Weekly Blender Roundup

 

Every week, I roundup all the interesting things that happened in the blender world.

I also add some tips on freelancing and work ethic. New Post every saturday.

 

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17 February 2018 (#6)

Tutorial video of the week:

A new feature is added in the experimental build of 2.79.2 which vastly improves Subsurface scattering.

A new mode is there in the shader called random walk. Seeing the comparison at 1:20 blew my mind.

Theory video I like:

Audio is 50% of the appeal in a short film. It is even more so in animation. You can compromise on visuals but not on audio.

However, you do not need all of the expensive mics shown in the video. A cheap USB mic (I use Samson go mic) will be vastly superior than your cellphone mic. It is enough for a single person in animation as we do not need to shoot outdoors or record more than one people.

It also emphasizes on foley. The sound effects you hear massively add appeal to your video. If you are going to show your character walking, be sure to add proper sound effects as well.

Cool addon to watch out for:

Texturing In Blender For Beginners

Rendering skin is the hardest thing for me. I really like how the end result looks.

Learning the principles of material creation and texturing models will set you miles ahead from other blender users.

This is a benefit of a course. Usually all these information is available for free on the internet. But to know what to search and search it will take you a long time. Even more time will be spent in learning it.

Once you start earning money, you will value your time much more than money. Courses save time but come at a price. You win some, you lose some.

Weekly Book recommendation:

The Elements of Style – Strunk and White

Irrespective of the field you are in, you should know the basics of writing. It will help you in every stage of your life. This is a timeless classic for people in journalism and copywriting. We can use the same basics for writing a proposal, asking for help online etc. Some points from the book.

  • Omit needless words.
  • Make the paragraph a unit of composition, one paragraph to each topic.
  • Make definite assertions. Avoid hesitating, non-committal language.

Weekly Freelancing tip:

I have written an article about my experience while freelancing with blender. It contains many of the things I have discussed here in these roundups along with new information. I consider it as a work in progress as I intend to add more information in the future.

Freelancing with blender: What I learned from my experiences.

Quote from a book I am reading:

“Macro patience, micro speed. They should not care about the next eight years, but they should stress the next eight days.” – Gary Vaynerchuk, Tribe of mentors

Funny Blender post of the week:

It’s going to be awesome.

 

Check out 25 Professional Titles for Blender, The best title pack available for blender right now.
Want to try a free demo before buying? Link to demo is at the product page.


10 February 2018 (#5)

Tutorial video of the week:

Not only the end result looks nice. The way this tutorial is presented is pretty cool too.

Theory video I like:

If you are ever going to animate stuff, you must have a basic idea of how acting works.

Learn from them the basic principles of acting and apply it in your animation, you will leagues ahead of other animators.

A person always looks at the face first before the body. Your facial expressions, your body language should evoke emotions in others. Everything you do (speech, body language,facial expressions and other actions) are a way to communicate ideas, convey a story to the audience.

Usually, you only do (or animate) what is absolutely essential. Being concise in your thoughts, actions and speech is an art. Conveying what you want in the least amount of steps will help you prioritize on what’s essential in the scene and what’s not.

They should realize what’s going on just by looking at the scene before any words are spoken. Watch your favorite cartoon and cinema on mute. See if you can understand what’s going on.

Make an attempt that your animation should convey the current situation in the story without any words.

Cool addon to watch out for:

This looks so cool. They require beta testers for their addon.

You can check the blenderartists thread they created here.

Weekly Book recommendation:

Universal principles of design by William Lidwell

This book is originally in Andrew Price’s book recommendation and I can see why.

The author references scientific studies and focuses on principles that were found to be true. Applying these principles in our work (be it a render or a 3D model) does make it look good and improve response from people.

I can say for sure this book single-handedly helped me on the design side more than any other design book that I have read. I have created notes of this book for quick reference. I will write a few points from the book.

