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A product promotion made in Cycles.

Stephen Thomas writes:

My name is Stephen Thomas and I've been freelancing as a motion graphics artist for just over a year now. My main tool of choice used to be After Effects, but now I use Blender about 90% of the time. You can see the page for this project on my website for a little bit more information.

I think Blender is a great all-round application for GCI work, having used it mostly for corporate work and music videos in my freelance career so far. I'm currently working on a music video which makes use of the VFX tools recently added. The tracking tools are insanely good, putting the simple tracker bundled with After Effects to shame. It's insane you can get this quality of tool as an open source application. As Blender is the staple application in my toolbox, I make a monthly donation to the blender fund to make sure developers can keep on doing the great job that they're doing. I wouldn't have the career that I have right now without their hard work, so I think it's only fair to give something back.

For this piece, I made use of the Cycles render engine, using a small render farm of CPUs and GPUs that I have on my macs. What I love about Cycles is the speed you get when you need it, but also the quality when rendering the final shots. On this project, I simply rendered out a low resolution version with a low number of passes, making the render of each frame around 1-3 seconds. This was hugely helpful in working with the client, as it quickly gave a good idea on the look and motion of the piece, keeping everyone up to date and happy. I did some OpenGL renders to start with, but the time saving was negligible and lacked the very important visual indicator of how the finished graphics would look. For the final renders, I simply cranked up the resolution and passes.

Going forward, I'm always looking to take on new challenges and have made a start on character animation/modelling/rigging. My goal over the next couple of years is to specialise in VFX and I hope Blender will be along for the ride.


    • Nathan Metzler on

      I agree. I have no idea why we cater to idiots who are too lazy to learn correct spelling and grammar.

        • Well said. The lesson is that just by staying on topic (i.e. commenting the art work, not the product) one can avoid making a fool of himself. Oh no! I'm off topic! ;)

          • well that's great and all but if the software does it's job properly it should help you mind your p's q's b's and d's more easily if you have trouble with that.

      • While I agree learning to spell is important, sometimes when you're typing really fast it's easy to mess up a word. Having it autocorrect would keep you from having to go back and fix your typos.

      • It not easy to have dyslexia and it feels bad when folk call me lazy or even stupid for that, so having dyslexia and then try to write in English is not easy and folk not even demand that we shall spell every word correct, they even demand correct grammar to stop calling us for idiots.

        This program did first look good and I become happy and had hope it should be free and Open Source, but it was expansive and closed source so I do not understand why it is on this blog even the owner of the blog has the right to post whatever he want.

        • Howsabout just focusing on the part that actually matters... you know, the use of Blender? Because that's the reason why it's on this Blog?

      • iz cuz mozt uv uz iz abell tew git bye witowt purfekt spelinz ahn grammer.

        everyone has their weak points and lets face it, for most general use situations only grammar nazis even care that much.

        other than the tracking most misspelled words, to show what someone needs to work on, this is actually catering to the grammar nazis. when everyone else has this the grammar nazis don't have to see everyone's slip ups here and there.

        though i gotta say it'd be nice if they made something catering to the "idiots" which grammar nazis would use so they wouldn't come off as douche bags so often when surely they're just trying to help.

        • Nathan Metzler on

          Wow, people, sorry. I actually just came back to make a comment about how the actual blender work was great and that it probably didn't matter how good people could spell.

          When did I ever say that people with dyslexia are idiots? I meant no offense to people with reading disabilities.

          Personally I value people who are professional and can spell correctly. I enjoy programs (such as blender) that have interfaces that are actually made for people who can think about what they are doing, and not for people who just want everything spoon fed to them.

