Geometry Nodes in Blender

When version 2.92 of Blender was released, it included a new feature: Geometry Nodes. It is the first feature of the “everything nodes” initiative for the software, and it allows manipulation and creation of geometry through a node graph attached to a mesh. Version 2.93 added more geometry nodes, and I presume that subsequent versions will continue to expand this feature.

I decided to learn the basics of Geometry Nodes by creating a simple animation. Of course, the “simple scene” became more complicated than I expected, but I am very happy with the result.

Here is the final video. Note: you can right-click on the video and select “Loop” to view it continuously.

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Conveyor Belt In Blender

I have been doing some more small experiments in Blender and I thought I’d share one of them. My goal was to create a conveyor belt in Blender, where I could animate the moving belt.

The final solution is extremely easy to animate and also very easy to create on your own! Follow along below to create your very own conveyor belt.

First, we create a single piece of the belt, which we will eventually repeat for the final result. Make a single plane, add two loop cuts (along the Y-axis) to split the single polygon into three, and then extruded the middle polygon upwards. Note that the single piece will be repeated along the X-axis (the red line in the screenshot).

Polygon model for conveyor belt
This doesn’t look like a conveyor belt yet….
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Lights with Mesh Gobos

This was a quick experiment, where I played with a couple spot lights and some geometry to block the lights. Blender made this very easy using the Wireframe modifier on the mesh, to quickly generate holes in a subdivided plane to use as a gobo.

In this version, I didn’t modify the plane beyond subdividing it in edit mode. I also experimented with mixing in a displacement modifier for different irregular shadows, but ultimately I liked the geometric effect and the way the colors overlapped without any displacement.

Anvil Tutorial

I went through Blender Guru’s anvil tutorial last week, which was a great intermediate modeling and texturing walkthrough. It covers some different modeling techniques for hard-body surfaces and introduces normal-map baking, which is something I have never really had a chance to learn.

Here is my final render of the anvil I created:

Final render from Blender of the anvil from Blender Guru's turorial

Although the final render shows various nicks and cuts, the actual mesh does not have any of those features. By creating those details in a higher-resolution mesh and then baking them to a normal map, it gives the illusion of all that extra detail.

Here is the same shot as a wireframe (with subdivisions turned on):

Wireframe render of the anvil

If you are already familiar with Blender but want to go beyond the basics and learn more about modeling and texturing, I highly recommend the tutorial!

Marking Time

I put together another Blender image, this time just to practice modeling and surfacing. The end result is a little more abstract than usual for me, but I like how it turned out.

Click to view full-size image.

I used some textures from Texture Haven (floor, walls, wood, and stone pillar). The metal pieces are simple Principled BSDF with the Metallic setting set to 1. The hourglass is just a Glass shader. Honestly, the sand is probably the most complex shader network, because I used procedural noise nodes to give it a fine-grained look.

Platforms on Water

I am still slowly learning Blender and trying out different features in the software. I put some of the tools I recently learned together into a rendered image below.

Click to view full image.

The moon is a sphere with an emission shader, casting light on the scene. The texture on the moon is a simple procedural noise node.

I generated the background trees using the “Sapling Tree Gen” add-on that comes bundled with Blender. After creating one tree, I used the particle system on a subdivided plane to create a forest.

The water is just an Ocean modifier on a single plane, with a simple-yet-convincing shader node network. The fog and clouds are different volumetric shaders. Each cloud (there are three of them) is a different cube, although they use the same shader network.

Finally, I downloaded the character standing on one of the platforms from Mixamo, a service from Adobe that offers free rigged characters and a large library of animations for those characters.

Shattered Moon

I started rewatching Cowboy Bebop, and that inspired me to make this image. In the universe of the show, an accident on the moon caused large chunks to be expelled from the surface.

This was a fun exercise in Blender where I used procedural modeling, boolean modifiers, the Cell Fracture plugin, and some physics simulations to get the final result.

Click for full size image.

Animation Walk Cycle

I finished the animation course I was taking from CGCookie, and the last exercise is a full walk cycle with a bipedal character. CGCookie provided the fully-rigged character, so the exercise was completely focused on animating the full walk cycle, including translation while the character moved.

It was a fun exercise, and getting each little movement down to a believable action was challenging. Here’s the final result!

Blender Animation Exercise – Animated Ball Drop

I started to dive into Blender animation techniques by taking the CGCookie Animation Bootcamp course. It’s a good introduction to the controls available in Blender for animation, along with a refresher on basic animation concepts.

For one of the exercises, I animated falling balls and had them interact with each other and the uneven ground. There is no squash or stretch yet in the animation: this is a straight-on shot with some simple translation and rotation changes.

It was fun getting the different interactions, and I am proud of the result. It has been quite a while since I opened up a graph editor and moved around keyframes and spline handles.

Here is my final result, using a simple viewport render straight to a video file (in other words: low quality).

Playing With Blender

I am still playing with Blender, learning more about the software, and improving my general 3D skills.

I bought a course on Udemy for creating 3D environments in Blender, which I have been slowly getting through. I have learned some new photorealistic techniques, but I also found that I disagreed with some of the steps taken by the instructor. Also, I ran into problems with scene complexity, where the scene had so much geometry and heavy texture images that I could no longer render an image on my GPU (video card). It also slowed down the GUI significantly, which made working on the scene painful.

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