Blender Lite?

Coming up soon I’ll be teaching a few classes in Blender… but, well, Blender is actually really hard to use. I’ve tried teaching it before, so I know this. It has to be complex, there’s so much stuff hidden within the program.

I personally started using 3D with Milkshape. Oh - that’s if I ignore this old ray-tracing program on the Acorn. I expect a lot of people didn’t start off doing 3D on Blender. I’m wandering if I should introduce a simpler 3D program first… and that is where I run into a second problem.

You see the organisation I’ll be doing these lessons with are open-source vegans. They only use fully open source software. Apart from this Milkshape or Google Scetchup would be ideal (Milkshape is a 25 euro program originally designed for Halflife - highly recomended). I was thinking of Wings, but I’m not sure if it’s simpler enough than Blender to forfill this perpous.

Any sugestions would be helpful. I’m also keen to hear on what software everyone started doing 3D.

I actually did start off using Blender. At first I had no idea how to begin.
I didn’t have anyone (like yourself) around to show me anything so I began
my long hard journey of searching on my own.

Now it has paid off. If only I had a teacher, I would probably be 3 years
ahead of where I am skill wise.

I don’t think there is a good reason why Blender cannot be taught.
It does not have to be complex. All that can be saved for advanced
classes.

You could just teach people the basics. It’s definitely
not too difficult to learn, unless you’re teaching special needs students.

Actually the perfect curriculum for a basic class would probably be
to use book, “The Essential Blender”.

I have that book and went through the entire thing. It covers everything
a person new to Blender would need to know and it does it in a very
friendly, easy to understand way.

I am a slow reader and I have a very hard time catching onto things.
So believe me. It is not too wordy. It’s just strait to the point.
And the chapters are put together so half is a simple step-by-step
tutorial and the other is all discussion to help you understand
how it all works.

I have used other 3D software as well but I still think Blender is the
best. It’s all thanks to them that I was able to enter into the 3D world, period.

Hm, if they “only use fully open source software” I suppose they are all a bit computer savvy, and not easily afraid of weird GUIs, especially when they are having a class about it :slight_smile:

Some 5 years ago, I had something like 3h of Blender classes about the game engine, and then we were supposed to make a project with it. That’s how I started. With those 3h and the few tutorials that were available at the time, the ugly GUI, the necessity to use shortcuts because there were no nice menu to find everything in, etc. etc.
So, even if you don’t find something easier to teach than Blender, as long as you don’t try to teach them everything from the modeling to the UV-mapping and the nodes in one hour, that should be ok ;).

And Blender was the second 3D software I used, before I gave a try at Moonlight 3D Studio, a free software with nurbs modeling, that now doesn’t exist anymore. It wasn’t easy either, and modeling with nurbs is very different than modeling with meshes.
(I also used a little bit of 3Dsmax back in 2001, but I never managed to model anything with it, all I did were teapots and donuts … I don’t think that really counts :))

What about an mathematical viewpoint without any special programm? Start with coordinate system, vertexes, add edges, then faces… Tell them what it means to scale, rotate, grab an vector in 3D-space. Tell about the idealistic beautiful scene tree structure. What is hidden, and why, about perspective and orthogonality.

Then I think they feel quite happy and comfortable to start with… Blender!

I was lucky enough to start Blending during a workshop with the same guys. What we have planned is two one-day workshops. I tried teaching two days to home-educated teenagers, and it was really hard, mostly because they wanted to be able to jump ahead, create their own ideas, etc, and expected to be able to figure out everything through intuition in the way you usually can with software.

I don’t see any reason why starting with blender would be a problem (especially since they are taking classes). However if you think it would be best if they start out with a easy to use modeler with a more generic GUI I guess gSculpt would be a good choice.

Look here yogyog, if you want the easiest 3D animation software…for free,
use DoGa-L1. You can’t get any simpler than that software.

http://www.doga.co.jp/english/software/dogal1/index.html

I played with that in the early days too. You can’t model things
with vertices, but it is probably the only 3D software (or not) that
is intuitive on the level you may be asking for. You have loads of
pre-made parts as well as primatives. You piece them together to make things
like space ships and robots and then do simple animations with them. I played
with it for hours with barely any knowledge of 3D animation and made a pretty
sweet Wipeout style race scene.

DoGa-L2 adds Joint Modeling & key Framing to the picture.

Only thing is I haven’t used it since I’ve had Windows XP. It might only
work on Windows 95. I’m not sure though. I haven’t really tried it since then.

This is awful, you are obviously a novice in 3D, but are unwilling to learn yourself what you intend to teach? Just because you can’t grasp it doesn’t mean that your students wont be able to, DO NOT restrict their learning, are you scared of losing control or something?

are you being paid for this kind of backwards teaching? it sickens me to know it still goes on. If you had any true ambition to teach then you would want your students to excel, not be stunted because their mentors are incompetent.

