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Peter writes in the comments about Blender. He and his mates did an independent study to learn Blender, an open source software platform for 3D design and animation. The results of their work is a clever short film titled The Night of the Living Dead Pixels. Their video animation was awarded best short film at the 2007 Suzanne Awards for creating with Blender.

Via email, Peter says of the project:

We (myself, Jere Virta and Jussi Saarelma) are currently fourth-year 3D animation students at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Vantaa, Finland. As part of our degrees we are required to do five months of internship.
About two years ago, towards the end of our second year, we were approached by our lecturer Kristian Simolin (who I by the way happen to know follows the Make blog…), asking whether we wanted to spend the summer months with access to the school computer labs, teach ourselves Blender, create some sort of animation to prove we’d done so, and have it count towards our required internship. The three of us had collaborated on some animation projects before, and found out that we worked well together, so we jumped at the chance.

A really great aspect of their project is that they hit it from so many different angles. Sure, they learned some newfangled software, but they also documented their process. They blogged about the making of the video, telling of their successes and setbacks, they created a website, they posted their work online. When students go through such great effort to tell the story of their project’s creation, not only do they learn the skills of the project, they also provide a path into the ideas for the students and teachers who follow them. Their YouTube account has many short segments of their work, showing the evolution of the project.

Peter again:

For our animation we wanted something combining our love for videogames, zombie flicks and offbeat/poor humour. Arriving at a concept we all could agree on was pretty easy.

At that point we had previous experience with using 3ds max, and for this kind of work we found that Blender had no problems standing up to it. It’s lightweight (loads in seconds, and even runs off a USB thumbdrive if you want), full of features (even has its own integrated video editor and compositor, in addition to the 3D tools), and once you get past the initial hurdle (which really isn’t as steep as some people would have you believe) the user interface lets you work very efficiently. We found the user community great for support, and the fact that you can get more or less directly in touch with the developers to ask about possible bugs and the like is pretty amazing

From their blog:

Jussi, Peter and Jere, three 3D Animation students at Laurea Polytechnic, Vantaa, Finland are doing the internship of their dreams over the summer: Learn the free 3D software Blender, produce a short animation and keep a blog about what spending the summer in a school computer lab feels like.

Peter suggested the forums as a good place to get help on learning Blender.

More from Peter:

In addition to learning to use Blender we learned a lot about project management and the importance of proper planning, mostly through making every possible mistake. :) Originally the script for our animation was much longer, but once we realized how much more time everything was taking compared to what we’d expected, we had to scale back. Night of the Living Dead Pixels is what we had after about three months of work, though. An extra nice touch was when we got an early version of it off to the Blender Conference in Amsterdam, where we won the Best Short Film category at their “Suzanne Awards” festival.

We’ve since used Blender for other 3D work, both in- and outside of school. At the moment the three of us are working with a Finnish TV channel to produce a series of channel idents, using Blender as our main tool.

What independent projects have you done in school? How is learning independently from and with your classmates a great or troubling way to work in school? How has social media positively impacted your school and learning and teaching? Do your teachers read MAKE? Do your students read MAKE? What can you use Blender for? What do you learn during your vacations? How hard is it to use it as a 3D design tool for digital fabrication? Do you have a great project to show off? Join us in the comments and contribute your photos and video to the MAKE Flickr pool.

Chris Connors

Making things is the best way to learn about our world.


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