          • that's kinda funny since neither of us are being professional by calling people names. though in my defense i did try to give the benefit of the doubt as to if said individuals actually were douche bags or just seemed that way sometimes... not that it was really professional either way. =)

            blender... not spoon feeding... hmm guess that's all in how you look at it. i mean if you wanna be an elitist snob certainly blender has plenty of features that you could call spoon feeding.
            if you don't want to be an elitist snob then you're probably just going to say they're meant to speed up production and make things easier.
            ask any old school 2d animator who draws things frame by frame or any stop motion artist, automatic tweening is like a gift from the heavens.
            so is the ability to play through an animation sequence without having to wait for a big detailed rendering and then being able to just tweak/add keyframes instead of completely redo parts of or the whole sequence.
            lets not mention being able to quickly try different camera angles or lighting setups.
            wait what about all the modifiers? mirror your modeling over the x axis? beveling edges?
            you know i really can't help but think that most of blender's functions are made up of things to generally make our blender lives easier.

            yes 3d modeling/animation brings it's own set of issues too but it certainly makes a lot of old issues go away.

            speaking of which someone would certainly be able to focus more on the big picture and produce more writing if they're not constantly distracted by red underlines or correcting themselves... you know like this fantastic ad says.
            i also find it hard to believe that repeatedly seeing a list of their misspelled words wouldn't help someone learn to spell those words correctly... also brought up by the ad.

            i know this is all off topic and i'm sorry to everyone having to scroll through this wall of text.
            as someone else said already the visuals are all well done and easily readable. everything all together does a good job of selling the product. i was thinking of grabbing a copy for a few writer types i know who not so rarely will ask how to spell a word... until i saw the price tag which was too expensive for my wallet right now.

          • Thank you Nathan. I should have better highlighted that this software is aimed at people with learning difficulties, such as Dyslexia, but wanted people to focus on the graphic rather than the product itself. I'm glad you thought the work was great, very much appreciated.

      • Or maybe perhaps they're just catering to having an aid, even for the most diligent of writers. We just live in a digital world where we're constantly flooded with text on some digital screen at every turn.

        It's easy to let our eyes miss a mistake while we're writing, and sometimes even with proofreading, we as fallible human beings can even miss that usage "your" instead of "you're." Making an honest spelling or grammar mistake every once and a while is common, even among the most diligent of perfectionists.

        This is just a useful tool to help us have someone less worry as they work. It doesn't necessarily mean the writer is an idiot, or that this product is useless. If anything, if someone's interested in this product, then obviously they do have a concern for better making sure their writing is correct.

        No need to get on your high horse about it.

    • Stephen Thomas on

      Yup. Although I just handled the visuals. The production company that I was working with used Premiere to add music, sound FX etc.

    • Stephen Thomas on

      Yes, BI would have been quicker rendering, but I used Cycles for a couple of reasons:

      - Material and lighting setup is much faster
      - The difference in time between rendering out the low resolution frames in Cycles and BI was insignificantly small. The final renders I could just set going over night.
      - BI is on the way out, no longer being developed, so I wanted to make sure that Cycles was practical for creating this type of graphic.
      - Motion blur is much much much much better in Cycles compared to the post processing Vector blur in the compositor. It gives a much better result and I didn't have to separate objects out into individual layers to get a clean vector pass.
      - Cycles is great.

      Just because Cycles can produce some amazing photo-realistic renders, doesn't mean that it shouldn't be used for anything else.

      • Thank you for your Answer.

        But, just because BI no longer being developed, doesn’t mean that it dont make sense to use it. ;)

        To set up lighting and materials for this kind of scenes are not complicated. Use "shadeless" in the material, enviroment lighting and a buffered shadow spot (when shadows needed).
        Uncheck "raytracing" in the render propertys and you can render one scene per machine (no renderfarm) in full resolution during the lunch break.

        But its your decision and Cycles can do the job, I know. But I think, you take a sledgehammer to crack a nut ;)

        • "But, just because BI no longer being developed, doesn’t mean that it dont make sense to use it. ;)"

          For an existing project? Probably. But for any new project that's precisely what it means.

          BI is obsolete and the sooner you start adapting to Cycles, the sooner you'll reach the same proficiency in a render engine that actually has a future.

          • It isn't obsolete if people are still using it. Development just stopped on it, that's all. Cycles is the future, but Blender Internal is still useful (even if it's not useful to you personally).

