For the Benefit of Anyone Doing Tutorials

A slight interruption to the schedule, I know, but needs must. I’m not sure what I did, but things are still skewy. Jumping up to the latest release, after trying so hard to familiarize myself with Blender’s 2.8 iteration, is going to be something to seriously consider now.

There’s probably a simple explanation that I’m overlooking in my frustration – and rush to get things moving again – and there’s only a finite number of things which could possibly be wrong. Everything ought to be up to date given how long I’ve spent doing updates on all the software on this computer, and I’ve mostly ruled out interference everything installed in the last week.

So – something different. Something which is intended to spur on those who have been providing tutorials for Blender, and see if the more complex notions I’ve had during my brief foray with the software can actually be pulled off entirely within Blender. The following are all actually things I went looking for, and it wasn’t a brief skim either. There are a multitude of videos and posts covering all manner of esoteric problems, yet despite the proliferation of channels and sites there are still gaps in the knowledge base. You might imagine that everything that could be covered has been, but I’m sure there are gaps…

It must be difficult thinking up things to cover for a piece of software which has such a long lineage as Blender. I’ve found things dating back years – some of which, it has to be noted, no longer really work as tutorials given the extensive overhaul which 2.8 has brought to bear on matters.

1. A means of having a monitor inside a scene display video.

Having attached a camera to a cylinder beneath the cockpit (as a placeholder for the machine gun), I attempted to arrange a way by which the item (a cube, merely for reference) which the camera was directed at could be displayed on a monitor inside the cockpit. I’ve come at it a dozen different ways, yet while in Viewport Shading there is no means by which I can see a way to direct the camera’s output to an object.

Ideally I would like the option to have as many monitors as possible showing the occupants what is happening around the vehicle, but as I can’t even get one monitor up and running this is a major pain.

And does this count as a render inside a render? I haven’t found any limits referenced to the amount of data allowed in any scene, though I suspect that there’s likely a hardware limit rather than a software limit. If there are nodes which channel input from cameras to entities inside a scene then a clear process is a pain to dig up. That there isn’t already a need for this astounds me. Someone, in the long history of Blender development, must have thought of this and come up with a solution (even if it is a kludge, something is better than nothing).

2. Overlays on monitors.

While it would be nice to have a traditional “target” overlay (ranging sights?) on the monitor used to control the machine gun, it isn’t a real priority – I’ve been working under the impression that I can use a simple .png image to get this. What I would really like is a little number appearing besides things appearing on the screen, showing distance, preferably with a little square around potential targets.

I know that Blender keeps some sort of record of distance in blends, so there ought to be a means to get this to show up somehow. It is a slight nod to computer games, where this mechanic is relatively easy to pull from preexisting files, but Blender seems to be more opaque when it comes to these things.

3. Transforming a solid to a gas then back to a solid, while the object is both moving and retaining its shape.

Imagine a person walking – turning into smoke (while not losing human appearance), before resuming solidity and interacting with their surroundings. I’ve figured out transitions – more or less – and while this seems to be the best option there’s a lingering feeling that a better solution exists.

This was actually the very first thing I went looking for, and while there are solutions which come close to what I want, the “retaining its shape” aspect has not been part of the tutorials. It is all well and good to have things transform into smoke, but I don’t need smoke at the moment.

4. Fire without smoke.

Talking of smoke reminded me – I can’t seem to get fire without the addition of smoke. You know there are smokeless flames, right? Well… Trying to get them to look right in Blender is aggravating thanks to fire being listed under smoke, so when flames are added to a scene the smoke is added as well.

It is probably a minor thing, a box left unchecked perhaps, but this has been one of the most annoying omissions in guides regarding fire and flames. This ought to be simple, but it is driving me crazy trying to work out the methodology to achieve the effect.

5. That scene in Innocence…

Hoo-boy. Okay, this isn’t so much of a “how the hell do you do this cool thing” so much as it is “how the hell did they do that cool thing?” It is the mansion scene I’m thinking of, where things are repeated, and as it has such a distinctive, warm, beautiful feel I can’t help but look at the lighting and wonder if there is a trick to getting a scene appearing like that.

I’ve not had much luck with lighting – even changing between the different types of lights available and color outputs – so when I see something which handles the problem so well there’s naturally a desire to recapture some of that film’s mood.

If there’s a a way to get lighting to go to a preconfigured “mood” then I would love to know what the steps are in 2.8 – and, while I’m asking on the topic, is it possible to save a lighting set-up to reuse it in various scenes in different blends? More than once now I have found myself wishing that there was a means to export light setting so that it can be quickly added to a scene, saving me a lot of time.

Not that I have many lighting set-ups that I’m happy with, but the ability to do this would be awesome nevertheless…

I’m hoping to get things back on track as soon as possible. Fingers crossed…

A Mega-City One Visual Companion, part three

Medkits

One of the fundamental aspects of the Judge Dredd stories is ultra-violence, and we get to see – with alarming, and often amusing, regularly – the aftermath of these scenes. What we don’t get to see so often is regular medkits. Nobody ever seems to require a band-aid, which makes finding appropriate imagery ever so frustrating. There are cool boxes available online, but they aren’t exactly futuristic in their aspirations (and, very likely, will turn up on low budget film sets in the future), so I’m forced to mix and match bits that work, and once more taking inspiration from a variety of sources.

The sole example of anything close to a medkit in the Cursed Earth story is the vaccine cases Dredd and Tweak carried to Mega City Two:

from Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth, part 24: Dredd’s Last Stand. 2000 A.D. Prog 84 (30 Sep 1978), art by Mike McMahon. © Rebellion
from Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth, part 25: Death Crawl. 2000 A.D. Prog 85 (07 Oct 1978), art by Mike McMahon. © Rebellion
from Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth, part 25: Death Crawl. 2000 A.D. Prog 85 (07 Oct 1978), art by Mike McMahon. © Rebellion
from Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth, part 25: Death Crawl. 2000 A.D. Prog 85 (07 Oct 1978), art by Mike McMahon. © Rebellion

I far prefer ridged sides than having a medical symbol on the side of the case, as it gives it a little more interest – I’m not sure if this indicates a cooling system to maintain the temperature of the vaccine, or if it is merely a nice design feature, but it would hardly suit a simple container for bandages and other equipment.

The cross in a circle is one which, over the next few years, would reappear on various ambulances and uniforms. It may have differed slightly in some instances, though the colors (when used) and the basic shape were maintained remarkably consistently. It is a readily-identifiable symbol, and, as such, I don’t want to mess with it too much.

