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Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

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Welcome, 2020

The original point of this don’t-call-it-a-blog was to chronicle my life. Well that certainly hasn’t happened. And with my memory as fuzzy & useless as it is, there’s no way I can backfill what happened over the past year, let alone decade, in any useful fashion. I might add some bits & pieces of recent history as I go but I make no promises about this.

I have newly-repaired teeth (okay, gums), I acquired a new skill (disclaimer: actual skill yet to come, I’m still in the early stages), and I have some goals to work toward (including a possible revival of an old, old project). I don’t know if “hopeful” is the right word to use here. Hope isn’t the emotion I’m feeling. It’s more like… “fukkit, what else am I going to do with myself?”

Let’s see if that’s good enough.

Yay Food

I didn’t expect this to take nearly an entire week, but here we are. Please enjoy the short video, “Yay Food“.

It started with a pun, of course. Then I had to jot down enough lyrics to be worth the effort. Then I had to source a MIDI. Then I had to turn that into a WAV file. Then I had to go into Blender and add more ducks to a copy of the old donut tutorial workspace. Then I had to learn to do HDR lighting. Then I had to sort out the animation. Then I had to do the render… which took basically five days. Then I had to put it all together in Adobe Premiere Elements, which took several hours. Then I had to upload, etc, etc.

All that for a two minute joke video. Note to self: Stick to still images from now on, eh?

Another Blender Video Incoming

On Christmas Eve I was struck by terrible, marvelous inspiration. Before bedtime that very day I kicked off rendering animation frames in Blender, having already sourced and prepared the music and text, then assembled all the elements in the 3D environment. My original plan was to post the completed video this month but it turns out that rendering ~3300 frames at 1280×720 resolution will take longer than expected on my poor GTX 1070 graphics card. Maybe for New Year’s? Maybe.

Layout view in Blender of objects for current animation project

Yes, I am reusing the donut and coffee cup from the Blender Guru tutorial. It’s work I don’t have to redo, okay?

It’s only a two minute video. Among other things, this suggests I won’t be doing Cycles-based animation in Blender as a regular thing. (Now, music visualizer videos with the Eevee renderer? That’s another story…)

Render of duck, donut, and coffee cup from just before the midpoint of the video project

The duck is new, actually. I started over after making the one in the previous video. Meet the Mk4 plastic duck toy!

This video won’t even be done when Blender is finished with the rendering because then I’ll need to load it all into Premiere and add subtitles. (Look, it’s either subtitling or you have to listen to my singing voice. Subtitles are the better option, I assure you.)

So yes, there’s more 3D stuff coming. Eventually.

Final Exam For The Blender Donut Tutorial

I completed the Blender Guru’s new version donut tutorial sequence just before dinnertime on Thanksgiving.

The duck’s a bit janky but hey, I made it entirely on my own, building on what I learned from the donut videos and reading/watching bits of other available how-to material. There’s something still a bit glitchy about the coffee cup, specifically some of the “liquid” contents. The “autumn leaf” sprinkle idea didn’t work out like I’d hoped on the donut but it’s not too awful, I suppose. I kind of wish I’d gone with a different brick texture for the wall since I never did find a color that looked good for me (hence the gray). And so on, and so on.

Part of the point of all this was giving myself permission to be bad at parts of it so I can learn, so… you know what? I’m pretty happy with this.

To be clear, I had to render this at 640×480 in order to get done with the animation in a reasonable (for me) timeframe. Which, sad to say, rules out the possibility of animated duck-related projects in the near future. Nothing’s stopping me from making any kind of wackadoodle still-frame imagery I want to, however!

Next time: More ducks, hopefully.

Will It Blend?

I tried the writing thing for a while. That didn’t pan out, as evidenced by the death of the 3WA project.

I thought I’d take up photography again. Turns out I bought entirely the wrong camera for most of the uses I wanted to try, and I can’t really afford to throw tons of money at that solution. Never mind that our living space is cramped enough without trying to carve out a workspace for that sort of thing.

I still want to exercise my creative impulses somehow. So, what next? Turns out that a friend on the bird site suggested I look into some tutorials by a guy who bills himself as the Blender Guru. Thus began my immersion in the wonderful world of fake-donut creation.

The hardest part was agreeing with myself to allow myself to be bad at something at first. Seems obvious, but I carry some deep-seated mental baggage about trying something, doing poorly at it, then never being able to try that something again. And boy howdy have I not really matched the tutorial for the type and quality of results. But that’s not the point, the point is to learn, I must remind myself every time I tackle another video.

It all started modestly enough.

A 3D donut mesh complete with 3D icing

Yum, sure looks tasty, doesn’t it?

Then I learned a tiny bit about working with materials. Too bad my sense of color was a bit off.

3D donut with 3D icing, in color

I was aiming for the look of chocolate icing… and missed.

Vyx suggested an improvement to the color scheme, which when paired with my lessons in making colorful sprinkles resulted in a vastly superior donut-looking image. Lighting’s still a mess, though.

3D donut with chocolate icing and multi-colored sprinkles

Right about at this point in the process I started craving a donut. Heavy-duty craving.

Then came the coffee cup section of the tutorial, which was easier than expected in some ways yet annoyingly fussy in several others. It doesn’t help that I completely missed one important part of the instructions so my cup ended up a bit… frosty.

3D glass (frosted) coffee cup on saucer

I actually really like this frosted-glass effect, but it’s not what I need to finish the tutorial properly. Whoops.

I also found a better “de-noise” add-on than what comes in Blender 2.8 natively, which truly improved the quality of my renders. Once I sussed out some of the problems along the way I was able to stage and render the not-actually-final product. (This is as of the end of the third “stage” of videos, with one to go.)

3D donut and 3D coffee cup on 3D saucers

There’s still a weird glitch with the coffee cup but you know what? I’m pretty happy with this so far.

Additionally, after each section of the tutorial I’m re-watching the videos and taking notes that I put into a wiki for later reference. It feels like the process of taking notes after having done the work is helping reinforce the learning somewhat. And what learnings aren’t reinforced are at least documented!

Now, let’s be clear: I’m not doing all of this so I can render snack foods. I have something a bit more… on-brand… in mind.

3D test render of a "Rusty" type duck toy model

I created this model entirely from scratch, though the rust effect involved following a tutorial video (not from Blender Guru).

Yeah? Yeah.

Ducky Dice

I’m not saying that I need these dice to appear under the Yuletime Tree with my name on the package or anything, but I’m not not saying that either…

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