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Tomb Raider to Tears of Steel: 3D Animation with Blender

3D animation (of the polygon and texture map kind not the 3D glasses kind) is something I've wanted to get into ever since I saw the cut scenes created for the original Tomb Raider game back in 1996.

I've embeded the opening cut scene to the first level of the game below. It looks quite primitive now but back then it was very cinematic for a game cut scene. It was the closest thing I'd seen to the possibility of making movies with strong characters directly on a home computer.

The problem was that I never could afford a computer powerful enough to run the software 3D animation programs require. The system I had at the time could just barely run the Tomb Raider game in low resolution mode.



Seemingly, every time I was able to buy a more powerful system, 3D animation software had progressed and required a system more powerful to run it. Because of this I eventually gave up on 3D animation as something that was accessible to me.

Fast forward to the September 2012 release of the Blender Foundation's fouth short film Tears of Steel (embeded below) and you can see just how far 3D Animation within reach of a home computer has come.



The same day I saw this animated short I immediately placed on pre-order the four disk DVD set of the film. That's four disks for a 12 minute film!

If you're not familiar with the Blender Foundation, they're the organisation behind the free, open source, 3D animation software, Blender.

Blender has been around for a long time with its development beginning as far back as 1995. Over the years I've installed it on my computers but have either not had a system powerful enough to run it or just found it very hard to learn.

One thing is for sure, Blender has come a long way. Which is the purpose of the foundations short films - to showcase just what is possible with Blender. Tears of Steel is the first time they've combined live action footage with 3D computer animation.

I must admit I bought the DVD specifically so I could own the film. I could've just downloaded it free from the Tears of Steel website but I was so impressed with it, particularly with the script and the ideas it contains for such a short work that I really wanted to support the people that created it.

However, if you're remotely interested in 3D animation for film and specifically combining 3D computer animation with live action then this is the DVD set to own.

Aside from the film its self the DVD contains everything you need to recreate the entire film from scratch. Not entirely from scratch of course but as close as you can get without hiring all the actors and camera equipment to film the live action sequences yourself.

The DVD's contain all the source and working files used to create the film. The latest copy of Blender along with a bunch of tutorials showing you how things were created.

There is also the obligatory behind the scenes documentary on the making of the film - which is okay but perhaps not as informative as I would have liked. It captures the behind the scenes fun as well as how things were done. I just would've prefer a little more 'How to' and a little less 'fun' scenes.

I'm not going to go on and on about the DVD as I haven't even had a chance to really look through much of it myself. Just watch the promotional video below.



If your budget doesn't run to buying a DVD you can download a much of the content from the Tears of Steel website (and Blender from the foundation website).

I bought it as inspiration to perhaps try 3D animation again now that I can at last afford a computer that can run Blender. As I said if you're at all interested in 3D animation for film then Blender is a great place to start. Especially since you can find a bunch of tutorials online to help get you started.

I'd suggest a good project to work towards would be to give yourself a freaky robot hand!

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