Which add-ons to start with Grease Pencil?

Grease Pencil is this great module for 2D animation within the open source 3D application Blender. When you download Blender, Grease Pencil is included. It’s already a wonderful tool, but it can be greatly improved with some add-ons. In this article we will list the ones we use, what they are good for and where to grab them. We will also explain why they are not included in blender, and offer you an option to install and update them all easily. Let’s go!

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This article exists in French / Cet article existe en français

3D Triangulation of a Grease Pencil drawing

We, at Les Fées Spéciales, love the Blender Grease Pencil. Not only it allows you to draw and animate in 2D, but it also allows you to do it in 3D directly in the Blender scene.
Why not use it to sketch 3D surfaces, then ? With a few strokes, we would be able to populate a 3D animation with FX elements, for example. In this scope, we implemented an algorithm to triangulate grease pencil strokes.

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This article exists in French / Cet article existe en français.

The Siren: making of an international feature film

During 2020 and 2021 (during covid lockdowns), we created a maintained the whole pipeline for the feature film The Siren (by Sepideh Farsi). 8 studios where involved, and Blender was a the core of the pipeline. In this talk, made during the last Blender Conference 2022, you can discover the pipeline and workflow, the huge pile of free and open source technologies used to make this 1800+ shots movie.

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 transformation tools (Grab, Rotate, Scale, etc.). You can move multiple images at once, rotate and scale around the 3D Cursor, or around each background image’s center.

You can download and test it right now on our GitHub repo.

Art © David Revoy 2009, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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.