Remember when I pointed out that I was going to be throwing in references? Well, one of the other things Matchbox manufactured, along with over-sized vehicles such as the Land Raider, were carry cases for the standard-size toys. I’ve always liked the jutting sections up towards the handle on either side of those, so I specifically went looking for sites which had similar designs.

There’s a remarkably robust design which is almost perfect in regards to its raised sides in the form of the First Aid Box from Northrock. It isn’t quite the right look though.

Ignoring bags, carry-all’s, rucksacks, and other containers – specifically focusing on only plastic and metal cases – there really isn’t much in the way of interesting designs around.

It is likely an item too universal to spend much time with on the design stage, but it is slightly depressing nevertheless to see how little innovation manufacturers are making.

The PF

You can complain all you want, it isn’t going to stop this happening…

from Judge Dredd: Rest Stop. 2000 A.D. Prog 1194 (24 May 2000), art by Chris Weston. © Rebellion
from Judge Dredd: Rest Stop. 2000 A.D. Prog 1194 (24 May 2000), art by Chris Weston. © Rebellion

While Fergee’s throne was (I believe) the first identifiable example of what MC1’s facilities look like, it is difficult to discern any improvement on modern designs. The fire extinguishers were bad enough, but this… Sometimes I get the impression that Tharg is far too lenient on the art droids. In the old days he would have threatened them with Mek-Quake and had them grovel a little, but he seems to have mellowed out. It might be a new formula being used for his polystyrene cups, or even something in the water – strange days, indeed.

As Blender doesn’t seem to like me today, and given our turbulent relationship over the last while it isn’t any wonder, I’ll have to settle on a brief comment rather than displaying any visual ideas.

One of the driving forces in science fiction is the art of concealment. You may not realize this when you watch the latest SF blockbuster, or when you read through a stack of paperbacks, but the very nature of science fiction is bound up in this. Much of SF, especially over the last forty or fifty years has been concerned with making things appear to be what they are not, of simply hiding things, and playing in the spaces where the unreal seem real, or the real unreal.

Making the unreal seem real is, after all, the very heart of what SF films are.

I would argue that it is perfectly within the means and psychology of the Judges to make their toilets as utilitarian as possible, thus we would be left, essentially, with just a bowl jutting from the wall. It doesn’t make sense that there is an actual handle included on the unit, as we have seen time and again the interaction with robots – this is a society where communicating verbally with equipment is not only a regular occurrance, but something to be expected.

There’s no problem with a regular sink, as far as I can tell at the moment – though I’ll likely be addressing that at some point. Maybe an intergrated liquid soap dispenser / dryer combo, if that saves on a little space…

Aren’t you thankful I didn’t use any photographs?


I’m going to attempt Restorative Action A – namely uninstalling and reinstalling Blender – so that hopefully by this time tomorrow there is something more substantial on offer.

Which kinda sounds like a threat that I will post something.

A Mega City One Visual Companion, part two

Fire Extinguishers

You are kidding me, Tharg. Really, the amount of time I went hunting, and- Honestly, Tharg? After looking at fire extinguishers in Dredd strips, and sighing in exasperation, it is apparent that something really drastic has happened in the future as to stunt design opportunities. So great is this incident that something which could be picked up at Halfords would fit snugly inside any Justice Department vehicle.

Or the art droids are malfunctioning again. There’s always that possibility…

Goddess save me from the pain. Well, we may as well get this over with as quickly as possible:

from Judge Dredd: Pyrokinetics. 2000 A.D. Prog 1189 (19 Apr 2000), art by Arthur Ranson. © Rebellion

That was hours of searching well spent…

Executive decision here – I’m going with something a little less boring. The cylindrical look is so passe that it has to go (and there is surely adequate depictions of hexagonal objects in Dredd strips that a fire extinguisher in that shape would be okay. The red has to stay, as does the large white label (though I’m going to tackle the lettering question at a later point), but the nozzle is something that is going to have to be completely redesigned.

And if you look at them from the bottom it has the appearance of old prog numbering icons, so there’s that. Yes, it is a tenuous link, but work with me here.

What the fire extinguisher needs is a sleek, less cumbersome, dispenser than the giant white cone look – that’s something which belongs on a dog’s neck so it doesn’t lick its nuts, not a futuristic piece of essential equipment. It’ll need a nozzle of some sort, and maybe a controlling device, but neither sounds too complex to deal with.

I’ve given this more thought than it seems, and had some inspiration in looking at the uses of the shape in current design. Packing hexagonally-shaped items is better for manufacturers than cylinders, due to less space being wasted, and the flat sides make its mountings easier to fit in awkward little spots. It is slightly astonishing that nobody is manufacturing fire extinguishers with flat sides – even if it is only extra bodywork applied, and not massive internal changes – as they would be extremely attractive to see mounted on a wall.

This is where knowing Mega City One manufacturing requirements adds to the details: The company producing these are going to be rolling them out as fast as they can, and storage is going to be an issue. After years of prolonged weirdness – extra-dimensional attacks, aliens, pyrokinetics who make Charlie McGee appear positively benign, robot attacks, viruses which make people go crazy – the sale of fire extinguishers ought to be going through the roof. We’re talking volume, and nobody does volume like Mega City One.

A six-sided object opens a few possibilities straight away, and the first is to squeeze in a narrow band at the bottom so to have a pleasing base for it to stand on. Bringing up the top into a slightly more traditional curve (or, to be accurate, a series of curves) gives it the essential “fire extinguisher” feel, without losing any of the futuristic elements. I’m not sure how to add in the cable yet, but it doesn’t need anything major save for the anchor on the inlaid side-section (for wall mounting) and a sticker. A channel to keep the hose against the side of each unit might also be needed.

I’m not really happy with how the side indentation looks at the top, flowing into the curved segment without a natural break – despite sharing similarities with the monitor design, I can’t help but think that there needs to be a clean line at the top. The base, with its reassuring curves, recalls 1960s design, and doesn’t need much work done to bring it in line with what I want.

While it is perhaps a retrograde step, it almost calls out for something else at the top – perhaps a ring (handle?) at the top, with a series of pleasingly curved mountings. I’m undecided, especially as the objective is to go beyond what is currently available.

Oh, and according to internet sources, the numbers and letters on the labels are important. I’m not sure where I’m going to go with that, and applying real-world labels to bullshit physics is mostly a nightmare – save for when Japanese creators do it, but I’m not going to work out all the chemisty, interactions, and other possibilities for whatever magic is in the MC1 fire extinguishers.

A Mega City One Visual Companion, part one

Due to ongoing problems getting the rendering aspect of Blender playing ball, and as there are other issues regarding the main section of the model, it is better to spend time on things that I can do without giving myself a headache. This is going to be an extended series of posts, probably running for longer than you would like, but it will give me the opportunity to “think out loud” on some of the things I’m either going to have to create from scratch, or modify to some degree.