            For instance, you can use BI renders for quickly rendering out pre-production work that doesn't require the realism of Cycles, such as animatics, or quick set-up for animation styles that don't require realistic lighting, such as simple 2D animations styled like paper cut-outs.

            Also, if one plans to use the Blender Game Engine, they'll need to use Blender Internal for most things. Maybe Cycles will be integrated with BGE, but for now and probably a while, it's largely dependent on Blender Internal.

            Why are folks so ready to call everything previously-established as necessarily "obsolete" simply because something new has come along? If the previously-established still has a use, it's not truly obsolete yet.

          • It is obsolete. The technology underpinning it is antiquated, the theory the technology is based on has been superseded, the code-base itself is a mess and Sintel proved there just wasn't any further BI could be pushed. Whether or not people still use it is really besides the point! BI was obsolete before Cycles was even announced so it's got nothing to do with people jumping on the band-wagon of a shiny new toy.

            It's also worth pointing out that this discussion has been sparked by a production that didn't use Cycles for realistic rendering and whose creator specifically noted Cycles success in this role - but most of the criticism aired so far (the anonymous post above being a perfect example) seem grounded in the idea that realistic rendering is the only thing Cycles is good at and should be used for. There's no real reason why Cycles couldn't be used in the roles you mention, though I accept that in terms of raw speed it still has some catching up to do.

            You raise an interesting point about the BGE; I don't think Cycles will be able to replace BI in the BGE. Not sure what that means for the BGE in the long run.

        • Thanks. BI does definitely still have it's uses and I have used it for many of my other projects, but there were also some materials which were a bit more complicated than a shadeless material in BI, like the icons on the logo surface in the last shot. I'm sure I could have re-created that look in BI, but, to be honest, I've spent so much time learning the material node system for Cycles that it's much much quicker and more intuitive for me to create the desired materials in Cycles.

  1. @Stephen, I watched the video without the sound, didn't look at the subtitles and still understood what it was about. I guess it means you did a good job on the graphics!

    • Actually, "encyclopedia" can be alternatively spelled "encyclopaedia." In fact, "encyclopaedia" is the original English spelling of the word. In the most other English-speaking countries outside North America, it's spelled "encyclopaedia." In North America, it's "encyclopedia." In either case, they're both correct spellings.

  2. Sorry for this; I cann spell, buut you ccan not rread it jjust ffor mmy spelling ddoo nnott livve upp tto youur exxpetation off aa ccorrect gamammar :D

  3. Nice work and thanks for the insight into the production process; particularly in the practical uses of Cycles.

  4. Thanks for sharing your blender project Stephen. I've considered using blender for motion graphics, but never had a project to test it out with. I would love to see a break down and more of your pipeline. I'm pretty tied to aftereffects for motion graphics. I have a clear workflow in mind. I would love to break away from it.

    Thanks again for sharing

    • If you've not used Blender too much up to this point, I'd say just take the time to learn it, well worth it. There's a very steep learning curve when starting out, but once you learn the shortcuts and know where everything is, it's amazing. After Effects is a great tool also, but I was always put off by the way it handled 3D. Fair enough, it's not supposed to be a 3D application, which is why you have Blender ;)

      I'd say try out your workflow on a small project where you have a lot of wiggle room for deadlines. It's best to put these things to the test in a real environment, as it pressures you to get what's needed done, whereas if it's a personal project, you could be put off by something and push the project to the sidelines, thinking "I'll learn the compositor later".

      My workflow varies a lot between projects depending on what's needed. For this one though, script was written up by the production company. I then storyboarded roughly what was to be shown at each point of the animation. Then modelling, followed by materials, lighting and then animation. With this being such a small project and with me being the only person creating the visuals, I created all the scenes in one blend file. This allowed me to quickly copy objects between scenes, duplicate scenes to save set up time for similar shots and to share materials throughout the whole project. Then, just went through the process of rendering out low resolution renders to send over to the production company and client, getting feedback and making changes. Timing was a biggie also, having to have the voiceover linking up with what's being said. For this, I simply noted the time of key points in the voiceover and made sure the animation hit those points when needed.

