Blender Experiments for “The Barrier”

GladstoneCurve2I want to redo the opening scene of my transportation planner movie “The Barrier” because people don’t seem to understand what happens in it. Although Xtranormal is supposed to be rereleased, I don’t think I use it to do what I want to do in this scene. I think I can do it with Blender. I started a trial version this week. (see http://dynamiclethargyfilms.ca/filmlist/the-barrier/)

In the first scene of “The Barrier”, my hero, Arthur, drives along a rural road and narrowly avoids a traffic collision.

My first step is to create the set. I used Blender to create another set I used in the movie, but it was a much simpler set to create. The set was basically a box with some images on the walls. The new set is more complex and I’ll need to create several different types of elements.

  • a road, that twists and turns,
  • a ground on either side of the road with hills and valleys, and
  • trees along the side of the road.

I might add a few more elements later to make the set look more realistic. I don’t want a photo realistic set. It needs to look a bit cartoony to match the rest of the movie.

For the most part, I focussed on the road way this week. I thought it would be the simplest to do. It would also be easier to conform the surrounding land  to match the road, rather than the other way round.

I started with a Blender file that I used to create an image of the Glencoe development in the movie. It had a grass “ground” and some roads. I had to relearn how to manipulate the individual points of the plane meshes. I managed to stubble on how to do it fairly quickly. I don’t normally check the manual before I do this kind of stuff.

In order to have a curvy road, I needed to have it split into segments, so I could manipulate individual points. I found how to subdivide, but it split both ways, so I had a 20 by 20 grid, and not the 1 by 20 grid I wanted. I’m sure there must be an easy way to do this, but I went ahead and deleted the individual faces I didn’t want until I had the 1 by 20 mesh I wanted. I made several copies, just in case.

I had to figure out where I wanted to put the individual points, so most of my time was spend calculating where they should be. I studied roadway design back in University, but I really don’t remember much. I tossed my class notes about 10 years ago as well. I decided that it didn’t need to be technically correct, it just had to look OK.

My first attempt failed. I tried to create a layout that matched the one I used elsewhere in the movie. That turned out to have some very difficult geometry and I found it hard to match. For my second attempt, I started from scratch and made all my turns multiples of 45º. That made the calculations much simpler.

Another issue that came up was that the section of road was too short for what I wanted to do. In scale it was only about 50 metres long! I adjusted that to 1 kilometre, so I can track Arthur driving along the road for longer. I had to redo the calculations. Again.

I finally got back to Blender and built the road there. I misjudged how many segments I needed in the roadway and it came up short. I decided that since this was originally planned as an experiment, that would be good enough. The proportions of the road didn’t look right and I found it difficult to image. In the end I realized that I had used the wrong scale and it was far larger than I intended. I adjusted that down. I wonder if I can cut down the length of the road from a full kilometre and have it look better.

I tried to match the grass patches I had to the roadway, but it seems that the individual points are specified as deviations from the centre of the plane. That makes it much harder to match up with the road. It seems to me that there must be some kind of setting so you can use a local or global co-ordinate system. I haven’t found it yet.

While I was disappointed at how little I accomplished on the set, I still think it was worthwhile because I learned much more about how to use Blender.

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