There’s a certain aesthetic to the overall look of Mega City One, particularly in the hands of a few especially-talented creators, and capturing as much of the original designs as I can (without sacrificing believability) is an important part of what I’m attempting. In doing so I have had to look at a ridiculous number of strips (albeit without certain trades, or floppy collections to hand which would assist in the process), seeing what designs are viable, what is interesting, and what simply doesn’t work.

And yeah, those blocks transforming into giant mecha are fanon discontinuity as far as I’m concerned. You can argue all you want that they are an essential part of Mega City One continuity, but the conceit of people surviving within those structures as they went on their jaunt is just plain silly.

Lets start with the important things in regards to the Land Raider:

Monitors and Screens

In line with many pre-millennial SF works, Judge Dredd has long had what appears to be CRT monitors on display in strips, which isn’t really all that surprising since the character’s first appearance was back in the seventies. This isn’t actually a problem for Mega City One, as it can easily be handwaved as being futuristic holographic technology requiring a larger housing for the mechanism by which shows can ‘pop out’ from the screen to envelop viewers. It is also possible that the monitors throughout early strips have other capabilities that haven’t been properly developed…

So lets start digging into what we can see.

from Judge Dredd: Cityblock 2 2000 A.D. Prog 118 (23 Jul 1979), art by Ron Smith. © Rebellion
from Judge Dredd: Sob Story 2000 A.D. Prog 131 (22 Sep 1979), art by Ron Smith. © Rebellion

A wide variety of screens means that almost anything is acceptable. The two interesting ones are a flat screen and a box, both of which feel slightly unfinished in their strip presentation, but which speak to the range of possibilities available.

I went looking for the screens which had weird little corner adornments but couldn’t find and appropriate image, and those are the ones I tend to think of in regard to the Dredd strips. They are undoubtedly cool, but…

There’s a lot of difficulty in answering the positioning of obscuring elements without stretching credulity, and the same problems I’ve got with other franchises (Babylon 5, for one) comes to play here – is the overhanging frame really an essential component, or is it merely decorative, and (if merely decorative) then why? Sadly, though expectedly, I have no answers to such a question.

It isn’t something I’m particularly fond of, and there’s little question of me using this visual shorthand for a futuristic piece of equipment. It took me a while to figure out that this isn’t something which requires a lot of detail – you don’t go hunting for a television or monitor which has lots of ostentatious design features merely for the fact they are there, and if the Land Raider is designed to be as functional as possible the interior would carry a similar aesthetic.

A modern SatNav comes in at around 11.6cm wide, 8.4cm tall, and 2.3cm deep. That may be a tad on the small side for the Land Raider, and as I want the dash to fit in with the rest of the vehicle pushing it up to somewhere around 20cm wide seems the way to go. The actual appearance is somewhat open for debate, but my gut reaction is that it has to have (at the very minimum) air vents on the sides, some type of socket(s) somewhere, and have some form of interactivity in positioning. Now, the latter would best be expressed in a “flip out” slider, or having it rise from the dash, but it would also need to be able to swivel or pivot on… Something.

And before anyone points out the stupidity of having a SatNav screen out in the wilderness, I need a screen in there for the machine gun targeting system. The idea of creating a HUD is one of those steps too far – my personal inclination has always been that Judge’s helmets have HUD capabilities, and it would be confusing to have someone look at a display in front of a display, in front of the road ahead.

It is slightly difficult to see on the colored version, but there’s a space at the back inset for any apparatus to move the scree, and I added in enough venting for the screen. I’m not sure where to place any sockets as yet, nor if it might be better to do without.

Because the curved sides of some popular models are distracting, and as they make me think of simple bright laptops aimed at children, that can go. There’s a lot of wasted space on these, which is another reason to keep things as streamlined as possible – merely because one can design something more elaborate isn’t the best reason to do so, and its a bitch to model as well, so… There’s that. I’ll avoid giving myself problems wherever I can.

It doesn’t really “read” well as yet, but the housing and the screen are actually slightly different in tone, and there’s meant to be a sheen on the screen which isn’t particularly noticeable in a screen grab.

One of the small design elements which often gets (justifiably) overlooked is the sloping vertical sides on the backs of monitors. I love this small touch, and at any chance available I’m going to use it – while I’ve never been entirely sure why it is there, it conveys a realism to the design. By abandoning all buttons on the front of the device there’s the inference that it is a touchscreen display, and it is generally cleaner to look at. There’s the question of what goes on this screen, and that’s something that I still haven’t figured out how to do – there ought to be a way to put video on the screen, but the solution is eluding me.

Here’s where I point out something which is likely going to mean something to those with an aptitude for math:

Verts: 404
Edges: 726
Faces: 294
Tris: 846

For merely a small part of the dashboard (and not even the largest, or most complex, component), this is already eating up 63.4 MB of memory. I’m slightly dreading how large the finished vehicle is going to be, with colors added, and (hopefully) some rigging and effects added in, if a monitor can be so complex. The prospect of rendering any video of such a beast is going to have to take a back seat to still images at the conclusion of this mad experiment. Even then, it is possible that this is only going to be accomplished by using a cloud-based rendering service.

Rations

Yes, this is deeply unsexy, but you don’t send people out into the wilds without provisions. I could go with generic foodstuffs here (although the actual timeframe would be somewhat prior to the introduction of Food Stuff A, B, and C), but why would I bother going to all the trouble of rationalizing the vehicle without grasping any opportunity to get to play? Of course I’m going to have fun with this.

The pitfalls of playful, fun company names is that you either can land too hard on the side of comedy (and end up with a poor GTA wannabe product) or are too subtle, losing any inherent strangeness in the process. Familiar is good – triggering memories of something to bridge the gap between reality and the world being built – though any suggestions have to be carefully chosen.

All of which is to say: I’m going to have some fun.

As there isn’t a single piece of visual evidence as to the stores aboard the Land Raider I’m going to have to come up with some logos and packaging, but mostly that aspect is going to retain the current appearance.

One of the small details which bothers me is the perfection available in computer generated art, and the unrealistic way that an item can be displayed without tarnish of any sort. The paper labels on tins can be placed perfectly time and time again, and that’s a default option I wish to avoid wherever possible. Seeing slightly uneven labels is a reassuring sign that an image hasn’t been interfered with, and being able to port that sense of solid realism into the vehicle’s contents is certainly in my thoughts. While I’m not certain that it is possible to get labels appearing to be all slightly different (within the parameters of the manufacturer), it would greatly help in establishing versimilitude.

