MAKING OF: A Cassette Tape
by Benno Wagner


As technology develops further and further, some objects being used every day by millions of people suddenly become functionless. Then, all of a sudden, they become symbols, artefacts of a certain episode of time. That’s what happened to the good old cassette. It reminds one of youth, good music, mixtapes, being on the road and hanging around in front of a radio waiting for some special song with your finger on the record button…

Let’s celebrate the memory of this ancestor of all portable audio devices and animate the winding/ unwinding of a cassette tape!

Setting up the Scene

First of all, set up a basic studio-like scene. I wanted the Cassette and tape to be stretched out on white paper. Thus I added a plane and gave it this Material: Slightly grey colour, no specularity and a procentual marble-texture (noise-dept: 4) affecting the normal value. Two spot-lamps with somewhat old-fashioned buffered shadows, above all a sun and a forth lamp close to the floor illuminate everything.

No tape without a cassette, so let’s start with that. First, we need simple cassette-sized box, with a Bevel-Modifier to get some rounded corners.

Enough modelling, let’s just add a photographic texture of a cassette. I tooque a picture of one I found at my parent’s phono shelf. Pretty retro, hmí

As this scene will mostly be shot from a bird-perspective, the lak of complexity of the cassette doesn’t have to bother us.

The Tape

Now it’s time for the tape. First add a path.

Grab and move the points and add some new using CTRL-LMB to define the word/ phrase/ symbol you would like to lay out with tape. Remember: Sharp edges and crossings are quite unlikely in reality, so better avoid that (Trust me, I made some studies with real tape;).
It is useful to write out the word without lifting your pencil off the paper first!

I picked up the word “mix” to celebrate the ancient tradition of creating elaborated mixtapes. Finally, the endings of the path should touch the edge of the cassette. Don’t forget to name the path, like “mix”.

Well, that’s the path, now we need the tape itself. Add a Plane and delete two vértices.

Select the remainig two and press “Subdivide” (->Find it in the Editing buttons) about 8 or 10 times. Now with all vértices being selected switch to front view and extrude them and give them the height of about ¾ of the cassette.

Next, we need two modifiers. First, add the Sub-Surf modifier and adjust it as your like. Second, add the Curve modifier. Fill in the name of your Path (in my case “mix”).

Now, with the path selected, clik on CurveStretch in the Editing buttons. The result will be shocking first! Chaotic lines all across the place!

That’s because something’s wrong with the position of the mesh-tape object. Select the mesh-mess and move it along the y-axis until the mesh perfectly stretches along the path. You can increase the Sub-Surf value of the mesh if it looks somewhat edgy.

Animating the tape

Now, everything is set up to begin with animating the scene! First of all, we turn the Path into a softbody. Select the Path, choose the Objects-buttons and than the Physics-buttons. There, enable the Softbody-function. Set the friction-value to 2 and the gravity to 0.0 as the tape operates on a plain surface anyway. Finally, disable the “Use Goal” option.

Next, add an Empty just close to the endings of the tape, somewhere inside the cassette. In Object/ Physics-buttons, with the Empty selected, choose the Harmonic-Field. There, set the strength value to 0.6 and give Damping a 0.6, too. As Fall-off-value, choose 2.1. Active maximum and minimum distance by clicking on the small “use”-buttons and enter the following values: MaxDist: 3.46, MinDist: 0.30. You may change those values to your liking and even move the harmony-empty around to find the best settings for your scene.

That’s it! Now press alt+A and watch your laid out tape getting wind up! You might notice some crazy behaviour of the tape close to the Harmony-empty. Try to keep this whirling around to be happening inside the cassette. Move the Harmony-empty, or change its settings to handle this issue. You want the tape to emerge off the cassette? Just render your clip. Then, within the blender sequence editor choose “reverse” and the tape evolves the other way round.

by Benno Wagner