Tag Archives: blender

What I did in 2017

2017 was a rough year for me and seemingly a lot of other people. Here’s a recap of what I got up to.

Back in April I made RYGCBMK◯, a project which was weirdly central to a lot of what I got up to this year. Here it is if you want a refresher.

I’d wanted to try an abstract short set to music since I went to the Melbourne International Animation Festival in 2015. RYGCBMK◯ was my driver to learn procedural animation with Jacques Lucke’s powerful Animation Nodes system for Blender. I specifically wanted to synchronise abstract animation to a rhythm because I love that kind of synaesthetic stuff and I knew it would keep me going through an emotionally brutal bit of the year.

The end result was not perfect, but I got a high enough average score during the voting process for the Suzanne Awards 2017 to encourage me to try some more in the future. The important part was that there was an end result to speak of. It got done.

And it got done.. with nodes!

Working on RYGCBMK◯ also helped me tune into my artistic sensibilities. Given just shapes and sound to play with, the project took me away from complicated stuff like characters and dialogue to something which let me get a strong feel for the kind of work I want to put into the world.

I made important if not voluminous progress with “A moment in the sun” in its third year of development. I put together a new story reel in January and February, and a short stretch of that is good to go as is even with the big rewrite in May. Flipping Pointy from irascible and foolish to geeking-out cute was a decision that very much happened in the wake of RYGCBMK◯ too.

There was that secret project I can’t show off yet which happened in October-November. Here’s a concept which we abandoned.

The one we actually went with is way cooler.

I learnt Retopoflow this year as well – anyone doing modelling in Blender should grab it. Hard Ops is next on my list of useful plugins to get to grips with.

There was of course AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA which started strong but fizzled. AMITS now has a sweet cockatoo. Here’s AAAAAAAAAAA’s final resting point.

And then there was my first run at Inktober. I started practising with my brush pen and now my inking’s gone from “rubbish” to “slightly-less-rubbish”. This snail got the most likes on Instagram.

#inktober #inktober2017 22. Trail. A snail leaves a trail without fail!

A post shared by S J Bennett (@quollism) on

There wasn’t that much time for art or animation though. RYGCBMK◯’s soundtrack was part of a big jump back into music for me, something I did because I wanted a creative outlet but job stress was (temporarily) making the animation hobby unthinkable. Then it took over.

Just over eleven months after I impulse-bought that ARP Odyssey back in January as a shiny new toy to keep myself distracted, I’m now the owner of a 475HP Eurorack modular synthesiser which I mostly soldered together myself. I don’t need to look at a computer screen to make electronic music anymore (though the PC does come in very handy for recording) and the sound is even produced by old-school electronic components instead of simulated versions thereof. In playing around with it I’ve learnt a lot about how to patch and which modules are for what, but no doubt I’ve only just scratched the surface of what this thing can do.

To me DASYRAC looks sad and naked and unfulfilled without patch cables, but at least this way you can see the actual modules.

This krautrocky jam from early December is one of my favourite tracks I did this year.

I didn’t even know how to solder before I started putting DASYRAC together, but I noticed the kit builds were a lot cheaper so I gave it a try. Now I’m actually happier owning synthesiser modules which I put together myself than modules I bought pre-made, because I’m comfortable fixing my own work when it breaks. Most times when I sit down to prod a busted circuit with a multimeter and pore over a circuit schematic, I learn something new and interesting.

This is the schematic for Music Thing Modular’s Simple EQ with my troubleshooting notes. Looks like I forgot to solder one of the pins on an op amp.

So that’s what I learnt and did in 2017. (Mostly synthesiser stuff, to be honest.) This is what I’m taking away from all that for 2018 and beyond.

In terms of the modular synthesiser and music stuff, the build is almost complete. Once that’s done it’s all about learning my gear better and maybe getting some tunes released on Bandcamp. There’s one or two easy modules I want to have a crack at building for myself too, but that’ll need a little bit of extra equipment – it can wait.

A pyramid monk from AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

In terms of Blender stuff, I want to jump into some short, focussed and contained exercises – animation, modelling, or otherwise. If it’s animation, I source the soundtrack and character rigs from somewhere else. If it’s modelling, I source a design from somewhere else. I go with pre-made assets wherever possible. The key is not giving myself too broad a set of creative decisions to make at once so that I don’t get lost.

By pushing beyond my own creative sphere and not trying to do all the things, it’ll save me time, help me focus on specific tasks, broader my artistic horizons, get me analysing work by other people and build up my confidence and patience again with some experience. With less to do, I can hopefully finish more stuff and get it in front of people to start that all-important feedback loop.