The other design detail which needs to be on all food supplied by the Justice Department are the traffic light rating system. It is unlikely to be something that is featured (or even thought about) as far as the strip is concerned, but the labeling is an endless source of amusement for me – regardless, the slightly awkward uses currently on display is definitely going to have to be tweaked a little. I’m thinking hexagons, perhaps.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Blender

That is, of course, a lie – I worry all the time. It was too tempting a line to avoid, and… Well, c’mon.

There’s probably a really good reason (or three) as to why certain things are almost impossible to source, but I have spent this last month-and-a-bit looking, and I’ll be damned if I can find a decent picture (or sketch, or diagram, or ANYTHING) which shows how the axle and associated mechanical elements of a lowered-body vehicle. I was almost certain that one of those funky car-boat hybrids would have been dissected in enough detail to allow me a chance at getting the wheels on this thing, but there simply isn’t enough information to fudge the remainder.

But this isn’t really a post about 3D models as it is about the process of getting to a design.

Strap in…

I got my hands on as many images of the vehicle in question to start with. It isn’t as much that differing interpretations add anything important, the real benefit is in solidifying concepts which might, at first, be rather sketchy. The repitition of devices – seeing numerous people, for instance, accept the presence of a machine gun of sorts under the hull – forces me to accept that, no matter how stupid.

And yes, it is stupid.

I was going to have an air intake system of some kind there, as the vehicle is otherwise hermetically sealed against the Cursed Earth, and is apparently devoid of obvious air filtration and circulation. It bothers me. It shouldn’t, but it does. It breaks logic in a way which makes my nerves jangle. I want to fix that, but there’s nowhere I can easily sneak this onto the design without having to alter other things.

Once I had enough imagery of the Land Raider, I began looking at real vehicles. When searching for things to take on board for the model I was specifically seeing if there was anything that compared to design elements that already existed (which… proved problematic), seeing what really needed to be added for versimilitude, and checking that nothing was too far out of the bounds of reality.

That isn’t even the beginning, though, as the holistic sense of the vehicle, and the society which created it, has to be the cornerstone upon which everything rests. You don’t leap from manufacturing jeeps and trucks to the kind of things seen in Mega City One without a drastic shift in psychology.

It is always with this in mind that I approached the contents of the vehicle.

The appearance of the interior had to reflect the designers, the vehicle’s stated mission, and the world it is going to inhabit, so finding things which fitted – even if imperfectly – was of the utmost importance. This is, once more, where the comics came into play. Designs were pulled from a number of issues and applied to the same thought process as the vehicle itself. This is the reason I’ve been seeking an appropriate font for use on signage and official elements – Judgement, although a great font, feels far too whimsical. Gotta love Rian’s variations though.

Adding in three-dimensionality – not speaking of modelling, but of the acknowledgement that there are opportunities for verticality of movement – ideas such as the hatch at the back of the cockpit were obvious. However, while finding gross outlays of vehicles isn’t a problem, getting the floor plans isn’t so easy. I have no idea of the dimensions of floor access hatches on buses (which is the closest thing I can think of), nor can I seem to locate modern aircraft schematics to see the dimensions of their hatches (which would suffice in a pinch). Seat dimensions are largely to a standard, as are the minimum requirements for dashboards.

The size of the contents determines what the capacity of the vehicle needs to be. It is really, really simple.

Okay, that is a blatant lie. It isn’t simple. It is incredibly difficult, but you should be maintaining a healthy optimism.

Onwards…

A complete step-by-step, more or less, with some thoughts on the multiple ways some simple things can be accomplished in Blender.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve gone through the process of crafting the cockpit, as every time I seem to go add something that doesn’t work, and then… Well it is complex. Needless to say that I suck ass at remembering to save the file when it is simple enough to just move on with the basic building blocks. Gotta work on that. Anyone else remember when OpenOffice balked at files with a few million words in them? Anyone? The same principal applies with Blender – save early and often.

Anyway, the steps aren’t at all difficult, and you can play along if you desire:

  1. Create a cube 2m in size, then extend the width (grabbing all four vertices of one side) by 1.25m to get the right beefiness to the look.
  2. Grab both lower front vertices and pull them 2m forward to create the angled front windshield.
  3. Pull the four rear vertices out 1.25m to finish off the basic shape, before deleting the back face.
  4. Add solidify modifier, choosing a thickness of .06m, check the Even Thickness and High Quality boxes.

Voila. One cockpit. It only takes five minutes, there are no complex additions or subtractions to factor in, and – blessedly – no tabbing between views. That’s still a massive pain to deal with, and the changes made to context-sensitive menus between states feels immense.

Lets step back a moment, though.

The first time I went through the process of creating the cockpit I extruded the vertices, deleting the original ones which were no longer needed. It took me a little while to get used to the fact that there was a malleability to Blender which worked for me, but now that I have this info stuck in my brain (having built a dozen or so of these so far) it won’t be as much of a hassle doing other things in future.

For a while every interaction with Blender was awkward, fumbling, and slightly embarrasing. It was like being a teenager again, and I didn’t like it one bit.

This is an extremely biased and subjective analysis of where I am with Blender, but… I’m getting there. Slowly, sure. There are things which I’m picking up accidentally, which are likely bad form, but hell, I’m finding controls now, which was a difficulty I was having with the interface for a while. That so much is buried in context-sensitive menus is a design choice that makes quick comprehension of the software difficult. You need to know where things are before you go looking for them, pretty much making the manual, release notes, tutorials, and other documentation, essential.

This is, as I see it, a slight problem.

You don’t need a manual – or, really, anything, to get started with a word program. Most image software (aside from advanced features in Photoshop or GIMP) are laid out in a manner which encourages exploration of the interface, but Blender, with its eccentricities, seems to have a hard-on for needlessly making life difficult. Blender is the person who came to school on show-and-tell days with the magic paraphernalia and refused to show you how the trick was done, and – as we can all surely remember – that child was really annoying. We want to know how the trick is done.

Don’t take away from this the impression that I’m still frothing at the mouth wondering why there aren’t easier ways to do things. I’m getting the hang of the hotkeys, though one nasty side-effect is that it is making life with other software slightly fractious. My brain can only hold so many shortkeys in place at one time, and it really isn’t feasible to remap either Blender or everything else.

If I change Blender, then I break the support network of the manual, tutorials, and so on. If I go tweaking everything else then I’m losing a week to remapping keys in… Well, everything. If there is a middle ground out there I haven’t discovered it yet.

Okay, that’s enough of that.

You are here, presumably, to see how I’m getting on with the model, not to get the skinny on Blender’s deficiencies.

