Blender 3D is a versatile program with many great tools and resources. It’s no wonder why many studios both small and large are using it to fully create their animated movies. You can search for “Big Buck Bunny” and “Sintel” to see examples of the power of Blender.
In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create an animated movie scene by scene in Blender. We will discuss environments, lighting, animation, and text. Finally, we will discuss how to render your scene and export it into a video format.
Creating an Environment
In our scene, we will set up a stage, two curtains, and our character. We will add animation, sound, and camera movement. Once you understand how to complete all the aspects of this scene, you will have the necessary tools to create your own scene in Blender.
Throughout your project, you will be using textures, backgrounds, and assets. This would be a good time to create folders to help keep your project organized. Once you have created your folders, it is time to open up Blender and prepare your environment. For our sample scene, we are adding a stage using two planes and placing our character at the center of the stage. Therefore, you will need a character rigged for animation, and you will also need to add two separate textures.
Let’s start by going to add > plane from the menu on the bottom, and add another plane so that you have two planes in your viewport. Rotate one plane to use it as a back wall. Resize and adjust.
We will now add two textured images. If you haven’t done so, you will need to make sure you have images as planes enabled in the user settings. Now it’s time to add the texture in the materials section of the Hierarchy. We will need a wood texture for the stage and a red curtain texture for the curtains (attached).
Lighting & HDR
Lighting is one of the most important tools in your scene. If you have bad lighting, not only will the end result be dark, but images and objects won’t render correctly. You may already know how to set up lamps, possibly a three-point lamp setup. For the purpose of our scene, we are using 3 spotlight lamps for the curtain effect and HDR (High Dynamic Range) lighting for the scene.
HDR lighting can make your scenes look evenly bright and realistic. HDR maps can be pricey, but they are well worth it. They can bring sharp, vivid lighting to your scene. The makers of Blender Guru provide free HDR maps as well as tutorials on setting it up.
To add your HDR, click the world icon, and then add an environment texture. Under the color, select open and open the .hdr file. You can tweak it in your settings, and you can also change the brightness and horizon lines.
Add a Character
Time to import our character and add animation. Go to file > import and import your character into the scene. You can move your character in object mode by selecting all of his bones.
Tip: Clicking A on the keyboard twice selects all.
Let’s change to the animation view. A great tip for animating is spacing out the keyframes appropriately. The more you space them out, the more seamless your animation will be.
In this scene, I moved my character’s head slightly and opened his mouth in the cue of the soundtrack we are going to use later in this tutorial.
Tip: If you need assistance on animating your character, feel free to check out my article on animating a character in our tutorials section.
Now it’s time to add our curtains. Add two images as planes. Change the material with the file included in this tutorial. Animate the plane so that it moves in and out of the scene.
Moving Our Camera
Time to animate our camera. Blender treats a camera as an object; it can be moved, deleted, resized, or animated. To see where your camera is pointing, go to view > camera.
In the animation menu, set up your view side by side by side. Click your camera and set up your keyframe. You can now move your camera closer to your character, set the keyframe, move it backward, and set it again. See the video below.
At the end of this scene, we are going to add a title. Adding and animating text in Blender is easy as pie. Let’s go to the default window > add > text. If you go to edit mode, you can change the text, duplicate, or add more.
Text is also considered an object, so you can change the color and texture and animate it in the same way.
We are going to place our text behind the stage, wait for our character to sing, and then have the title animate to the front of the curtain while it closes. You can have fun with the text and have it spin, move up and down, etc.
Stay tuned for part two of this tutorial, where I show you how to render your scene and export it as a movie.