Meanwhile, in the Sun…

As for Gronky and Pointy, I feel like I’ve lived with AMITS long enough that there’s no big surprises left – just a lot to execute on. If I can stay organised and find a good chunk of time every week to work on it (five hours a week minimum is a good pace), it’ll get done. It’ll probably be not the best, but at least it’ll be finished.

The day job may have other things to say about all of this, especially if I score the promotion I’ve been working towards and people keep departing, but we’ll see.

Happy New Year for 2018, and I hope the coming year treats you all well!

How to Blender Conference: Quollism Bumper Edition!

Hi all! I’m not going to Blender Conference this year but I attended Blender Conference in 2014, 2015 and 2016. After reading Looch’s great article, I remembered I was planning to chuck in my own two cents on how to bconf!

Well, ok, more than just two cents. Here’s what’s helpful to know..

My first Blender Conference in 2014. Banner by Andy Goralczyk.

Blender Conference

The Blender Conference is scheduled to run Friday-Saturday-Sunday. This is just the presentations: in terms of hanging out with fellow Blenderheads, it’s potentially a Thursday night to Monday night kind of a deal. If you head over to De Balie on Thursday night, it’s almost guaranteed there will be a few earlybirds already there having drinks and being sociable. 🙂

By the way – if you have a project or other work to show off, keep it on you! I was working on a movie during the conferences I attended; I had a tablet and headphones so I could show a work-in-progress version and get valuable feedback on it from my fellow attendees.

Also If you’re stuck for a way to start a conversation with someone at the conference (e.g. on Friday morning while waiting for De Balie to open), ask them “So, what do you with Blender?”. Easiest ice-breaker in the world!

If you’re on Twitter, your official conference hashtag is


On registering, you’ll be given a badge and a schedule, plus some other goodies. If you signed up for the Saturday dinner, your ticket for that will be included too. Don’t lose it!

As Looch said, once you get the conference program it’s good to plan out where you want to be. I like to circle my picks on the schedule with a pen and keep it in my pocket. 🙂

Ton Roosendaal giving the 2016 keynote.

The keynote and farewell with Ton are no-brainers – get a seat early if possible.

Definitely go to the Suzanne Awards on Friday night. Some films are in contention for an award, and some of them are secret exclusives just for conference attendees. There’s an early and a late screening. I’d recommend the late screening instead because the audience is a bit drunk/stoned and that’s more fun. Don’t forget to vote afterwards!

Definitely go to the lightning talks on Saturday evening. (If you’re giving a lightning talk, try not to go over five minutes!) Do not believe anyone who says they’ll definitely finish their single-person movie project in time for next year’s Suzanne Awards because they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

Aside from that, don’t feel compelled to be at a presentation for every single moment of the conference – the bonus of actually being at the conference is the opportunity to hang around and chat outside or upstairs. (Also, free sandwiches!)

The real conference happens outside..

Definitely try to make it to a presentation that’s about something completely different from how you use Blender yourself. The lightning talks are good for that, but the more in-depth presentations are eye-opening as well. Blender gets used for all kinds of cool stuff you might not even know about!

Do be prepared to occasionally sit through a talk you’re not that interested in to make sure you’ve got a good seat for a popular talk that you _are_ interested in. Hjalti’s animation talk is often standing-room-only. 🙂

Definitely drop in for the Blender Insititute Open Day as well, even if you’re just popping in for a look. The conference is officially over by then so the Blender Institute folks are much more relaxed instead of running around making sure everything’s running smoothly.

You may even run into this guy!


Negotiating the airport

Those flying in internationally through Schiphol may benefit from the following info.

Schiphol is big. There might be a long hike between your arrival gate and customs. If this is your first international flight, I suggest legging it to immigration as quick as your feet will let you. Have your passport ready and waiting. Fortunately, the Dutch immigration people are pretty cheerful and are the nicest first impression of any country I’ve ever had.

Once you get through immigration and customs, you’ll probably have people walking up to you and offering a taxi service. Brush them off, no matter how official their gear is. The proper taxis are outside at the taxi cab rank.

Windmill break! This is the windmill at Brouwerij ‘t IJ, much favoured by Blender Institute employees.

Also right outside immigration at customs, you can pick up a local pre-paid SIM with Lebara. They can pop out your old SIM and activate your new one on the spot. This is worth doing if you’re going to be out and about with Google/Apple Maps or using social media to coordinate meet-ups. Even if you’ve got international roaming on your phone, this might work out a lot cheaper depending on your carrier. Something to keep in mind!

