For animation. At the butcher's.

Most recent portion:


I’ve been meaning to go big and I know I haven’t even tapped the first 10% of Blender. My aim is to create a few minutes of something entertaining enough for friends to watch and I might have found the ingredients. Simply, guy in location talking to audience. It would be compelling because he’s passionate about the subject matter.

In order to get to the point of creating an animation, person, location, environment and assets, I had to accept that I’m not a master of any one feature of Blender or 3D. I’m not even a jack of all trades - BUT after all the pointless toying with meshes and bumbling around with UV’s and unwrapping and basic keyframe animation, I feel it’s time to go from basic Blender Freshman to Blender Sophomore where I just begin to scratch that 10% of Blender.

I’m leaving my comfort zone and trying everything new but keeping it simple enough to actually finish the project. The guy…


He’s got all the bits a cartoon person needs. Big nose, thin lips, weak jaw and still some eyelids that need to be there. to keep it fast, I used that Pointiness Node so that his skin wasn’t just one color - his hair is Displaced with an Alpha map and none of it’s final. The EYES aren’t my doing. I can’t say it enough, they’re gifted from another thread on the site and they’re brilliant. Inverted Normals means they look concave, but aren’t. Search for Pixar Eyes; I’ll post a link shortly when I find it.

In all my fussing about with meshes and figures, I’ve never made a thin, lithe cartoon figure with expressive limbs and unrealistically slender proportions. So that challenge, easy as it sounds, was met. I’m also not a fashion geek - his top is a close mimic of something James Bond wore in Spectre.


After working from the shoulder down, I deleted the shaky result and made the best hands I’ve ever made by seeing the MetaRig and working from the middle fingertip upward to the knuckles once, duplicating it, resizing as needed and then reducing edges until I got to the wrist with just eight verts. I’m still blown away by what a difference starting from the other side made.

I’ve got miles to go in modeling and the different layouts: UV Editor, Animation, Default, etc. So if you see a shortcut that could help me out, reach out and let me know! I’m in this to finish it. I’ll expect I’ll update on Mondays. First characters, then environments.

A character needs a place and a place needs an atmosphere and an atmosphere means a place needs stuff. Lots of stuff.

I underestimated how hard making simple stuff could be. Scale. When we write on chalk boards (they still have those, right?) our writing tended to shrink and lift near the end because we lost track of the whole as we focus on the parts. I found in my modeling that objects got absurdly large and overly complicated as I went along.

So before creating the space, I used equipment specs to keep scales right. But another hiccup came - light.


The lights inside display cases and freezers means there’s a ton of baking in the future. I imagine that once these large items are made, they’ll get populated with meats and packages and the lights inside them and their contents will have to get baked into the UV textures like they do in video games. That’s not something I’m very familiar with but I see the use for it.


Every damn thing has rails for shelves! First I tried Ctrl+C mesh to curve but that was tedious and didn’t feel right. Then I tried the Wireframe Modifier which I thought would solve the simplicity solution. It created strange geometry and lacked control I wanted. Since these objects will probably be seen from far away I remembered that I’m trying to be smart about this and in GIMP created a single rail. Using the UV Editor I created a New Image and began learning and experimenting until I got what I wanted. So all those rails come from just sixteen or whatever faces instead of hundreds and hundreds. They’re a bit “foggy” at the edges because the Alpha is driving the opacity. It’s adjustable I think.


None of the hardware will be seen this closely and that’s where my old mistakes came back. It’s overly complicated. All those side vent holes are geometry instead of images of vent holes. I’m hoping that doesn’t cost me too much render time. That glass door is Transparency + Glossy Mixed controlled by Facing that’s adjusted by a Color Ramp so straight on, there’s no reflection, but the more shallow angles reveal more reflections (seen better in the shelving image above). It’s a really nice trick. The odd gray cube is there to remind me what one-inch-cubed looks like so I kept the knobs and switches in scale.

Best new trick, [X] to delete or collapse specific things. It’s a massive time saver to collapse selected edges instead of Alt+M Merging vertices. Just the letter X when modeling will produce a menu of choices that might make things faster for you and preserve some of your Undo Memory.

I realize it’s not much to look at, but it had to start somewhere!

I used an old soft called FloorPlan 3D from IdeaSoft copyright 2003 - it works in Windows 10 and exports as WRL. I had a sense of what I wanted the layout of the shop to be but couldn’t mentally situate the scale.

The advantage of using this old arc viz tool that was awkward to use then is that you can drag walls and are given measurements on the fly (pictured). There’s some basic furniture and appliances and a nifty cabinet addition that lets you drag and drop angles. I’d be interested in knowing if there’s a Blender addon that can make floor plans as quickly…

The shop is to be an “L” shape basically for the customer and ideally I’d like a closet beneath some adjacent neighbor’s staircase against the wall. I’ll retool everything to make that happen, but it was nice to get a draft visualization of the space and how much the light will drop off the farther back the shop is.