      I'd recommend the Animation Fundamentals training from BlenderCookie.

      It's aimed at character animators, but it has some invaluable information on animation in general. Learning the Graph Editor was especially a huge help in work such as this.

      All the best.

    • Yes. Whenever I get paid to make any of my work, my first thought is "how can I create a gimmick which will grab the Blender community's attention".


      I get absolutely nothing out of sharing my work with others, other than feedback. I have no advertising on my website, no need to drive traffic there as I make my money with work, not advertising revenue. I'm also booked up with projects at the minute. I couldn't take on any new clients, even if I wanted to.

      I just thought it was an interesting project to share with the community. I use Blender heavily for the work that I do and I thought it would be nice to let others know that there's someone out there making a living off of this great application.

      Read back your comment and then think about how there's an actual person behind the work you're groundlessly slating in a nonchalant fashion.

      • Stephen Thomas on

        "We are seasoned here" I'm sorry, but I'm sure most of the people on this website wouldn't want to be grouped into your "we". I do pity your trollish behaviour though, you need to get out more, make some friends, stop hating yourself. You seem like an angry angry person. Come to Cardiff, I'll buy you a coffee and we can talk about all the amazing work that you do which is flooding the BlenderNation website. I'd love to pick your brains as to how to attain your level of CGI mastery.

        Also, I got the hate email that you sent via my website. A bit gutless to not use your real email address, but hey ho, wouldn't expect anything less from a troll...

  5. First of all, I would like to say that is a very well done piece of work. Second, I would like to say to everyone, this is about a commercial made with Blender, not the product itself. In my eyes, this product is actually smart. I, myself, was tempted to go to the website the commercial advertised... And I did. However, I'm running Linux, so I can't try the product and say it's good. But back to the point, the person who made this commercial isn't looking for feedback on the product, but the video. Think about this before you comment.

  6. I liked the video. Very well done.. If I had to nit-pick.... the corrected version of entreprenure should be entrepreneur. Now if only Blender had Global Auto Correct integrated..... :)

  7. I like seeing usage of Cycles that doesn't aim to for realism, just to show that Cycles is useful for any kind of job. A lot of motion graphics projects for clients don't aim for realism, but place emphasis on clarity in showing the product with as little distraction elsewhere as possible.

    Like Stephen stated, using the Motion Blur with Cycles produced much better results and gave him more control than using the primitive motion blur with Blender Internal. I see that some folks here were rather disappointed or critical, expecting to see this spectacular display of Cycles realism, but I think sometimes people forget that sometimes it's the small reasons that can be reason enough to use the larger tools.

    With this all said, this is a well-made video, Stephen. I think it communicated this product well, and it was enough to make me check out the product's website, which is good (even though I don't plan to acquire this product, but at least if I wanted such a product, I'll know one to look for, which means your video did its job well).

    I hope some of these criticisms that completely miss the mark don't get to you too much. Thanks for your sharing this yet-another example of Blender and Cycles usage in the professional work environment.

    • Well said, Macro Man Jr.

      I also like how the animation explained the logo. At first glance, the logo seems like it would be for a network or even navigation tool, but after watching the advertisement the lines and circles make sense. The visually-clean style is rather appealing, as well.

    • Thank you Samurai Jack. The negative feedback doesn't phase me, but to be honest, the only truly troll-like comment has been from Hatched, most of the rest has just been questioning my use of Cycles for such a project, which I think is a very fair question.

      As an example though for using big tools for seemingly simple jobs, did you know that South Park is made using a 3D application (Maya I think)? Matt Stone or Trey Parker likened it to using a digger for making sandcastles. Fact of the matter is, a whole lot more can be done with Cycles than what I've done with this video, but not every use of Cycles has to push its strengths to the limits. It's a tool and I used it because I thought it was the best tool for the job.

  8. Interesting, did you also use freestyle for this? Sorry I do not even know if freestyle can be rendered with cycles :)

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