You're blocking ads, which pay for BlenderNation. Read about other ways to support us.

Blending Ahead: Rui Campos and Education

22

MicrophoneAsk anybody who knows Blender well which school they were taught it at, and their reply will most likely be “I wish.” Learning Blender has long been the major sticking point of this great 3D app; the price is very attractive to amateurs, but the interface, unfortunately, is not well suited to those that are not familiar with 3D applications and 3D computer graphics terminology. Further compounding the problem is the lack of professional Blender training available in most parts of the world, even in areas where 3D Studio Max, Maya, and similar training is readily available. Enter Rui Campos, a Java developer from Portugal. You may already know Campos as the head of the Blender Foundation Education Board (BF-Education), and recently I got together with Rui to discuss the initiatives that he and the board are taking to improve the situation of Blender education.

Rui first picked up the Blender in 2002, but promptly dropped it when, like so many newcomers, he struggled to understand it. At the time, words such as radiosity or UV mapping were not part of his vocabulary. He spent some time improving his modeling skills with Wings 3D and Max before coming back to Blender full-time after attending the 2004 Blender Conference in Amsterdam. During one part of the conference, Rui spent an hour watching well known community artist Andy Goralczyk create a model with Blender, and in an “amazing moment,” how Blender works finally clicked in his head. He says of his experience: “I just left the seat, sat down in front of my laptop, and within an hour I had modeled a head.” He continues, “that was an amazing moment I will never forget; I was just amazed at what I had done. For the first time, I had done an organic figure.”

Moments like this are what Rui now lives to create for others. Before coming to the conference, he had pre-arranged a meeting with the Blender Foundation to discuss the state of Blender education and what he believed could be done to fix it. The Foundation was, of course, already aware of the problem, but until that point, had no-one to spare to head up an education effort. After the meeting, Blender leadership created an education board (also known as BF-Education), with Rui Campos as its leader and sole member.

BF-Education Beginnings

The first year was a quiet one for the fledgling education board. Most of the activity circulated about the mailing list: people joining up with the cause, sharing ideas, and making plans for the future. So little happened off-list during the first year that Rui believes that most of the Blender community was completely unaware of the board's existence. Rui also spent much of that year learning every trick, tool, and feature of Blender he could, but focused most heavily on modeling. Why? He says “I wanted to catch up Andy, it was my personal goal” (you may recall that Andy was the one Rui was watching when he finally realized how Blender really works).

Whether or not Rui is now at Andy's level is not a subject this author would like to tackle, but it's clear that by the time Blender Conference 2005 had rolled around, Rui's modeling skills and confidence had greatly improved. He led a workshop on head modeling, a roundtable on education, and a project management session on Blender. The conference was a kick start for the education initiative, which seemed to be losing steam coming into the conference.

Looking Forward

Today the education board is a thriving community working on several projects. Rui will be teaching workshops at the Libre Graphics Meeting in France this weekend (if you can make it, he would love to see you there). Rui is also very excited about two major upcoming projects: the Blender professionals website and the Education World Tour.

The Blender professionals website is the brainchild of the education board. It's purpose is to give those who use Blender professionally a place to voice ideas, share advanced tips and tricks, get the latest industry news, and more. Rui feels that while forums and services exist for Blender artists, developers and newcomers, there isn't much for advanced Blender professionals. The website, which Rui says may launch in as little in three months, will also provide an online place for professionals and companies to meet and make agreements. By providing these services, Rui believes that he will lure those that use Blender professionally out of the woodwork. This in turn should help convince schools to add Blender courses to their curriculum. As of this writing, a website address has not been announced.

The education board's other main initiative is the Education World Tour. As Rui explains it, the Education World Tour will consist of a group of Blender educators globe-trotting to spread Blender knowledge and wisdom. Because most people discover Blender on the internet, much of the community is very geographically fragmented, a problem that worldwide Blender workshops may help fix. Imagine bringing your friends to a day-long workshop where they will efficiently and effectively be taught the necessary skills to use Blender's interface, build basic models, and direct simple movies. If you can imagine that, you are beginning to see the education board's vision. Unfortunately, no locations or dates have yet been announced, but when they are you can expect to read about it here.

