Implied within the statement that “you want to do a Blender animation project” is the fact that “you want to get it done.” Whether or not your project is another Sintel, En Passant, or Big Buck Bunny, you want to have something to show for it. Unfortunately, a lot of earnestly-started projects don’t wind up that way. Either they are “never finished,” or, if they are ‘finished,’ the woefully-incomplete spots are painful to watch.
All of us, I hazard to guess, are at least partially attracted to Computer Graphics because we are Computer Nerds. :yes: We’re probably attracted to one (or more) of the general subject areas that represent the forum-topic layout on this site: Basics, Modeling, Rigging, Lighting, Compositing, and so forth. But … all of these things are specialties. They are silos. Only part of the greater whole. But a project … is “the whole.” It’s the whole “whole.” Both the parts that we are comfortable with (and interested in), and those that we’re not.
Our true “goal,” then, when we undertake to undertake ‘a project,’ must be something very different from this-or-that silo. It has to be: project management. :eek:
Here, in one short sentence, is “The Problem” that usually dooms a project to failure: “there’s just too much of it.” There are just too many matters begging to be attended to … stuff that’s easy for us, and stuff that isn’t. Stuff that we know how to do quickly, and stuff that hits us in the face like a red-hot cast-iron skillet. (“Pwangg-ggg-ggg!”) (Ouch.) Our tendency, of course, is to focus on the stuff that’s <<interesting | easy>> and to just hope that the rest of it somehow goes away. Well, it doesn’t. Hundreds(!) of hours of computational effort can wind up being … thrown into the trash.
So: “project management.”
And my micro-tute, simply, is this: “Notice what Hollywood does, and do that.”
Hollywood never “pushes a button and A Movie pops out.” Instead, they plan everything very carefully. They work out, as best they can, what the entire sequence of the movie will be, shot by shot. Then, they construct a set (carefully “to scale”), and they put Cameras onto it. Then, they put Actors onto the set, give those Actors lines to speak and “marks” to hit, and … they shoot a lot of film, “covering” the action from many different angles. Every strip of film that is shot is carefully cataloged and identified.
The next step in the process is where the real movie-making magic happens: editing. What used to literally be done using a razor-blade and celluloid tape is now done using a computer, but the process still consists of slicing bits-and-pieces from all the various pieces of film that have been shot and stretching them together to make a single, continuous, sensible, compelling “show.” It’s a great deal trickier than it sounds, because a good edit is often a matter of fractions of a second. Many editors candidly state that it is they who make “the movie,” and their assertions are probably correct.
So … how does all this relate to your CG-project workflow? Well, in a word, it is: “go and do likewise, but with a twist.” Get out there and shoot film … a lot of film … from many different camera positions, and more film (from any of those positions) than you think that you will need. Catalog all of it, and use the Stamp feature to add descriptive information: file-names, camera name, lens, scene, marker, timecode, frame number. Use the OpenGL Preview feature to do all of this, and work only with these renders … and with the video editor of your choice … until you get the show(!) completely finalized.
By approaching your project in this way, you’re following the tried-and-true Hollywood workflow … with just one important exception: the “footage” that you’re “cutting” isn’t final yet. It’s low-res, fairly crude looking, but it depicts “to-scale” objects moving about in “real space” with “real cameras” (shooting with “real” camera parameters) recording the action. Thus, each clip is actually an exact(!) stand-in for what will eventually be “the real thing.”
(This ain’t nobody’s “animatic.”)
When you finally reach that “Final Cut” moment, go through the entire edit and take notes, in a spreadsheet, of shot by shot, cut by cut, exactly what footage remains. Browse through it carefully, because this is your “to-do list.” Some of the shots are long and important; others are just a fraction of a second long. Some represent the first time that the audience gets to see something; the rest do not. Some models demand agonizing levels-of-detail, some do not, and some fail to appear at all. (Now, you know.) But, given all of this, now you know how to organize the rest of your project. And so, you do. The “important” shots (and the complicated ones) get lots of attention; the passing ones don’t. The stuff that (you now know …) “no one will actually see” gets ‘cheated.’
And … your project gets finished, because you pushed all of the decisions of “exactly what to do” ahead of the decisions of “how to do it.” You didn’t waste time producing what you wouldn’t use. You didn’t lavish attention on things that wouldn’ pay-off, so that you had the attention left to lavish upon the things that would.
When you take this approach, it will surprise you. Greatly. Unexpectedly. You’ll find yourself ignoring great chunks of ‘film’ that you did generate, while going back to generate other clips from other angles. It unlocks a form of pure creativity that you’ve seen in the movies and on TV for many years but never actually recognized. And, in the computer-intensive world that is CG, it might save weeks or even months of time.