Too Many Verts: Learning to love Blender

I’m particularly interested in how computers can allow people to be creative and lower some socioeconomic barriers to entry. I feel that this is most apparent in the creative space. Industry-standard applications are usually proprietary and come with a significant subscription fee. This is especially true of complex 3D modelling applications such as Maya or Cinema4D.

It’s an exciting time for the visual arts and content creation right now. As computing gets more powerful for less money and physical space, it opens up the means of media production to more and more people. If there are some open source and free (as in cost) alternatives to the established software in a given field then this can only be good for the craft itself. Blender is not as widely used as Maya for instance but it is an immensely capable program. It will at the very least make the transition to something proprietary and licensed that bit easier.

In case you didn’t know, Blender is one of the most powerful tools for creativity that is available natively on Linux. It’s chiefly used for 3D modelling and animation but it’s capabilities go far beyond that. It’s also very intimidating and is known for its airplane cockpit complexity when first opened. However, I am a persistent person and I really want to make cool spaceships and shit. So here we go.

I decided to follow the most basic yet comprehensive tutorial I could find. Most will tell you that Blender Gurus “donuts and coffee” tutorial on YouTube is definitely one of the most well-known. The aim of the exercise is to create a realistic scene containing a couple of donuts resting on a plate with a cup of coffee in the background. It promises to cover the basic functionality of Blender and then some.

I got as far as adding icing, sprinkles and textures to the the donut until my screen began behaving like a stop motion animation and my cooling fans protested. I checked the status bar along the bottom of the tutorial screen. The amount of flat planes - called vertices - that the model has, the smoother and less blocky it is. Blender Guru had around 22,000 verts in his model. I had 344,000.

Without a backup of the less vert-y donut I was forced to either start again or move onto something else. I figured that I had learned tonnes just from the donut but it wasn’t what excited me. As I said above, spaceships and shit. So I’ve since started a tutorial on how to create a stylised Earth from space. Watch this… space (ha).

Ultimately, I would like to create a short animation or film entirely in Linux using open source software as much as possible - if not entirely - just to see if it can be done.


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