2040 Backstage Work – Blender Workshop

Last week, WOW-EFFECT organised an informative and practical workshop on the topic of 3D modelling, headed by our very own tech-genius Stefan Riegl. The software we were to experiment with, and our instructor is only a little bit in love with, is BLENDER.

This 3D modelling software of Dutch origin which in essence is similar to Adobe Dimension and Autodesk Maya, but in price-range, utterly different. BLENDER is a notably “free and open source 3D modelling program” which, as we found out in the workshop, is really easy to use even if you’re not as tech savvy as our Mr. Riegl, tech-genius.

Blender is a public project, made by hundreds of people from around the world; by studios and individual artists, professionals and hobbyists, scientists, students, VFX experts, animators, game artists, modders, and the list goes on. (www.blender.org)

The programmers aimed to make this software and all its possibilities available to everyone, not hidden behind a paywall or a diploma in computer sciences. As WOW-EFFECT itself is built on the ideal of inclusion, it seemed like a good fit.

In a small room in the fluidly modern Elinor Ostrom building at the University of Nijmegen, Stefan collected his three students to discuss some of BLENDER’s amazing features, in the span of about three hours. Naturally, this is too short a time to become even an amateur 3D modeller, but Stefan was able to teach us to use most of the basic tools as well as answer every one of our time-consuming questions. We learned that a pun or meme can make a great difference in remembering information. Fortunately, Stefan understood that programming languages like Python, concepts like rendering and shading, and even working in a 3D plane on a flat screen can feel daunting for every student. Using an external monitor, Stefan could show us exactly how he made a 3D cube, how to move that cube in all directions, and how to shape the cube in all kinds of ways. This might sounds simple, but without all the hotkeys we learned in the workshop, it might take the better part of an hour to move this little computerized box from point A to point B.

Of course, after having learned to do on a computer what toddlers do everyday, it was time for the big guns. Stefan introduced us to Suzanne, a 3D test model of a monkey’s head that would be our mystical guide through the land of shading, colouring, scaling, and of course; how to digital torture a 3D model of a monkey’s head. Suzanne was pushed and pulled into all the wrong directions, but we learned so much from her suffering. Unfortunately, time was limited. The last few minutes of the workshop teased some more possibilities within the program, as Stefan used a variety of digital cubes and an insertion of a human face template to build a Minecraft-like human (in record time!)

Now, it is time for us to experiment with our own Suzanne’s, and discover more about this wonderfully accessible programme. As one of the stage designers in the upcoming 2040 production by WOW-EFFECT, Blender gave me the tools to create 3D models of any design our team might come up with. No need to waste paper or build intricate draft models of the stage in the real-world. All the drawing can be done and easily altered in a 3D environment. For our multimedia team, Blender offers a few great tools to start making projections, logos, even animations, all of which we expect to feature in our production this year. This innovative software will to give it that truly modern feel. Stay tuned for learning more about how we will use our freshly acquired holy knowledge for projection mapping!

Here is a little teaser for that:

Written by Coco Clements.