Blender 2.70 and The GOOSEBERRY project

March 20, 2014

Blender 2.70 splash screen

Today the Blender Foundation released Blender 2.70! Download and Release Notes.

At the same time the Blender Institute and twelve indie studios from all over the world are preparing a cloud funded, featured length animation film: The Goosberry Project. For updates read the blog. Fundraising still going on for a little less than a month…!

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Review: “Blender Compositing and Post Processing” by Mythravarun Vepakomma, ebook from Packt Publishing (2014)

March 17, 2014

*Disclaimer and Introduction*

1127OS_Cover_0.jpgI was asked by Packt Publishing to write a short, independent review for “Blender Compositing and Post Processing” in exchange for a free copy of the ebook.

Since the Blender Compositing Nodes (next to the Blender VSE, the Video Sequence Editor) are one of my absolute favourite feature in Blender I decided to go for it: I like to use them for post processing video footage/creating looks and love the fact that you can do this with Blender (a very powerful free and open-source 3D etc. solution) on all major platforms/can share your .blends across all those platforms!

So this is my personal, general impression of the “Blender Compositing and Post Processing” ebook while being someone with a more creative mind rather than a technical one:

*DRM free*

First thing I noticed is that the ebook comes without DRM (Digital Rights (or as some say “Restriction”)) management and you can download it in four different formats. I went for the .pdf version.

*Structure*

The ebook seems very well structured. It starts off with a condensed overview for all chapters and at the end of each chapter there is a brief summary of what you’ve just read. This allows you to quickly find/read what you are looking for when you need it/to just dive into those topics that you feel not so familiar with. At the end of the ebook there is an Index with the most important keywords/page numbers where to find those topics in the text.

*Target Audience*

The ebook probably requires some basic Blender knowledge or some familiarity with (3D, video) post production related technical terms/concepts. I think you could use it with not much prior know-how but would need to do some extra research (Wikipedia, Blender Wiki etc.) in order to really understand what it all means/find it useful. More to this at the end of *Content, Approach and Concept*.

*Content, Approach and Concept*

While I was very pleased with the ebook’s structure I was (a bit) disappointed by the fact that this is not what may be called a “workbook”. While there are many visual examples for e.g. how a particular Node works you won’t find more complex examples for Node set-ups to re-create.

For those new to Blender/Nodes a short introduction to the concept: basically compositing in Blender works via “Nodes”, individual sort of filters etc. that allow you to manipulate an image/a series of images in a very specific way while you can combine those filters etc./the order in which they are applied to your 3D renders or footage by connecting those Nodes via sort of wires called “Noodles” and this way create your own very complex set of filters etc. using a very flexible tree like structure. This concept is much more powerful as compared to what you can do in your average image manipulation or video editing programme where you usually only can lay one filter on top of another one and combinations therefore are limited…

My feeling is that a technical minded person or someone with a compositing background/coming from another 3D programme etc. would probably be able to quickly get started with compositing in Blender using this ebook. Someone with a more creative mind who likes/needs to play around with actual examples/set-ups in order to grasp the concepts on a visual or sort of holistic level might need to invest more time and would need to do extra research in order to be able to fully understand the concepts introduced in this ebook.

*Summary and Thoughts*

“Blender Compositing and Post Processing” seems to be a well structured, clearly written ebook that explains the basic concepts involved you need to know in order to get started with using the very powerful free and open-source 3D programme Blender (available for all major platforms, .blends can be shared across all platforms) for post processing either your 3D renders or video footage.

This ebook seems to either requires some prior related technical understanding or the will to research/experiment on your own if you start from scratch. It is not a “workbook” in the sense that you won’t find more complex example Node set-ups to re-create.

I think from a learning point of view (and for the purpose of having fun with the Blender Compositing Nodes/learning them while playing around with them) this ebook could be accessible to an even wider audience with either one or two extra chapters that show how-to re-create specific Node set-ups (like e.g. a toon look, that’s always lots of fun) or the introduction of a practical example section/project for those chapters where appropriate.

*Thanks!*

I hope this general, personal review was both helpful and describes the ebook in a meaningful and adequate way, thanks for reading, have fun with Blender, the very powerful Compositing Nodes and if you choose so with this ebook!

Valentin Spirik, March 2014


4th crowd-funded Blender movie: open-source VFX in Amsterdam

February 17, 2012

While unfortunately I just missed the deadline for getting a credit in the movie I still of course pre-ordered my Project Mango DVD, the Blender Institute’s new open-movie project! This one is about upgrading Blender in the visual effects (VFX) department.

I do have a feeling that they could need one or the other new feature for post production/editing on the way and this can only be good for Blender’s VSE (Video Sequence Editor) –  my tool of choice for (video) editing, a wonderful minimal style – yet quite powerful – free and open-source solution that works on/across all platforms: share/edit your .blends across Linux, Windows or Mac – this simply just works!

