ColdFusion Muse

Help an Aspiring Animator

My nephew is 16 or 17 and wants to become an animation/game programmer. He's been working using a product called blender. It seems to be pretty polished for an open source project. I was impressed with the movie galleries on the site and especially with the "Big Buck the Bunny" and "Elephants Dream" - pretty awesome cgi stuff. Most of you who read my blog know that I am not qualified to do (or judge) anything artistic. My wife won't even let me choose which soap to put in the shower. So I thought I would be a good uncle and ask my readers if they have a take on Blender. Is it "up to snuff" for an IDE? Is there something more powerful or better he should be using (and why)?

He gave me an animation which I have converted to FLV. You can check it out at this link. Take a look and see what you think. I think he has talent. It needs audio, but it's pretty smooth and he's thought of a number of things - backlighting, reflections and shadows etc. What I don't know is if it's "out of the box" thinking or the result of working his way through tutorials. I would appreciate any comments you can muster, but please be helpful and not too critical (remember when you were just starting out :). If you have a comment you want to send without posting it "live" feel free to use the ask-a-muse box in the upper right or email me directly at mkruger at

Devin's Gravatar I've never used Blender, specifically, and could say that it's not really used in the industry either. It's certainly more of a hobbiest tool. That's not to say it's time wasted. It has many of the same fundamental concepts and ways of doing things as the "big-time" software/tools out there. For someone starting off, I'd say it's a great package for learning the fundamentals of modeling/animation and that knowledge could easily be transfered to the higher-end packages once he takes those on.
# Posted By Devin | 4/29/09 10:26 AM
Andrew Penhorwood's Gravatar I have a friend who does industrial animation (building fly-through, exploded parts, etc). From working with Him and a few weeks of playing around with 3DS Max myself I would say any time spent learning one of these programs will help. Most of the low level stuff is generally the same and it will help him get a good understanding about working in a 3D space. I thought his small animation was good.

Also the main level apps (3DS Max and Maya) are thousands of dollars so one has to use what you can get.
# Posted By Andrew Penhorwood | 4/29/09 10:39 AM
Jim Priest's Gravatar I don't have the talents either but from what I've heard is Blender is a great tool. And it's free - Most of the alternatives are quite costly (3DS, Maya, etc). The wikipedia entry for Blender has a few good comparison tables. It also mentions it was used in SpiderMan 2 so that's a fairly hefty endorsement.

I do know there are a few books available and I imagine with most open-source projects there is a great community behind it.

I'd say anything he learns (concepts) can be applied to the more professional tools so he's not going to do any harm by learning Blender first.
# Posted By Jim Priest | 4/29/09 10:42 AM
Mark Kruger's Gravatar Thanks guys... keep those comments coming. I know they are very helpful.
# Posted By Mark Kruger | 4/29/09 11:27 AM
JAlpino's Gravatar Although I can't comment on the usefulness of Blender in the animation space, I do have friends who work for video game companies (environment designers, modelers, etc...) and I believe that they mostly use 3D Max and Maya. All things considered though, I thought your nephews animation was pretty damn cool. I would encourage him to keep at it, even if he isn't using the latest and greatest or industry standard software.... to me that's just tooling which will likely change over the course of his career.
# Posted By JAlpino | 4/29/09 12:25 PM
Nolan Erck's Gravatar I used to write C++ tools for the video game industry. The thing I heard the most was, "it's easier to each someone with a background in art (by that they meant, a degree or school program of some sort) how to do what they need -- be it learn how to use a new software product, or whatever. School will NEVER hurt! So if he's interested, definitely some sort of art school program would be a way to go -- and he'll make a ton of contacts there too.

Most everyone will need a "demo reel" -- basically a FLV or Quicketime movie or something similar showing his previous works (so that if he does anything animation based, they can actually see the animations in action, etc).

Current software packages include 3D Studio Max, Maya, Photoshop, and an ever growing pile of in-house tools (mostly for things like Level Design, video compression, and some other odds and ends).

My brother had success getting in with a game company as a QA engineer, and working his way up from there. It's a good "entry level" job, getting you a lot of contacts at the company. In my brother's case, he just kept bugging the Art Department and learning as much as he could until they caved and got him an Art job. :)

# Posted By Nolan Erck | 4/29/09 4:54 PM
Ksenia Oustiougova's Gravatar He cold try out to intern for us and work on a real project - we're looking for 3D animators right now. That could help him seeing how to apply his skills (and grow them) in the real world.
# Posted By Ksenia Oustiougova | 4/30/09 6:55 AM

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