Posts about Blender

The travel-size Wikipedia globes we had 3D printed are up on the Wikipedia thank you page!

So you may remember the wall-hung 3D Wikipedia logo we made a while ago when we were helping them out with redoing their offices.

Well, we took that same 3D model (done in Blender!) and we 3D printed small, round versions as well. They came out great!

Wikipedia has a picture of one up on their thank you page right now. Check it out!

We were really happy how they came out. Thanks to Ideate for the local printing services.

Sketches to Sculptures via Blender!

Our friend, Michael Christian, a well-known local artist, approached us with an idea to produce some small, more affordable pieces for a more down-to-earth show he was going to have.

Frank Eyes Frank Faucet Frank Drip

Typically, Michael makes huge metal pieces that look like this:


But he wanted to make a series of smaller pieces that didn't require a crane to put up! After meeting over what was easily possible via our CNC table and workflow, the idea emerged to do these 'portraits' of characters based upon his rather surreal ideas. Michael then produced some small hand sketches with smooth shading and nice highlights.

Frank Drip Sketch Frank Eyes

These sketches were scanned into Photoshop, where they were touched up, and then were brought into Blender. There they were used to produce nice 3D models directly from the sketches. This was quick and easy, taking very little time and producing great results.

First we used the Displace modifier on a subdivided plane, making the image itself 'punch' the plane geometry up. Then, using the Multires tools, we further subdivided the plane. Then we did additional sculpting, smoothing and inflating, while using the image as a brush to bring out more detail where desired. Finally, we selected all the surrounding flat faces, deleted them, and then Decimated and cleaned up the meshes to get nice, clean, smooth models. Each one took no more than twenty minutes to model this way.

Blender Model

Those 3D models were toolpathed in Cut3D, then carved out via our CNC table, taking anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour depending on the size of the figure. Custom frames were designed and cut for each figure as well, which took no time at all, for they were simply beveled edges and mostly flat.

Frank Drip Carving

And then Michael sanded and sculpted the figures further, and then hand-painted each figure and frame.

Michael Sanding

And here are the final pieces, twelve in all, hung in the space.

Each piece was affordable, for the workflow of pencil sketch to CNC was quick, and now Michael can produce more in different runs of colors, sizes, frames, and finishes too.

This was a very collaborative project. We really love working with other creative folks to produce interesting things, for it always pushes us to learn and try new things!

