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Teaser For "Probe", A Short Film Using Blender 2.5 For VFX


Basically, I'm leading up a team of students at the Digital Media Center, a part of East Tennessee State University, for a short (around 10 minute) visual effects film called Probe. We're using Blender 2.5 Alpha/Beta (coupled with After Effects CS4) for our Visual Effects.  And how exciting would it be to couple Blender's capabilities as a compositing tool alongside the excellence of Durian? Pretty cool.

Production Blog


  1. Very nice. Few comments, though. I'll concentrate on the object hitting the building, which is obviously made up of a still with composited particle animation.

    Why don't the trees move with the force of the impact? Why is there no motion blur on the camera shake (which, in my opinion, looks a little extreme)? Why is there no visible damage to the roof of the building? Why is there no debris from the impact?

    Have you thought of light from the impact showing through any gaps, windows, doors, etc.? If you add light, don't forget that it will illuminate other objects too.

    Look, I really like what you're doing, but if you're serious about digital FX you've got to ask yourself these sorts of questions. The teaser as it currently is will only really stand one viewing before the fakery becomes obvious. But you are definitely heading in the right direction.

    And remember - if you're compositing a 2D shot with 3D footage, use Photoshop to pull it apart into layers. You'll gain way more power in AE if you do.

  2. Really good teaser !

    I'm agree with jwrl. Just little things miss to get the shot really nice when the object hitting the building.
    The smoke stay yellow/orange after the impact near the building roof and this bug me a bit. This is just
    my constructive comment and hope you take it in a good way!

    Nice work overall !

  3. This is magnificent!!! but please change the voice of the narrator as there
    is a lack of immersion, try a female voice.

    However Incredible workout!

  4. This is a cool idea, and I'm anxious to see the final.

    But I have to ask... if you have After Effect CS4, what in God's name do you need Blender for? Just to say Blender is in the mix? I confess I have never used Blender for its VFX capabilities... but I can't imagine what it does better than After Effects.

    I can see doing this as a Blender project only -- to show what can be done in Blender.

    I can see it being done as an After Effects only project -- because, well, Pros use AE a lot.

    Using Blender *AND* AE...? I'm a little confused... why?

  5. Jordan Harris on


    Blender and After Effects are hard to compare, because AE is a 2D compositing app with some 3d plugins, while Blender is a full-3d animation package. A lot of things in the short film, like the probe itself and the Kestrel, could only be done in Blender.

    ~ J

  6. @MarkJoel60

    My 2 cents...

    Blender and After Effects are both used for graphics and compositing, but not of the same exact sort. One's focus is on the 2D the other 3D, It's a bit like comparing sculpting to painting. Also the main point I think is that they both have their strengths, for instance I'd much rather use blender for particles, smoke, clouds, or (now w/2.5+) fire. or effects involving heavy physics sim, plugins like particle world are great and everything but without a couple grand for the easy to use studio quality plugins it can be a bit trying, imho, to get something of good quality out of the standard particle world, when I could whip something up in blender in no time. I'd think of them less as competing compositors and more like different software to use in different stages of a production pipeline. For me at least, After Effects is more for "post production," it has some pretty cool 3d plugins, don't get me wrong, but it seems like they're for patch/touch-up work for those effects you've done in an earlier program.

  7. noticed: the contrail effect on the crashing probe needs fixing. A shortened contrail is revealed with the camera shake. Just begin the contrail earlier.

  8. @Jordan Harris: "A lot of things in the short film, like the probe itself and the Kestrel, could only be done in Blender"

    So there is 3D Modeling and rendering in addition to the 2D VFX? OK... that makes more sense to me then...

    @PsIan: As I said, I don't know Blender's VFX capabilities at all... Someday maybe... but, wow, can I do a lot of things in AE. Combined with Photoshop, it's amazing what 3D stuff you can "fake."

  9. Hey guys! Thanks for the great comments. To clarify on a few points:

    After Effects CS4 would be a super lame modeler. To great highly detailed meshes that would look good on camera would be a bit near impossible. Rather, we're using Blender for all our 3D elements, and then combining them with After Effects. For example, we would render out an animated scene of the probe in a .tga sequence with the background set to premul/alpha so that anything that isn't a mesh would be transparent. Then, we would add that .tga sequence into after effects and drag it onto the video. This would be two layers, and so much more easily done than just using blender alone. Then, effects like color correction, noise, blur, and so forth would be adjustment layers in AE.

    Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your attention to detail! Yes, someday if we were a full fledged production studio, I would love to be able to do an intensive visual effects scene. As for now, we're four students doing this on no budget. So, we'll do this as best we can! I think I'm going to take a bit of your advice and make some changes to the shots. This was, though, a teaser trailer. The final film will look a bit different.

    Yeah, so glad Nate is doing this too. He's got some serious talent.

    More clarification: At our school, everyone uses Maya. They say it's the best. All four of us can't agree on paying thousands of dollars for a piece of software that works (if you're lucky) for 3D. As we are all blender users, we wanted to use blender to show the world that, among everything else, it works for visual effects too!

    Thanks for your support! Keep up with the production blog!

  10. Guys, I look forward to seeing what you can do when (not if) you get a budget. You give me hope for the film makers of tomorrow.

  11. hmm... Well blender's nodes can do much but I agree that they aren't suited for everything. I just hope Ramen would come to windows...

    @MarkJoel60: "So there is 3D Modeling and rendering in addition to the 2D VFX? OK… that makes more sense to me then…"
    It's more like 3D modelling and rendering suite having 2D VFX addition.

    Btw. I haven't tried maya but the more I see it the more I dislike it. For example, one guy was talking about how the automatic weighting was so awesome and all (not all maya users agreed with him though). All he did was put the bones in and hit a button... Just needed some weight painting to fix the fingers following the wrong bones. I just had to LOL... In blender it's just hit the button and it's done. For example, It works even if the lips are closed and some of the vertices overlap. No rogue vertices. I've got nothing against maya though and I hope they "fix" it I they haven't already. But it just isn't for me.

    But anyway. This project has quite some potential and I can't wait to see more. :D

  12. @ jwrl + JF:
    Really "great" comments. And even if you're right - please show me something of your work which comes even close to 10% of the quality of this preview.

    Only silence? How poor.

  13. @Genscher: "even if you're right" ???, If you can't observe whether a comment is nonsense in relation to the images, why do you ask for an other set of images from someone else for you to judge, when you don't seem to be able to do so...

    @Joel Gerlach: Well..., you teased me :)

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