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Blender: Getting Started

Getting Started With Blender For Virtual Worlds

Blender For Virtual Worlds

A Free Tutorial by Remona Stormborn
Edited by Labyrinth Stormborn
© Remona Stormborn 2014, 2015, 2016, all rights reserved

Visit Gaia Foundation on Atlantis in the Great Canadian Grid for inworld support information.


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Getting Started

Introduction
     Why Mesh?
     Are Prims Obsolete?
     What Else Can I Create?
What Is Blender?
     Requirements
     Download
     Welcome to Blender
How This Tutorial Works
Finding Help
Project: Note Keeping System
Questions?


Introduction

I’m lazy. I am. I hate reading directions. I really hate heavy tomes full of blah, blah, blah on how to do something.

I’m a creative person, not a bookworm. I want to push buttons, click and drag things, poke and prod and make things transform into beautiful creations. I want to point my wand and create fantastical magic!

And that’s how I started out with Blender. A few months later, after resisting several urges to toss my computer out my five story window, I wasn’t having fun anymore. But, I was determined to master this skill so I decided to read the directions.

That turned out to be not so efficient either….few tutorials focused on virtual world content, most were technical and vague, many charged a high price, & the rest were outdated.

Books, blogs, forums, online tutorials, videos, inworld classes, you name it, I read it or watched it. It took digging, rooting out piecemeal useful bits here and there, experimenting, & pestering the few experts I could find that were willing to share their knowledge.

Finally, I’m confident to say, I can create quality content that doesn’t lag my sims and looks fantastic and, best of all, I have fun doing it!

Now, you can too, because, luck have it, I’m also a writer and an experienced virtual world teacher. Thus, this tutorial was born.

Best of all, it’s free. Yeppers, I’m not asking for anything but your time, feedback & enthusiasm for creating and learning.

You can learn to create with Blender without crying the crocodile tears I did. Start out right: start here. I’ll keep it simple and on point: content creation for virtual worlds in easy to understand language.


Why Mesh?

While building with prims inworld is a lot of fun, mesh gives us the ability to create much more organic and intricate shapes. Done right, with methods specifically for virtual world use, mesh creates less stress on servers and less lag. I know there are many who argue the point but, they are wrong. I’ll teach you the methods that will show you why they are wrong.

Low-poly mesh is what you need and that’s what I’ll teach you here in addition to great tricks to get high detail without adding complex geometry to stress out virtual world servers.

Another benefit of mesh is the control you get over the physics and the LoD. Your mesh objects will have custom physics so avatars and other objects can interact with them in more predictable ways. Ever get annoyed at how some objects inworld break down as you move farther away? You’ll learn how to control how your mesh is seen from various distances and how avatars will interact with your mesh creations.

With the techniques I will teach you how to determine how textures will layout on your objects, giving you full control to reduce ugly stretching and warping of textures. You’ll also learn how to create custom textures that provide ambient occlusion (natural daylight shading) as well as how to create special textures for creating special lighting and shading effects.


Are Prims Obsolete?

No way! You don’t have to give up the hard earned skills you’ve learned building with prims and sculpts. Instead, you’ll expand your skills in creating exciting content.

In fact, I’ll show you ways to enhance your prim building with mesh. Throughout this series, I’ll show you ways to use the best of both worlds with hybrid building, taking advantage of the best features of Blender and inworld creation techniques.


What Else Can I Create?

For virtual worlds, in addition to 3D objects, you can create sculpts, terrain, textures, avatars, clothes, and animations for your virtual world. Mesh is a powerful building component to add to your tool belt. With mesh you get rich 3D detail for low land impact and infinite possibilities.


What Is Blender?

Blender is a free open source 3D program. It’s used for many types of 3D projects such as modeling 3D mesh objects, sculpting, animation, avatars and avatar clothing, rendering, compositing, video editing, creating games, & more.

Although 3ds Max and Maya currently dominate the industry, Blender is fast becoming recognized for it’s sophistication and responsiveness to users. You’ll find a huge community of users who enjoy sharing their knowledge and support. In many respects, it outshines it’s expensive competitors.


Requirements

  • A computer running Windows, OSx, or Linux 1
  • A graphics card that will run a 3D graphics program 2
  • A virtual world account, viewer, & basic building skills 3
  • An internet connection and ability to upload and download content
  • A 3 button mouse and a keyboard with number pad (highly recommended) 4

1. Blender is pretty much the same regardless of what operating system you use.

2. If you can visit virtual worlds in a a standard virtual world viewer you’ll be fine running Blender. Depending on your graphics card, processor, & memory, you may or may not be able to run both at the same time….

3. If you don’t already have a virtual world, try the Great Canadian Grid, where accounts and uploading are free and there are sandboxes to practice building in. I recommend OpenSim worlds where you can then visit other worlds with the original avatar you sign up with.

Visit: http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Grid_List for a list of the OpenSim worlds. With OpenSim, you can even download the software to create your own private world.

Other worlds are: Second Life and InWorldz, which are closed worlds – not connected to any other worlds.

4. If you don’t have a 3 button mouse or number pad, I’ll show you the alternative in a bit.


Download

Download your copy of the current version of Blender at: Blender.org

Blender installs fast and easy. Everything you need for installation on Windows, Mac, or Linux operating systems is available on the site.

