Essential Blender- P27

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Essential Blender- P27

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  1. Chapter 14: Preferences and Options: Customizing Blender By Roland Hess In Chapter 2: The Blender Interface, you learned how to configure screens, windows and panels to suit your workflow, and how to save that configuration as your default (Ctrl-U). Blender offers even more customization than that, in a "hidden" preferences screen. Open Blender and take a look at the header at the very top of the screen. Figure PO.01: The main header. This header is just like any other in Blender, and if you carefully examine the screen layout, you will realize that the 3D Window below it already has a header. So, which view is this one the header for? Place the mouse over the line between this top header and the top of the 3D view. The cursor changes to the double-headed arrow symbol, indicating that you can LMB drag to change view sizes. LMB on the line and drag downward. You've just expanded and shown the User Preferences window.
  2. Figure PO.02: The "super-secret" user preferences panel, exposed. Let's go through the different sections of the User Preferences, highlighting some of the more useful options. Feel free to experiment with the options that aren't covered here — the tooltips you see when hovering the mouse over a control can give you some more information about available settings —and don't worry about messing things up. As long as you don't use Ctrl-U, the changes you make will not be saved as your default. View & Controls If you really cannot stand the way that Blender uses the RMB for selection, you can change it here. The "Select With" option allows you to swap the left and right mouse button functionality. Just remember that if you set Select to use the LMB, all tutorials and instructions will be backwards from now. If you think that getting used to new selection methods is tough, try doing a tutorial with inverted instructions!
  3. Figure PO.03: The “Select With” preference for switching the left and right mouse buttons. The "View rotation" control can be useful when you will be focusing your work on a single object for a while. Setting this to use "Turntable" and "Around Active" will cause MMB view rotation to keep the Active Object as the center of view rotation, allowing you to easily change the viewing angle of the object in question without having to worry about losing it in the 3D View.
  4. Figure PO.04: "Around Active" is great when working for long periods on a single object. Other helpful options are: The “View Name” button in the Display controls on the far left. View Name displays the name of the current view (Front, Top, Camera, Side, etc.) in the upper left corner of all 3D windows, helping you to maintain your orientation at a glance. “Emulate 3 Button Mouse.” If you are working with a mouse that has no middle button, or on a laptop with a touchpad or ministick, enabling this option will allow you to simulate a MMB click by holding down the Alt key while use the LMB. So, the Shift-MMB combination that pans the view would be accessible by using Alt-Shift-LMB instead. Zooming is Ctrl-Alt-LMB. View rotation becomes Alt-LMB. Edit Methods The "Auto keyframe" controls are a handy tool for animators. You will recall from the animation chapters that keyframes are set by using the I-key, followed by a LMB click on the appropriate
  5. key types. Turning on the "Action and Object" button in this control set will cause Blender to automatically insert keys at the current frame whenever an object or bone is transformed. The "Available" button will modify this behavior slightly, only setting keys for Ipo channels that have already been keyed. This means that if you have manually set keyframes for an object's location, then both move and rotate it, only keys for the translation will be automatically set, while the rotation will not receive a key. Figure PO.05: Auto keyframe controls can speed up your animation workflow. Undo If you are dealing with enormous scenes that contain large amounts of high-polygon meshes or animation data, Blender's Undo system might cause your computer to drastically slow down due to memory requirements. If you find this happening on a particular scene, you can alleviate the problem by reducing the Undo “Steps” that Blender keeps around, or take the even more drastic measure of turning off “Global Undo” altogether. Of course, this means you're working without the safety net of Undo. Just remember to save backup copies of your previous work!
  6. Language & Font Figure PO.06: Blender can change its display to anti-aliased fonts. By default, only a single un-activated button appears in this section of the preferences. Turning on "International Fonts" will cause an immediate change to the whole Blender interface. The font changes and becomes nicely anti-aliased. This alternate method of viewing the interface can slow Blender down a bit, but if you like the look, it may be worth it for you. Once International Fonts have been enabled, you can change the main font and font size for the interface and even select from (at this point) eighteen different translations. Please note that not all translations are complete. Themes Themes affect the way that Blender draws the interface elements themselves. The simplest way to see this is to change from "Default" to "Rounded" in the dropdown menu.
