Outdated - Tutorial for Blender 2.49

This picture is just a quickly done example of what can be done WITHOUT using the particle generator.

Hi! This is not really a tutorial. I'm not going to explain you how to use the available tools included in Blender. There is some good documentation on the Official site.

What I want to tell you is what can really be done with them. It could be much more than you thought!

I will try to write a real tutorial about the following features when I will have some free time...

While working on character animation, for the Crosswalk Project (thank you for shaking my brain!), I have discovered that some underestimated tools included in Blender since the origin of times can be used to animate quite everything, much better than other advanced features : Absolute Vertex Keys and Relative Vertex Keys, named Shape Keys since Blender 2.50

These tools are mainly used for facial animation, but they hide their real power under this wellknown use. In fact, they are much more than animation tools, because their field of application is quite unlimited. I will try to make you know how to use these incredible features.

First of all, please download from this link the short demo movie, usefull for the understanding of the following explanations:

• construction_site_DivX6_720x528.avi

The scene uses only AVK and RVK for the characters animation. No armatures have been used. Clouds of dust and projected stones effects are simple meshes including several vertices groups animated by AVK. They act as particles and objects emitter.

1 - Characters animation.

Currently, I'm making various low poly standalone characters, able to interact each other and with some predefined props.

They are animated only by AVK and RVK, without any armature. They are simple meshes including their own behaviour program in AVK/RVK.

Remember this: a simple mesh can include a whole scene with one or several characters interacting with objects, as well as particle effects like smoke or fire!

No other objects are needed, like Empties or Armatures!

A great advantage is that the axis system is inside the object itself. This means that you don't have to worry about what axis is pointing up for Constraints settings, or recalculating bones position!

These characteristics are very important when you are working on an open movie project, because you can export and import in one object, a complete scene ready to use, without any risk of loosing an object used as Parent and exploding the scene!

No Path Curves needed! All the displacements informations needed by the animation are contained in the character ot the object itself!

As the whole scene is an ordinary object, it can be resized at will without any problem of any king.

As the whole scene is an ordinary object, it can be resized at will without any problem of any king.

Simply selecting all the Ipo Curves and shifting them along the time axis allows the final animator to define the starting and ending frame of the action.

Your scenes or characters are actually "put and play" !

2 - Particles.

First, you must know that it is possible to fake a particle generator using AVK and RVK. Not only the particle generator that is included in blender, but a most powerfull one!

While the particle generator generates a flow of unpredictable particles that must be driven through Lattices and deflected by objects or Empties used as Force Fields needing a lot of computing power, AVK and RVK allow you to chose the individual behaviour (if needed) of each particle, or group of particle, and allows the particles to have an individual behaviour in the group!

To enjoy this feature, you will have to use halos on materials, like you do with the classical particle generator. AVK and RVK, used with halos can be used to make volumetric clouds, smoke, flames, explosions with or without projection of objects and fragments, clouds of solid dust, and quite everything!

You can reach an incredible level of life making your particles effect, by the use of Displacement Mapping with an animated AVI texture, or a material animated by Offset Ipo Curves.

Eddies and vortex will appear inside the volume and will make your fireball or smoke cloud really alive!

Here is a short test to show smoke made with... RVK!

• volumetric_smoke.avi

No more computing power than for rendering a simple mesh, because each "particle" is indead a pre-created vertex belonging to an ordinary mesh, not a particle calculated for each frame!

This method supports duplivert better than the particle generator!

The movie available on the link above has been encoded in 640 x 480 pixels. Though, the whole animation has been rendered in 800 x 600 with OSA 16 and Gaussian filter enabled in less than 8 seconds per frame!

The used of the particle generator wouldn't have allowed the same effect, and a scene using the same number of particles would have required several minutes to render!

The only thing that AVK and RVK seems not to be able to create at first sight, is static particles.

A noticeable difference with particles emitted by the classical particle generator is that the "particles" made with AVK or RVK are not created in real time, so they have no life span.

This means that you can't use a decreasing alpha Ipo curve on each particle. Though, Ipo curves are usable on a whole group of particles at the same time. You can make a lot of vertice groups with their own material, and set an Ipo for each group, or use several meshes with Ipo curves shifted in time. As the tool uses very few computing power, you can duplicate your meshes as many times as necessary!

A very interesting consequence of this characteristic is that you can choose which particle will die or not ! It is not very noticeable in the movie, because it is one of my first renders with this method, so I didn't thought of it when setting the scene, but you can make solid dust clouds, with dust that stay on the ground after falling down!

You can even create a character using a spray to paint on a wall!

3 - Crowd animation.

Using Vertex Parent, you will be able to attach any object to the AVK/RVK particle! This is a very important possibility in animation, because you don't have to create a path for each object, but all the animated objects are moved by their own simple single Ipo Curve at the same time, all the curves being embedded under a unique Ipo Name! Do you see what it means? We can do crowd animation in a very simple way !

• example_crowd_animation_tutorial.html

For large scenes needing Crowd animation, a Master Object which is a simple subdivided plane is used as a scene manager. The displacement of all the characters is programmed in the various Vertex Ipo Curves of this Master Object.

We have said that the autonomous characters done using the described method can be used alone and put where you need them. Now, we see that they can be included in a crowd system using a Master Object animated by AVK or RVK to manage a crowd and make all this character play, speak or even fight together in a realistic way, and over all, using a very few computing resources!

I hope that this text will have helped you in the understanding of the interest hidden under Shape Keys : AVK and RVK.

Please feel free to send me your comments by E-mail.

Copyright 2005. Philippe ROUBAL. FRANCE.

The site is hosted by - FRANCE.