Blender 2.7 Basics — Tutorial 07: Basic Animation

Welcome to the seventh tutorial of the Blender Basics tutorial series. In this tutorial we will be looking at basic animation in Blender.

Blender Reference Manual —

Blender Hotkeys Reference —

Animation File —


This is a very basic animation scene of a sphere moving across a floor (link to this file is in the description). Across the bottom of the screen we see the Timeline. This is where we can set keyframes and scrub through the animation.

If we scrub through the Timeline we see the Frame number along the bottom. We can also go to a specific Frame within the animation. For Example, if we click in the Current Frame field and key in 15 we are now at Frame 15. We can also play the animation by using the animation controls. The Start and End Frame options allow us to control the length of the animation.

The Sync option allows us to sync our animation to audio using the AV-sync option. We can also drop frames from the animation using Frame Dropping. No Sync (the default) will play the animation at the set frame rate which we can see in the Properties panel.

We will be exploring the Timeline in more detail when we animate a character in a later tutorial.

Animating Objects

Let’s look at animating objects. Let’s start with a clean scene by going to File > New > Reload Startup File.

Let’s go into Orthographic Mode (5 on the Numpad) and Front View (1 on the Numpad). Select the Cube and using the shortcut SHIFT+D duplicate the Cube and hit the ENTER key. Use the Manipulator and move this Cube below the first Cube. Tab into Object Mode and using CTRL-TAB go into Face Mode. Select the bottom face of the bottom Cube and move it up to flatten the Cube. Then, using the shortcut L (make sure the cursor is over top of the Cube) select this entire flattened Cube. Then using the shortcut S and the number 10 resize the flattened Cube. Now grab the top face and move it down so we can see the entire top Cube. Tab back into Object Mode and select the top Cube. Using the Manipulator, move the top Cube to the left.

We can create animation in Blender by using Keyframes. By default the End Frame for the animation is set to 250. We can shrink this down by changing the End Frame to 60. We can do this either in the Timeline or in the Properties Panel. Click in the End Frame field and change it to 60 and hit the ENTER key.

Now we are going to insert our first Keyframe. Make sure the Cube is selected and the Start Frame is 1. The easiest way to insert a Keyframe is to make sure the cursor is in the 3D Viewport and hit the I key to access the Insert Keyframe Menu. Here we can insert a Keyframe using Location, Rotation, and Scale. In this case we only need to set the Location so click on Location. Notice in the Timeline that Frame 1 is now a different color — indicating that a Keyframe has been inserted.

In order to have an animation we need at least two Keyframes. Let’s move to Keyframe 60 by typing in 60 into the Current Frame field. Then let’s use the Manipulator and move the Cube to the right. Now we need to insert a Keyframe by using the Insert Keyframe Menu (I) and adding a Location Keyframe.

Now if we go back to Frame 1 and hit the Play button we can see our very simple animation.

Animating Properties

In Blender we can animate almost anything. We can animate an object’s location, rotation, or scale. We can also animate an object’s color or brightness. In this example we will animate the Point Lamp.

Let’s go into Textured Mode and tumble around so we are looking down on the scene. Select the Lamp and in the Properties Panel click on the Lamp tab. Let’s set the Current Frame field to 0 in the Timeline. Let’s turn the Energy of the Lamp to 0.000 in order to make the scene dark. Let’s make sure the cursor is hovering over the Energy option and hit the letter I to insert a Keyframe. Notice that the Energy field will change color indicating a Keyframe has been inserted.

Let’s now go to Frame 50 and change the Lamp Energy to 5. Again, making sure the cursor is hovering over the Energy option, hit the letter I to insert a Keyframe. Notice that the Energy field will change color indicating a Keyframe has been inserted. Now when we go back to Frame 0 and play the animation we can see the Lamp becoming brighter as the animation plays.

We can animate multiple values at once. Let’s change the color of the Lamp.

Let’s set the Current Frame field to 0 in the Timeline and, hovering over the color in the Lamp properties, hit the letter I to insert a Keyframe. Now move to Frame 25 and change the color to blue. Once again, hovering over the color in the Lamp properties, hit the letter I to insert a Keyframe. Now move to Frame 50 and change the color to red and insert a Keyframe. When we now play the animation, not only does our Lamp turn on, we also see that the color changes.

Motion Blur

If we want our Render to have a more realistic look to it we need to add Motion Blur to give it a realistic sense of motion. We can add Motion Blur under the Render Properties panel.

Let’s click on Sampled Motion Blur to turn on that option. Let’s move to Frame 30 and render the animation. Notice that there is no blur seen in the Render because the Motion Samples are set to 1.0. If we turn the Motion Samples up to 4.0 and render this Frame again we can see how the effect works. Each time it renders the Cube moves just a bit. When the Render is complete these four renders are combined together into a single image which creates the Motion Blur.

The amount of Motion Blur is dependent upon the Shutter Length — or how long the shutter is open. The default Shutter Length is 0.5 which means that it is open for half of whatever the Frame Rate is set to. Since the Frame Rate is 24 the shutter is open for a 48th of a second. If we bring this number down it will lessen the effect and if we bring this number up it will increase the effect.

Let’s change the Shutter Length to 1.0 and render this Frame again. Notice that each time this Frame was rendered the Cube moved a bit more than when we had the Shutter Length set to 0.5. This means that when all four renders were combined the Motion Blur effect was increased.

Path Animation

Sometimes we need to animate objects along a specific path. This can be accomplished in Blender using Animation Paths.

Let’s start with a clean scene by going to File > New > Reload Startup File.

The first thing we need to do is to create a path. We can do this by using the shortcut Shift+A > Curve > Path. Use the Manipulator and move the Curve along the X-Axis so it is visible. Now go into Orthographic View (5 on the Numpad) and then Top View (7 on the Numpad) and zoom into the Curve.

Once we Tab into Edit Mode we notice that this is in fact a Nurbs Curve. Once we right-click on the Curve we notice that we have individual Vertices. We are then able to click on each Vertex and manipulate it to make a Path. Once we have the Path that we want we need to Tab back into Object Mode.

In order to attach the object to the Curve we need to use a Constraint. Select the Cube and the open the Constraints tab (link icon). Click on Add Object Constraint and then under the Relationship options choose Follow Path. For the Target choose Nurbs Path. Once we choose our Target notice that the Cube snaps to the Path.

Go into Front View (1 on the Numpad). We need to set the proper Forward Axis — which in this case is the X-Axis. We also need to check Follow Curve so the Cube will always be in the correct orientation relative to the Curve. Now all we need to do is click Animate Path and then play the animation.

Rendering Animation

We have so far just rendered individual images but we can also render animations in Blender.

Let’s open the animation we used at the beginning of this tutorial (link is in the description).

Under the Dimensions section let’s change the format to HDTV 720p. For the purposes of this tutorial let’s change the End Frame to 20 for a quicker Render. The Frame Step allows us to Render every so many Frames — for example, if we change the Frame Step to 3 Blender will only Render every third Frame. We are just going to leave this set to 1.

Under the Output section we can choose where to save this animation by clicking on the folder icon and choosing a location. We can render this out as individual images or as a movie file. While it would seem that we should use a movie file such as AVI or H.264 this is not always a good choice. If the Render is interrupted then we would need to start the Render all over again which could be a problem if this was a long animation.

So, what is recommended is to actually save the animation as individual images (PNG, JPG, etc) and then stitch them together to form an animation. This process will be covered in a future tutorial. For now, let’s choose the JPEG format and then click Animation. You will now see the 20 Frames being outputted as individual images. If we open the folder we can see 20 individual JPEG images — one for each of our Frames.