Leaving the airport

Keep walking and you’ll eventually come to the entry hall. There you have the choice of turning left to go to the train station or turning right to find a cab. You should be able to see an automatic kiosk which will let you purchase an OV-kaart (a rechargeable Dutch public transport pass). If you’re going to be doing any sightseeing in Amsterdam or you need to use the trams or trains to get around, you want one of these. Cash or card is fine and you can flip the machine over to English if need be.

If you want to catch the train to Amsterdam Centraal, you’ll need at least twenty euro on your OV-kaart unless you’re paying for a one-off ticket.

There’s also an airport shuttle bus for 5 euros which might go past your hotel. Check ahead of time.

This is Dubai. Dubai is about eight hours from Amsterdam, just over halfway from home for me.

If you want to taxi it up to Amsterdam, you’re looking at around a 50 euro fare or thereabouts. (The way I see it: if you’re at the tail end of twenty hours of travelling and fighting off delirium, getting someone to drive you directly to the front door of your hotel is probably a good idea.) Shuffle past yet more dodgy taxi hawkers with your luggage and veer right to head outside. Follow the directions to the taxi cab rank. I like the Tesla taxis the best because they’re zippy as heck and can even use tram tracks as required. Noice!

Local transport

An amsterdam of bikes.

Amsterdam is a fantastic walking city and an even more fantastic bike city, but it can be a lot to take in at first! If you’re on foot, make sure you’re not accidentally standing in a bike lane like a tourist. Always keep an eye out for bikes, trams and cars. And take care not to fall into the canals!

If you’re doing some sightseeing and bikes are not for you, I highly recommend availing yourself of Amsterdam’s excellent tram system by getting the aforementioned OV-kaart and installing 9292.nl on your smartphone. The trams need you to have at least 5 euros of credit left on your card to use them. Heavy rail between cities requires 20 euros of credit.

Leidseplein by night.

De Balie is just around the corner from a square called Leidseplein. The trams that run through Leidseplein are 1, 2, 5, 7 and 10. The 1, 2 and 5 all terminate north at Amsterdam Central Station, while the 7 and 10 run more east-west.

The Blender Institute building is on Entrepotdok. You can get from De Balie to the Institute a couple of ways. You can catch the number 10 tram directly from the Leidseplein stop, get off at Hoogte Kadijk, wave hello to the Windmill, backtrack the way you came past the service station, walk through the trees and head westwards up Entrepotdok until you see the Blender Institute logo.

You are here!

And since you’re in Amsterdam, you may as well know that the filming location for “Tears of Steel” is the northernmost bridge of Reguliersgracht where it intesects with Prinsengracht. Just don’t freak anyone out with your robot hand if you do go there. It might not end well. (The Oude Kerk where the movie “takes place” is up in the famous Red Light District, but that’s pretty easy to find.)

2015: Tiny Numbat is awesome in space!

Food and drink

First off: there’s coffee, tea and water at the conference. There’s also sandwiches for lunch. Yay, free stuff!

Leidseplein itself is an entertainment district with lots of restaurants, most of which are overpriced tourist traps. On any night of the conference, people peel off in packs to grab dinner. It’s good to follow the lead of people who know the area and therefore know which places are good to eat at. Expect to be constantly invited in by hawkers/spruikers, and don’t feel bad about brushing them off.

A cheap option: vlaamse frites! (Flemish chips) – and yes, that is dipping mayonnaise just like “Pulp Fiction” said.

Dinnerwise, have maybe twenty euro in bills and change to pitch in for the cost of your meal. Tipping is optional. If you’re short on cash, there’s a blue ATM/cashpoint which accepts credit cards on Leidsestraat across from the newsagent.

Said newsagent is also the closest source of cheap-ish Red Bull that I’ve found to De Balie. It also has an OV-kaart recharger in the back. The closest really good coffee I’ve found is at a place called “Sweet Cup”, down Lange Leidsedwarstraat.

I don’t drink so I have no idea where there’s a good pub. I also don’t smoke cannabis so I don’t have any recommendations for a nice gezellig coffeeshop either. 🙂

Local tasty things to eat include stroopwafels and poffertjes.

Be on the lookout for small plastic marsupials when enjoying poffertjes..


English. Seriously. Everyone in Amsterdam speaks English.

Careful of those horens!

The only reason to actually learn Dutch as a tourist is to eavesdrop on people or for pronouncing placenames. “Oe” is pronounced “oo”, “oo” is pronounced like “aww”, “ij” and “ei” are pronounced something like “eye” or “ay” depending on your accent, “ui” is pronounced something like “ow”, “r” is pronounced “GHHHH” and “g” is pronounced something like “KHHHHHHH”. Don’t try to pronounce “Ruigoord” without adult supervision.

