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A frame from the transformer landing scene

Pilot dairy – Week 4

Today’s session went a lot better – Blender up on all computers and a surprise package arrived from Richard. Plus, some of these 11 year-olds started spontaneously modelling, sculpting and creating during the lesson setup!

Four weeks in, and things are converging on Blender now. Up to now we’ve been (partly by necessity) avoiding jumping into Blender’s “interface of many perspectives” as we slowly amassed our video assets. But today, we’re finally ready to dive in. IT Support got all the ICT lab’s video drivers updated and the little league of PCs is back where is needs to be.

My special helper Dylan (age 8) was given the job of documenting the session on video and in stills. As the classroom filled up and the session began, I queued up the big surprise of the day – Richard’s completed work on the “transformer landing” scene. I knew it’d go down well because I’d just shown it to the school’s head teacher, Mrs Stokes. She was truly, properly amazed by the quality of Richard’s work and a small group of school office staff gathered around my phone to watch it – all equally effusive in their praise.

We record a short thank you message to Richard for his hard work

We record a short thank you message to Richard for his hard work

We settled down and watched the scene unfold on the lab’s large screen. Richard had added in some nice extras there! Electric flux flashes, some great work on shadows (even on the roof of the building as it landed), reflections in the paintwork – even down to paint scratches. The detail was awesome and the kids just loved it. We watched it over a number of times, going frame by frame for a while, as the kids absorbed the detail and talked about it excitedly.

Eventually I noticed the clock ticking out time away and we shot a quick but energetic thank-you message to Richard, before moving onto something the kids had been itching to do for weeks – actually using Blender!

The kids learn to track

If you’ve been following along you’ll know that my initial tracking attempts on the playground footage had taught me that tracking can be quite difficult – but that we had then made a new set of trackable short sequences in the slightly more controlled environment of the ICT suite, which (I’d tested and confirmed) could be tracked quite well.

Now to pass that knowhow to the kids!

Dylan S (age 11) fearlessly jumps in and adds a few objects.

Dylan S (age 11) fearlessly jumps in and adds a few objects.

I took a few minutes out to copy each pupil’s short video clip to their local PCs. While I did that I became aware that something quite unexpected was going on in the room. The kids were all using Blender already, and some were even adding objects, moving them around , switching views, and in one case, sculpting. All right kids!

Each of the kids loaded up their movie clip editor (time stretches out here as I have to show them a few at a time) and we eventually get to the point where everyone sees their trackable footage in their own Blender.

Fifty minutes burned already – yikes!

I burn up a few more minutes showing them how to trim and then cache their footage in the school PCs rather inadequate 2M RAM (probably about 1M available if that I thought!).

And finally, after over an hour, we have trackers in just about all their scenes! We’re over-running today but nobody cares, the class has ticked some important boxes:

  • killer scene from Richard – check
  • play with Blender – check
  • see themselves on video in Blender – check
  • understand a little bit about tracking – check
  • fun – check

Time’s up

Parents are massing at the door – time to call it a day for this week. Next session we’ll pull in those models from Blend Swap, and I’ll make sure the kids have some fun with that.

Only four more sessions planned and we still have to work through text effects, video sequence editing and rendering.

Will ambition be getting a bloody nose? Only time will tell!