www.blender3d.org] or just plain Blender for short. It's a free 3D modeling and animation program supported by a dedicated open source development team and an enthusiastic online community sharing a passion for 3D modeling. It is a bit difficult to learn (even the interface was confusing at first) but all sorts of tutorials are available online made by the users themselves ranging from the very basic to advanced modeling techniques. If you happen to drop by on their site one of these days I highly recommend visiting the gallery section. Eye popping graphics and movies galore. If only I could learn how to do all those stuff!
I first stumbled on the site when I was searching for a free 3D layout visualization tool. I wanted to go beyond the 2D layout plans for my new apartment and wanted to visualize what the flat would look like in terms of layout decisions, color, choice of materials, furniture etc. Well it all started when my brother and I were debating over my choice of flooring material for my new flat. I wanted to have faux woodtile patterned ceramic tiles for the flooring but he said that it would be ugly. So I reasoned, what better way to present my ideas than to send him fully rendered 3D pictures of my ideas right? Well, it seems that I bit off more than I could chew and I realized that learning how to use a 3D modeling software was not going to be a walk in the park as I previously thought. My first project was to create a 3D model of a gingerbread man and I can tell you honestly that it was a total disaster - it looked more like a moldy lump of bread (I couldn't get the texture and color right so the shape was only vaguely humanoid and it had a decidedly greenish hue to it). I suppose it was all my fault. I was so excited and over eager to jump at the more challenging projects after seeing all those gorgeous samples. I thought why would I waste time learning how to make nice looking cubes when I should be doing that cool looking gingerbread man pictured at the end, right? err... boy was I wrong! After going through most of the newbie tutorials I started to be more familiar with the interface (it wasn't the usual windows interface and most of the menus were contextual meaning it changes depending on what object you are working with and what "mode" you are working on). The more I learn, the more addicted I became.
The only previous experience I had with 3D modeling and rendering was with Corel's Dream 3D [www.corel.com]. It came bundled with version 8 but has long since been discontinued [http://graphicssoft.about.com/library/extra/blwh_dream3d.htm]. I had it running in my old AMD 486 computer and render times were so long that I sometimes had to take a nap first before it finishes. That's how long it took! And all I did was make these spheres of different materials and textures suspended just above a rippling body of water revealing distorted reflections. This experimentation with the Blender 3D program is the first time I have actually attempted to model anything (the Corel package on the other hand came with a lot of ready made models that you can drag and drop and preset shaders that you just apply to the objects so it could take the properties of tinted glass or marble for example. So I was very much contented to play with those). It was obviously not practical for me to learn Dream 3D at the time because of my underpowered computer but after being introduced to Blender, I remembered why I was so fascinated about 3D modeling all those ago. I guess you can say that it's my artistic side trying to break free (I was wondering where you were all these years). There's hope for me yet I think ;)
OK I admit that it may have elevated to mere curiosity to a mini obsession (obsession is such a heavy word that I thought having the word mini lightened it up a bit). Last night I was busy trying to create a model of a toilet bowl and I had to force myself to sleep so I won't be late in the morning. I tried but I was thinking about toilet bowls most of the night, my mind was too hyperactive for me to sleep. I woke up on time but I felt sleepy the whole morning. I was sketching perspective views of toilet bowls during a boring meeting. I can't wait to finish that toilet bowl tonight. I already have ideas on how to model the fire extinguisher and the shower head.
*** NOTE: It took quite a while but I finally finished the blender model you see above. I just couldn't post this article without that crucial element. ;)