This past Thursday I put together a presentation for the local game developers group.
I said a couple months ago that I would do something based around animation. I had done a simple rundown of 3D graphics terms about two years ago and it seemed like it was high time that I did another one, but this time focused around animation. My goal with these is always to demystify 3D graphics.
I am always amazed at how incredibly simple most 3D programs are to use. The only problem for most people is getting over the very daunting introduction. I have Blender open right now, and there are no fewer than 50 input boxes that can receive numbers, letters, special characters, or some combination of all three. I won’t even try to count the buttons, sliders, and other UI elements. There are a bunch of those that can be toggled and fiddled with. I also need to use at least three fingers on both hands just to navigate the interface, something that is unconscious muscle memory to me now, but requires a learned dexterity not unlike playing a musical instrument.
I’ll revise that first bit. I said that 3D programs are simple. I still think that they are, but simple in the way a harmonica is simple. Anyone can blow into a harmonica and create a pleasing sound, but it takes hours of practice to do anything more than that. I take that time for granted, and I think a lot of the tutorials you see out there do as well. Sometimes, what people really need to know is, will what I’m doing break something. Is this tool that I am being told to use some magical thing that only works one way, or is it part of a system that I can pull apart to be used in different ways. Once you remove the mystery of how it works, maybe someone who could be an excellent animator will spend that time. They can get truly good at it.
I think the talk went okay. I could detect some boredom in the crowd, but it was tough to tell if it was because I was talking too high level, too low level, or just too rambly and all over the place. Animation is not really a topic that you can sum up in 20 minutes, especially if you are trying to explain any of the technical aspects of 3D animation. I decided to only cover a couple of topics. So maybe a bit dull and simplistic for the technical level of the room (which is quite high), but overall not a complete bomb.
On the upside, the nuts and bolts of the presentation worked perfectly. Just having the computer connect to the projector, and having a microphone stand positioned properly while using a program that requires both hands. In fact, it worked so well that I was wishing a few minutes in that I had brought more examples and talking points.
I have attached the link to all the files I used for the demonstration here, so you too can install Blender and mess around with a very basic skinned character.