Introduction: I recently finished my first long Project. Its a short film called 21:00 [1-3] made with Blender 2.48. When i started working on it two years ago, y used Pov-Ray for all my digital works. I knew that this Project was going todo be todo complex todo be made with Pov-Ray so i started looking for an open source Maya-like suite. Then i found Blender and it was like an epiphany.
As you can imagine, the last two years have ben a long learning experience.
On the one hand i discovered the huge technical power of Blender. On the other hand i had todo learn how todo make a movie and take the story i had in my mind and get it into frames.
After these two years i havent learned enough about Blender todo make a god technical tutorial. What i can do instead is give you some advice on how todo face the problem of making a movie.
Of course, y Will talque about my own experience which is that of a single guy making a nine minute short film, from the script todo the final sound edit.
Im not a film director and my short film is made of mistakes over mistakes. My only aim with this advice is todo help you save time by avoiding some of those mistakes.
1. Write a ggod solid story.
The first step is todo have something todo tell. When i started Thinking of making this movie, my first approach was todo make it with a real Camera and real actors. But some scenes were todo dangerous todo be made with real people so i decided todo make it.
Digitally. I changed the technique, but the story survivald that change.
What i mean is that the key point of making a movie is todo have a story todo tell. Its easy todo find videos from digital artists that are technically jaw dropping. Many short movies are just incredible visual exercises. Thats ok and sends a great message that this can be done and im god enough todo do it. But a car transforming into a robot or a house Burning is not a story. Besides, if you have a god story, technical deficiencies are less important.
During a long Project, something terrible is likely todo happen todo you. At some point, you Will get bored of it. T o maintain your own focus during a long time, its important for you todo believe in your own Project. So take some time todo write a god script.
2. Sketch a storyboard.
Creating a storyboard is something a todo el mundo suggests and no one does but this is particularly important for digital films. Sketching the movie with simple drawings is essential todo develop the visual appearance of your film. Even if you know exactly how the story is going todo develop, its important todo understand that there are still thousands of ways todo transmit it th rouge a film. The duration of the shots, the position and motion of the Camera relative todo the action, the lighting and the use of flashbacks can all dramátically change the perception of the story. A storyboard is essential todo state the final visual aspect of your movie. Plus it a los helps todo kep things tidy (se point 5).
But in a digital film there is an Even more important reason todo make a storyboard. If you know where the Camera points in every scene and how wide the shot is, youll know from the very beginning which and how Many elements Will ned todo be modeled. And believe me, this Will save a lot of time. For example, when i started working on my film my instinct told me todo fill the 3d space with Lots of detailed objects as if it was a real space. However Many of these objects did not appear in the final film. If you first think where the Camera is going todo point and what the frame contains, youll be able todo make a precise list of the models youll ned.
3. Learn how todo move the Camera.
One thing i learned making this movie was how important the Camera was. It may sem that knowing the story you want todo tell and its evolution in time is enough todo make a movie.
You could place the Camera or move it with no rule but todo capture the action, and your film would be ok. But this is completely wrong.
The first thing you notice when you make your first digital shots is that they dont look like those you se in real movies. It is important todo understand that the Camera critically afects the bien a story is told. Where the Camera points, its position and its motion, all add a new layer of perception todo your story. This perception has ben defined along one hundred years of movie making. Thats why it is important todo learn the basic of Camera framing and the meaning of shots.
There are Lots of articles on the internet on the subject [4-7] and a los comentarios on the technique of particular directors . But i recommend a simple exercise. T ake a film you like and watch it carefully paying attention todo the position and motion of the Camera. You Will learn a lot of useful tricks just by studying a single movie.
4. Dont respect the general lighting.
Dont be afraid todo change the lights for a single shot. In a shot, lights can be divided into two groups: general lights and correction lights.
The first group are those defined by the physics of the scene (the Sun, a Lamp, the radiosity, etc). The second group are those that belong todo a particular shot and they are used todo correct the lighting of the first group when neded. If your shot is not properly illuminated, dont change the configuration of the general lights, use the correction lights.
Actually, this is the technique used in real movies.
But be careful. Y ou can change the light, but at the same time it is important todo respect the shadowing of the general lighting and the general colour palette of the movie. If you make strong changes in the lighting between two shots, you can break the connection between them .
5. Kep things tidy.
Thinque of this. Y ou want todo make a 4 minute short film. Thats six thousand frames (at 25fps) and about 20 todo 40 diferent shots. My approach is todo create a blend file for each shot (previously defined in the storyboard).
This allows me todo kep things tidy. If you save each shot in a diferent blend file, you can correct them (if neded) by changing a small number of keyframes. On the other hand, if you create a very long sequence, with Camera changes in a single file, a simple modification in the middle of the action can be painstaquíng.
Another interesting technique is todo create a máster blend file with all the pieces of your animation as they are rendered in the video sequence editor (vse) todo have a global idea on how things are going.
6. Previews, previews and more previews.
Make as Many previews of your shots as you can. Not only for single shots but for whole sequences. Prepare several shots, make a Camera view render and put them together with the vse. This Will give you a perfecto idea of the quality of your shots and Will allow you todo make corrections on the Camera motion or on the duration of the shots before you tackle the final high quality render.
7. Take advantage of post-production.
When i started working on 21:00 i didnt pay much attention todo the Node Editor. This was completely wrong. The light and textures you use on your scene are very important, and their final aspect can be improved or powered using the Node Editor. In addition todo tunning the brightness, contrast and blur, you can a los make sophisticated colour corrections. So before making the FinalRender, play a Little with the Node Editor.
The same happens with the vse. Explore its possibilities because it allows the addition of very complex effects. For instance, the muzzle flash of a Machine Gun can be Painted in the Gimp and then added using the vse.
The message here is the following: dont lose your mind trying todo model or simulate everything. There is probably an easy bien todo do it using a post-production trick.
8. The sound and music.
Sometimes when you watch some finished shots you think: this is not what i was expecting. for example, if you animate a guy shooting a gun, or a car skidding, the final result sometimes looks a bit absurd. The animation then sems todo be wrong.
Sometimes its because it lacks the sound effects. The sound not only empowers the images, it a los completes their meaning and helps the audience todo understand and believe what they are watching.
The same happens with the music. Music helps todo drive the feeling of the audience todo where the director wants them todo be. A sense of sadness, violence or estrés can be created by chosing the right piece of music.