Blender Notes

There are numerous ways in which Blender’s nodes feels familiar to users of other programs, though as many ways in which it differs in specifics, but the oddest thing about the implementation of certain rules is that the handling seems to override choices without logican heirarchy. The first method I used to create the colors was in the drop-down menus to the bottom right of the screen, and I had assumed that these color choices would be inherited through all following interactions.

This is not the case.

By adding nodes, the bodywork changed from a pleasing green to something which appears to be hot pink. Yeah, I can totally see Dredd being happy riding around in a vehicle which looks as if it had a bad date with Pimp My Ride. So the answer to the question “can I add texture to the color scheme” seems to be “not without a migraine.” Fantastic. It isn’t intuitive, which is something that Blender has been proving itself to be from the beginning of this challenge.

With a handful of pages from the manual and several videos outlining the various functions I attempted to get a lightly granular finish to the paintwork – the Land Raider doesn’t have green metal, but a paint job – but this proved slightly beyond me as yet. In the process of trying to get some detail to the overall look I have discovered that there are areas which aren’t as detailed as they could be, but beyond adding in some bumps and ridges to the bodywork I am puzzling over how to make the look more interesting.

I’m reminded of a funky dune buggy-type thing from the 60s (?) which had horizontal ridges along the front nose of the vehicle.

And here’s something that nobody has mentioned before as far as I can tell – the camera fixates upon the largest thing on the screen, irrespective of what you are working on, so attempting to get the right look to some small interior element is impossible unless the visibility of the large items (such as the canopy) is turned off before work begins in earnest. This is slightly worrying, as there are n things requiring more complex modelling and understated coloring than in anything I’ve ever approached before.

Oh, back up a sec. I forgot something important, so pretend that this is where I kicked things off today:

I love the look of Blender.

I’m not sure why, precisely, but there are parts of Blender – specifically in its use of layers, and in the color wheel that appears when changing the color of materials – which really do remind me of other software. Bits of Corel Draw, a hint of Photoshop, a touch of GIMP, although I’m also getting a strong impression someone on the development team had a love of being overly complex for the sake of it. How else, then, to explain the manner in which viewports can be added endlessly to the screen.

This slight familiarity with aspects of Blender, the manner in which common elements are presented, is (oddly) one of the drawbacks. I keep trying to do things in Blender which are informed by these other software applications, and finding that, unsurprisingly, Blender has taken a different tack with the details. As muscle memory screws with you when approaching a keyboard with different layouts, the part of the brain which remembers how to do things on-screen pipes up with unhelpful suggestions when confronted by familiar-looking controls.

Here’s where things are getting complicated. Firstly, I had the absolutely genius notion of doing everything in one chunk. I’m guessing that was a mistake. When any portion is moved [G] along a single axis [Z] it tends to make all the surrounding topology ever-so-slightly not correct. I then thought that instead of giving myself problems I would create elements of the vehicle in separate components. Each little piece of the vehicle is now in a separate file, to be put together later – as difficult as that might be.

The model is getting horrendously complex to edit as it is.

There is still room to play, and part of that involves the colors of Mega City One. I planned to seek out accurate color charts from one of the colorists, but for the time being:

Gold – #d4af37
Red – #9c162e

A minor historically impportant note – the first version of this vehicle rendered in 3D was apparently by ‘Zenith’ (a copy of which I have yet to encounter), making this attempt the third (?) Land Raider, though admittedly the least toy-accurate. And as for my (aborted) attempt in Sketchup all those years ago…

Behold and weep – the saddest little Land Raider there ever was.

There are a number of things wrong with that, most of which ought to be obvious. The fussy Judge’s logo not fitting in that space properly, and the nose of the vehicle looking puggish…

The K-2020, Status Update

There’s a lingering question hanging over this project that has probably been raised by anyone who has spent even five minutes looking at CG animation:

Why not merely construct the shell and paint it realistictly?

Because that is what everyone else would do, and I want to eventually build one of these. In meatspace. To drive around and put the frights into anyone who questions my madness. So there.

But honestly? I want to see if I can. There are a million and one uses for these types of high-quality models, from animation, to film, to really cool wallpapers, and a host of ideas which hasn’t even been suggested yet. Hell, I would love to see a (obviously simplified) version used in a game somewhere.

Actually, there are a list of reasons why building this vehicle as close as possible to reality – though with a few acceptable breaks where style owns logic – not least of which is the ability, finally, to see at least a little of the vehicle’s true scope. The other thing which comes immediately to mind is the rather amusing notion of finding an automobile manufacturer who will go on record as stating how much something as ridiculous as the Land Raider would actually cost to make.

And also, while I have their attention, how close someone could make one with current technology. For, uh… Research purposes.

So… The model. There are parts which are good enough not to need endless tinkering with (the canopy is as good as I’m going to get it), though there are great swathes of the project in somewhat of a mess. I haven’t even begun to consider how to create the frame upon which everything will need to be built onto, although that is going to have to wait until I get exact dimensions of the vehicle – there are times when attempting to guess simply isn’t good enough, and this is a biggie.

Should I fail to get this part right I will be unable to do an accurate “crashed” version with the tangled metal in the right places. For fun.

The canopy isn’t as yet transparent, which is likely a setting I haven’t happened upon, but I have discovered a way to make all the separate elements building up to the complete vehicle in different – random – colors. Sorry, no, but I have no idea what I pressed (or where), but I am greatly amused to find that Blender wants the cockpit to be that horrible purple color previously mentioned. No. Really no. Not even if I was paid to have it like that.

Having things two colors – such as the green bodywork on the outer vehicle and the golden judges logo – was a bit more trouble to figure out, though I got there in the end. It was slightly embarrasing how long it took to get used to the way Blender handles this, and even though there’s plenty of documentation around (not to mention video tutorials) it was still a lot of trial and error.

I’m enjoying seeing how much judge badge symbology I can sneak into the design, though I doubt it will take anyone very long to discover it all.

Having gone from attempting to craft it in one giant piece (which Blender doesn’t seem to like) to creating seperate components to piece together at the end, there are a few things which are becoming readily apparent – mainly, it is easier than it sounds having an idea of where everything goes, and how large it ought to be, and then making everything fit together like a jigsaw. Every tweak, flash of inspiration, and mimicry of things-gone-past has added to the problem.

At one point there were going to be storage compartments on the underside of the nose, but by adding in ridges on the lower bodywork those are partially covered. I’m not sure how to reconcile the plans I had for the front without further increase in size. A little searching has, superbly, indicated that yes, I can stitch all the files together later without too much trouble, so hopefully this method isn’t as ridiculous as it feels.

It feels ridiculous nevertheless. Right up there with the-second-season-of-Heroes level ridiculous. We’re plateauing ridiculous. Ermintrude in her hat level ridiculous.

