[Bf-education] Re: Animation paper/Attachment wont work

Hans Ramduth hanslr7 at hotmail.com
Tue Mar 21 19:19:16 CET 2006

Dear Carsten,
thanks for letting me know that attachments dont work with this mailinglist. 
I just thought I had written something so useless that it wasnt worth any 
comment. Anyway I am pasting the whole text to the email, although it may 
make a somewhat long text to read.



by Hans Ramduth (a short bio of myself and about my school below)

The course is based on my personal experience (and frustrations) in teaching 
myself Blender. Please don’t get me wrong: I am very grateful to people who 
write wonderful tutorials and share their knowledge and their time on the 
web. But many of these are pedagogically unsound - “now that you have taught 
me how to model/texture/animate a wonderful apple, how the hell do I make a 
banana?” is a reaction one can expect from students, a reaction that we all 
have had at some point in our attempt to learn Blender. Many web-tutorials 
have left me (and others, if I go by my students' reactions) confused on how 
to extrapolate from the initial insight these afforded me into the apparent 
complexity of Blender. Things which are so obvious to  intermediate or 
advanced users, but we can all recall the frustration we had in the 
beginning when we seemed lost and felt bewildered by the uncharted 

My focus is on attempting to devise a roadmap to learning Blender against 
which the learner (in a Blender course or even self-taught) can understand 
where s/he is and in what direction to progress to reach a proficiency in 
the manipulation of Blender to achieve specific goals. That is why I am 
posting this to the community and hope that this will be part of the 
solution for a comprehensive Blender course.

What follows is part modified handout, part course outline for my students.

Some necessary background to learning Blender
The objective is not to learn how to play with a wonderful toy and impress 
yourself and others with your skill but to make animation with it. Why this 
(not so) subtle distinction? It is all too easy to go for the extremely 
intricate functionalities (and special effects) and forget the main purpose: 
to make animation (and games). No, more than that: good animation and good 
games. I therefore assume that my students are not just playing around with 
a toy, but as potential/actual 3D artists that have something to say, to 
express using one of the most powerful and complete 3D software available 
for the animation industry today. I ask them to think of it as a tool, or a 
complicated musical instrument with which they will compose/ create 
compelling, award-winning animation, for personal satisfaction and for 
business. And as for all instruments, we learn by manipulating these.

(It is important to note that it is our responsibility as teachers/trainers 
that we do not set tasks that frustrate and ultimately discourage the 
student. Instead it has to be a gratifying learning curve through a series 
of steps in mastering the instrument.)

Working with the end in mind
I begin by assuming that my students know nothing about animation. And 
proceed to make them do their first traditional animation using pencil and 
paper drawings which are scanned into a computer, or a few lumps of 
plasticine clay which are photographed with an available digital camera 
(even a cellphone camera will do at this stage) and imported into the 
Blender video sequencer. Add a sound track, voila, its that easy if you want 
to stick to traditional material! Merge the track and video in Virtual Dub, 
you have done your first short movie! (And with just the Blender video 
sequencer + virtual dub + audacity, it is already possible to make quite 
sophisticated work).
At this point animation has become achievable, realizable. Now are we ready 
to aim a little higher? Our next project will be a 3D animation made totally 
in Blender.

Our bottomline is: To produce animation. From simple ones to more complex 
ones, but animation all the way.

The ideal complete course will consist of 4 levels, and the first 3 will 
consist of the same triple core : modelling / texturing + lighting / 
animating. In fact you could call each level as modelling/texturing (+ 
lighting) /animating 1, 2 and 3.

Level I : Beginners
We will begin with an overview of the non-standard buttons and windows and 
quickly begin modelling. The objective is to model basic shapes and elements 
of an animation project. So the first project is a tabletop, a basket of 
fruits, a simplified computer on a computer table, a room and some pieces of 
furniture (to be chosen with the guidance of the trainer/lecturer to avoid 
too complex 3D shapes). Can this be animated? Yes: a simple camera movement 
( a simple pan, zoom or the camera on a path) is the most gratifying 
experience at this level. (I am personally against the traditional bouncing 
ball exercise at this point. Even 'complicated' textures such as transparent 
bottles are to be avoided.)
So clearly what can the student reasonably aspire to do at this level? Model 
simple shapes such as fruits, everyday simple geometric shapes (not even 
shoes the first days - too complicated).
Proceed to simple colours, simple textures, experiment with the various 
textures but the students are forewarned to avoid going too far. The 
temptation here is to jump on this tutorial and that tutorial, but many of 
these have other pre-requites and the student can get lost and confused, as 
we all have. (Not that I am against a healthy dose of confusion, it surely 
enables one to discover new things, but this can be overwhelming in Blender 
at the early stages!)

