When I contacted cancer and had to stop working in the sign industry while I was going through chemotherapy, I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. I quickly became bored watching TV and playing video games, and I had neither the energy nor motivation for outdoor activities. So, that left me with a lot of time surfing the internet. I am not really a facebook or twitter person, sharing videos of kittens playing piano or following the latest tweet from some self-important celebrity is not my thing. I had not yet fully decided upon trying to make a living designing and selling decals, it was an idea still percolating in the corners of my mind. It was during this time that I discovered a free 3D animation program on the internet called Blender.
You have to know me to understand why an animation program would appeal to me. I had always loved to draw, especially to draw cartoon characters. I love well-made animated movies like the classic Disney films and the newer ones like “Finding Nemo” and “Despicable Me”. As a child, I would sit enthralled in front of the TV whenever there was a program on that showed how animated cartoons or movies were made. When I could find them, I read books on animation, and while playing video games, I was just as much fascinated by the animation of the game characters and the virtual world the game took place in as I was by the game itself. Given different circumstances in my life, chances are that I would have become a professional animator of cartoons or perhaps video games. When I ran across this site where one could download and learn 3D animation, I was immediately drawn to it.
Blender is a free and open source 3D animation program offered from the Blender Foundation whose stated goal is to provide individual artists and small teams with a
complete, free and open source 3D creation pipeline. You can learn more about them and download the Blender program here: http://www.blender.org/. I am still amazed that this program is completely free considering what a great animation program it is. I have no idea what programs professional animators use, but I feel sure that this program is very similar. It is however, a fairly complex program and there is a bit of a learning curve involved if you are like me when I first discovered it, new to computer animation. That is another great thing about Blender, there are tons of written and video tutorials to help you learn and improve.
A quick search on Google for Blender tutorials will help you see just how many people are using this software, and that there are many websites dedicated solely to helping one learn to animate using this program. One website I highly recommend is http://cgcookie.com/blender/.
On the cgcookie/blender website, I watched many of the tutorials when I was first
learning to use Blender, and I found that there was one guy who’s tutorial were for me the easiest to follow and the most instructive. His name is David Allen Ward, and you can also find his Blender tutorials on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ward7299. His tutorials clearly explain and show what he is trying to teach you, and I owe him a lot of credit for how much I have learned from him.
So, what does 3D animation have to do with decals? Not much admittedly. This blog entry is mostly to share something I have found interesting and enjoyable and to give you a little insight into me. But I feel that no knowledge is useless if you find a way to make it useful, and I have found a way to incorporate what I have learned about animation into making the DecalsByUs.com website better. The logo for DecalsByUs.com is a 3D 1933 Chevrolet Coup that I modeled using Blender and is now my website’s official mascot. In the series of instructional decal videos underway, the opening animation was made using Blender, even the video editing was done using the Blender software. Perhaps in the future, I will find even more ways I can use Blender to improve DecalsByUs.com.
I am by no means a professional animator, or even nearly as good as most of the people who use Blender. But considering that I have only been using Blender a couple of years, and then only when I have time to, I think I have progressed from “really terrible” to at least “that’s not too bad”. Here a couple of my best animation so far, if you want to see others I have done, I have posted them on my YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0CTRfeCSW73I2N5zlXuZdg.
If you are wondering about the title of this blog, “On The Shoulders of Giants”, it is from my favorite quotation: “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” by Isaac Newton in 1676. To me, this has always meant that it is the things I have learned from others that have allowed me to become the person I am today.