tools

Checking a sundial’s accuracy in Blender

Lately I’ve been involved in updating and maintaining some official add-ons in Blender. One of them is Sun Position, by Michael Martin. This add-on is extremely useful for architects, and more generally anyone interested in getting fairly accurate Sun lighting for a specific time and place on Earth. In this article I’ll show how I could use it to simulate a sundial in Blender and check that it gave the correct time.

Our stack

The stack of solutions used within a studio is an important part of the technological ecosystem of a company. That stack is a living thing, changing quite a lot. Some solutions were only used within a project and are now discarded. Others are still used despite being old versions. And it might be hard to make an accurate and full description.
Yet, we can describe broadly what’s currently used at Les Fées Spéciales. As you will see, it’s mostly free and open source software, but not exclusively. And nothing too fancy! Operating systems, communication, DCCs, web stuff and programming solutions: here goes the list as of 2019!

Play: the Journey of a Simple Command Line

When dealing with shots, it’s important to get a continuity check. It means the ability to see those shots together to preview them as a sequence.
It can happen at any time during the whole process, from the layout (to check if a shot’s framing and timing are working well within the sequence) or during the animation (to check if the motion continuity and rhythm work), to the compositing (to check if the colours or effects match between shots).

We could use our favourite video editing software (from Blender VSE to Premiere, Avid, etc.), or dedicated software like DaVinci Resolve or the expensive Nuke Studio. But you might not have a license or you might want something lighter than opening such a big app, looking for the project and loading it. For that, big studios often have their own sequence player or rely on an extensive use of Tweak’s RV, an expensive but powerful video player. Let’s see what we can do with free software.

This article is not technical, it’s about the process to find a solution.

2D Camera Rig

As you may have heard, we at Les Fées Spéciales have been using cutout animation techniques extensively on our previous projects. Some aspects are explored in other articles, but the film layout is one of particular interest to us. A problem commonly encountered during layout of a 2D film is that of getting nice and smooth camera movements when your camera is zooming and panning, that is, rotating about its center.
This article demonstrates a camera setup we created to solve this problem.

Image background transform

If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation where you had to correctly place a background reference image in Blender, as we have, you may have felt frustrated by the limited controls offered by the Background Images panel. We couldn’t find an add-on to facilitate the process of correctly placing images, so we wrote one. It uses controls close to Blender’s own…

Mesh To Bone Shape

When rigging, you usually want to add custom shapes to your bone controllers. It helps to simplify the selection of these bones and moreover it gives information to help the animator to understand quickly what a bone can do. In Blender, the default procedure can be really tedious so we have created a script to help handle adding and editing custom shapes to bones.

lucidity: a naming convention template tool

In a previous article we shared our way of organizing the files. In this one, we’ll introduce you to the use of a simple python library called Lucidity, very useful to start handling your project naming conventions. The aim is to quickly check if your file paths are correct, or build paths from a set of variables, without coding your own parser.

Cameraplane: a tool for 2D sets


For one of our projects we had to handle 1300 shots, using 600+ different 2D backgrounds. Those sets were composed from one to more than 100 layers (underlays —e.g. buildings—, overlays—trees in front of the characters—, skies,…), annoying to handle and set properly in Blender. So we created a small add-on called cameraplane.