I do teach and train, and I love that sometimes the audience thinks ahead and starts doing things for themselves, teaching is a push in the right direction not an ultimatum on any subject.

I learnt 3D first in Maya 4.

I wouldn’t consider myself to be a novice in 3D. Yes, I am getting paid, which is why I’m asking advice on how to get the lessons right. Jumping ahead is good, but it turned out that everyone required one-to-one tuition, and as I was unpicking one persons creation a lot of the children were loosing interest. I thought it would be best for people to learn 3D in a way similar to the way I learned it: Blender is kind of the deep end.

I’ve heard of DoGa-L1, but I don’t think it’s much use either: I want something that introduces polygons. I think I will start on Blender, and come up with a way to introduce low-poly, then subsurf, then (maybe) sculpt-mode. I could give them an object to start with, to navigate round and explore, then modify.

If those kids are losing interest that fast then they probably don’t
care about learning this stuff. You can’t do anything about that
part. And in a class with lots of kids, it’s inevitable. There are
going to be a lot of them that aren’t going to learn simply because
they don’t care.

You need a projector or something you can hook your computer up
to so the whole class can see what you’re doing. Do something
simple like showing them how to edit polygons like you mentioned.

Maybe there should be a common goal for everyone to follow like
making space ship or air craft something. Just some sort of object
that will be animated using key frames. You could show them how
to using procedural materials on their objects and maybe even how
to assign different colors to different vertices. This would be good
for focusing on the use of polygon editing. It leaves the door open
for them to make it look how they want.

Ideas:

-Make a street, make a car, animate it driving down the road.
-Make an air craft, make a simple hilly scene, animate it flying through the scene.

Going by what you’re describing the students’ attitudes as, using armatures
is probably not a good idea. That requires a lot of patients and can be a
bit daunting for beginners.

If it’s only 2 day workshops, just pick a few key things to teach.

Here are some topics to choose from in Blender:
(and this is what is covered in The Essential Blender book)

Blender Interface:
-3D View, header and buttons window
-How to navigate in 3D space (like using the number pad to change angles)
-Changing the way objects are viewed (wire, solid, shaded, etc.)
-Changing the camera: Orthographic/Perspective
-ToolBox (SpaceBar): using it to add meshes and lamps, etc.
Object Manipulation:
-Selecting Objects, 3D cursor, switching between Edit/Object mode,
-Transforming objects with Grab, Scale, Rotation (also w/the Manipulator)
-How to Duplicate objects (Shift+D)
-Parenting one object to another and how the child is effected by parent
Mesh Modeling:
-How to add different meshes to the scene
-How to edit meshes (moving vertices, subdividing, extruding faces, etc…)
-How to use a few Modifiers (SubSurf, Bevel, Mirror…maybe Array)
-Selecting all vertices and recalculating the normals (Ctrl+N) if they get messed up
Sculpting and Multiresolution Modeling:
-Adding a primative and adding Multires levels
-How to change/use brush types (Draw, Grab, Smooth, Layer, Inglate, etc…
Character Animation:
Rigging and Skinning:
-in this class it sounds like they might learn these better if
you round house kick their computers onto the floor.
Shape Keys:
-Use something basic, the Suzanne monkey head might be the funnest
-Have them make the Basis shape key, then add a new shape key and
edit the face to show a crazy expression.
-Changing the influence of different shape keys to see changes
Materials and Textures:
-Changing Diffuse color, changing specular, adding reflection (but make sure
there is something to see in reflection)
-blabiddy blah
UV Mapping:
-Just make a paper air plain for them to throw around
Lighting and Rendering:
-Adding different lamps and changing settings to see how their
objects look when rendered
Particles (If you dare):
-Probably better off not getting into a hairy mess, but maybe use simple
halos on the materials for the emiters (they look pretty when rendered)
Rendering and Compositing:
-You should probably skip this and let them learn it on their own if they like.
(And the last one…possibly the funnest one)
Blender’s Physics/Game Engine:
-You could skip the game part, but…
-Show them how the cloth sim works (and how to pin parts of it down using
Vertex groups…sounds complex but it’s really not)
-have them make a slope and have balls roll down it when they press the “P” key.

Lets get something strait. It’s been on my mind through this whole thread.
You keep saying things about how hard it was to teach people before. I
don’t think the software has a whole lot to do with it. Maybe you just need
to plan things differently. Change how you make decisions for showing
students things one-on-one so the rest of the class doesn’t miss out.

