Blender 3D Drawing, Animation and Interaction

Blender is a free 3D graphics application that can be used to create a 3D renderings for still images, animations and games (Wikipedia: Blender, 2009). There are versions for Win, Mac and Linux operating systems. It is a good and representative example of the genre of 3D editors and animation from Maya and others. Its cost makes it of interest to those within the low budget environment of education. Though having a reputation for being time-consuming to learn, it has features that rival and sometimes exceed those of commercial animation applications. It can be used to create stills, video animations and interactive environments.


house designed in BlenderA still image can be taken from any angle of a 3D creation. engine parts created in BlenderExamples of its capacity include the house landscape on the left and the engine parts on the right. Note the level of detail and color. The landscape, sky and covering for the house can be selected like paint to serve as "skins" that are placed on top of geometric shapes and contours. Many more examples can be found at Blender's gallery.

Video Animation

The Blender sculpture on the right rendered as a revolving animation is a single entity from which still images could be taken or an entity that then might be further animated to be a part of a movie on game. Many more examples of these designs can be found by searching YouTube and other video sites for "Blender animation" and other search variations.

When a script is created, larger movie productions can be created. The ten minute movie below titled Elephants Dream is an example of some of Blender's animation capacity. This is a ten minute movie but play just a couple of minutes or use the slider to skim through to see various spots. That will be sufficient experience to become more aware of 3D composition and Blender features.

Elephants Dream from Blender Foundation on Vimeo.

Instructional Support

Because it is free and thereby attracting many users, a large of community has emerged that continues to develop instructional material for it. Searching for Blender tutorials at site, YouTube and in other search systems will yield dozens of instructional screen movies on how to compose with Blender that can motivate teachers and students to learn more.

Interactive Environments

Interactive environments refers to a wide variety of collaborative and competitive activities for decision making, both real world and fictional, composed for both synchronous and a synchronous activity by individuals and groups. Gaming is but one common example of such compositions. The YouTube videoclip example below is from the game called Yo Frankie! (2008). This Blender game is not a MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) played on the Web such as the competitive nature of World of Warcraft or collaborative nature of Second Life but rather a single-user game sold on DVD. Further discussion can be found at of this early example of Blender's interactive capacity. There is no development to date that would indicate that Blender developers are moving Blender to becoming Web aware.



Though 3D animation publications like those from 2D are frequently used in settings in which are exclusively within the animated scene such as a game or video, it is well within the capacity of 3D editors to mix their creations within a page of text, as in the example of this page. That is, 3D as well as 2D compositions can be used within the book metaphor of communication or the movie metaphor of communication and perhap someday both simultaneously though no example to date has emerged of such.

Blender's 3D animation editor shares many compositional concepts with Flash's 2D animation editor. They both can be used to compose still images, animated images, mix other media and to create forms of interaction where the reader/user/player can enter choices or decisions. These choices can be used for a wide variety of individual and group composition and cooperation activity. Flash differs in that it is a child of the Web, designed primarily for use within Web browsers. Flash's parent company Adobe is beginning to add the capacity to use 3D elements in the Flash editor. There does not appear to be any effort on part of the companies making publicly available 3D editors such as Blender to create plugs-ins that would enable their interactive elements to work in the Web setting. Given present trends, it highly possible that in a few years those who have learned Flash will have the foundation to build 3D compositions that rival those of Blender and other 3D editors.

The 3D perspective is one more unique perspective through which our brain creates, invents and solves problems. It is the reality in which we live and construct our everyday world. Three dimensional design and construction also builds and requires a good understanding of physics and engineering principles. Similar 3D editors are used for real world construction in manufacturing, using a genre of software known as CAD/CAM (Computer Assisted Design and Computer Assisted Manufacturing). For example, with such software a plastic container is designed in a 3D editor, then instructions for its building are sent by network to the factory where computers direct the machines that build it in quantity.

Until public schools adopt digital technology on a wholesale level, serious instructional encounters in classrooms with digital 3D compositions along with instruction in how to use their editors will likely be confined to a few isolated digital media classrooms in high schools. That is, the digital divide will continue to give more privileged children greater access to such compositional forms because of access to them in their homes. The only hope in the near future for building more wide-spread awareness of digital age thinking in 3D for most classrooms will come from digitally aware teachers that will demonstrate aspects of the content they are teaching while showing how they used a 3D editor to create something for classroom study.




Chapter - Animation Composition           Houghton  Updated October 23, 2009