Highlights of the Blender Conference 2016

Here are three video recordings of presentations done at the latest Blender Conference that I think are worth watching.

Mad Entertairment Studio

I’ve never had the chance to attend the Blender Conference, but they have always provided live streaming and published recordings afterwards. The diversity and quality of the presentations invite me every time to go through it. There is a lot to discover in the field of 3D creation and, as with any open source software, people have used the tool in many different ways for the purpose of their research. So, after watching a few videos, here is my selection for this year.

Paul Melis uses Blender to demonstrate how path tracing works. Path tracing is a rendering method based the physical properties of light and thus simulates realistic lighting of a scene. Blender Foundation has developed a rendering engine called Cycles using this method. But how does it work? Paul Melis has modified Blender to literally show us how the rays are moving around in 3D before being turned into colored pixels. Along the way, he shows us how and why certain things might influence the final render.

For her PHD in media studies, Julia Velkova is focusing on open-source animation film production. She does not uses Blender, so this is not a technical presentation. Instead, she is focusing on the community, economy and mechanics behind the production of free culture using free / libre software. Her presentation puts in perspective contemporary media production with the history of art and technology. She also raises good questions for the Blender community and the free / libre art and technology practitioners as a whole. I’ll be looking forward to the conclusion of her PHD in a couple months.

MAD Entertainment Animation, is an Italian based animation studio that has gradually switched to a full Blender production pipeline over the last couple years. While this is more and more common in small sizes studios across the world, Ivan Cappiello presents here the latest projects they have been working on and shares the methodology they use when you don’t have big production budgets but still want to make big feature animation films.

I’ve singled out their presentation because of the particularly poetic look and feel they have achieved in their work (the illustration a the top of this article is a still from one of their production). But also for the Kinect based motion capture they use to help animators quickly set up poses for secondary character animation. All very inspiring.

There is of course a lot more presentations to watch if the subject and software is of any interest to you. So let me know which are your favorites from this year and why.

“To This Day”

When I was a kid
I used to think that pork chops and karate chops
were the same thing
I thought they were both pork chops
and because my grandmother thought it was cute
and because they were my favourite
she let me keep doing it

not really a big deal

one day
before I realized fat kids are not designed to climb trees
I fell out of a tree
and bruised the right side of my body

I didn’t want to tell my grandmother about it
because I was afraid I’d get in trouble
for playing somewhere that I shouldn’t have been

a few days later the gym teacher noticed the bruise
and I got sent to the principal’s office
from there I was sent to another small room
with a really nice lady
who asked me all kinds of questions
about my life at home

I saw no reason to lie
as far as I was concerned
life was pretty good
I told her “whenever I’m sad
my grandmother gives me karate chops”

this led to a full scale investigation
and I was removed from the house for three days
until they finally decided to ask how I got the bruises

news of this silly little story quickly spread through the school
and I earned my first nickname

pork chop

to this day
I hate pork chops

I’m not the only kid
who grew up this way
surrounded by people who used to say
that rhyme about sticks and stones
as if broken bones
hurt more than the names we got called
and we got called them all
so we grew up believing no one
would ever fall in love with us
that we’d be lonely forever
that we’d never meet someone
to make us feel like the sun
was something they built for us
in their tool shed
so broken heart strings bled the blues
as we tried to empty ourselves
so we would feel nothing
don’t tell me that hurts less than a broken bone
that an ingrown life
is something surgeons can cut away
that there’s no way for it to metastasize

it does

she was eight years old
our first day of grade three
when she got called ugly
we both got moved to the back of the class
so we would stop get bombarded by spit balls
but the school halls were a battleground
where we found ourselves outnumbered day after wretched day
we used to stay inside for recess
because outside was worse
outside we’d have to rehearse running away
or learn to stay still like statues giving no clues that we were there
in grade five they taped a sign to her desk
that read beware of dog

to this day
despite a loving husband
she doesn’t think she’s beautiful
because of a birthmark
that takes up a little less than half of her face
kids used to say she looks like a wrong answer
that someone tried to erase
but couldn’t quite get the job done
and they’ll never understand
that she’s raising two kids
whose definition of beauty
begins with the word mom
because they see her heart
before they see her skin
that she’s only ever always been amazing

he
was a broken branch
grafted onto a different family tree
adopted
but not because his parents opted for a different destiny
he was three when he became a mixed drink
of one part left alone
and two parts tragedy
started therapy in 8th grade
had a personality made up of tests and pills
lived like the uphills were mountains
and the downhills were cliffs
four fifths suicidal
a tidal wave of anti depressants
and an adolescence of being called popper
one part because of the pills
and ninety nine parts because of the cruelty
he tried to kill himself in grade ten
when a kid who still had his mom and dad
had the audacity to tell him “get over it” as if depression
is something that can be remedied
by any of the contents found in a first aid kit

to this day
he is a stick of TNT lit from both ends
could describe to you in detail the way the sky bends
in the moments before it’s about to fall
and despite an army of friends
who all call him an inspiration
he remains a conversation piece between people
who can’t understand
sometimes becoming drug free
has less to do with addiction
and more to do with sanity

we weren’t the only kids who grew up this way
to this day
kids are still being called names
the classics were
hey stupid
hey spaz
seems like each school has an arsenal of names
getting updated every year
and if a kid breaks in a school
and no one around chooses to hear
do they make a sound?
are they just the background noise
of a soundtrack stuck on repeat
when people say things like
kids can be cruel?
every school was a big top circus tent
and the pecking order went
from acrobats to lion tamers
from clowns to carnies
all of these were miles ahead of who we were
we were freaks
lobster claw boys and bearded ladies
oddities
juggling depression and loneliness playing solitaire spin the bottle
trying to kiss the wounded parts of ourselves and heal
but at night
while the others slept
we kept walking the tightrope
it was practice
and yeah
some of us fell

but I want to tell them
that all of this shit
is just debris
leftover when we finally decide to smash all the things we thought
we used to be
and if you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself
get a better mirror
look a little closer
stare a little longer
because there’s something inside you
that made you keep trying
despite everyone who told you to quit
you built a cast around your broken heart
and signed it yourself
you signed it
“they were wrong”
because maybe you didn’t belong to a group or a click
maybe they decided to pick you last for basketball or everything
maybe you used to bring bruises and broken teeth
to show and tell but never told
because how can you hold your ground
if everyone around you wants to bury you beneath it
you have to believe that they were wrong

they have to be wrong

why else would we still be here?
we grew up learning to cheer on the underdog
because we see ourselves in them
we stem from a root planted in the belief
that we are not what we were called we are not abandoned cars stalled out and sitting empty on a highway
and if in some way we are
don’t worry
we only got out to walk and get gas
we are graduating members from the class of
fuck off we made it
not the faded echoes of voices crying out
names will never hurt me

of course
they did

but our lives will only ever always
continue to be
a balancing act
that has less to do with pain
and more to do with beauty.

To This Day by Shane Koyczan

Drawn.