Blender's new Z-Brush like 'Sculpt' mode

Blender's got a new Sculpt mode! This allows for Z-brush like modeling within Blender. It's just in the current testing beta, which you can download from here. But still, this is big news. Seems every time I turn around Blender suddenly makes a huge jump (which is great for us, for we use it a lot here at Because We Can). While it's still in beta, it is usable, and due out in a 'full' release soon. Also, obviously, it's not as feature-riffic as Z-brush is, but for an open-source package it's rather impressive and going to be very, very useful.
turning on Multires
For those that haven't used Z-brush, 'Sculpting' is a special sort of subdivision modeling, where using a mouse or a Wacom tablet (it's pressure-aware!) allows you to add to, subtract from, imprint, bend, stretch, and manipulate a model almost like clay. It's a very quick way to model complex organic forms (and a lot of fun).
turning on Multires
This is what five minutes of playing around with the Blender Monkey resulted in. I thought I'd take a moment and write up a quick tutorial to how to get the new Sculpt mode to work so y'all can play with too (it's a lot of fun!). First off, just open up the new Blender Beta, and add a simple cube to your scene.
turning on sculpt mode
Then you'll see two new things, a Sculpt mode on the Mode: menu, and a new control box called 'Multires'.
turning on sculpt mode
Multires allows you to turn up or down the level of subdivision on the fly, and is an important part of Sculpting. Don't worry about it for now, just know that you have to use it to Sculpt something.
turning on Multires
So let's pick that cube, then click 'Add Multires' and then click 'Add Level' five or six times. You'll see that the cube subdivides into a smooth egg shape.
turning on Sculpting
Now switch to Sculpt Mode, and pick on the new Sculpt tab that appears. Leave the rest of the options as-is, we'll come back to them later.
Then simply click and drag over the top of your cube, and you'll see that it 'draws' on the 3D surface of it. If you've got a Wacom tablet, it's pressure-aware, so if you press harder it will draw more (and vise-versa). Swap the 'shape' setting to 'Sub' instead of 'Add' to carve into the shape instead. Picking the 'Airbrush' option will make the warping happen constantly as you hold down the mouse button, instead of just when you drag the mouse. Size and Strength should be obvious. Then there are the other Brushes and the Symmetry buttons...
Grab pulls the model around instead of drawing on it. And if you pick a Symmetry button, Blender will automatically make the model match on both sides as you edit just one side of it. Great for faces and cars!
setting up a texture brush
Brushes can also be derived from Textures. This is way cool. Click on the 'Brush' tab, and then select and empty slot; you'll get a list of all the Textures in your Scene and you can pick one. Here I'm just using a Noise Texture called 'Tex'. I also upped the subdivision level another notch or two via the Multires. Cool thing with this is that you can turn it up or down as you need more speed or more detail when modeling (and rendering).
drawing with textures
Go back to the Sculpt Tab, pick Draw, then Sub, up the strength a little, and now when you draw on the model, it will take the Noise pattern and apply that directly to the mesh. Too cool!
resultant mesh
Have fun with Sculpting! As you can see it's a terribly powerful and fast way to create very complex models, and a wonderful addition to an already great tool!
Rev: 12/15/06
Hey! This little tutorial made it onto Blender Nation, the best Blog for all things Blender. Welcome everyone, hope you find this a help!

Space Invader Noguchi...

Got this prototype modeled up just the other day, playing around with other ideas that we could do for coffee table bases, and this one was too much fun so we're gonna do it. It's two of the Space Invaders, actually the same one in its two 'positions' it flashes between while flying about sending screaming electric death to those below. Put them together, and they can make a table, ala Noguchi...



The top would be a thick piece of clear plastic, with the underside carved out in the shape of one of the 'space demons' that were painted on the side of the original stand-up arcade game. Here it is shown on a white shag rug (something I'm not neat enough to own, actually, so I just throw them into my renderings instead).


Still not certain what material to make it out of. The above renderings, all done in Blender (new version! woot!) and Yafray (finally getting the hang of that rendering engine), are thinking that it would be made from a thick, shiny plastic. But here's one out of wood, to give it a try...

Watch for this one, soon to be on the store! Oh yeah, we got a working store now! Double woot! 

Reception Desk Photos...

So here's some more pics of the recption desk we finished recently. We're super happy with how it came out! Modeled in Revit, with parts modeled in Blender, and cut via CNC out of sustainably harvested walnut, this was our first big complex job we did via our design process.

We love the red our client choose for the wall behind it, it really makes it pop.

That's the wing, the only part that was modeled in Blender (and cut from solid walnut). The rest was modeled in Revit (and cut from walnut veneer plywood, with the guts just being cheap rough plywood). All the wood in the desk is sustainably harvested. The finish is a nice dark walnut stain with a poly sealer over the top.

We had this hourglass custom-made. Seeing that this lobby design is based upon the Death Jr. game, the client requested an hourglass prop for the table. It's a working hourglass, as in it really takes an hour for the sand to go from the top to the bottom. We had it custom inscribed to say 'To Backbone: Thanks for making my kid look cool. Death' and the other side has their logo on it. Everyone loves it! And I kinda want one for my own desk now.

The client also wanted a classic phone for the desk to go with the overall look. Ebay to the rescue, we found this lovely little bakelite number. It's a great shape and has a really nice action on the wheel. Very satisfying technology, with a nice and heavy receiver and cloth cord.

Y'all will see a lot more photos of this lobby soon, for we'll be finishing up the rest of the job here shortly! There's a logo to go on the wall (that's 80% done) and a display wall we'll be putting up soon. Our first 'big job'! So excited...

