What’s going on with BlendShow?

The BlendShow plugin has basically not been worked on since Christmas 2013. With the demands of a full-time job and taking care of my mom after her stroke in September 2013, I’ve been pretty busy with other things. I’m still trying to finish a website task for my church that should’ve been finished by the beginning of this year.

The current plan is for BlendShow to be a plugin for Blender, rather than a full program, for simplicity and ease of deployment. The Mac version would have to be plugin-only anyway unless I got easy access to a Mac. I’ll still create an installer for Windows, for simplicity.

I seriously hope I can get a good amount of BlendShow-programming time in this year. I really want this program to be available, and Blender keeps getting new features that BlendShow will really benefit from. Hopefully the viewport depth of field will be able to match what the game engine shows, I’d like the editor window to mimic the finished result as closely as possible.

There’s also supposed to be a new set of keyboard commands for Blender, including left-click select(!), coming soon, which will cause fewer tweaks to be made to the interface.

On to life:

My mom has recovered pretty well after her stroke. She can cook for herself and sometimes spontaneously bakes a cake. She has mastered the art of cracking an egg with just one usable hand. I really only need to drive her places. She still can’t speak very well, but I do keep hearing new phrases from her.

My current job has me doing some programming, which might help BlendShow a little, though only half of it is in Python, the programming language of Blender’s interface. Actually I’m not sure what the other half will be yet(Java seems likely, which I have no experience programming), so it could all be in Python if I can figure out how to do this task with Python. Coding a complete app in Python is very different from messing around with Blender’s interface.

I look forward to having a real update eventually.

 

Project Gooseberry Open Movie!

Gooseberry bannerThe Blender Institute is raising funds to produce the world’s first feature length open movie. Currently there are 15 days left(EXTENDED! Check widget at end of this post)(Animation of pilot is finished, widget has been removed now). I’m very excited for this movie. The story is about a sheep that longs for a more interesting life, when along comes a salesman that gives him the ability to switch to a different dimension every 5 minutes and live a completely different life. Here is the teaser trailer:


Since I have recently started a new job that has tripled my income(don’t get too excited, I worked 13 hours per week at minimum wage previously), I am now able to FINALLY support an open movie! One of the perks is the Blender Cloud, which lets you download all of the files from the other open movies AND all of the training videos/files. In addition, you get the same files the studios have access to, allowing you to watch the production of the film in real time! A great deal for 10 euros per month(US$12.80).

Hopefully I can create some BlendShow assets with some of these things.

I really want this to succeed, both for the movie and the development this will drive.

Christmas celebration went well, btw

I haven’t had time to do a writeup on the Christmas celebration, and I don’t have time right now, but since the last update was from November I’ll copy and paste part of a comment on BlenderNation I just made regarding the event:

At Christmas, I used the game engine mostly for simple stuff(video display with transitions, exact positioning and tiling, tilting the videos on one song), but for the finale I put a twinkling starfield video on the inside of a cylinder and spun it at 2 different speeds( http://youtu.be/ey8hKhhaf40 ). Nothing spectacular, and I shouldn’t have deactivated the speed I considered dizzying(small bursts would have been fine), but the interactivity was a nice touch and pushed development on parts of BlendShow, mostly with video display and game logic. I’ve been meaning to do a writeup on the event at BlendShow.com but time hasn’t allowed. I did do a writeup on the Halloween-alternative event “Kidfest”, though it was just a still image created in Blender and spotlights that light up when you hit the space bar, due to time constraints.

Setting things up for the event was stressful and unfinished during the last practice, mostly because I only intended to use BlendShow on the finale. Then, the band leader wanted the lyrics ONLY on their monitor a few weeks before the event, and at the moment I could only think of one option: Use BlendShow for the videos on the big screens and keep the lyrics in ProPresenter(lyrics/media program) on their screen. During the 3rd/last performance, I realized I could have used Powerpoint or Impress for their lyrics, keeping the simplicity of ProPresenter for my assistant. However, I didn’t know what the finale would be like until the day of the first performance(they had different practices), so it wouldn’t have helped for that part, either.