One tiny (almost farcical) situation when using Blender is that editing small portions of a model – we’re talking millimeter adjustments – has the unintended consequence of getting the viewport “stuck” on the model, taking forever to scroll out again to see how the modifications appear against the rest of the model. It isn’t the most relaxing thing to deal with, and I expect that I’m not alone in encountering this.

There are things I love, just in case you were thinking that my experience with Blender has been frustrating and difficult, so in no particular order:

  • Extrude – One of the handiest things ever. The ability to pull a vertex anywhere I want, or using the little box to get it exactly where I need it, is brilliant. I probably use it for things which would be better handled by other parts of Blender, but I’m beginning to really get a feel for it. It isn’t the answer to everything, but has done (almost) everything that it was needed for without too much tribulation.
  • Loop Cut – Not, perhaps, an obvious choice for one of the most helpful tools, but it is fast becoming one of the things I turn to when puzzling over tricky shapes.
  • Snap to – How relieved was I to discover this? More than you could possibly know. Whatever deficiencies Blender has with getting separate objects touching in a blend is another thing entirely, and although it is irksome it is countered by the ease of creating new things.
  • Mirror – There’s a lot of love for this, but also some frustration. Blender doesn’t create modifiable mirror elements until the modifier is applied, and then there is a seam to remove. Far better in theory than in practicality, though something that is pretty much required when working on a vehicle.

It isn’t really all that complex compared to a great many of the nightmare stories which depict the software as utterly impossible to master. The only aspects of Blender which have withstood all attempts at figuring out controls are the camera and the lights. They aren’t really essential until I am quite a ways forward with the build, and there are more important workings which have to be learned.

Making Up a Mess of Fun

My name is Gary James, and I am a magpie.

I like taking little ideas from here, there, and everywhere, smooshing[1] them together, throwing them into a big pot, and stirring until something vaguely interesting happens. The following is a step-by-step on how I came to arrive at the thing we’ll get to at the end of this post, but I want you to work your way down in order – skipping to the end is going to make this appear way, way more impressive than it actually is, especially given that I’ve barely begun on this journey with Blender.

So lets start with the obvious: I am a product of my generation.

There wasn’t a period in modern history before the 1990s when a pop-culture addict could have encountered so much material from around the world easily, and the influx of material in the nineties served two things – I was exposed to anime for the first time[2] in the form of the original Fist of the North Star series, where I found some of the conventions both exhilarating and slightly frustrating.

Fist of the North Star was originally released in the UK by Manga, on video cassette, with each tape containing a paltry three episodes apiece. Remembering that these were full-price releases, with (roughly) an hour and a quarter of footage on them, you’ll probably be able to work out for yourself that collecting the show in this manner wasn’t the most economical, nor satisfying, experience. That some retailers didn’t bother getting the cassettes in until some time after release was another thing altogether[3], but I’m not here to grumble.

Speed lines behind characters as they moved was an instant favourite, and until the release of the Wachowski’s Speed Racer in 2008 hadn’t considered them useful outside of animation. Yes, the potential for their deployment in something such as a Flash television series (or film) was always a possibility, but I don’t think American audiences are quite ready for them being used in the background of regular scenes just yet. It is an effect which calls attention to itself in a manner which lies slightly beyond the cultural need for visual coherence in a work.

Star Wars and Star Trek are, perhaps, the only two places where the effect has really had an outing that isn’t inconsistent with the rest of the narrative.

It was, then, something of a surprise to find that Blender was the perfect medium in which to recreate such an instantly recognizable visual shorthand:

That. Is. Awesome.

As soon as I saw the video I thought to myself “I’m having some of that, thanks.”

Of course, merely creating a nice image was far, far too simple to keep me entertained, and with a certain title sequence lodged in my brain I began considering the practical application of such a technique.

Yes, I know it is complex, with the negative space, illumination, and tilting, but that wasn’t what tripped me up. See, the tilting isn’t a big thing – you simply move the camera to where you want it, and if, at the end of a sequence, you wish the letters to be square-on, you simply move the camera to its “end” position, mark it in the timeline, then hit the space bar to watch it magically do its thing. I did have to create an empty where I wanted the camera to point, so that it rotated properly, but that was easy enough to figure out.

And the manga lines? Those were behind a vertical plane which had holes cut in it in the shape of letters. Gotta love those Booleans.

This isn’t where things went kaplooey[4].

While everything seems to be working in the animation view – particles flowing properly, the camera moving smoothly, and everything in the proper colors – I can’t seem to get the damn thing to render. The output is set to AVI JPEG, in RGB, at 100% quality, but nothing is showing up in the Render view. Nothing at all. It is completely grayed out.

This was meant to be a couple of hours testing, to see if I could render a video, and to check that I understood how Blender handled motion paths correctly, but the simple little video has turned into three (and counting) days of frustration, button-mashing, and poring over endless reference notes to see what vital step I have missed along the way. And this is how it has been all along – things that seem easy enough to do turn out to be far, far more complex in Blender than ought to be the case.

I was going to post the video here Monday morning, showing that I was, in fact, getting to grips with the software, but no. Instead you have to put up with me pulling my hair out, gnashing my teeth, and generally bemoaning the state of the universe. Again. And as this sorry state drags on – with the capacity to render seemingly beyond me – I’m getting slightly farther behind where I planned to be at this point.

There’s an extremely simplified version (sans manga lines, and without some of the fanciness) which is currently being bashed around in much the manner a chimp would strike a rock against a tree. Okay, so I’m not that bad, but it feels like it. As to when I’m going to get that wrapped up, and push myself back on schedule… I’m not sure.

Stay tuned.


  1. This word is Stephen King’s baby. Told ya I couldn’t help myself. Go read the introduction to Nightmares and Dreamscapes, which is – pound for pound – the best informal writing you will read this year. Hell, maybe the best you’ll read this decade. Within a few paragraphs he will have you hooked, and before you know it you will have finished the book. King is the master of addictive words, a pusher eager to get you back for your next hit. Which… probably isn’t the best metaphor, but apt all the same.
  2. Battle of the Planets, Ulysses 31, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, ThunderCats, Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds, and many, many other series had obviously caught my attention, but I never considered them to have a Japanese look specifically. It is probably more accurate to say that Fist of the North Star was the moment something in my brain clicked, and it finally dawned on me why certain aspects of those shows appealed to me. And yes, not forgetting Akira. Who could forget Akira…
  3. There still, in 2020, isn’t a way to definitively reassure oneself that something is actually in shops for sale, irrespective of what the official release date is. You take your chances with retailers, which is partly why the internet sales have leaped ahead of high street shops – you don’t have to worry about something not being available, and are not left grumbling about dragging your ass across town to the shops for nothing. Take heed, managers of shopping institutions.
  4. One of these days I’m going to get around to making a list of all the words I use in everyday discourse, which will terrify and horrify most English teachers, grammarians, and Dictionary compilers. This is a side-effect of having so many bad influences when I was at an impressionable age, and isn’t indicative of my stubborn refusal to follow convention. Nope. Not one bit.