  • People rely on their past experiences when trying new things. Design with keeping in mind people’s interaction and level of experience. For example, Blender Video Sequence editor (VSE) uses the same shortcuts as the 3D Viewport. This helps the user to understand quickly.
  • The time it takes to make decision increases as the number of alternative increases.
  • It is better to understand and perfectly meet the needs of the critical few than to poorly meet the needs of many.
  • Arrange asymmetrical elements in an image according to the weight of the elements rather than its hard edges.

Weekly Freelancing tip:

Unique way of creating a demoreel.

This is actually a popular copywriting technique which does work most of the time.

Instead of creating random animation for a reel, look for freelance animation job descriptions online or offline.

If there is some clear job description you know you can do it. Then create a proposal and create a 5 second animation on that job description. The animation shouldn’t take you 3-4 hours of work. Attach it to the proposal. This is great for motion graphics projects.

Learn everything about the client, learn what he actually intend to do with the finished product and personalize your proposal keeping those facts in mind. Focus on the customer’s problem and the value you can provide.

If it consists of complicated modeling, then pick the least complicated model, model it and attach image samples of the model on that proposal.

If you get the job, well congrats. If you don’t get the job, then remove all the clients copyrighted logo and branding and use it in your demo reel.

There are two-fold advantages, you will learn what client expects pretty early in your career and you will have a great demo reel based on actual client expectations.

Quote from a book I am reading:

“Mastery doesn’t come from an infographic. what you know doesn’t mean shit. What do you DO consistently.” -Tools of titans

Funny Blender post of the week:

Fixing topology after boolean modifier, from /r/cgimemes

3 February 2018 (#4)

Tutorial video of the week:

Gleb Alexandrov often focus on “cheats” as he calls it to achieve maximum visual fidelity in minimum number of steps.

Here the paint splash effects are achieved by force fields and metaballs instead of Fluid simulation.

I won’t call it cheats though, I would call it as genius.

Theory video I like:

If you are going to make animated videos then you should have at least an basic understanding of the film-making process. This video focuses on music part of film-making.

This video is actually an response to another film editor’s critic on why Marvel’s music is forgettable and lack of originality in film music.

Cool addon to watch out for:

Atom bomb by Remington Graphics

Sometimes things in blender (like nodes or textures) does not get deleted even after reopening the blend file.

Atom bomb force deletes the data. It helps when you have to keep the size of the blend file short. (e.g. Render farm)

But above all that, rarely does any addon spent time on promotion. But not this one. I won’t spoil the video, just check it out.

Weekly Book recommendation:

The lean startup by Eric Ries.

The author focuses on speed, testing out variety of products in the shortest amount of time.

Assuming what people want is like gambling. You may not always succeed and the failure may be too big to afford. Rather than spending time and money on what people “may” like. Make small Products and quickly test them in the market. Once you find that there is a demand, you can always update the product to your original vision.

This applies to us blender users too.Don’t assume, try stuff out quickly and see for yourself what people like.

While gaining a fan following for your portfolio or on social media. Try making and publishing something that will take you less time (one post a week/month).  See which artwork people like the most. That artwork should be the basis for all your future pieces.

Weekly Freelancing tip:

When you start out, most likely, you are not going to use contracts and do jobs by keeping trust in the client. This is OK for small jobs.

However when you start taking corporate jobs, you are going to need one. Remember that those people will find a way to shortchange you if they can. Not all clients are bad, But the bad ones will make your life miserable. (Imagine Dave Chappelle)

Here are the list of things I specify in the contract. Rarely will there ever be a chance that you are going to use all clauses in your first contract, but are good to know.

I didn’t got to use all these clauses too in one contract.

  • Project scope: Explaining what the client needs in simple words. Don’t assume anything, write everything that the client wants you to do and deadline for receiving the product.

  • Fee: Flat fee is usually preferred than per hour charges as this frees the client and helps him learn about the final cost in advance. Most people have different payment terms, I use 30% advanced and 70% after delivering the final product. Copyright remains with the designer till the final payment.

  • Revisions: The Designer and the Client shall agree upon the specified details of the project before starting the project. Any changes after starting a project is defined as a revision. People usually keep at 2.