As basic and limited as the tool is, it’s still available on Amazon for less than $4 bucks! I got mine over a decade ago so I’m pleased to see it still installs and runs. Materials are crap and models are basic but that floorplan drag and drop and using it for proxy placements might be worth your while. Helps find camera angles easily. NIB at Amazon.

This is going to happen.

I’m getting my first taste of just how hard it is to properly prepare for an interior scene. Thanks to that architecture software I’ve finalized the look and size of the space itself - it’s all in Imperial units. The background environment is just a mash of some equirectangular image for convenience.


Even with Portals, the lighting solution for interiors is daunting. The render times will come down eventually but first it’s objects and positions. I can’t imagine doing this without some sort of plan of action - lots of posts out there show that folks are just proudly diving in with no proxies or concepts. That would be troublesome before too long.


So it’s mostly a post of objects. More display cases, butcher paper rolls, ceiling hooks, work spaces and revisiting the fridge to clean up geometry. I’ve tried that Wheel add-on because people say it speeds things up for them; I’m not so sure. I’d just gotten used to the hotkeys when editing mesh and that Wheel is one more step in between. But I’m sure when there’s vertex and weight painting involved, it’s easier to get around.

I’ve decided for better or worse that light is a part of the story-telling. The hotspot near the window is perfect for something I have in mind. It’s about two stops brighter than the interior so I look forward to changing that Exposure up and down. I intend to blow things out with light so there’s no shot with both sunlight and interior in perfect balance, so two stops is a little low.

So even though I love this project, I know those renders were crap and I’m sorry to lay them on y’all.

Interior work requires some adjustments and tests that are time consuming and best rely on WISR renders. The out of box settings for lights, emission, World and render won’t cut good mustard here, so I’ve done my best to crash into noise reduction without creating all sorts of extra lights.


I included the Waveform Scope because I’m a new fan. It doesn’t match-up side to side perfectly but if you can read them, you get the idea: This is the dark side of the butcher shop where lighting and rendering are the most challenging. The computer I’m working on is very small and weak, so I’m looking for avenues of optimization anywhere. I’ll be baking textures and lights once I get more objects made and where they belong.

Once the small laptop can handle things moderately, I’ll take the whole project to the BIG computer which cuts renders to a third or quarter of the time historically.

Spent time away skiing but before that managed to get started on the geometry that makes up the view outdoors.


The stores and apartments across the one way street, with ample parking, are very basic but stealing a great deal of my photons! I knew I’d have to consider Render Layers and this is why. The lighting solution above is now moot. I have zero experience with Render Layers and the Composition Nodes so that’s next. Even a quick test showed that blundering through different layers can save 36% on render times.

While the camera will rove where the concentration of objects is - the shop without the walls in the image - the view out the window will play a large enough role that I have to account for it early on.

I didn’t model much new but did have fun rendering a paper bag that would fold the right way. The original maps perfectly and every copy of it, no matter how folded, will appear quite right.


It’s the little things… :slight_smile:

Finally attacking food. All procedurally. As basic as it is, I couldn’t have done half of this two weeks ago.


The importance of texturing in the light can’t be stressed enough. There are some ill-conceived Displace settings happening here. I’ll go back where obvious uglies can be corrected - I just threw in a Point light for this image to post very quickly and saw what you see. I had been texturing in a dim HDR image.

I’m actually really proud; I’ve been improving just within these eight objects. By the time I got to the roast beef, I’d bettered the effect I failed at with the Turkey: Fibers within the slice of meat and the fractures in between. Not a single map, all procedural, every slice can be different but retain the properties.

Biggest help, Node Wrangler and almost any YouTube Scratches tutorial you can find to get your head around layering nodes and their effects on other nodes. That Salami is a good example!

Pretty soon it’s time to put things where they belong. Materials are coming along and these bottles, based on one and then adjusted for each duplicate, were supposed to be easy!

I hadn’t thought about how hard it would be to make materials. Without going on too long, I like to break materials down into three parts: Diffuse (Albedo), Light handling (Gloss, etc) and Texture. I then like to use procedural textures to visualize each part.

I used be utter crap. I’m still wobbly and forget quite a bit about how to connect Nodes but I’m happy to say that while these still need some TLC and tweaking, every bit of them is 100% intentional. It’s been quite a ride. But it’s time to wrap up the props and set design and get to the character.


Not bad I think for cylinders and a meniscus. Writing is a font called Daniel.