Review – Mastering Drivers in Blender
Posted by Chris Plush on January 13th, 2015 | Comments (2)
Training Course Details
Website – ExploreBlender.com
Instructor – Gustav Nilsson
Blender Version – 2.71
Duration – 6h 33m
Format – mp4 or streaming
Difficulty Level – Intermediate(basic knowledge of Blender required)
Purchase Options –
- Basic €19 ($23) – Access to streaming videos at 720p
- Premium €23 ($28) – Access to streaming and downloadable videos at 1080p(as well as lower resolutions)
- Complete €27 ($33) – Access to hi-res streaming and downloadable videos as well as all the source files for the course
Drivers open up a whole new world of possibilities in animation, and Gustav Nilsson provides a fantastic introduction to the topic. By the end of this course you’ll understand the immense amount of control you can have over your objects and animations by using drivers. The highlight is a chapter on creating a spider walking along a bumpy terrain. Using drivers, its legs automatically walk forward and backward as you move the body and it automatically detects the height of the terrain underneath it for foot placement. You’ll also learn how to use drivers for creating things like a customizable ladder, animated analog and digital clocks, dominoes, and a glass of water without using fluid simulation. This is a fairly new topic for me but the progression of the course is perfect even for those new to the subject as it starts off simple and gets more complex at a great pace. In short this is an essential reference for using drivers and I highly recommend it. If you need to know more details before agreeing that this course sounds awesome then read more about it below.
The production quality of this course is perfect. The audio and video are both crystal clear. The content is organized on Gustav’s website. Each chapter has its own page which includes an embedded player for the streaming video, and a short text overview of the chapter so you know what information is included. If you purchased a Premium or Complete package you’ll have the option to download the videos from the website(500kb/sec on my connection) or from a DropBox page(an impressive 2mb/sec on my connection).
Gustav’s training style is straightforward and very accurate. He explains every step of the process extremely well. Some chapters include some potentially confusing math when using expressions for drivers. Although this isn’t a math course he still takes the time to give good explanations of the math used, even though you may need to rewind a few times and really pay attention before the math logic really sinks in. Below is a run-down of each chapter.
Chapters 1-6 – Introduction and the Basics of Shape Keys, Modifiers, Armatures, Constraints and Drivers
These chapters go over the basics of each subject. Gustav explains what each one is and how to use them. Each chapter is a great introduction to its subject and is explained very thoroughly. He also has a knack for seeing things from a viewers point of view and makes sure to cover potential problems you might encounter as you’re using these tools.
Chapter 7 – Ladder
The first main chapter of the course opens by showing the end result of many drivers and shape keys created for a ladder which control many useful attributes of the ladder. These drivers control the scale, number of steps, size and thickness, and position attributes which control the automatic leaning against the wall and floor depending on the ladder’s proximity to the wall. This was a great chapter to start off the main part of the course.
Chapter 8 – Analog clock
Another fantastic example of drivers. Although I feel it’s a less practical example than the ladder it’s still very cool and inspires different ideas on how to use drivers. The chapter starts out by modeling a simple clock. Then we add drivers to each of the hands, including controls for the second hand so you can customize whether the second hands rotates smoothly from one second to the next, or if there’s a delay before it jumps to the next second. This chapter uses slightly more complex math than previous chapters. He gives good explanations of the math involved but if it’s a complicated subject for you then you may need to rewind things a few times in order to come to a complete understanding of what all the numbers and variables are doing.
Chapter 9 – Digital Clock
This chapter is a similar concept to the last, but displaying time in digital format instead of analog will be the trick here. If you survived the last chapter then this one will be very interesting and enjoyable to sit through as he shows you a technique for adding drivers to numbers so that the correct time is always displayed. I found this chapter to have a very thorough follow-through in thinking about this clock for use in animation. Gustav explains a potential problem with the current setup when using motion blur and shows you how to set up things differently to fix this problem.
Chapter 10 – Simple Domino
This is an interesting approach to making dominoes fall. I’m not the biggest fan of this particular example of using drivers considering physics could be used, but it’s interesting nonetheless and gives a perfectly controlled and predictable result. Not to mention is also saves time by avoiding physics simulations. One downside though is that using the curve modifier to set a domino path with this technique distorts the domino shapes slightly. It’s also a technique that won’t work right with motion blur. In the Advanced Domino chapter later on we learn a different technique for this that doesn’t change the domino shape and that allows motion blur. I feel both of these chapters should be combined and only use the technique in the Advanced Domino chapter, and the time saved could’ve been used to teach a different example of drivers, but it was still interesting.
Chapter 11 – Spider
This is definitely the highlight of the DVD for me. This chapter opens by showing you the result of making a spider-like creature whose legs automatically walk when you drag the body along a bumpy terrain. The feet automatically detect the ground beneath it so they know where to be placed when it takes a step, and it’s spine reacts to walking and deforms accordingly as well. I was more than excited to get into this chapter after seeing that. It’s one of those tutorials that get you excited with your progress each step of the way and never bores you. In this chapter you’ll create some seriously cool controls for controlling your spider creature. In the first few minutes you’ll already know how to make your spider’s feet automatically aware of where the ground is underneath it so that its feet can stick to it. Then you’ll move on to customizing step length and the height the feet move in between each step. After you’ve completed your leg bones and spine for your creature you’ll create a simple spidery mesh to use the skeleton on.
Chapter 12 – Advanced Domino
In this chapter you’ll take a new approach to creating dominoes so that the curve modifier does not distort the domino shapes as in the previous domino chapter, and so that motion blur can be used on the animation. You’ll also be able to control the speed of the falling dominoes with this technique. I feel this chapter gives the superior result so it should’ve been combined with the Simple Domino chapter to only teach this technique, but seeing both techniques was still very interesting.
Chapter 13 – Glass of Water
In this chapter you’ll learn how to create a simple glass of water without using fluid simulations, which is perfect for simple animations. The glass contains an adjustable amount of liquid that appears to empty the more the glass is tilted, giving the illusion that the glass is being emptied as you drink it. This is a really cool chapter with interesting techniques for creating this illusion. Just like all chapters before it, everything is well explained. Also by this point you’re well versed on using drivers and probably have your own ideas of how to achieve each step before you get to it. So it’s a more casual and satisfying chapter to watch and follow along with yet still has new information and ideas to share. The end result of this chapter is also very practical for simple or more cartoony animations so this is a great watch.
Chapter 14 – Linking and Appending
In this chapter you’ll learn how to link and append objects from other blend files into your current blend file. Gustav gives very thorough explanations of how it all works and why it’s useful.
Chapter 15 – Conclusion
Gustav wraps up the DVD by posing new challenges to you now that you’ve mastered what he’s taught you about drivers.
If you have any interest in animation or in simply learning cool new things about Blender, this course is well worth buying. Gustav is a great instructor with a very impressive understanding of the more technical aspects of Blender and a skill for making a complex subject easy to understand. To read more about this course and to purchase it, check out his website at ExploreBlender.com.