array of things and the elements don’t quite line up, check why this is instead of just reducing the distance between objects. Getting rid of overlapping objects flickering once you’ve applied that array is annoying and tedious at best.
  • Modeling is the most boring part of it IMHO. Which is probably why I never could get over the first steps of the various online tutorials there are; the issue never was as much that I couldn’t make that goddamn donut, but rather that I didn’t see why I should be making one.
  • Once you understand the node editor, texturing and shading is awesome. It turns the most boring white/grey wasteland into at least Half Life 1 territory.
  • When setting keyframes, using LocRotScale may be the easiest thing to muscle memory (just do i > c), but it does make things messier to find later on
  • Eevee is awesome. When they introduced it, I was wondering why everyone was so excited about having a thing that approximates lighting instead of actually calculating the real rays, especially now that raytracing whatever is actually a feature in some GPUs. But I didn’t factor in just how much faster eevee is than cycles: Instead of 6 hours to render, it takes 6 minutes. Instead of waiting 15s for the viewport peview to render, it takes <1s.
  • Working cleanly pays off. Even my little project has close to 100 objects. Naming and ordering your stuff as it gets created makes finding it later on when you edit it so much faster.
  • Arrays don’t have collisions and such. I’ve watched a ball phase through the ground way too many times before I figured that out.
  • Hotkeys, oh my. Even though I edited my fair share of videos, I never was quite the shortcut user. I only used the obvious ctrl+s/x/c/v/z/y, with a handful of editing specific ones (eg. cut/trim) added to the mix, but I never could be bothered learning all of them. In blender meanwhile, using hotkeys isn’t only faster, but also more convenient: There’s just so much stuff to remember the position in menus of, you might as well just remember the hotkeys.
  • Actually remembering the hotkeys by using blender is either going to become a hobby of mine, or I’ll forget how everything works again. Because there’s no way I’ll remember Tab > 3 > Click on a face > Ctrl+L > move mouse to different viewport > a > g > x > click on another face > … without constantly using it.
  • Smoke and I don’t understand each other well. In an empty project, it’ll work just fine, but as soon as I use it in my actual project, something fucks up somehow: Maybe the flames are too strong. Or too weak. Or disappear completely once the object changes position. Or emits smoke the entire time despite the domain only actually doing smoke stuff a hundred frames later on. And so on, and so on, and so on. This actually is one of the main differences between the YouTube version and the loop version on gfycat: I found the fire too weak in the initial render, however, upon changing it, everything went awry so I decided using a crappy particle effect instead of the fire just so I could create any sort of illusion that the bucket was a trash bin.
  • You can import any file you like, but no .blend files. For that, you have to click “Link”, or “Append”. Or simply copypaste.
  • Probably more, but it’s 2am, and I really should go to bed now.
  • But not before I give huge shoutouts to:
    • Silas Fuchs, for being my mentor for this week
    • Ian Hubert, for introducing me to blender way back in the day with Tears of Steel and Dynamo Ep1, as well as providing a worthy asset to finish off this little animation.
    • Anyone who’s criticised or complimented me when showing off this little animation
    • All those people who made the textures and sounds effects I carelessly downloaded with total disregard for ownership. I’ll try getting around to crediting all of you in the video’s description tomorrow!
The video: With sound, Ians Readerboard and 200% more particle effects.