This is the third article in a series of articles that introduces Blender 2.5 for a classroom environment.
For those of you that don’t know Blender, it is high on my list as being my most favored open source software that can be downloaded at no cost over the Internet.
Blender has a reputation as somewhat of a challenge. Its interface in the past has been complicated and frustrating. I think this is a distant memory with the release of Blender 2.5! I highly recommend interested teachers to investigate how this free software can be utilized in your classroom.
Recently I conducted a series of one-lesson workshops with a group of high school students in order to introduce them to 3D Modeling and Animation using Blender. I started off slowly (even though some students still were determined to move at lighting pace through the program and who am I to stop them). Below are some of the introductory workshops that I conducted in order to introduce them to some of the basic mathematical concepts and functions in Blender.
After they had developed confidence using Blender and had grasped some of the basic mathematical concepts and understood how to insert key frames in order to animate in Blender I set them the challenge of using ten cubes to create a a 3D model that represented the form of a real life object.
In our world everything has a basic geometric form that allows use to recognize an object. For example, when we enter a new room we can quickly identify a chair because we know what the basic form of a chair looks like. It has legs (usually four) it has a seat, a back, and sometimes arm rests. When we begin working in a computer-generated 3D environment it is important to understand we are replicating the geometric forms of real life objects.
Before introducing this challenge I explored this concept with the students. It is worth talking a little bit about detail in this article. When we create a 3D project the objects that appear in the distance can have less detail then those that are near. This process is similar in the animated movies, it is unlikely that a director will task their animators with producing detailed houses if they are only going to appear in the distance. Instead it is more likely that the animators will produce a select few of very basic 3D objects that take on varying geometric forms of houses. They will then scale these objects to different sizes, change the colors, and place them in the scene. When the audience sees the scene on the big screen they will be focused on the action happening closest to them, where the detail is concentrated. The less detailed geometric shapes that resemble houses in the background will appear to the audience exactly as that – houses in the background (probably a town or city).
Once the students had grasped this concept and I had shown them some examples (which included houses ironically) they were set the challenge of creating a geometric form of an object. Here were the parameters for the activity:
- They could use no more or no less then 10 cube objects.
- They were only allowed to scale, rotate and locate.
This activity was excellent because it not only challenged students to work in Blender, but also to engage their creativity. What exactly could they create with ten cube objects?
The following are possible extensions:
- Adding an animation to the project.
- Using nine cube shapes and one other shape of the students choosing.
- Introducing the ‘Extrude’ feature (E = Extrude).
Unfortunately time ran out before most students finished, but I feel it is still a great activity that can be conducted in a virtual world or using Google Sketch Up.