How I Blew Up A Planet

Ok, I’m not actually an “Evil Galactic Overlord” who makes it a point to destroy the home planets of those who dare oppose me. What I’m talking about is a cool visual effect that I achieved using Blender, a video editor (in my case, Sony Vegas Pro 8), and my imagination.

This effect has a little bit of a history to it. It all started when I found a tutorial on BlenderGuru.com called Create a Shattered Glass Title Animation by Andrew Price that showed how to take some simple text and make it shatter into hundreds of pieces and thousands of tiny shards. Then when this animation was complete it was reversed in a video editor and a reversed sound of glass breaking added.

The result was a very cool effect that you can see in this video:

Shattered Glass Text Intro from Andrew Price on Vimeo.

Before going further I should note that this will require the latest version of Blender which you can get free at blender.org. He was using version 2.53 which was the current version at the time he made the tutorial. As of this writing Blender 2.56 Beta is current. The old version 2.49b just isn’t going to cut it for this project.

Having seen that video I just had to learn how to do that effect so I took the time to watch the tutorial with Blender running, pausing it frequently to apply what he was showing to my project.

After about two hours of this and some tinkering with settings and materials to suit my own version of the project and another two hours or so to render a video file from it, I ended up with something that looked pretty cool, especially for a first time effort.

I used it in the beginning of this video:

A day or two later I was browsing Blender tutorials on youtube and ran across one called “Easy planet tutorial for blender” that made creating a planet really easy. I found a good planet texture image on the Blender Open Material Repository which is loaded with all sorts of free material textures that you can use in Blender.

With the texture applied I had a very good looking planet. I set my project to 900 frames long and set two keyframes. One at frame 1 and then at frame 900 I rotated the planet on the Z axis 360 degrees and set another keyframe.

Setting the background to show stars the animation that resulted was a planet in space.

Then I got to thinking, “What if I want to blow up the planet?”. Not in reality of course but I’m always looking for cool visual effects that I can use in videos and I just couldn’t pass up this idea.

It turned out to be really easy.

Referring to the shattered glass animation I added an explode modifier and a particle system to the planet object. I set it to start emitting particles at frame 901 and end at frame 905 with a lifetime of 500. I made sure that the particles themselves would not be seen and applied settings very similar to those that were used for the particle settings in the glass project. I also changed the end frame from 900 to 1100.

After a total of about ten or fifteen minutes work, starting with a copy of the planet animation project, and several hours to render the final animation I had an exploding planet. I took this into my video editor and added a bright red flash at the frame the explosion starts and also found a good explosion sound effect and it was ready.

I used it as a key part of the story in the third chapter of a Phat Trek episode that I’ve been making. (This looks particularly good in full screen mode)

I should also point out that BlenderGuru.com is a wealth of tutorials, tips & tricks for doing some exceedingly cool stuff with Blender. I plan to be spending a lot of time on that site for the foreseeable future.

By the way, If you haven’t seen Phat Trek, Here are links to the first two chapters in this story.

Chapter 1 ‘Vendetta’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkFf7Z9Gvjk

Chapter 2 ‘Grudge’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_q20594PQw

I plan to be making at least one of these chapters per week. More if I have time and inspiration enough.

[tags]blender, animation, tutorial, explode, planet, visual effect, phat trek[/tags]

Virtual Sets On The Cheap (or Free!)

Something that I’ve been looking for is grahics that can serve as “virtual sets” for use in Chroma keyed video. I’ve spent a LOT of time searching and one of the frustrating things is that almost every search ends up at www.virtualsetworks.com and while they’ve got a lot of great stuff, a good deal of it available for a free download, most of it is more suited for use as newsroom or talk show sets.

What I’m looking for is royalty free images that can serve as starship interiors and they’re proving to be bloody difficult to find.

[Tags]virtual set, chroma key, video, science fiction, starship[/tags]

Some Windows 7 Users Will Have XP Downgrade Option

According to a recent article on ZDnet that I just now got around to reading Windows 7, like Vista, will have a “downgrade” option.

However, leave it to Microsloth to restrict that ability. Apparently, only “volume license users” will be able to exercise this option. The rest of those who end up stuck with 7 are going to have to fork over hard cash to get that ability.

According to a recent article on ZDnet that I just now got around to reading Windows 7, like Vista, will have a “downgrade” option.

However, leave it to Microsloth to restrict that ability. Apparently, only “volume license users” will be able to exercise this option. The rest of those who end up stuck with 7 are going to have to fork over hard cash to get that ability.

Personally I think that, just like vista, it’s going to be a much better idea to avoid the hassle and just skip seven altogether. I know *I* am sticking with XP on my desktop machines and after the nightmare experience I’ve had with vista on my laptop, I’m seriously thinking about at least converting it to a dual boot with either Ubuntu, Kubuntu or Mandriva which I’ve heard plenty of good things about but haven’t had a chance to work with it at all.

(note to self, get a Mandriva Live-Cd and check it out)

I honestly think that we’re at a point in computer history where Microsloth’s stranglehold is losing it’s grip. I’ve seen a lot of talk in recent weeks about not only individuals, but both small and larger businesses moving to linux because of the money they can save by not having to shell out to Microsoft.

