Great ideas

I’m neck-deep in my JBA session at the moment and the students are doing well with stop-motion animation… at least the process. The thing the kids are having problems with is story development. To help them out we watched (from Bloop Animation on YouTube)  a series of story-telling structure tips used by Pixar. The basic structure that Pixar uses in their stories is…

Once a upon a time there was a _____________ and everyday _____________. One day _____________. Because of that _____________, because of that _____________, until finally _____________.

Fill in the blanks and you have a story to tell with structure.

Another good video from Chris Do has five ways of thinking of story-telling.

  1. Conflict – you have a character with a want/desire and an obstacle to overcome
  2. Subjective reality VS Objective reality and the conflict that causes (think of the Matrix)
  3. Normal reality followed by some sort of explosive event and the resulting new reality
  4. Delay the story resolution. Drag it out for as long as you can
  5. Make DRAMATIC what ever the story is about. Exaggerate, make whatever it is, life or death (whether or not it is)

The biggest problem they have though, is making the story way too complex.

You should begin practicing the first Pixar formula. I might (probably will) ask someone each class period to give me a practice story scenario using the Pixar structure above. Practice of coming up with stories that you might translate into animations later in the semester. Become a story-teller first and that will ultimately translate to your animation assignments. Here’s the link to the Bloop Animation YouTube Video.


Blender Tutorial(s)

Hi everyone, I mentioned using and Youtube tutorials to get started in Blender. I subscribe to several (I mentioned them in an earlier post), but I also found  15 tutorials on Blender by Jacob Lewis. They’re pretty good and I liked them. They are called Blender Absolute Beginner Tutorials. Also, Blender Guru has a good series of beginner tutorials. These hyperlink will send you to Lesson 1 and you can go from there into the next lesson(s). I have used multiple resources in combination with Lynda and Blender Guru. Find a resource you like and get out of them what you want/need. They’ll help get over the steep learning curve. I noticed that was pretty good on walking through all the features of the software and the software environment, but I liked the Blender Guru tutorials on how to do specific things… the donut, coffee cup, airplane, texture mapping etc… Anyway, have fun.

Take a scrolling tour

Hi everyone, I meant to state in the earlier blog posts… noodle through this blog site. The three founding students who took this course last year posted a bunch of stuff that you can see, read, and watch. They did a very good job posting all sorts of information and discoveries along with the work they completed.

We will be watching some stuff in class to flesh out our fundamental knowledge of various technical skills and I also wanted to direct you to my Pinterest account. I have several boards out there you might be interested in looking through. These pins will direct you to some interesting videos and tutorials about modeling and animation.

Million dollar decisions

Hello everyone, Josh emailed me asking about hardware ideal for animators. OK, so it may not be a million dollar decision, but when you talk about systems needed for crunching modeling and animation, you will drop some serious coin.

Here’s what I researched for Josh.

  1. 1st decision – Desktop Or Laptop
  2. 2nd decision – Fastest processor you can get/afford.
  3. 3rd decision – Fastest Graphic Card you can get/afford
  4. 4th decision – Biggest Hard drive you can get/afford
  5. 5th decision – Dual screen or not dual screen – once you have done two, you’ll hate using only one.

  • Laptops typically don’t have as fast a processor on the upper-end of the food chain as do the Desktops (MacPro or the new iMac Pro). They also, typically don’t have the fastest graphic cards in them either.
  • RAM is the memory the software utilizes from the computer – all the work you do is done in the RAM until it all used up and then the software writes any additional data to temporary place on the hard drive. Typically, RAM is faster than hard drives or working over network channels. With the solid state hard drives, I don’t think that is the case any more. There are no moving parts in a solid state drive. They are just big flash drives and have no moving parts, so they should be as fast as the RAM. And, you can allocate a portion of your hard drive to act as virtual RAM too. That helps speed up the work you computer is doing.
  • A big hard drive is needed because, 3D modeling, animation and video eats ups tons of storage space.
  • Dual screens are nice because you can work on one and have your palettes on the other. You could do a 40 inch HD TV as your second scree – probably cheaper than buying a computer screen. Hook it up via HDML.
  • The Apple Magic Mouse works well with the scrolling and everything you need to do to navigate in a 3D environment.
Here are some specs I worked up from the Apple Store. You can see the choices for the two options. So, you can configure something less expensive, but you will be giving up speed. These Mac systems will do the job. If you want a PC instead of a Mac, you can configure similarly, but from the blogs I’ve read, to do so, you will spend pretty close to the same amount of money for similar configurations.
Computers are just like race cars… the more money you spend, the faster you go.