In the meantime, the Bf-Education board needs your help! You can join the education effort by joining the Bf-Education mailing list and participating in the meetings held every other week. There is also a #blendereducation channel on irc.freenode.net that you can join. Rui (who goes by “rcas” in chat) needs your ideas. In return, you can expect to get tips on teaching and promoting Blender in your area, scoops on teaching opportunities worldwide, and to have a good time with smart people. The current Blender education situation is grim. Will you do your part?

This article is the first in a series about the forces that are driving Blender on development, documentation, education, and other fronts: where these forces are taking Blender and who is behind them. The author takes no responsibility for any errors or misrepresentations among the meaningless stream of characters that flow randomly from his fingers. Luckily he can blame it all on the voices in his head. If you or someone you know should be profiled as an individual that is helping drive Blender's future, please add a comment to this article and the author will be in touch.

22 Comments

  1. Not to put any pressure on the Blender gurus, (you know who you are ;-), but if full-fledged tutorials are too laborious to write, then an easy alternative is to do video captures so the rest of us can have a similar epiphany to what Rui had. Sometimes watching what others do is more enlightening than having them explain it, and video capture requires almost no special effort on the part of the teacher.

    Vnc2swf is a freely downloadable program that allows you to make video captures of your screen. There's a C and a Python version (personally I've only used the Python version, so I don't know how good the C version is). There are several other prerequisite downloads (python, pygame, pymedia), but I've always gotten it to work without a hitch.

    The workflow is simple:

    1. Start your VNC server and start vnc2swf (choose quality, vnc login, swf filename, etc.).
    2. Fire up Blender and do your stuff!
    3. Press Stop, and vnc2swf gives you an swf animation and an .html file to view it with, so you can immediately view your results in a web browser, or copy and paste all this stuff to your website to enlighten fellow Blender users!

    http://www.unixuser.org/~euske/vnc2swf/

  2. In the last six months, I have had discussions with a lot people, Producers, professional auto-cad users, architects, web designers, IT school teachers, Graphic design students etc. none of them had heard about blender and were would they begin to learn blender?
    Let’s face facts, not a lot of people know about blender and there is a lot to learn.
    THE SOLUTION IS SIMPLE, a video tutorial disc distributed to bookshops, airports, computer stores etc. We’re not selling the program we’re distributing and selling education. The disc should be sold for $10-$15, and the money should go to the blender foundation.
    If the blender foundation can make money out of t-shirts, is it time they sold something that will complement one of the greatest 3d applications on the planet.

  3. There is a website being sett up that will provide online courses and exams in blender.
    The goal is that experienced blender users will sign up as teachers and teach to new students in English or in there own language.
    There will also be the possibility to take exams that will give you some proof that you have skills using blender (nice to put on your cv :) )
    Because of the article above we are launching the site a little ahead of schedule so be nice and don't beet me for rushing it.
    The site is not up yet but it will be today. Ill post the address here as soon as possible.

  4. This is an excellent post.

    It got me thinking. I might just join the movement to spread the word of Blender, and help teach it. My area is a very tech oriented place ( Seattle/Redmond ) though I doubt many people know of Blender here. I think I might try to remedy that. :)

  5. Hi all,

    We know much of the problems in the Education front and right now these problems are being worked on. As part of it much of the Blender workshops done at the Libre Graphics Meeting will later give place to some Video Tutorials that will show as much as what was shown at the event.

    On the tools to capture, I use linux and used a lot of tools to try and get a decent capture, for me vnc2swf doesn't work that great, it is slow and what is generated ins't the best solution.
    For now I use Wink to capture, then save the capture as an image sequence and then import it to Blender, once it is in Blender I can use the Compositing and Sequencer to get what I want done.

    Gerhard, this is great news, although the Blender Professionals Portal has this focus too, but it is very good to have more people and more companies doing it.

    New things are being prepared to get Blender more accessible to all, one of this big efforts is indeed the Blender Professionals Portal, this will lead to a bigger growth of the Blender knowledge and Education. But the Portal will be more then that. But I will give some news about it later on.

    -- Rui --

  6. Adding to Ian r's reply maybe also try asking all well known computer and art magazines to sponsor and include the video tutorial disc. - also sending it to schools.
    Maybe also write idea about how blender could be used for different profiles...
    Mathematics teachers would maybe like to use it to show geometry into practise.
    Chemists to draw molecules animating...
    Students to make cool presentation graphics...
    Physics teachers to show their experiments...
    etc.