Design -> Revit -> Blender -> CNC -> real life!

Here's a sneek peak at a big job we're in the middle of. We're doing a lobby for a local game design company, and we're very excited about it. The overall theme of this lobby is based upon an orginal creative work (a fun PSP game and a neat comic) of this company called 'Death Jr'. It's theme is that you are Death's kid and you've got to save your dad (who's in trouble because of something you did). We loved this image of Death's desk in his study from the comic:

So we proposed to base the reception desk design off of it. We were very excited that the client liked the idea, and we designed and modeled the desk in Revit:

Which formed the majority of the desk. However, we wanted to do some very custom parts for the desk. We mocked up these wings for the front in Revit, but we wanted them to look more carved instead of flat. So I exported the wing from Revit into Blender, and then remodeled it until we liked the look:

And then we exported that model from Blender to the CNC toolpathing software, and then carved it out from a solid chunk of walnut we got from Pals down the street (certified sustainably harvested, Pals rocks). Those extra bits in the model are to save some of the wood, so we're not carving it all away:

Then we sanded and finished the wing. We're very happy in how they came out:

They were a nice touch to the overall desk.

We'll be posting a lot more photos of this when we're done, but here's a sneak peak of what it looks like now:

OGLE: The coolest thing I've seen in a while! (or 3D screenshots-to-model!)

Wow, am I jazzed about this:
It's a tool that lets you take 3D 'screenshots' and save them down as 3D models. So, like, you open up Google Earth, hit a keyboard combo, and it saves what you're looking at as a 3D model. See, here's looking at the area surrounding my new gig:
I left my heart...
And here's that same 3D info grabbed out of Google Earth, Buildings and all, and then pulled into Revit: San Francisco!

It works for games too. Some people are using it to generate 3D models of their Everquest/WoW characters, so that they can clean up the mesh and get them 3D printed. So that they can have a real-world little figurine of their in-game character. THAT'S SO COOL!

(image from the OGLE site)
Or, in my case, I could grab a model from something and then feed it to the CNC-table to make a real-world version!
It works like this, and it only works with programs that use OpenGL:
It's actually two tools, one that can siphon off the OpenGL system calls, and this OGLE tool that can then turn those calls into a .OBJ file.
Whenever your system is using OpenGL for anything, it's sending the 3D info you're looking at to the graphics card, which then draws it on the screen. It does this because it's faster that way than the processor doing that job instead. So once it's set up you hit a keyboard combo that you define to trigger it, it steps in and grabs a 'frame' of info, and then passes it to the OGLE tool, which then in turn turns that OpenGL data into a standard .OBJ file. You then can open that file in any 3D application, and in the above example I saved it out as a DWG using 3D Studio and then imported it into Revit...
Now, I tried going the other way just to see what would happen, and Revit's OpenGL use doesn't seem to work with the OGLE tool. It does work with the OpenGL capture tool, so you can get to the data, so we'll see if it just takes some tweaking to get it to go.
But with Google Earth, you just need to set up the .ini file that the capturing tool and OGLE use properly, and it works like a champ. The two key things here were to copy the system OpenGL.dll file into the Google Earth application folder (after renaming it to opengl.orig.dll) & uncommenting the line in the .ini file that tells it to use that one (as the 'old' one); and to set the scale way, way up, like 10000000000 times up, for the data is *tiny* for some reason coming out of Google Earth.

Blender 2.40 is out...

The new version of Blender came out a little while ago, and man oh man, there is some good stuff in there! Some wonderful updates (modifiers and more), bug fixes (Python scripts work under Windows again), and some really neat things that were donated by Google's summer of code (soft bodies & fluids). My favorite so far has to be the FUR!