Ideally the project can be a 20 seconds ad for television and  sound can be 
used just to make the project more complete. It will probably consist of a 
few shots of 5-6 seconds that can be edited and composed together in the 

Criteria of evaluation: Has the student covered the initial material, has 
s/he overcome the initial steep learning curve of getting used to the 
interface? Can s/he model any simple geometric shape: a simple table, chair, 
plate, glass, dog kennel…? Can s/he colour, texture & put some lights? Make 
a few nice still images out of his/her models? Finally can s/he use simple 
camera movements (including a camera on a path tracking an object, the only 
slightly more difficult exercise at this level)?

At this point the student has two animations under his/her belt (the 
traditional animation made in the sequencer and this new one).

Level II: Intermediate
Let us learn how to animate a simplified cartoon character: a  Mr. Potato  
(any irregular shape - a fruit or veggie will do), add pixarish eyes. We 
will texture our character and then use vertex key animation. We will also 
learn to use the IPO window and the action window. These two need to become 
our friends if we want to proceed further: the IPO is the dragon that must 
be tamed to harness the power of the beast. And it gets tamed very slowly 
because it is quite un-intuitive.
Again our project will consist of a short tv ad, where shapes will talk (if 
the student wants to go into lip synch at this stage, it is possible, but it 
can be postponed until a better mastery of the other features is achieved). 
Some shots can use text animation in 3D. Indeed some of the text can be 
turned into characters and animated using shape key animation.

Texturing and lighting: more complex texturing such as reflections, 
transparencies, more complex shading and basic UV mapping introduced and 
used, if possible in the main project, or in alternative mini-projects. Some 
basic particle effects, hair, basic radiosity concepts to be introduced too.

Animating: Bouncing ball and other action/reaction, anticipation, 
exaggeration type of animation to be used.

Criteria of evaluation: standard of animation produced at this level begins 
to aim at a semi- professional level. It must demonstrate more than a 
beginner's trial and error level of output.

Level III: Intermediate-Advanced

Pre-requisites: apart from completing the two previous levels, student must 
initially propose a storyboard on which his/her work will be based. A 
convincing world complete with particle animation, compelling characters 
(visually and psychologically in terms of motivation, aims, goals, 
weaknesses, are to be well conceptualised before the modelling/animating 
actually takes place. The stronger the visualisation, the easier it will be 
to cut the animation in terms of shots and camera angles, etc). Basse’s 
kickflip (www.kulma.org) is the ideal short animation to show, and students 
are expected to aim at that level of proficiency.

The level will focus on modelling, rigging, animating a full figure (ideally 
still somewhat cartoonish so as to avoid the unnecessary stress of making it 
conform too closely to reality). Using IK and using the IPO/Action and Non 
Linear Animation (NLA) Windows.

Texturing: Using particle effects; uv mapping.

Animating: animating a minimum of 2 rigged bodies, optionally using softbody 
Compositing animation and live footage.

Putting it all in a 1 minute' (minimum) to 3 minutes' (maximum) long 
animation (this depends on the time frame of the course): student may want 
to create a music video.

Criteria of evaluation: Does the student demonstrate proficiency in 
modelling, rigging and animating a character in a convincing world? Does 
s/he display a mastery over the more complicated features of Blender 
(particle effects, fluid simulation, complex camera movements, compositing 
with live footage, etc?)
Can s/he make a semi-professional animation at this level? Given the right 
amount of practice at this level of skill can the student eventually develop 
his/her own short films, join the profession as a junior animator?

Level IV: Advanced-Pro

At this level the student is expected to have obtained a proficiency in 
modelling, texturing, lighting, effects, animating and compositing.

What will be focussed on are: Game design and scripting; professional 
animation work (with the target of reaching the standard of the Orange 
gurus, or the plumiferos power-users) and with a focus on the standard of 
work required by the animation industry. An awareness of cutting edge 
techniques (such as displacement mapping, creating high poly-count meshes 
into  displacement map textures for low-poly meshes, etc. Obviously, only 
the actual blender experts will be able to define the content of this level, 
and only a few can actually pretend to lecture at this level: I cannot, so 
it is impossible for me to chart a territory that I have barely stepped 

You will notice that I have left out many features:
dupliverting and dupliframing; Spin and SpinDup; meta-objects; curves and 
nurbs; etc,etc.