    Blender should get more advertising - I never heard about Blender until somebody told me about it. Before I didn't saw it anywhere although I was very interested in such software, only the other packages were just too expensive.

  7. We have wiki pages already ready for anybody wanting to write tutorials on making video tutorials on Windows and Linux:

    http://mediawiki.blender.org/index.php/How_To_Create_Video_Tutorials/Windows

    http://mediawiki.blender.org/index.php/How_To_Create_Video_Tutorials/Linux

    Pages for other operating systems can easily be added (hey, it's a wiki, eh?). If you have experience doing making tutorial videos, PLEASE contribute. Create an account at http://mediawiki.blender.org . Come into #blenderwiki at irc.freenode.net . Ask for write access and myself somebody else will get you that. You will then be turned loose to help out those tutorials in whatsoever way you see fit.

    Thank you!

    spiderworm

  8. Ilmo Canuto Brandt on

    I've been working in a serie of Video Tutorials in Portuguese language. I noted the lack of this kind of material in Portuguese language and decided make something to beggining users. The problem is when I include sound the file size become so big that I can't put it available using Internet. I'm intend to have two versions of this material. The small one with about two hours of video tutorial will be the free trial version and the second one with about 10 hours of video tutorial will be available with a low cost (about US$15) just to recover the investment.

    The idea is let the new users quickly involved with the 3D World. The written tutorials are good but you take a long time to understand exactly where you should click your mouse in the enormous Blender Interce. When you see a video (including voice) telling you easily and exactly where you have to go is quit fast and better.

    Remember that the new user become afraid of this kind of applications because they seams to be so complex in a first view. We need offer something friendly to break this imaginary wall.

    Thats it !!!

    Tio Ilmo - Brazil

  9. Hi Tio,

    please send us a note when you have the material ready; we'd love to give it a review and some exposure here!

    Cheers,

    Bart

  10. I think another group to look into (other than beginners and Blender professionals) are those that are already experienced with other 3D software like Max, Maya, and XSI. I've used them all and I found the transition to Blender really easy (just need to translate terms from package to package). I'm sure that the overhead costs of these packages really makes it hard for the free-lance artist or small studio. I think once they are acutely aware of Blender's power, they'll embrace it.

  11. Hi,

    I'm new Dutch user to Blender (just about one and a half month). So there is still a lot to learn for me. I recognize myself a bit in the Rui story. (3DS Max, Truespace, Caligari)
    I found Blender by accident, but I'm enthusiastic. So much possibilities for free. I allready told you I'm Dutch.
    I try to write a Blender Lessonplan (in Dutch) for first grade students of secondary education.
    Two reasons:
    1/ I think it is great for students to work with Blender because of the price.
    2/ By 'teaching/explaining' I learn a lot myself.

    So far I do have 4 lessons ready. More or less based on the old traditional "block-system box".
    The name for my tutorial/lessonplan will be: "Playing, learning and working with Blender".

  12. Teaching Blender, like any good teaching, requires hefty amounts of courage and a thick skin. I teach a multimedia couse in a public high school in Colorado. I looked at entrance requirements for art schools and trends in media, and decided to include a decent (1 quarter ) section on Blender. The rewards are amazing - when the Blender bug bites, a lot of students will start coming to class and telling me about how they've spent their entire weekends and evenings blending.

    I'm also a math teacher. Watching student math skills grow is profoundly rewarding - there are so many opportunities to teach geometry, pre-calculus, algebra, .... It's amazing. At some point, I'd like to write a text on teaching math with Blender.

    The only downside of Blender teaching in a public school is the nonstop barrage of cheapshots from other teachers. Other teachers have torn into me for teaching "fun" stuff (apparently kids should only learn subjects they dislike), teachers have worked to get Blender uninstalled (it's either a virus or a chat program, depending on who you talk to), I continually have to justify my curriculum to administrators, certification boards, etc. The rewards of what students do in Blender far outweigh the slings and arrows of public education, but I would warn other prospective Blender teachers to get ready for a rough ride.

    I truly believe that Blender will reach "critical mass". Each year, I get more students who are already Blenderheads and are desperate for a course to even get credit for what they already know. I think when there are Blender certifications available, it will greatly help the cause. Public school administrators seem to thrive on paperwork and certificates.