Being a Man of Letters…

There are going to be lots of text in any image – stickers, grafitti, signage, and logos – so getting an idea of what Blender is really capable of, beyond merely copying existing fonts, is a nice challenge. While I have mainly focused on 2D letterforms, with varying degrees of success, moving into the third dimension is a tense proposal, though it may actually prove more freeing than anticipated. Blender is still being temperamental, but so far things are going well.

“More freeing?” you wonder? Well, yes. In two dimensions a letter is forced to resemble itself immediately, and if it contains too much distraction it can make words distorted to the point of being illegible. With moving letters, and the face spread between the X and Y axes, it is theoretically possible to make one set of letters spell out three distinct words as they rotate into position.

Don’t get too excited, as I haven’t got that far yet.

Before tackling the three-dimensional variant I’m going to make sure eveyone can follow the process along.

Firstly, what are letters?

They are nothing more than (imperfect) visual representations of sounds. You very likely know your letters if you are reading this, and if not… Actually, I shouldn’t mock, but someone out there is likely viewing this page merely for the pictures, so any snark is (over the lifetime of this blog) very likely warranted.

More than being just a rough approximation of what we hear, letters have to give us context. They can give us this through their shape:

Handwritten letters can feel whimsical (as used on the Friends title screen), or menacing (the scratched lettering of the Thief games) depending on context. Sometimes handwritten type fonts can straddle the line between the two, as Machinarium showed brilliantly. Blocky letters, on the other hand, feel more cartoonish when uneven, yet imposing when hardened up. When you add in the weight of the lines in relation to the overall size of the letters you have an infinite canvas on which to create.

You can go read up on this more elsewhere, as there are excellent resources to be had, and this is only really setting what will follow.

Aaaand color – color is the biggie, able to transform something from playful and innocent to a sleep-destroying nightmare. Take any recongnizable logo and switch out the colors to see what I mean. Things can get much more complex when shadows and highlights are added, but that is slightly beyond what I’m covering at the moment. I’m sure when (if) Eevee lets me see what things look like when they are rendered I’ll have much to say on colors.

If you are reading this having never considered letters outside of which font to use in your word documents, then this is for you – an easy shortcut to getting letters looking “right.” There is, mind you, no right or wrong. Everyone is going to have their own tastes when it comes to the shape, thickness, and color of a letter, so if anyone tells you that what you are doing is empirically wrong you can tell them – from me – to go to hell. They are being an asshat… You can’t do it wrong.

Make a grid of squares in any simple image editing software and play around with the size of your squares, and the spacing of the letter within those squares.

A grid. With the letter A. I bet you are impressed, no?

The simplest grid is a three-by-five one, allowing the creation of most letters save for M and W (which require an extra couple of columns), though the more squares which are added to the grid allows for more complex designs. You can even move the crossbar up or down for effect (as in the fourth example), increasing the possible number of variations of each letter to a ridiculous amount. Then, creating boxes with a one-in-two angle, you can easily follow these same steps to make italicized letters as well.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of new fonts available to download annually, so even if this isn’t something which you have thought about before you really ought to give it a little bit of attention. It is always best to work towards a plan – however slight, and however much you eventually deviate from it – so I’ve laid out the basic form of the letters I am going to use for official material. Everything which comes from a single source ought to be immediately recognizable, so that when you see that lettering you know what it means… which, sadly, hasn’t really sunk in with certain companies, organizations, or governments.

Life would be so much easier if there was consistency in presentation. Regardless…

Red squares, though not Russian. Mind-blowing.

A six-by-nine grid feels both elegant and serious – the letters won’t be too thin, nor will they feel too crowded. While the corners are, on the grid version, really hard and blocky, by adding either an angled corner or a curve they ought to end up looking better. As I am still undecided on the shape and texture of certain aspects of the Land Raider these letters are going to have to blend seamlessly into the scene, remaining legible enough to be immediately understoo while not drawing undue attention to themselves. It is a fine balancing act, as anything which screams out “inconsistency” will be picked up upon, even if not consciously.

Have you ever looked at something and said to yourself “that isn’t quite right,” but were unable to place a finger on what, precisely, was the issue? That’s your brain doing all the heavy lifting in the background, helping you along.

Y’know, it only just occurred to me that I’m going to have to create this in GIMP as well, to be used on the medkit, fire extinguisher, and (possibly) on the dash. I don’t want the cockpit to be too fussy, so labels would be more appropriate than embossed lettering. On the walls of the compound where the vehicle is stored, however, there probably would be some detail that required 3D versions.

There’s nothing particularly useful with serifs for these particular letters, so I’m keeping them as unadorned as possible. Over-working them is merely going to make the process longer than necessary, and might harm the readability of the words. When I pointed out that I was going to create everything fresh I was including the things which others would immediately consider utilizing generic resources for – if the rest of the model is going to done from scratch I can hardly drop in a font grabbed at random, can I?

The majority of videos regarding text seem to be under the impression that using ready-made .ttf files are the way to go, though I did find one which amused me regarding 3D cursive letters – with the option of having it render as an animation, no less:

I’m not sure when I would ever have a pressing need to know this, but it is handy to have in the back of my mind if I decide to do any neon signage or hologram advertisements later. Maybe that would be a bit too Blade Runner for this, though having options available is better than puzzling over how to fill space. I can see that working in bright flashing red, with a row of small lights around the letters…

Back to the letters we go.

A is A. Objectively so.
Oooh… Curvy.

That’s as close as I want to get it to anything which will draw wrath down upon my head. While the SD logo had circles in it they were done with the entire design at the origin, simply letting the newly-created circles land where they would.

This, unfortunately, is going to require slightly more thinking – the basic form is going to carry through for all subsequent letters, alleviating the problem once I jump the hurdle of getting the first letter down…


Well, cough cough hours later here’s the model:

And it only took me – oh, wait…

That was more complex than I had imagined a simple letter would be, and I’m not entirely convinced that this is going to work with current plans. A simple sentence – something, say, along the lines of “Justice Department” – is going to be a nightmare to create letter by letter. Option B is creating a text font to use.

You knew from the get-go that this would be an interesting journey so you can’t complain when we find ourselves wandering unfamiliar streets.