[Tags]Nightmare Experience, Kubuntu, Computer History, Dual Boot, Mandriva, Stranglehold, Hassle, Laptop, Linux, Windows, microsoft, Desktop, Exercise, Microsoft, Vista, Money[/tags]

How To Make A Bootable Flash Drive Running Ubuntu 8.10

In the world of Windows XP continues to be the preferred version for lots of people, especially after many have had a taste of the nightmare creation that is vista. Now vista is becoming less and less of an issue because Windows 7 is on the horizon.

As expected Microsoft is making a big deal about how much “better” 7 is going to be. Of course they said the same thing about Vista and we know how that turned out don’t we? It’s becoming more and more clear that for many people the Microsoft honeymoon is over and that particular honeymoon lingerie is something that this growing number of people no longer want to see.

In the world of Windows XP continues to be the preferred version for lots of people, especially after many have had a taste of the nightmare creation that is vista. Now vista is becoming less and less of an issue because Windows 7 is on the horizon.

As expected Microsoft is making a big deal about how much “better” 7 is going to be. Of course they said the same thing about Vista and we know how that turned out don’t we? It’s becoming more and more clear that for many people the Microsoft honeymoon is over and that particular honeymoon lingerie is something that this growing number of people no longer want to see.

The answer that many people are choosing is to switch to Linux. The problem with that is that for people who have never even seen Linux, let alone had a chance to use it enough to become comfortable with the idea of making it their primary operating system.

The first answer I’ve seen a lot of people suggest is to use a Live CD to boot Ubuntu linux and use that to learn your way around the system. The problem with a Live CD however is that because it doesn’t store anything on the hard drive, Every time you boot the thing you’re starting back at square one.

Fortunately there’s an easy solution. Get a flash drive with 1GB or more of space on it and make it into a bootable Ubuntu installation so that it does NOT have to start from scratch every time you boot.

You’ll need a Working CD Drive, Ubuntu 8.10 CD, and a USB flash drive with 1GB or more of space on it. Obviously the more space on the flash drive the better this will work.

Start by Downloading the Ubuntu 8.10 ISO and burn it to a CD

Then reboot your computer from the Live CD. Once you’re looking at the Ubuntu desktop, plug in 1GB or larger USB flash drive.

On the Ubuntu menu go to: System | Administration | Create a USB startup disk

On the dialog that pops up Select the USB disk to use and then Select the option “Stored in reserved extra space”. Then adjust the slider to set how much space to use (I would recommend using as much space as you can and still have room for the Ubuntu install. if you’re using a two GB flash drive, use 1GB for the reserved space) and click “Make Startup Disk”

You’ll see a progress bar tracking the installation, when it’s done all you have to do is remove the Ubuntu Cd and restart your computer. When the computer restarts, set your BIOS to boot from the USB flash drive.

Once the installation is complete, simply remove the CD, restart your computer and set your boot menu or BIOS to boot from the USB device

You now have a working Ubuntu linux installation that’s fully usable, won’t lose everything when you shut down and still will not touch your main hard drive with it’s Windows installation.

To return to Windows just reboot, boot menu or BIOS to boot from the hard drive and you’re back in your windows install and everything’s right where you left it.

I admit that I haven’t done the procedure yet myself, however I’m going to do it this weekend whenever I can scrounge up some time.

[Tags]Boot Linux, Linux, Bootable Flash Drive Usb Flash Drive, Preferred Version, Startup Disk, Usb Disk, Easy Solution, Cd Drive, System Administration, Nightmare, Hard Drive, Scratch, Primary Operating System, Windows[/tags]

Network Neutrality Still An Issue

In recent months I haven’t seen nearly as much talk about network neutrality, what it means to average users, what telephone companies and large ISPs want to do with the Internet and perhaps most importantly, what Washington and our newly elected president intend to actually DO about it.

In recent months I haven’t seen nearly as much talk about network neutrality, what it means to average users, what telephone companies and large ISPs want to do with the Internet and perhaps most importantly, what Washington and our newly elected president intend to actually DO about it.

This does not change the fact that it’s still a VERY important issue, one that every person using the internet needs to be aware of. It’s something that we all need to be getting after our senators and congressional representatives to support. It’s something that we need to make absolutely certain that all ISPs, both large and small, understand that the Internet is something that is intended to be a level playing field that allows anyone to publish or receive information in whatever form.

If network neutrality is not mandated and enforced, then eventually “big content” will be the only source of most (if not all) of the content online. The ability and freedom of anyone to publish whatever will be sharply curtailed. Just as it was with radio so long ago.

This video is perhaps one of the best explanations of the network neutrality issue and what it means to the Joe Sixpacks of the internet using world. It’s something over ten minutes long but absolutely well worth the watching. I strongly recommend that everybody watch this video at least once. Once you’ve watched it, share it with your friends and family, anyone who doesn’t have a clear idea what network neutrality is and why it’s so important.

[Tags]video explanation, explain net neutrality, network neutrality, congressional representatives, net neutrality issue, telephone companies, isp, explanations, senators, freedom, radio, level playing field, tell friends, tell family, video[/tags]