    In the meantime, I'd advise any teacher thinking about teaching Blender to dive in and do it. Start with an after school club, or a short unit. Document the successes you have. When you build your unit plans, explicitly lay out how Blender will support academic subjects (english, math, physics), and if possible, collect some data about student achievement. Most of all, be prepared to change your role as a teacher: Rather than being the ultimate expert on Blender, you'll have to change your role to "chief learner". It's a reality that you will get kids that are more proficient in some aspects of Blender than you are.

  13. Hi Mike!

    If it helps with the "others", take a look at what we do in Central Dauphin High School in Harrisburg, PA. We teach tech ed and do not get any resistance. In fact, we get lots of support with what we do. Two of us will be presenting next week in Baltimore and have a website set up as a portal to our district's site, my manual, Blender, and of course, here.

    The site is: http://www.blenderanimation.com

    Hope it helps

  14. Sound in video is something that often confuses people that aren't familiar with how the whole mess of it works. Even experienced people get lost... Here's the low-down so you know for future reference, and I'm sure this will help others on this subject too:

    |Capturing raw video and sound with something like Camtasia|
    This method works well. In camtasia's case, video is captured in a special capturing codec called TSCC. This is no good for others to play back unless you provide them the playback codec, which is perfectly acceptable since this codec was designed to do screencapture. Sound on the other hand, is almost always best captured as a wav to make the capturing process go smoothly. After your video tutorial is complete, download a copy of VirtualDub and compress the sound to a 128 mp3, prefferably mono, at 44.1kHz using {Audio > Full Compression} then {Audio > Codec} or something thereof. I'm going from memory.

    VNC2swf looks very clean and usable. I'm excited aobut using it :D

  15. Eu começei a trabalhar com o Blender há 1ano e pouco, por volta de Setembro. Tenho estado a evoluir bastante e aprendi baseando-me em tutorials e fazendo experiências. Tentei dar aulas de Blender a amigos e senti-me fustrado pois eles aprenderam em menos de duas horas o que eu demorei meses a descobrir... Abrir-se um site em qualquer lingua, que se dedicasse unica e exclusivamente a ensinar novos "Blenders" era o melhor que nos podia acontecer :)
    E se se organizasse um site em Português?
    Eu abri um blog que por sinal ainda não é frequentado e por isso está um pouco "vazio". Quem quiser contribuir para o seu desenvolvimento é bem vindo.
    Thnks Blender team!

  16. Giovanni Gallo on

    Teaching Blender is rewarding. I teach, among other classes, a class to train teacher for high school. These are people with a strong education (4 to 5) years in Math and Computer Science and are required to attend classes about teaching metodology and so. This year I decided to teach them CG using Blender. Well it's going slowly but you see that "spark" that every Blender lover gets after the first learning thresholds have been passed. Will these colleagues use Blender in their teaching activities in high school? Who knows but I am optimistic.
    I am also looking forward to teach in the coming weeks a Blender class in Catania, (Sicily) School of Fine Arts. I convinced the faculty to let me try Blender instead of Maya. I am sure that beatiful images will come out of this....

    GG

  17. I have been waiting for something like this for quite some time. I use slow speed internet so, opening up html pages loaded with graphics can be quite tedious. Finding a tutorial that teaches me very little can be frustrating to say the least. I have watched the "Greybeard" series of tutorials and was amazed at how much I could learn just by watching and hearing someone vs. reading and jumping between windows on my computer.

    I have been wanting to make video tutorials ever since, but have always lacked the "schooling" necessary to create them. I have watched some video tutorials that was a waste of time because you were only shown some basics and nothing was fully explained. I love to learn from someone who knows the ins and outs of a certain tool, and even shows you a few tricks to them. Once you learn the rules then you know how to break them.

    If I can be of help to creating some video stuff please let me know. I am signing up for the educaction mailing list as I type this.

    Thank you so much guys for starting this side of blender.

    Jason
    ([email protected])

  18. Im new to blender but I have an hnc in cad using max If I can assist in any way on letting more people know about blender let me know

Leave A Reply

To add a profile picture to your message, register your email address with Gravatar.com. To protect your email address, create an account on BlenderNation and log in when posting a message.