Blender does not update automatically. You’ll need to check the site once in awhile to update to new versions.

For Steam users, you can download Blender with Steam, in which case, you’ll get automatic updates.


Welcome to Blender

Once you have Blender installed, go ahead and open it.

If you’ve had a previous copy of Blender installed, click the Copy Previous Settings link on the splash screen when it first opens if you want to preserve your old settings.

Also note the resources listed on the splash screen as well.

Although, generally too technical for beginners, you’ll soon find them useful. Left click anywhere outside the splash screen to eliminate it and get started.

Now that you have Blender open for the first time, it looks intimidating. All those buttons, menus, and widgets.

Don’t panic!

It’s not as complicated as it looks.

We only need some of these tools and I’ll help you get a layout that gives you the tools you’ll be using the most and gets rid of some of those extra gadgets you don’t need cluttering your screen.

In the next chapter, I’ll take you on a quick tour of Blender’s user interface to get you familiar with the layout and give you an idea of how things work. You’ll learn to create a custom work area and save it for future use.

Once you know how to manage Blender’s user interface, you’ll find it a lot less intimidating.


How This Tutorial Works

I’m about to walk you through the basics so let’s get started laying a strong foundation that will turn you into a Blender pro faster than the speed of crossing empty sims bare butt naked and bald. But first, let me quickly explain how this tutorial will work.

I’ll take you from the very beginning where you’ll lay a strong foundation with the tools you’ll use frequently. I’ll keep adding on to those basics to help you expand your skills to create architecture, sculpts, clothes, animations, avatars, terrain, & more.

You can peruse these lessons at your own pace: go as fast or slow as you like. Start at the beginning and work your way through it or learn the foundation then peruse the subject areas you are most interested in. That’s up to you.

I encourage you to play with each technique you learn until it becomes comfortable. With muscle memory you’ll build speed, efficiency, and loose the initial awkwardness just like you did in your virtual world.

Blender Frames

Throughout this series I will be using screenshots using colored highlighting and arrows to point out items I refer to.

(pink)
(red)
(green)
(yellow)
(blue)

The references to screenshot content will give, in parenthesis, the (color) of the highlights and arrows in the screenshot that I’m referring to.

TIP:   Also pay particular attention to the tips,…
WARNING:  the warnings, and…
NOTE:  the notes in boxes like these.

Look for the practice projects that are included at key points. Be sure to do the practice projects to make your learning experience more successful.

Throughout this tutorial you will find embedded YouTube videos.

You can watch them on the page or break them out and watch them on YouTube.

Click a video to start it and, if you want to break it out, hover over the bottom area to get a menu where you can click on the YouTube icon to open the video’s YouTube page.

Another option is to watch all the videos in this tutorial in my playlist.

All my videos are uploaded and put into a playlist that you can watch in the correct order without interruption. Go to the playlist and click Play All.

Once the list opens and begins playing you’ll see controls above the video list (to the top right of the video) which will allow you to set it to play all the videos without interruption.

Be sure to follow the tutorial here for more details, practice projects, or to read something you didn’t catch in the video or that was confusing.

Here’s a short tutorial on how to change YouTube quality and speed: How do I adjust the playback speed on YouTube videos [and other settings] by BlurbByte.com – Tech. Changing speed is helpful with tutorial videos, allowing you to slow down or speed up instructions to make them easier to understand or faster if boringly slow.

TIP:   Speed settings apply to individual videos only unless watching a series of videos in a playlist, in which case all videos in a playlist will play at the settings you set in any video during a viewing session.

YouTube Breakout Button

To break a video out into YouTube, mouse over the video and click the YouTube button (green).


Finding Help

There are many ways of getting help with Blender.

Blender Splash Screen Links

On opening a new instance of Blender you can click any of the links in the left hand side of the Splash Screen (red) to find help. The Blender Manual and Website are both in the list.

Note that there’s a link to download a full copy of the Blender Manual on the manual’s front page. This is handy for reference when you don’t have access to the internet.

Blender Help Menu

You can also find links to help in the Info editor’s (main menu bar) Help menu.

Here you’ll also find the Blender Manual and Website, as well as, other links like the User Community where you’ll find, in the Community Support section, a link to an Extensive listing of support and community websites.

Also check out the List of Blender tutorials in the Blender 2.69 Manual (a little outdated but some content not yet transfered). Click the headings to get a list for each category.

Other ways to find help is to, of course, leave your questions in the reply section below any page in this tutorial.

You can also visit Gaia Foundation on Atlantis in the Great Canadian Grid to find out when and where you can attend Blender Q&A sessions and classes.

Blender Spacebar Operation Search

Pressing the spacebar at any time will give you a popup menu where you can search for commands. You can scroll the list with the middle-mouse-scroll-wheel to peruse the list if it’s longer than the window. Click any command or use the given shortcut key to activate the command that you choose.


Questions?

Post your questions in the comment section below & I’ll answer it as soon as possible. Please be specific so I can understand what it is you’re asking.

You can also visit Gaia Foundation on Atlantis in the Great Canadian Grid for inworld support information.


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