  7. Figure PO.07: The “Rounded” theme. After you change from the Default theme, all of the theme configuration tools are exposed. If you want to spend the time, you can use these controls to customize the drawing of every widget in the interface. You can even save a Theme you've created through the File menu. Choose “Export” near the bottom of the File menu and select “Save current theme..." to bring up a window that will save your current theme into your Scripts directory. The created .py file can be shared with other Blender users so that they too can experience the genius of your theming skills.
  8. Figure PO.07.1: “Save current theme…” in the File->Export menu. Of course, you can also obtain themes from other users as well (do a web search on "Blender Themes"). To activate a theme that you've downloaded, place it in your scripts folder, then run Blender. Change one of your windows into a Scripts window (the one with the snake icon), then find the Themes entry within the Scripts menu on the header.
  9. Figure PO.07.2: Selecting a created Theme from the Scripts menu. Selecting a named theme here will add it to the selectable themes menu in the User Preferences window.
  10. Figure PO.07.3: Once you click the Theme's script, it is added to the Themes selector in the preferences window. If you like the theme, remember to use Ctrl-U to save it into your default configuration. Otherwise, you will have to re-import it every time you run Blender. Auto Save While you work, Blender saves temporary files for you behind the scenes. This can be great, especially if your system (or Blender) crashes, leaving you with unsaved work. Go to this preferences screen and press the "Open Recent" button, which will load the most recently saved temporary file, hopefully resurrecting at least some of your work. If you are a paranoid person with an unstable system, you may want to set "Minutes" as low as "1," so a backup file is saved once every minute.
  11. Figure PO.9: Auto Save settings. System & OpenGL The three Solid OpenGL light controls affect the way that Blender draws the Solid style in the 3D Window. In fact, these are the virtual "lights" that Blender uses to shade the Solid drawing style. The “Light” buttons enable and disable the three lamps, while the color swatches set diffuse and specular colors by LMB clicking on them. LMB dragging on the spheres moves the light source.
  12. Figure PO.10: The Solid OpenGL lights controls. The other useful control in this panel is "Emulate Numpad." When using Blender on a laptop or with any keyboard that lacks a separate number pad, this button will cause the standard numeral keys that are normally used for layer assignment to be used as their Numpad equivalents instead. For example, the 1-key that would normally trigger Layer 1 would be used to set Front View, which is usually Numpad-1. Enabling this option loses the layer hotkeys, but if you don't have access to the number pad for view switching, it's definitely worth it.
  13. Figure PO.11 File Paths Unless you find that you are constantly browsing to a certain directory to find your renders and texture images, this set of controls won't be of much use to you at first. They mainly set the default locations where Blender will either look for or place something. If you want to change the default Render or Texture paths to a different folder, just click on the folder icon to the right of the control. This pops up a file browser from which you can select your new default folder. The one setting you should definitely take a look at in this section, though, is the “Temp” path. Many of Blender's background functions like animation rendering, auto save, and crash recovery require that this path be set to a real, existing folder on your hard drive. Some systems already have the default directory (“/tmp/”) in place, and some do not. Perhaps the simplest way to test whether or not your system is configured correctly without doing anything technical is to click the “Open Recent” button in the Auto Save set of preferences. If it gives an error stating that the file was unable to be opened, then the Temp directory is not configured. In that case, you have two options:
  14. 1. Go to your home directory (c:\ in Windows; ~/ on Linux and OS X) and create a new folder called “tmp.” 2. Click the folder button on the right of the Temp control and use the file browser that pops up to locate a directory somewhere on your hard drive where Blender can store temporary files. Figure PO.12: Files Path preferences. Now that we've gone through the different sections of the preferences, you can hover the mouse back over the dividing line between the preferences window and the 3D view. LMB click and drag it back up. Lest you think that the Preferences view is some kind of "special" window, take a look at the Window type menu:
  15. Figure PO.13: The User Preferences window is a view type just like any other. That's right. In addition to hanging out at the top of the Blender work space this entire time, the User Preferences have been available from each and every window you've worked with so far. Any window in Blender can be set to any window type, including the User Preferences. Now that you know where they are, though, you are sworn to secrecy.
