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Preschool Educational Videos Leverage Blender’s Capabilities



Michael Thoenes, Landon Grace and Brannon Hollingsworth used Blender in a video series for toddlers.

Michael Thoenes writes:

Huntsville, Alabama, USA (February 10, 2014) — Three lone artisans: Michael Thoenes, animator, Landon Grace, composer/song writer, and Brannon Hollingsworth, author, have collaborated to create a new brand of educational videos for children: a little something they call the PicTrain™. PicTrain™ is a series of videos focused on preparing children for entrance into kindergarten and beyond. Using original songs, music, and colorful CG animation, these videos convey critical information and learning in a fun, interactive style.

Blender 2.68a was the animation solution chosen to create the CG sequences for the PicTrain™. Blender’s diverse tool set made it possible to choose modeling techniques best suited to each design element in the production. Polygon modeling was used to create the boxcars and the locomotive with Subdivision Surface modifiers applied to smooth out curved surfaces as needed. The train’s wheels were modeled by extruded multiple curve objects and the landscape was created with Blender’s sculpt tool in combination with a Multiresolution mesh modifier. “Working on older computer hardware made it critical to manage polygon count and levels of detail in the production. The useful variety of tools in Blender for modeling made it possible to have good control over the polygon count of the scenes without sacrificing detail for our final HD renders,” says Michael Thoenes, animation producer for PicTrain™.

Final rendering was accelerated using the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) thanks to scripts developed by James Yonna. James’ Blender Foundation presentation “Build your own low-cost yet highly scalable Blender render farm” along with his documentation were excellent resource that helped complete what would have been approximately 66 hours of local rendering in only 2 hours utilizing 20 spot instances on the Amazon EC2 service.

Both the PicTrain™ YouTube channel and website are available online. And soon, the website will be offering compilation DVD's, song downloads, as well as educational resources. The group is already in preliminary talks with cable companies regarding the production of channel-and-network specific content. While their current content is geared towards younger children, toddlers, pre-K and grammar school attendees the trio of PicTrain™ creators are already planning for educational entertainment for older viewers as well.

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