Obviously, it is not because these are not important, but they fall in place 
once there is a roadmap to achieving certain goals.
In a more detailed course map I shall try to include features which are 
essential (such as tracing from background images, dupliverting to create 
plants and vegetation, etc, etc). But right now it is the main ‘armature’ of 
the course that I am attempting to structure.

I don’t think that what I propose here is complete in itself. All available 
material (web tutorials, video tutorials, books, etc) work in complement to 
this roadmap. Greybeard’s and other video tutorials are especially useful 
for students. But this project-based approach is necessary. Working through 
4 projects (or more if possible) at the first 3 levels, students can develop 
sufficient skills in manipulating Blender. What is different in my approach 
is that I don’t want to focus on specific tools and items in Blender. 
Without putting them in some kind of perspective in an animation routine, 
they are distorted out of proportion. The only proper perspective is when 
these tools/features/items are actually used in an animation project and the 
students are made to think laterally on how to extrapolate from their actual 
levels of skill to achieve the widest range of models/textures/lights/ 
animations. In other words, the course is designed to make them realize the 
underlying relationship in modelling(...texturing,rigging,animating...) 
apples and bananas and aeroplanes and whatnot…

At this stage I hope that what I written  makes pedagogical sense to both 
the teacher and the student. It can be considered as an armature on which 
other essential elements can be added. In my case I know that I cannot teach 
more than Levels I & II within the time constraints of the module Animation 
I at my university. But I hope that my students will be sufficiently 
‘hooked’ to Blender to meet me again for Animation II, where they will do 
character animation, and if we can convince the administration we can try to 
get a Blender expert to teach Level IV.
But I am also aware that others have trodden the same path and may have 
valuable comments to make on the above. I shall be very grateful for 
whatever comments/ advice you would want to share with me to improve the 

Short Bio:
Who I am & where I teach: Hans Ramduth, lecturer at the Mahatma Gandhi 
Institute, Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, where I teach art history and art 
theory. I have been teaching art to all age groups (kids, secondary school 
students, university students, art teachers at the Institute of Education, 
after completing a degree in Fine Arts with a specialisation in Art History 
from Shantiniketan, India in 1995. In the last five years I have also taught 
advertising and storyboarding at a private business school, and began to be 
interested in animation and puppetry. My wife and I run a small audio-visual 
production company, Kuler Films, that has already produced a 13 x 6 puppetry 
series for television, our biggest project to-date. We now plan to use 
Blender for our projects. I discovered Blender 'by chance' online when 
browsing for 'art' related softwares for linux, got bitten by the Blender 
bug and have struggled to teach it to myself. I consider myself to be an 
intermediate user, not as clueless as I used to be. I have already used 
Blender for two simple billboards and very short (10 seconds)- yet to be 
aired - tv ads, but I still need to make longer and more complex films to 
really pretend that I can use the software.

The Mahatma Gandhi Institute offers various courses in the Arts (Indian 
classical dance, Indian classical music, oriental languages, etc, but is 
also the only institution on the island offering tertiary education in the 
visual arts.) The department of Fine Arts of the MGI is offering Animation 
as an elective for the first time. The softwares taught are: Flash (for 2D) 
and Blender, because it would have taken us years to convince the 
administration to buy expensive 3D proprietary software (and since I am a 
Blender fan, it was easy for me to tilt the balance in favour of *free* 
open-source software; I personally never plan to use maya or max even if 
these were given to me for free, … well,ok, maybe if they become open source 

For this first batch I have 12 students with little to no animation 
background, some with very average computer skills. And the above roadmap 
was designed in reaction to their feedback and in anticipation of their 
predicted reactions to the obstacles ahead as they proceed with the 
Animation I module.

>From: Carstentigges at aol.com
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>Subject: [Bf-education] Re: Animation paper/Attachment wont work
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>Hi Hans Ramduth!
>I think that it is not possible to send attachments with this mailinglist. 
>you want to hear an opinion send mail to carstentigges at aol.com with your
>                                      Have a nice day!
>                                                                  Carsten

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