I've been interested in 3D design and CGI for a long time and I've finally decided to try my hand at it. Problem is, I don't really know where to start!
I've found various Blender tutorials online but they mostly seem to either be aimed at teaching you the Blender UI or very specific skills. Don't get me wrong, these have been helpful and I've picked up in a couple of days some pretty cool terrain design tricks with texturing, lighting and water simulation.
What I'm really looking for though is an absolute beginner's set of tutorials. Without understanding the fundamental properties of a 3D model, it's very difficult to know how to apply that to produce what I want. It's all fine and dandy following specific tutorials but simply following button clicks isn't really teaching me anything.
So, any recommendations? If such a thing exists and is platform agnostic (again, lack of understanding on my part means I don't know how realistic a request that is) that'd be great, but if they must be platform specific then I have access to Blender, 3DS Max and Maya (thanks to Autodesk's student program!)
Probably. I describe Blender as one of the most complex pieces of software most people are ever likely to encounter. You need to know a lot of things before any one of them makes much sense. Still, I found Andrews tutorials to be generally excellent if you have basic blender skills (can find your way round the UI and know the common keyboard short cuts. Unfortunately, I'm lapsed so probably need to start from scratch again.
What is your end goal? Are you looking to do photo-realistic renderings, incorporate CGI into film or use 3d models to validate design before turning it into physical objects?
If you're unfamiliar with the series, this is the kind of scene I am hoping to eventually render:
The reason I have chosen that scene is it contains a lot of elements I want to learn; lighting, weather effects, architectural design, texturing, fluid simulation (this shot is absent the sea, bit of a plot hole that!). I'll hold off on character design until I have reached this goal, then make my next goal to add in some gladiators to the scene (I may be wrong but my limited experience tells me that character design is one of the most difficult aspects of 3D modelling)
You could give it a stab with Google Sketchup. You can use Photos to render the walls, floors etc, and then add your own lighting. The 15 - 30 minutes video tutorials are excellent. Plus there's a massive library of furniture etc you can use to embelish your project. Not sure how good it would be at people though.
Normals are the vector at 90deg to a point on a surface, usually on a mesh they will talk about the normal as relating to the triangle (because all normals will be parallel because the triangle exists on a plane). Switching normals is usually about making sure the precomputed vectors are on the outside of the object. Unfortunately in 3d somewhere you will very likely encounter the maths - I try to just recoil in horror when it happens.
I started 3d stuff using PovRay rather than Blender. PovRay primarily uses CSG rather than meshes and is drivable using just text files. The advantage there is you aren't trying to learn a complex UI as well as the concepts, but it's still quite a steep learning curve. The old IRTC sometimes had submissions which were accompanied by the source code and there are a lot of resources around for it. Perhaps I like it because I'm an old school programmer at heart, I'm happy with a text editor (but it also helped me with OpenSCAD, which I use to design bit's for 3d printing).
People are always a problem - in 3d as in life :-)! There are very specialist bit's of software out there like Poser which just deal with characters. But you can get a way with a lot if they are distant props - just flat pictures on a rectangle can work ok and can help keep rendering times down (no point in a model with real hair when they will only ever be seen from half a mile away).
Have a look at World Machine for generating good terrain mesh (and these days textures).
All of which is probably very little real help. The subject itself is just so huge.
Seems little more than a pipe dream at the moment and may well prove to be! I'll stick with scenery for now
If you are using Sketchup, "The Missing Manual" is worth finding. It's a book rather than videos, but I've found it very useful. There are also plenty of excellent tuts on youtube. Pick the ones by SketchUpVideo and Brooke Godfrey
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