“Alstublieft” means either “please” (e.g. “spa rood, alstublieft”) or is said when handing something over. “Dank u wel” means “thank you very much” to someone you don’t know; “dank je wel” is for someone you’re more familiar with.

If you really want to learn Dutch for some reason, Duolingo has a Dutch course.

Literal non-obvious translations from top to bottom: pouch-devil, ant-hedgehog, tree-kangaroo, pouch-marten, bird-beak-animal.

That’s it

May the 2017 Blender Conference is the best one yet and hopefully I’ll be up there again myself again before too long! Tot ziens!

Stories, shovels and scene-referred display

It feels like I didn’t get a lot done this week of 4 to 10 December 2016, but gut feelings are often self-deceiving lies – I got many things done. 🙂

As of Sunday evening, I have four A4 sheets of thumbnails telling a simpler, shorter  story than before. The only extra bit I’ve added since Sunday is a new stinger ending, recycled from an abandoned version of Sombrero that’s about a year old and the version of AMITS I abandoned just before that – except now they’re mixed up together. Yay bus stop!

I’ve been trying to pin down the exact design of the robot as well. It’s tricky. Rather than stay stuck, I created a military shovel for Gronky. Here’s a gallery of renders of the proud new shovel owner.

Why more than one render? The super cool thing this month in the Blenderverse is Troy Sobotka‘s nifty filmic LUTs. Read this for more info on why it matters. Big shout out to Troy for creating the filmic LUTs and evangelising them like a boss!

The Cycles materials in the render are all temporary placeholders, but the wider dynamic range is very welcome. Check out #filmic_blender on Twitter for better examples.

To finish up this week, here is the shovel in “pick mode” tumbling through the air thanks to a rotation pivoting system I rigged into it. Look out! 😀

Shovel FLY!

Microdisplacing something to walk on

4 to 10 September 2016, your time has come…

This week, the day job struck hard – I pulled a 16 ½ hour day on Wednesday and the second half of the week wasn’t much good for anything except catching up on sleep. That should be the last of it for a while though.

Moviewise, I’ve been doing more tinkering. The beginning of the movie feels flat and it takes too long to give the audience what they need to know. So I’m looking for a way to set up the premise which is quicker and funnier and more engaging than what I’ve already got. It’s rough ideas and thumbnails for now. And I’m about to narrate the pitchamatic for the rock sequence shortly after I post this.

Meanwhile, Blender 2.78 is coming out soon (release candidates are available) and there’s two new features that I’m really looking forward to having in a stable version: bendy bones (already being used for Pointy’s eyebrow) and microdisplacement. Jason Schleifer at Nimble Collective has done a walkthrough of setting up bendy bones and Midge Sinnaeve posted a video of the microdisplacement workflow. (Grease Pencil v2 is going to be another killer feature for 2.78 – Daniel Martinez Lara is doing mini-tutorials about it.)

I’ve been looking at using microdisplacement for the desert pavement. This week’s images are example renders: the first image (Pointy going ooh!) uses microdisplacement and the bottom image uses displacement via a bump map (Pointy scowling). In the microdisplaced version, the edge of the shadow is broken up. This is what you’d expect to see if a shadow was falling across rough ground. In the bump mapped version, Pointy’s shadow is straight at the edges instead of broken up and so the ground registers as a patterned flat surface. Not what I want at all.

So hooray for microdisplacement, thanks again for stopping by and I’ll see you next week! 🙂

It’s just 1 to 7 May 2016, don’t be afraid! Have some new art!

Remember last week when I said I was ready to jump into 3D layout again? Turns out that was wishful thinking. There’s a step between pitchamatic and 3D layout which I thought I might skip for expediency’s sake, but it turns out
I don’t want to skip it after all.

That step is the 2D animatic, also known as the story reel or the Leica reel. It’s where the movie starts to get timed out. In the workflow I’m using (borrowed from the Blender Institute), the file which begins as the 2D animatic eventually gets filled up with more and more complete footage until finally the movie is all done. That file, masteredit.blend, now exists. Woo!


To kick that off, I made a spreadsheet for the shots and another spreadsheet for lines of dialogue, based almost entirely on what was in the pitchamatic. I reference the relevant storyboard but the shots have all new shiny names now based on a scene, a camera setup (shot) and which instance of that camera setup I’m up to. If I’m using camera setup 2 for the third time in scene 1, that makes it shot 01_02_C. These will go on to become parts of filenames when I start moving 3D assets around.


Since I already had storyboards and most of the dialogue from the pitchamatic, it took me a single day to rework the pitchamatic file to cobble the animatic together.
Compared to building the animatic from nothing over a couple of weeks, this was much nicer!