13-inch MacBook Pro – Space Gray

  • Touch Bar and Touch ID
  • 3.5GHz dual-core 7th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz
  • 16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
  • 1TB SSD storage
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650
  • Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • Backlit Keyboard – US English



27‑inch iMac with Retina 5K display.

  • 4.2GHz quad-core 7th-generation Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz
  • 32GB 2400MHz DDR4
  • 2TB Fusion Drive
  • Radeon Pro 580 with 8GB video memory
  • Magic Mouse 2
  • Magic Keyboard – US English


iMac Pro (the dream system)

Can’t price anything yet. But to outfit one of these with all the bells and whistles will be about $5,000 to $7,000. Yikes! I want one so bad.

As you can see, for an additional $200 the iMac system will be bigger and faster than a laptop, but you give up mobility for the desktop platform. The 27 inch screen is a ton of screen real estate, so you wouldn’t have to add the second screen like you might want to with the laptop. Big question is where do you want to spend most of your time? Hunkered down in your dorm room or in OP1224 working on one of the Mac Pro systems. The million dollar question…

What I did over summer break

So, last November, December and January, I worked on modeling, using my favorite WWII airplane, a North American P51D MUSTANG as subject matter. So, I learned the fundamentals of the Blender environment using tutorials on Lynda.con and YouTube and began building the airplane. I figured out hard surface modeling, lighting, surface mapping, and bump mapping working on this model. I started from the nose cone on the propeller and worked my way back and out. I modeled it so as I could animate it later, once my Blender skills reach a level that I will allow me to do so. I still want/need to model the interior of the cockpit. Fun.


This summer, I have focused on learning how to animate in Blender. The same projects you will be accomplishing this fall. Here’s an initial sample. Mesmerizing, ain’t it?


Anyway, this is just an initial taste of what you will be doing real soon.

Preparing for a Fall

Hello everyone, just a quick post on preparing for the Fall ART337 Intro to 3DMMA. If you haven’t yet done so, begin working the beginner level-tutorials for Blender (Free) or Cinema 4D (also Free, but you have to verify you are a student) in or I follow several Blender people on YouTube (Blender Guru, CG Geek, CG Master, CG Cookie Blender, etc…) Blender is an Open Source software and is always free whether or not you are a student or professional. Blender is the software I have been learning/using in the last year and will be the software I can personally help you with… if that helps you make any decisions. I am not yet a Blender guru, but I do have a several month head start on you that you will close through out the course of the semester. It will be a great benefit to you if you are over the initial “how do I work in this software environment” or “I don’t know how to do anything with this software” learning curve when class starts in August. It is about a two or three week painfully slow process of getting accustomed to the software environment.

Hardware… we will be meeting in OP1250 and there is only one old iMac in the space with the software loaded on it. So, it isn’t a big animation platform for you to do anything. Outside of class, I encourage you to work in OP1224 on one of the five MacPro computers. These babies are souped up with RAM and plenty of hard drive space for animation. But, if you are using your own computers/laptops, you need at least 8GB of RAM – 16GB would be better and you need 1TB drive. Animation/video and modeling eat up memory and hard drive space. The thing I noticed last year is that the student computers are woefully under-equipped for anything – animation or Adobe CC in general. So, get a second job this summer and make some extra cash and bling out your computers if that is what you plan to work on.

See you all soon. rn


Texture mapping info

So, this info is from Blender Guru and his YouTube video building a brick road.

There are five different types of texture maps used. You can’t just use a color map (diffuse map) to achieve realistic textures.

Photoshop can produce a bump map, but download Crazy Bump (bump mapping software) to create the five different image bump maps.

  1. Diffuse Map or Color map – this is the image of a texture – evenly lit
  2. Normal map – bump for some depth
  3. Specularity map – for the glossiness  of the textures
  4. Occlusion map – for the depth in the cracks
  5. Displacement map – for fine detail depth