Side Quest

Before we get mired in anything else, there’s a small matter I wish to cover which was slightly beyond the remit of the previous post: The badge.

detail from Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth, part 19: Loser’s Leap. 2000 A.D. Prog 74 (26 Aug 1978), art by Mike McMahon. © Rebellion

Lets start with the obvious point of difficulty here – this is something that is meant to be attached to the “roof” somehow. In Blender… well, making attachments on a flat surface is a problem mainly due to the fact that faces aren’t as easy to dig into as in other software. The badges have been floating almost in position – though I have a feeling, having placed them by eye, they’re neither flush nor properly centered – as an interim solution it is far from perfect.

Between the things-that-are-obvious and the inspired leaps, there lies the tangle. The tangle is where you get a bunch of similar yet different objects conflated, and in the twisting around require some sort of solid reference.

Have you seen those flat plastic mirrors which have the peel-off pads on the back, ready to stick straight on walls? Well, those were forefront in my mind when I started the shield. There’s no need to build in metal clips, or anchor points, or… whatever would be attaching them. They could simply be stuck on, especially for shield components – five bars of varying lengths – would likely be affixed to some sort of mylar sheet for accurate distances between bars.

I couldn’t help myself, as the notion had been planted in my brain Inception-style by the Tesla promo which was everywhere – if someone was going to build this, then the details should be accurate. That tiny detail was bugging me, and no ammount of rationalizing could silence the voice in the back of my mind. I spent the better part of a day going through old magazines looking for articles which contained similar attachments, and found a few which suggested that there would have to be mounting points on the frame (sadly, although not entirely unexpectedly) without detailed descriptions of any required kit.

After a ridiculous amount of time – which, I must point out, is par for the course when it comes to dealing with things in Blender – I figured out the best way to approach this was as if I was actually dealing with metal, plastic, and other materials. Forgetting that it is all pixels on a screen for a moment, how could this attach if I was faced with the real thing? Well, that question should be answered with “push-in clip,” obviously.

I’m using an obscene number of loop cuts, and not getting very far with that which is most needed.

Circles within circles, I keep going round in circles.

In a side-quest (because gamification things makes everything less stressful), I decided to try my hand at the old Judge Dredd Megazine logo:

Not. A. Word. Seriously… Judge Dredd © Rebellion

Which… well, it isn’t bad, but there’s a few things I was far too respectful about reproducing in the model – the upward stroke of the G is rather pitiful at a single unit, and by keeping the depth of the letters quite thin it seems to make the whole logo look rather puny. Because of the geometric style I decided to make each ‘block’ in the letters (which are in a 3 by 5 grid) one standard unit – a meter – square, though the depth of all letters was reduced to 25cm. Coloring it red was obvious, as I wanted something very 90s like the Megazine of the era, so I didn’t have to think too hard on that.

This was all done by extruding vertices, which likely wasn’t the most effective way of getting it on screen, but it worked. Deleting the connecting edges as I went, the whole thing took probably two hours – with some breaks in there when my eyes were getting really strained. Zooming in on the edges is rather painful in Blender, as things sort of bleed into the background, and you start clipping through other parts of the model at a ridiculous rate, leaving weird shapes on screen to peer through.

Here comes the really problematic part, because this wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t some bloody spanner in the works…

There’s nothing in the render view. Nada. Zilch. Not even a helpful error message. I like error messages – they inform me of what I have neglected, and point the way towards rectifying the mistake. Error messages are brilliant, and the complete absence of them in Blender makes me feel like I’m missing an important part of the software.

So that happened.

In looking at things which I can tackle (relatively) quickly, in order to familiarize myself with the process as fast as possible, I also took a stab at the Strontium Dog logo.

Strontium Dog © Rebellion

Now, I know that there are issues with it so don’t go packing the comments with how I’ve got the angles wrong. That’s a bloody annoying logo to try and get right, and you absolutely do not want to know how long I spent staring at the screen and utilizing my mastery of profanities. I got through Italian, French, German… right through to Norwegian, and I abologize to anyone nearby who overheard me yelling something to the effect of “fitter.”

That isn’t the word I used, and I will most likely get shouted at if I tell you what it actually was.

Anyway, the in material settings I set it to emit a soft yellow light – which, if you know the character, is slightly amusing though incredibly in-jokey – but because the viewport refuses to show me the rendered look it is impossible to tell that the material is doing so. Maybe going all-yellow was a misstep here, but I’m not sure how to correct that without scrapping the colors and starting again.

I also wanted to keep it orange at the top, mixing down to a yellow at the bottom of the logo, but I haven’t found a way to do that as yet. In GIMP I would do this the hard way.

Really, don’t laugh at this – you take a big chunk of orange, and create a new layer one pixel high, the width of the image. Then, sloooowly, copy the orange, line by line, and decrease the visibility of each layer. This results in a perfect gradient and three hours of your life juddering by in close approximation to being in a claymation.

There’s no way to do something like that in Blender that I can see, so I’m stumped.

Don’t look at me like that. It is a method which works.

There are a couple of ways in which Blender doesn’t conform to expectations – the first is that all hotkeys seem to be nullified when the mouse in hovering “outside” the viewport. There are even some instances where even in the viewport it misbehaves, such as when the cursor is over the on-screen displays at the top. Having things appear and disappear is bad enough, but when I press something I expect Blender to react, and having nothing happen is extremely frustrating.

Another thing which has cropped up in the last week has been the slow-but-sure realization that there are some perplexing issues with the camera set-up. It isn’t the easiest camera to place, and getting just the right angles on what I want to see is made all the more difficult by the fact that the little rotational thing in the top right corner is so easy to use. If this could, somehow, be tied in to the camera, so that whirling it around was made less frustrating, then I would be ecstatic. We’re talking full-on, grin-like-a-buffon, happy as a pig in… the Oink! special. Or something.

I’m starting to amass a number of models – in various states of disrepair, and in various states of “Dear lords, man. What the hell is that meant to be?” – so I’m going to need somewhere to upload them. Most of the places I’ve looked at are set up primarily for the purpose of selling models, and as I want to have them available free it seems wasteful to put them on a commerce-minded site. And a great many models are not my IP, so I’m not wanting there to be any suggestion of commercial benefit in their creation.

I will, however, sell the weird stuff my brain decides needs to exist.

Any suggestions as to where the models can be uploaded, so you can play around with them, would be appreciated.

I think I have the hang of certain things now, so moving forward (and before I get dug into the Land Raider again) I need to get a handle on transitions. This is going to be important for showing the vehicle’s capabilities – doors opening and closing, the wheels turning, and all the other minutia – so it is something I’m going to have to get stuck into, no matter the complexity which Blender makes of things. The best way to understand animating scenery is probably to craft a small title scene of some sort.

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