Too much fun. Fur tools are neat because you don't have to model those bits of hair, they are generated automatically upon render and based upon a set of controllable parameters. The hair can also be effected by wind, gravity, and other physics if you're an animator. It amazes me that what a few years ago cost many thousands of dollars to do now is available for free via open source. Viva la Open Source!
Blender talks nicely to my CNC software as well, so it's one of my main tools that I'm using, and you'll soon see some Blender -> CNC -> product how-to's soon. It's just great to see this software growing so quickly!

Follow-up to X11-over-SSH post, X11DisplayOffset explained!

OK, so a friend (one of the two people who read this Blog) explained to me more about the whole X11-over-SSH voodoo, and I thought I'd post it here as a follow up. I'm very proud to present that information to the other reader of my Blog, who probably knows it already:
So says my friend SPACEMONKEY:
Hey, I really liked that description of doing the blender  remote stuff (at ); in the whole 'spirit-of-blogging' thing, I might could shed some light on the X11DisplayOffset thing: Hope you've got some coffee...
In X, you're not limited to having a single remote host fooling around on your desktop (or vice versa). If you wanted to play with two, three, or (even) four other machines, all opening up windows on your laptop, X11 does this by having all those machines open sockets up to the Xserver running on your desktop (which the Xclient finds, typically, by a environment variable called DISPLAY). 'k?
Note this is a different model than, say, telnet or ssh; with those, you connect to the server and the server starts talking to you. With X, you run a program on the server and it connects back (opens up sockets) to your client.
Back in the golden days when no one cared about security (ie, when X11 was developed) that was swell. But, when you introduce ssh, it needs to be able to hijack (tunnel) all the socket data between two machines so it can be encrypted before going over the wire (otherwise it's just a quick packet sniff away from the cover of the NY Times).
Okay, back at the server side, you run a fancy program to look at pictures of puppies. The fancy program tries to open up a window, the local X instance creates a socket (just like normal)... but it can't talk directly to your laptop, as you're running ssh. But, ssh doesn't *know* you're running an X11 program and there's no way for it to (cleanly) know about programs you're running that talk to your laptop, so it can't intercept the socket calls it needs to tunnel the traffic back. And, furthermore, you could ssh into one machine, telnet from that machine to *another* machine, and run a program on that third machine which opens a window back to your laptop (all through the magic of X).
As a clever hack, what ssh does is open up a range of *potential* sockets on the server machine (when you enable X11Forwarding) and waits for any program to connect any of these sockets, effectively pretending these sockets are the Xserver on your laptop. When some program (presumably the puppy program) connects to these ports, ssh intercepts the X11 data sent (to open windows, draw pictures of puppies, etc) over these fake sockets and tunnels them over an encrypted socket to the ssh on your laptop, and asks the local ssh to open up sockets to your local laptop's Xserver and pass on the commands the server program sent (and you see puppies!)..
The range of sockets the ssh server opens on the remote side starts at... wait for it.... 6000 + X11DisplayOffset.
Now, how is this useful? If you wanted to have *more* than one X11 connection from your laptop to a given server or if there a lot of other people running X clients off your server, you could avoid getting windows destined for your client popping up on other people's machines by setting X11DisplayOffset to a different value. Or, if you were a paranoid type, you could change *your* X11DisplayOffset setting on the server you're using to a different value than the default of '10', which makes it less easy for crackers to get into your machine.
man, I need coffee now...

Twist Couch Idea

Here's a quick study of an idea I had for a couch. Not too happy with the renderings, I couldn't get Yafray to work out of Blender without crashing on this model, and I'm still redoing my linux machine over to Ubuntu so my Radiance (and hence Brad) isn't working too well yet either... teach me to go fiddlin' when I've got ideas to get out...

The big idea behind it is that it's the same twisted form that makes up the bottom and the back, it's just that one has been flipped over and the two have been 'nested' together.

It's sort of a 3D yin-yang made into a low mod-ish couch. You can see more & bigger images of it here in this photo album.
The form itself at first was inspired by a couch in a Glen Barr painting, but then once I came upon the flipping-and-nesting idea for the back, it quickly diverged away into what it is now...


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