The rough running length is
about 3:40. It is no longer the monster seven minute animatic I was facing down a year ago. I
almost cried with relief, truly.

Over the course of the week I’ve been reviewing the animatic to figure out what’s missing, what isn’t timed right, what doesn’t work as well as it could… that sort of thing.
The animatic has shot names attached to markers to make reviewing easier.


And here’s how that works – set Metadata to stamp output, tick Marker..

…then put markers in your timeline. M places a marker, select and Ctrl-M renames it, G while selected moves it back and forth. Noice!

The intercostal strain makes it uncomfortable to sit in a chair for too long (especially after sitting in a chair all day at my dayjob), so I’ve been doing most of the review work from bed. Nevertheless, I have a to-do list! Much of it involves audio work.

This has also been a week for switching technologies. I’ve switched from Bittorrent Sync over to Subversion to synchronise the movie’s file repository across multiple computers. There’s also an ugly but functional Subversion client for Android which lets me export single files to phones and tablets if I want to have the latest animatic in my pocket.

And after Tumblr advertised discount toilet paper at me I’m checking out WordPress. The dream is to host all the things on quollism.com, ad-free, but still allow people to participate.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

Welcome to 14 to 20 February 2016.

Over the previous week I’ve been doing the last of the blocking for my 11 Second Club entry and I’ve begun splining. This week’s video is a work in progress.

In case you don’t know animation lingo: think of blocking as creating individual important moments in the animation; splining is the process of getting the computer to join those moments together.. then hating the computer for how poorly it does it.

In Blender, each of the dots in the Dope Sheet represents a moment on one particular bone, and within each of those dots you get sub-dots for scale, rotation and translation.. and each of those sub-dots has sub-sub-dots for axes.


For splining, I’m going shot to shot, bone to bone and setting the dots to interpolate using Bezier (smooth in/out) with Auto-Clamped movement. From there, I slide keys around in the Dope Sheet to get it looking about right. Then once the Dope Sheet work is as good as it can be, it’s off to the F-Curves Editor to make motion tweaks channel by channel.

Blender has a handy tool called the breakdowner. I use it to make extra keys for ease-in, ease out, anticipation and overshoot.

The breakdowner hotkey is Shift E in 3D View. Once it’s active, mousing left and right moves the currently selected bone/object towards the previous key to the left or the next key to the right. 0% means “copy the key to the left”, 100% means “copy the key to the right”, 50% means “blend halfway between the keys”.


A 50% key can be moved closer to A or B to make the transition ease out (moved towards B) or ease in (moved towards A).


For anticipation and overshoot, I can take advantage of the fact that the Breakdowner goes below 0% and above 100% - it can interpolate “backwards” from the key to the left and “forward” from the key to the right, using the opposite key as a reference. A -10% breakdown between A and B (close to A) will make an anticipation key - the motion will draw back past A before continuing to B. A 110% breakdown between A and B (close to B) will create an overshoot - the motion continues slightly past B before settling there.

Basically the breakdowner is an awesome tool.

Of all the twelve principles this week, staging is the one I’ve learnt the most about. I sat down to study specifically poppy snappy styles of animation and ended up learning about character blocking. And being reminded why I liked Kaeloo so much.


(motion analysis from the Kaeloo episde “Hide and Hunt”)

Also I decided that straight lines are probably funnier than arcs. Probably.

That’s all for now. Have a good weekend!

This is too nifty to wait for an end of week post. 🙂

I was messing around with Blender’s vector blur node. I found out if you separate the Speed pass and zero the last two parameters before connecting it to Vector Blur, you can confine the direction of the blur to a trail. This gives you a nice crisp leading edge and a blurry trailing edge, just like the old cartoon days. 🙂

You can use the Separate RGBA and Combine RGBA nodes on the Speed vector to split it up. If you only connect the R and the G (not the B or A), you get a trailing blur. If you want a forward blur, connect the B and the A but not the R and the G. Connect the Combine RGBA to the Speed slot of the Vector Blur node along with Image and Z and voila – trailing blur!

It doesn’t work super-well on shaded objects but it works pretty great on shadeless ones (YouTube video).

The Blender Foundation has just released Cosmos Laundromat: First Cycle

It’s the latest in a series of Open Movies, produced specifically for the purpose of extending and refining Blender’s toolset in a production situation and pushing it to its absolute limit. To recap previous Open Movies: Elephants Dream was surreal and dark, Big Buck Bunny was cute and funny, Sintel was epic and heartbreaking, Tears of Steel was pulpy and action-packed.

This time around, things get beautiful… and sheepy.

Watch it in 1080p or you’re wasting your time.