  16. Chapter 15: Blender Bonuses By Roland Hess Blender’s functionality goes way beyond what has been shown in this book. You’ve no doubt seen a lot of buttons that were never touched in the tutorials, and settings that were not explained in the discussions. In addition, there are entire sections of Blender that we haven’t even mentioned. Just to give you a sense of what to tackle after you’ve mastered the basics, here is a brief look at some of those items. Rigid Body Dynamics: Bullet A rigid body dynamics simulation environment lets you create setups of solid objects and have the system treat them as though they were real objects, conforming to the laws of physics. Rigid body dynamics can simulate something as simple as a brick wall breaking to pieces, or something more elaborate like a complicated Rube Goldberg device. Blender has built in support for rigid body dynamics simulation using the Bullet Physics SDK (Software Development Kit). This is mainly used to support a Game Engine. Through the use of built in programming tools and internal logic and control systems, you can create a fully-functional game directly within Blender. A “game” could be a complex racing simulation like “Club SILO” from Luma studio (, or a ball that you push around a maze. Within any game, though, the Bullet physics engine is at work behind the scenes, making things happen in an efficient, realistic manner. Even if you don’t want to create games, though, Bullet is useful to the animator and still artist. Many times, you need an added touch of realism, mostly where gravity and collision are concerned, and it can be tough to keyframe such things believably. In Blender, you can use the rigid body dynamics of Bullet to do the heavy lifting. Record Game Physics to Ipo Blender can record Bullet rigid body simulations into an object’s animation curves. On the main header is a “Game” menu, under which you will find the option “Record Game Physics to IPO.” By enabling this setting, the game engine will bake the locations and rotations of any dynamic physics objects into animation Ipos that can be played back later as a standard animation. A Basic Rigid Body Sample On the included disk in the “examples” folder is a file called PhysicsAnimationBakingDemo.blend. Open this file, position the mouse inside the 3D view and press the P-key to start the Game Engine. After a while, press the Esc-key to stop the simulation, and the newly generated Ipo curves should be visible inside the Ipo view.
  17. Figure BB.01: The Physics Baking Demo. Rigid Body Settings Objects are identified for use by the physics engine as Static objects by enabling their Actor button in the Logic buttons. Static objects are useful to represent environments in a simulation: the ground, buildings and other non-movable objects. If objects need to be moved by the physics engine, the Dynamic and Rigid Body buttons must also be enabled.
  18. Figure BB.02: The Logic buttons. Collisions Any objects that have their Actor button enabled are detectable for collisions. Objects that collide with other objects will react as they would in the real world, knocking each other around based on their mass settings and momentum. Blender 2.43 added support for compound collision shapes for rigid body objects that are part of a parent-child hierarchy. You can enable compound objects by choosing the new Compound button for the parent objects:
  19. Figure BB.03: Compound collision objects. Compound collision objects let you build complicated structures, with each part having its own type of collision boundaries. Rigid Body Constraints Some objects may be dynamic rigid bodies, but their movements should be limited. For example, a door can normally only rotate around its hinges. This hinge would be a constraint. To simulate a chain of connected objects, you can limit the motion of each part in the chain so that the objects stay within a certain distance of one another. These types of constraint relationships are built with the Rigid Body constraint type, in the Object buttons.
  20. Figure BB.04: Rigid Body Constraints. More About Rigid Body Physics and Bullet You are invited to visit for some cool demos, and lots more information. COLLADA Physics Support Several other 3D tools and game engines support COLLADA, an open interchange format for interactive 3D. One of the unique features of COLLADA is it’s capability to represent rigid body information. Blender 2.42 and later supports COLLADA Physics import and export. This means that the rigid body information that has been set up can be exported and imported through COLLADA 1.4. This can be useful when authoring rigid body data for external game engines like Ogre 3D and C4. Soft Body Dynamics
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