Concept art: CC 3.0, Blender Foundation

From the press release:

The new short film – code named Mango – is a short story about a disastrous break-up that almost leads to the destruction of planet Earth. It will be filmed on several locations in Amsterdam. A team of six artists and three developers will be working for half a year on realising the visual effects for the film. As for previous short films, the online community will be able to assist on tasks as well. Premiere is being targeted at September 2012.

The 3D tool Blender – open source since 2002 – has steadily been growing to become a popular and serious 3D package for artists. This is thanks to the very active participation of its online community; 3D artists, 3D developers, studios and universities all over the world. A recent development is that also renowned Hollywood studios are opening up parts of their technology. Blender will be the first program to bring together work from ILM (OpenEXR, Alembic), Sony Pictures Imageworks (OpenShading, OpenColor, OpenImageIO) and Disney (PTex).

Check out the project’s blog, pre-order your own copy and support open-source VFX/video post production – as recent months have shown it is indeed a very good idea to have (open-source) alternatives ready: the apple that looked so fresh only a while ago now seems more and more rotten down to the core with every day going by…!

Update: I just saw that yesterday Blender 2.62 was released: see the release log, download Blender for your platform or read the announcement and discussion on Blendernation.


Blender 2.60 is here: open-source 3D, Compositing and Video Post are about to take off now…!

October 20, 2011

From Blender 2.5x to Blender 2.60

Yesterday the Blender Foundation released Blender 2.60:

Download for all platforms.

While the previous Blender 2.5x series was all about making Blender ready for a wider user base (switch to an intuitive User Interface, a new Animation System, Color Management/linear workflow and much more) the Blender 2.60 series now focuses on upgrading Blender in some key areas important for those looking for a free and open-source all in one video post, compositing, special effects/3D package:

VSE Proxy Support now and Motion/Camera Tracking coming soon…

Sequence editor proxy support (missing in 2.5x) is now restored:

“Proxies are lower resolution versions of image or video files, that can be used instead of the full resolution for faster editing. Additionally to the way Blender 2.49 worked where you could make proxies for individual strips, you can now select several strips at once and build proxies in the background.”

Basically this means that Blender 2.60 is not only a platform independent NLE (edit/share your .blends across Linux, Windows or Mac), but Blender 2.60 with Sequence Editor proxy support brings high-end free and open-source video editing to almost any PC you might be using: the Blender VSE (Video Sequence Editor) works quite well even on older hardware recycled with e.g. Linux Mint.

New Blender versions are coming out every two months now and while 2.60 is great news the truth is that there are many now waiting for Blender 2.61 – expected to be released mid-December: Motion/Camera tracking (!) as well as Cycles, the new render engine, will be added.

You can always check out unofficial builds and test/use the new features months ahead of a release via those builds available from GraphicAll.org.

Extend Blender, Mango and links for new users

Blender can be extended via Add-Ons (scripts), either write your own in Python or get those from the Blender 2.5 Scripts Catalog (learn how-to install an Add-On). For new users e.g. the Compositing Presets or for editors the Jump to Cut Add-On may be of interest…

The Blender Foundation’s current open-movie project (previously Elephant’s Dream, Big Buck Bunny, Sintel) is called Mango, a “Sci-fi in Amsterdam” and “with real actors, 3-5 minutes”. Basically this one is about upgrading Blender in the SFX department.

For documentation see the BlenderWiki.

For community support see the Blender Artists Forums.

For “Fresh Blender News, Every Day” see BlenderNation.

For “Developer musings on Blender” see the Blender developer Blog.

For more about Blender and video post production see the Blender’s VSE blog.

You can also still check out my old Blender 2.4x Presets for editing and 2D titles via my tutorials page. (Learn the basics using the old/classic Blender 2.49b and then switch to Blender 2.60.)

If you want to report a bug here is a good place to start.

Blender is a truly amazing piece of software. Blender means high-end 3D, video editing and compositing for everyone. On every platform. For free.

Blender is Power to the People.


Space Visual – Early Period (v2) (2011)

May 24, 2011

[blip.tv ?posts_id=5195101&dest=-1]

Video may need to load first for smooth playback! A smaller Flash and a high-res open-source encoded version will be posted later. Thank You! (You can also right click “Click To Play”, then “Save Link As…”  to download the video and use the VLC for playback!)

Space Visual – Early Period (v2) (2011), 3:48

Music: Jan Joachimsen Video: Valentin Spirik (CC) 2011 BY-NC-SA

The above video is version 2 of this project first posted last October.

Some thoughts to the project

Overall Space Visual (v2) is closer to where I want it to be than version 1 was, yet a couple of things are not quite there yet:

technical:

– there is an issue with the toon edges, they appear in places where there is a certain 2D/3D logic, yet where they don’t make real sense. Not sure if this can be fixed easily… Overpaints (can be time consuming and not so much fun) will be the most practical solution here. If so then for a full HD rendered version:

– it is still only rendered in 960×540, Full HD simply takes that much longer and files are that much heavier to handle (in compositing). A hardware upgrade will make it much easier to go full HD with my online videos.

