by December 2, 2003 0 comments



Wanted to do 3D modeling on your PC but were hesitant because of the price and size of the software? Then try Blender 3D. It is both free and very small in size–2.5 MB. But, that doesn’t mean that it compromises on features. You can check out the software (for both Linux and Windows) on this month’s CD.

The Blender foundation, formed in 2002, released Blender as an open-source product. And, it is now available for Linux, Windows (all), Mac OS X, FreeBSD 4.2, Irix 6.5 and Solaris 6.8 platforms under the GPL license.

The blender interface with the four Viewports and the Menu below

Installation 
For Linux, the Blender software is in the form of a tar file. Uncompress it using the following command

tar —zxvf blender-2.30-linux-glibc2.2.5-i386.tar.gz

This will make a folder of Blender on your system. Run Blender from inside the folder to start the program. For Windows, Blender is an exe installer file, which is just as easy to install. 

You can get the software’s documentation on its website (www.blender3d.org), and help from online discussion forums and tutorial websites (you’ll find links at Blender’s website).

Interface
Blender’s interface is quite radical, to say the least. Though you can customize the interface, by default it is divided into three parts: 3D Viewport, the Buttons palette and the User Preferences menu. The Viewports are the four large squares that the interface is divided into. They show four different views (top, front, side, camera) of an object. The Buttons palette is the area beneath the Viewports. You can control most operations from here. The User Preferences menu is hidden in the Main Menu bar at the top. To see it, you need to take your cursor to the line dividing the top Viewports and the Main Menu bar, and pull the line down. From here you can customize Blender (in the accompanying screenshot we have labeled these three parts).

Described above is the default interface. Now, depending on the work that you choose to do–modeling, animation, sequence editing–you get a corresponding screen in place of the default interface. The modeling screen is the default screen.

You can choose your screen from a drop-down menu on the top Menu bar. 

The Materials button pallette

From the Menu bar, you can also select something called Scenes. You can imagine scenes to be like the scenes of a movie, wherein you could have either an independent scene or many linked together. For example, if you are animating, you can divide your animation into scenes. Then, when you need to edit any one scene, you can go to the corresponding scene and work on it. 

Basic modeling
Blender has a maze of shortcut commands–if you can master them you can master basic modeling in Blender. We’ll talk about making basic shapes, applying lighting, applying materials and rendering them.

Make shapes. By default, there is a box at the center of the scene. You will need to remove it before you start your modeling.

 To do so, press Tab. With that you will enter the edit mode, where you will see vertices and faces appear on the box. Press the Delete button and from the pop-up choose All. Then, press Tab again to exit the edit mode. Now, you are ready to start modeling.

On the modeling screen you will see a red cursor, called the 3D cursor, on each of the Viewports. Use these to define the place where you want your 3D objects to appear. When you click on the Viewport where you want the object to appear, the red cursor will go there (while, when you move the mouse over a Viewport, it will get activated). To maximize a Viewport use the Ctrl+Up keys and the Ctrl+Down keys to return to the default view. 

Render settings button pallette

To place an object press the space bar and from the drop-down menu choose the shape that you want. As an example, you can first choose Mesh and then Monkey. Monkey is somewhat like the Teapot model in some of the commercial 3D packages.

Apply lighting. Monkey is now ready with the default camera and lighting. But to add more lighting, first press Tab to come out of the editing mode, then press the Space bar and choose Add Light. Remember that only spotlights give you shadows.

Once the light is added, choose Spot from the Buttons palette to get a shadow.

To preview your work, press F12 to render the Viewport that you are on. To save the rendered output, press F10. Choose the filename that you want to render from the filename textbox. Choose the format that you want to save the file in from the format dialog box (this has a drop-down list of available formats). Press the F2 key to save the file. 

Apply materials. Let’s give the monkey a brownish color. Select the monkey object by right clicking on it. Then press F5 to bring up the materials palette on the Buttons palette. Click on the ‘-‘ button near the name of the material, and then press Add New. There are separate sliders for different colors and the alpha channel. Explore the colors to get the exact brown that you want. When you click on the car button near the name of the Material, Blender does a really cool act by giving a name to the color. Press F12 to render and preview the scene.

This was just a basic tutorial to get you started with Blender. We will discuss more features in our subsequent issues.

Geetaj Channana

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