  • Scope Creep: Usually what people do is that after deciding on the scope of the project. They will ask for “one more thing to add” and will try to add (not change) more stuff in the project within the same fee and deadline. More work= revised payment terms.

  • Kill fee: Sometimes jobs do not end on good terms. That doesn’t mean your work should go into waste. Kill fee is usually the advance fee. You put that it is non refundable in case the project ends midway.

  • Ownership: the designer owns all the copyright until the final payment is made.

  • Confidentiality: Designer assures client that the work will be kept confidential and will not release it to the public without Client’s approval.

  • Single point of contact: The client assures the designer that all communications is routed through one person appointed by the client. Otherwise, you might have 5 people giving you different directions on achieving the project.

  • Code of fair practice: That the work in the project is original and does not infringe anyone’s copyrights.

  • Dispute resolution: Any dispute will be subjected to the courts of that country.

  • Acceptance of terms: This is where you signed the form.

Quote from a book I am reading:

“One does not succeed so long as one has these three: Shame, hatred and fear.” – Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita

Funny Blender post of the week:

When I started learning blender in 2012

27 January 2018 (#3):

Tutorial video of the week:

I really like the concept of this tutorial. It teaches you the basic concepts of blender within one minute. No long intro, No fluff. It should just remove the weird text to speech voice and replace it with an actual human voice.

Theory video I like:

Learn how mood is created by different styles of lighting. Remember all of this techniques also apply to blender.

Cool addon to watch out for:

Sculptors Toolbox – Ultimate Brushes by Jim Morren

The product a collection of brushes for sculpting. All types of brushes are there.

Core brushes for day to day work. Skin brushes to add finite details.

The amount of value you get in this product is immense. Just visit the product page for detailed descriptions and quick gifs for each feature.

Weekly Book recommendation:

Don’t make me think by Steve Krug

The crux of this book is simple. Keep it simple. Giving multiple options to the user just for the sake of it confuses the user.

Learn how an average person thinks when browsing a web page.

Though this book is for UI design, the principles can be applied anywhere including in blender.

Weekly Freelancing tip:

Writing a proposal:

Clear communication. Simple words. Keep your sentences concise and use active voice wherever possible. Keep your proposal concise too.

Paragraphs should not extend beyond three lines. Do not add unimportant info.

Ask yourself, if you delete this line, would the proposal still make sense? If it does, then delete it.

Quote from a book I am reading:

“It’s not about ideas, it’s about making ideas happen. Truth is, young, creative minds don’t need more ideas, they need to take more responsibility with the ideas they’ve already got” – Tools of Titans

Funny Blender post of the week:

20 January 2018 (#2):

Interesting article I have been reading:

Should you become a 3D CG Freelancer?

This article lists out the pros and cons of being a freelancer. It also has a little biography on how he started. People usually have these dream of leaving a stable job and being a freelancer. But, it certainly is not for everyone. The amount of effort and stress in freelancing is more than a stable job.

Just because you get to work without leaving your house doesn’t mean everything is good. You have to consciously discipline yourself. Working in the same place where you sleep is hard. Your brain automatically goes “Oh Home! Time to be lazy.”

Tutorial video of the week:

and here is Part 2

Nowadays, I watch tutorials to learn new workflow techniques I can integrate in my work. The first part is modeling while the second is the material tutorial.

Whenever you create any new thing, remember that always start from a broad base then figure out the details. It is the same process in composition, in creating characters and here, in creating materials. Because if your base is not good, no amount of details is going to save the image.

Theory video I like:

During the 1940s and 50s. The movies of hollywood used to follow a rigid manual of editing and shooting a movie. The main goal was to create a seamless experience. A person should be immersed in the world and not realize it is a movie.  It earned them money too, so why would they try out new techniques?

The editor had a final say in the cut and not the director. It was like a manufacturing company, churning out hits using an established formula.

In the late 50s, 4 french filmmakers decided to go completely opposite of hollywood. They broke all the established rules made popular by hollywood. They also had less budget then their hollywood counteparts, so they tried out entirely new techniques established hollywood studios wouldn’t use.