– there are a couple of features missing that I originally wanted for version 2 but then left out for various reasons: a believable cam shake, stars and grass (on the outside)

– it’s not been colour corrected in a technical sense, most of my online videos are not. There are practical reasons (effort vs necessity) and then there are artistic, or rather philosophical questions that I still have: basically the artist in me wants this to be a fully trust-your-own-eyes-and-feelings-process whereas the reality of colour correction is a rather cold, technical one with neutral-Grey-workplace-calibrated-monitor-trust-the-scopes-readings.

I want to understand how a Leonardo, a Van Gogh or a Turner could do what they did in a pre-digital time and why we today need all this complex high-tech equipment and then still are rather limited and have to make sure we don’t e.g. broadcast “illegal colours”. The artist in me says: no colour can be illegal. It’s simply a limitation and therefore can/should be challenged.

concept:

– while the minimalism of it is fully on purpose, I am wondering if part 1 (going down) works as well as it could. Since in part 2 we see halo light it may work to have dust/sun rays in part 1, this could further help with getting a feeling for the room (this I already tried to improve via textures and light:)

workflow:

– this was my first Blender project where I was not able to do an all in one render at the end: (in addition to a Sun and a Spot, and Sun/Sun for the Color/Shadow pass layer) I was using AO, Environment Lighting, toon edges and that Color/Shadow pass. So I had 3 copies of the same mesh in different layers for light/compositing reasons. Now in this setup, even if you exclude AO/Environment Lighting from the Color/Shadow pass layer, it seems that you will still get an “overall” AO/Environment Lighting render for this mesh once combined in the Compositing Nodes (=unwanted effect of meshes on top of each other)…! There is a certain logic to it, yet it also seems limiting (at least in this setup) and not quite right at the same time. So I ended up rendering my main layer first without any nodes, and then do a second round and render toon edges as well as Color/Shadow over that first render plus add other 2D effects on top (all by going through the Compositing Nodes, loading the first render and adding the rest).

As with all things 3D: there may well be a better solution for this workflow, I just may not have figured it out yet… Non photorealistic rendering (NPR) can be more tricky than you first think!

(Note: The 3D/visual part of this project was entirely made with Blender 2.57b.)

encoding:

– I still find it ridiculously hard to do open-source video (e.g. VP8) encoding (and no Blender is not the problem…). I really want this. I’m really trying. (See here and here). I’ll get there, our tools are about to get there.

Yet I also know who is to blame for high-quality open-source video encoding not being there today in every video “app” – on all platforms – in the year 2011, about 15-20 years (!) after the digital post-production “revolution” took place:

There are forces out there, multinational corporations as well as specialised law firms, who want a monopoly on a particular video codec since:

– it would be the key to control content ($$$) (imagine the possibilities if you were to own parts of a Hollywood film studio at the same time as well as an online store for movies…)

– it would be the cash cow of the century if you could just get people to pay fees for every single frame of video that is shown (“commercially”) at every given moment on this planet!

Just think of it: you could first sell them the cameras (or better: sell them a “smart” phone with a camera), and then make them work for you! Imagine a whole generation of minors, working for free for you and uploading their videos to Web 2.0…! You could make the video platform pay licensing fees and those stupid kids who work for free for you will on top of it then pay for it via having to watch yet more ads! Wouldn’t that be a plan or what…?!

I know who to thank if high-quality, open-source audio/video encoding still does not work out of the box in 2011.

I know who took care of this and who is to blame.

And I won’t forget!


Open-source 3D, compositing and video post upgraded: Blender 2.57 is here!

April 14, 2011

The wait is over – they did it:

Download Blender 2.57

More about this release on Blendernation.

I’ve been using/switching to the Blender 2.5x beta releases since around late last summer (my first test project “space visual – early period” done in 2.5 from last October) and found it more than usable while still being labeled “beta” for a coupe of months already…

Now that the transition from the classic Blender 2.49 with the old loved/feared interface is mostly done (I first feared it, then loved it) expect a quite significant addition of features to Blender for the next couple of releases.

Open-source animation and platform independent video post production have just been upgraded and there is so much more to come now…!


space visual (early period)

October 19, 2010

[blip.tv ?posts_id=4277312&dest=-1]

space visual (early period) (2010), 3:48

watch the flash video above or download (xvid, 960×540)

music: jan joachimsen

video: valentin spirik

license: by-nc-nd 3.0 *)

a theora etc. encoded version will be added – this one needed to be in xvid for a submission!

as of today the flash video above and the download linked above feature an optimised encoded version (as opposed to the original upload to my blip.tv account from two days ago): same source but the more accurate gop size (from 15 to 5 now) got rid of a semi-visible encoding artefact and overall improves the quality without adding much to the file size.

*) 26.10.10: I will upgrade the license later to a more remix culture friendly one – the plan is to do this for a yet to do full HD rendered version that will also only be available in a real open-source codec that is actually compatible with remix culture. (The Xvid one then will be removed!)


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