During the last practice, my pastor even told me twice to give up on it and just use ProPresenter. Unfortunately that would have taken just as much time to tidy up as fixing the problem I was having(uv mapping went berserk). In the end, the video presentation went well. The first performance had blocky videos, though, which I looked up the remedy for afterward and added in a way to go BACK a video in case we went too far. This was time-consuming because each song was its own scene and I had no playlist management programmed in. I had to specify in the game logic for each song which scene to go to next. Individually. Yeah, I think I’ll work on some playlist management in BlendShow so you can just drag scenes/slides around.

So overall it was a success, and a few weeks ago my pastor asked if we could use Blendshow for the videos we show before service. What he really wanted was the tiling, which I can do with a video editor.

The future:
With my mom’s health improving after her stroke, I might get some free time to work on BlendShow before Blender reaches 2.71, but I’m still unsure when an alpha version will be ready. There are still plenty of demands on my time, but it’s shifted more to financial rather than health.

In the homestretch?

For the past year, the plan was to have a working version of BlendShow before December 14th so I can use it in my church’s Christmas celebration. Currently I’m unsure if it’ll be ready, but I’m going to at least try to use it for part of the event. Looking at the video from last year, the main performance was basically fading between videos for each song, which is easy to one-up. Lyrics would be more difficult, since there’s no easy lyric/slide management system coded yet, especially comparable to what we currently use(ProPresenter).
The target goal for 1.0 is for it to be very text friendly with full control from the editor/controller window. The target goal for 0.1 is at least to be usable for one type of basic presentation with 2D text at minimum. 3D text is possible, but it’ll take some extra coding to make it editable AND work well in the game engine at the same time(currently requires conversion to mesh).

The biggest slowdown for… everything in my life currently, is my mom having a stroke. I’m now taking care of her 24/7. She’s fairly independent right now, but I have to do her chores and keep an eye on her in case of emergency.

Another slowdown, but a speedup in the long run, is building my new computer! My first custom build. It’s a beast. It also runs Linux Mint, which is taking a little bit to settle into. I will eventually install Windows 8.1 as a virtual machine, but I’m not sure I’ll take the time to do that before December 14th.

I’m very passionate about making BlendShow great. I haven’t been enthralled in a project as much as this one. I’ve continued to test a lot of methods of doing BlendShow things in Blender(scene overlays & backgrounds were my latest focus of testing, which could provide some great transitions), I just need to set aside enough time to do the actual coding.

~Garrett

BlendShow Sorta Makes Public Appearance

There may not be a public alpha released yet(December, hopefully), but you could say that BlendShow was used at my church’s Halloween-alternative event, “Kidfest”, yesterday. Technically it was Blender and Blender Game Engine, but since BlendShow is based on Blender, we’ll go with that.

The purpose of using the game engine, besides having something more exciting for the background, was to test things on the screen that BlendShow is intended to get used on regularly once it’s ready. And boy, was I glad to test that out! No matter what I tried, it would only launch full-screen on the computer monitor instead of the projectors. After a lot of Googling, I decided to use Blender’s full-screen function(Alt+F11) with a cleared-away UI as a view that can be put on any monitor, and run the game engine there. This has its pros and cons, but most importantly it works.

Besides copyright concerns, I don’t have any video of it because I didn’t have enough time to actually add much motion. That’s right, it was running in a video game engine, but it was essentially really just a still image. I added some spotlights later that react to the spacebar being pressed, but that’s the only motion I actually had time to add. Therefore, since it was really just a still image, here’s a still image of what it looked like…
Welcome-to-Kidfest

The video played on the center screen using VLC media player because of its playlist functionality. I was going to run it straight from the game engine, but I don’t have a playlist feature made yet, and we were re-arranging videos even during the event. The theme was “sports”, so I was going for a Jumbotron look for the screens. The foreground was rendered in Cycles and the background was a photo of our ceiling, projected on a quarter-sphere. Between these two meshes was where the spotlights went back and forth whenever I held down the space bar.