I don’t want to spoil much as it is certainly one of the best videos I have ever watched. Remember the last quote applies for blender users too.

“Look at what works in your medium and think, how can it be done differently? If you don’t have anything new to say, what’s the point of saying anything?” – Lewis Bond

Cool addon to watch out for:

TexTools for Blender

It is created by the same author who released textools for 3dsMax. The features seem really nice such as align UV blocks horizontal or vertical and select similar blocks based on topology.

Weekly Book recommendation:

Tools of titans:

I like this book because it offers multiple solutions to the same problems faced by the guests. Some of them actually contradict each other. It’s because imposing one rule/ one guideline for all is usually wrong. Whatever things that work for them may not work for me, and vice versa.

It is actually summarized form of the podcast the author makes called “The Tim Ferriss show”. I like these concept as I really don’t have the time to make notes of every business podcast I hear. Now if only Joe Rogan can make one….

Weekly Freelancing tip:

If you ever try to cheat customers for short term gain, be prepared for long term loss.

You might think of accepting a job you have no idea on how to do it, maybe you’ll figure out within the deadline. If you do, well and good but if you don’t, not only you lose the job but you have also wasted your client’s time. This is not a place to gamble.

In simple terms, if you ever overcharged or half-assedly do a job you were asked to, you are going to risk losing trust. Trust is everything. If you lose trust then there is no point in freelancing. The client is going to figure it out sooner or later that he has been short-changed. He might not asked for a refund but will tell everyone to avoid you. That is anti marketing.

Be truthful and honest.

Quote from a book I am reading:

“It is better to risk boldness than triviality” – Zero to One (Peter Thiel)

Funny Blender post of the week:

This onion won’t make me cry

 

13 January 2018 (#1):

Interesting article I have been reading:
Using Blender to win large Engineering jobs

The thing I liked about this is that the animation he makes isn’t very pretty to look at, but it is meant to teach the how the system works in the simplest way possible. The first priority is explanation, the second is aesthetics.

Sometimes when explanation is important, some sacrifices can be made in aesthetics. It all depends on the what the client wants (in the required timeframe) and not what we want the animation to be.

Tutorial video of the week:

Simple, short and the end result looks really nice. Great beginner tutorial that’s not a bowl and cloth.

Theory video I like:

You can follow this video without any knowledge of Final Cut Pro X. This video might be the best tutorial in color correction and the theory behind it. Even if you never intend to make an animation, make sure to watch this at least once.

Remember, you can use scopes in blender too.

Cool addon to watch out for:
Wisp Fire Shader

As someone who has spent a significant amount of time to get fire to look realistic, this actually looks very good and easy to set up too.

Weekly Book recommendation:
Rework

Simply put, this book is recommended by Andrew Price, Gleb Alexandrov and Reynante Martinez. If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.

Some basic points from the book:

  • Make short term plans that extend for a week instead of long term. You cannot predict what is going to happen in the future. Improvise wherever needed.
  • Start making something. Ideas are cheap and plentiful. The real question is how well you execute.
  • Commit to making decisions. Don’t wait for the perfect solution. Decide and move forward.

Weekly Freelancing tip:
Increase your communication skills as soon as possible. It is one of the main factor to success in any field.

One book I recommend on this is Dale Carnegie’s How to win friends and influence people. If you don’t have the time or money to read it. Just read the wikipedia page and start by applying at least one point in your life.

Freelancing is a skill like any other. No matter whatever your skill set is, start early, contact people and see what kind of work do people need. You have to make what people need.

Not everyone needs a high production head sculpt. Most people never venture beyond explainer video and logo animation.

Quote from a book I am reading:
(Tribe of Mentors: Tim Ferriss)
Tim Ferriss: When you feel overwhelmed or Unfocused, what do you do?
Jocko Willink: Prioritize and execute….
Take a step back,
Detach from the mayhem.
Look at the situation and assess the multitude of problems, tasks or issues.
Choose the one that is going to have the biggest impact and execute that.

Funny Blender post of the week:
Cheeky Blender UI