If someone has a question let them ask out loud so the whole class can
learn from it. Just make sure to tell them more than once
“There are no stupid questions”
(as long is it’s relevant to the workshop)
If someone needs help figuring out how to do what you’re
teaching, (and this is where the projector comes in handy) show them
up on the big screen where all can see it.

One more idea might to break them into groups for a certain project
so they have to work together to make something (but not everyone
likes doings doing that, so possibly not)

There. I just gave you more than enough categories to choose from.
I just did your whole class for you.

P.S: It would seriously be a tragedy if you chose not to use Blender for the reasons
you mentioned above. This software is very unique. Blender Foundation is making
history and it would be a good investment into youth if you plant this seed in them.
Blender is going places and it provides more opportunity and growth for student than
any other software in existence (in my opinion). What’s the worst that could happen?
They decide they don’t like 3D graphics and would rather go into the food industry?
You being a teacher should be seen as a great privilege to show people they can
make something of themselves if they put their minds to it.

Please forgive me if I sound arrogant. I accept that I could be wrong about all this.

You should also memorize this saying and apply it to every teaching situation:

“Nothing worth having comes easy.”

I just invested an hour into this post for you.
I hope it was not in vain.

Your welcome. Now get outta here.

(kidding, don’t leave. it just sounded funny in my head)

Hi Jogjog,

I taught a week long course in Blender ( and also the GE ) for the 3rd year running, and this year was a LOT easier than the last year for the students.

This is mainly down to long-requested ( and finally implemented ) tweaks such as added objects not automatically entering edit mode, added objects not aligning to the viewport as well as many other tweaks.

I found that it was easier to have the students working in the main viewport, in perspective mode ( user change #1 ), and starting off building something like their initials out of say boxes ( learning to add, move, even snap ( with Ctrl held down ) and delete, as well as navigate around the environment ).

After being able to do the above - sounds simple, but incorporates a lot of the basics of using Blender that a user has to be 200% comfortable with - you can then move on to eg rendering the scene / box modelling / sculpting etc.

In fact, if you’re not showing the GE ( if you are, a PDF of a rough course to follow is here - http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/BSoD/Introduction_to_the_Game_Engine ), then a great way to start might be by teaching sculpting. Again, making sure the main viewport is perspective will help a LOT here.

Hope that helps a bit…
Mal

I taught Blender too. The students usually will hate it at first. But they will come to appreciate it when they get to see the results of their effort.

Yog, check out this page with links to already-prepared lessons and materials:

http://www.cdschools.org/54223045235521/blank/browse.asp?a=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&c=55205

The author has his email address there and I’m sure would be a helpful source of further information.

@Wings: I think this would be a very good app to start with for modeling. The interface couldn’t get any simpler (all right-click-menu driven, right?) and you can set things up to be “blender-similar” in terms of which buttons do what for view navigation. It also “hides” the inner workings of poly modeling better than blender, which helps alleviate some of the confusion for beginners. The transition to blender (which I would do sooner than later with your students) simply then allows more flexibility and “access” to the background data. It also forces better modeling habits due to blender’s lack of >4-sided polys.

Cheers… (and kudos on your well-restrained response to teatime… it would be helpful for flamers/trolls to do a bit of research on the work portfolios of those they attack. Doubtless he’d have taken a different tack if he’d done so himself. I’m a big fan of your work.)

Mmm Blender isn’t that complicated. I managed to pick it up when I was 12 (after about 3 months nonstop :P)

At any rate, good luck on the teaching, I don’t see how anyone can’t be interested in learning 3D

This is a very good way to teach Blender I think, but many people may feel bored (people generally don’t think they need the basics :rolleyes:). One of the most confusing things for me in the beginning was the organization of a scene, datablocks, modes, et cetera. Learning about it in the beginning would have helped a lot. :smiley:

I started learning 3D graphics in the program anim8or (anim8or.com)

I made a lot of animation in it and 2 short films. I highly recommend it to someone getting started in 3D. After anim8or, I forced myself to learn blender because it was more powerful and I was ready for power.

I hope your class goes well, and you stimulate them to learn more on their own.

I started with Blender. I once (on an anim8tor forum) heard Blender’s learning curve refered to as being more or less the same as that of running into a brick wall without getting hurt. I would say that if you start with another program try to make it similar to Blender, if its too different, it probably won’t help the students too much.

Wow, Ghost Train! Your list is very intuitive! I might want to use that if I come across more noobs!

show them first pretty blender renders.

if the students are reluctant because of blender’s gui, hide it!
you can hide tabs in the buttons pane that wont be needed by clicking the little arrow on them, and then use Ctrl+U to set this as default. you can then copy the .B.blend to the workstations the pupils will use, and then that way you can introduce aspects of the GUI as you teach.