For the sake of learning, I’ve included the .blend file here in case you are wondering how something was done, like making the spotlights appear when the spacebar is pressed or getting the transparency right. Admittedly this project had more for me to learn than for others to learn. Due to the work-around, I couldn’t use the game engine’s stretch-to-screen setting, so that’s why the screen is squashed in the file. Our video signal is in a different aspect ratio than the projectors due to technical limitations. On the bright side, I was able to stop the game engine without the scene disappearing from the screen, since it’s just a full-screen Blender window using the embedded player.

I intend to use the Blender Game Engine more during our Christmas celebration, and hopefully actually customized and compiled as BlendShow. Yesterday’s event was a great way to get any bugs out where I could find them, and everything should work nicely in December, followed by an alpha release.

BlendShow

BlendShow

Today I’m revealing details on the program I’ve been working on for the past 6+ months: BlendShow. BlendShow is a presentation program that is unlike any other. I’ve been using Powerpoint, Impress, MediaShout and ProPresenter for years, and last year I felt they were missing something. Behind the times. I had the question… “Why don’t they use a video game engine?”

I want 3D text. REAL 3D text. I want the transitions to be as customizable as my 3D projects. I want backgrounds that interact and react to the text they complement. I want the words to have idle animations instead of sitting still on the page(except when that would be distracting). I want it to be easy to create custom animations.

The Blender Game Engine makes all that possible, and is open source.

The possibilities with a game engine are great. The possibilities when you combine it with a full-fledged 3D creation program like Blender are even greater. You can already create presentations in Blender either with video renders or with the game engine, but it’s not optimized for that, and it has a huge learning curve. The possibilities are there. I’ve been testing and exploring the possibilities for a while now.

My goal is to mold it into something people can use as easily as Powerpoint, maybe even more easily. I am optimizing the interface for presentations, as well as creating new tools that make it easy to do things that normally take scripting and complex setups. One of those complex tasks is adding videos. That’s something that needs to be just a few easy clicks. Making objects spin should be one click. Since these tools are also useful for game creation, some plugins for Blender will be a side-effect.

The timeline for development is basically dependent on my church’s Christmas celebration in December. I plan on having a usable program long before then, but the features I expect to have ready for that concert are the following:

  • 3D text that moves during the music
  • 3D environments that incorporate videos
  • On-the-fly lighting effects(flashes of light, spotlights, etc.)
  • On-the-fly text overlays for announcements
  • Effects that react to the sound! I have not tested this yet, but I know people have done this.
  • Extra support for 3 screens run by one computer, 2 mirrored screens by a second, or maybe even all run by one computer(multiple viewers is certainly possible, if the computer can handle it). The 3 center screens will have a way to tile videos across them(a feature that costs $199 to add to ProPresenter, absolutely easy to add to BlendShow).
    If things go well, I might even be able to compensate for the gap between the screens before Christmas, as well, to prevent Mary’s nose from getting extended in one video we decided not to use last year.
  • Main computer will send commands to 2nd computer to synchronize the presentation if I can’t reliably have one computer run all 5 screens, similar to the master control module on ProPresenter(a $299 add-on that we love, but you can be sure I was looking for free or cheap alternatives). I HOPE I can get this ready in time. I know Blender can send network commands to another Blender instance for render farm purposes, so I expect it to be easy.

While I’m comparing the open-source program to ProPresenter, I’ll throw in that it already has green screen ability built in, a $999 Mac-only add-on for ProPresenter. GRANTED, I have not tested either, but I’ve seen it listed as a capability. I should also note that ProPresenter is a great program, and these add-on features are not available in currently-competing lyric/video presentation products as far as I know. I will also note that if BlendShow was NOT open-source and the result of MANY wonderful volunteers, it would surely cost more than ProPresenter($399 for 1 computer, $799 for site license), largely due to having a full-fledged 3D creation program that can create games.

I will have some scenes included with the program, including one of the maps from the Blender Foundation’s own video game, Yo Frankie. I plan on using as many of the Blender Foundation’s free models as possible, because that’s what they’re for. When the software is close to version 1.0, I intend to open a store to expand the library of scenes even further and to fund development.

This is going to be a lot of work for me, but it’s going to be worth it. If you want to know more about the technical details and maybe even contribute some code, check out the More Details link in the sidebar.