Can You Use Blender For Animation?

It is one of the most popular toolkits for aspiring 3D artists and a treasure trove of tools for creating 3D objects and scenes alike. Blender has become one of the most downloaded open-source programs in the tech-based world and can do more than simply design 3D models.

In addition to having a 3D modeling toolset and sculpting tools, Blender also has a full suite of tools for both rigging and animation. With the addition of the grease pencil, it is also now possible to create 2D animations as well as 3D ones.

Blender is capable of performing almost any task related to 3D applications and animation is one of the stables of the Blender software and what it is best known for.

How To Animate A Video In Blender?

To create a video of a 3D animation in Blender you will need to follow a process of prepping Blender itself for your animation, before creating the animation itself using the 3D viewport, Timeline, Dope Sheet, and Graph Editor.

Setting Up Blender For Your Animation

It is important to complete this step early so that it is not forgotten later on, as you need to determine exactly how Blender is going to render your animation.

Below is a checklist of the things that you should do at the start of any animation project to make your project go much smoother.

  • Decide on your render engine – The first thing that we need to do is decide which render engine we should use for the project. As we will discuss in the section on how long renders take, the render engine will determine the speed and quality of the render. If realism is not the goal of your animation, Eevee is the better choice as you can still get excellent results while also rendering at a fast pace.
  • Set your target resolution and aspect ratio – In the output tab of the Properties panel is where you will find many of the tools and settings needed to set Blender up for the render. The resolution impacts render time but also the sharpness of your animation. Depending on your project, a 1080p resolution remains a good choice between quality and speed. By default, your aspect ratio is 16:9, but you can change this if you need to for your project.
  • Target frame rate of animation – This is the most important one to change before you start working on the animation itself as changing the frame rate changes the speed of the animated objects. Define your target frame rate before considering the length of your animation.
  • Target length of the animation – You could leave this one later on but the target frame length is made when you set a start frame and an end frame, either in the properties panel or the timeline. You should calculate the target length of your animation in seconds, and then multiply the target seconds by your frame rate to get the total number of frames that you need. For example, a 60fps 4-second animation needs 240 frames to work with.
  • Location of the rendered animation – You can set the output of the animation and where it is saved via the output tab of the Properties panel. It is best to create an empty folder and then send the animation to that folder.
  • Go frame by frame or full video – Finally, you need to decide how your frames are going to be rendered. You can either have them as a sequence of individual images or as a single video file. We always create a sequence of images first and then convert that image sequence to a video file after, in case Blender crashes during a render.

Setting Up Your Animation

Adding Keyframes To Your Models

The main way that we begin creating animations in Blender is to add keyframes to our elements. A keyframe determines when an attribute change either starts or ends, and in order for it to work, an element must have a least two keyframes.

One keyframe is used to indicate when a specific value begins to change, and then the second indicates when the change has been completed.

Let’s take a cube and create a quick example. We can animate the transform properties of any object that we create, ie its location, rotation, and scale.

The cube at the center of the scene has a location value of 0,0,0 in the viewport, which can be confirmed in the side panel.

Side Panel Values

To add a keyframe in the viewport press the I key to open up the insert keyframe menu, and then select the option for location.

We can also set the keyframe for our cubes’ location by going to the side panel and pressing I with our cursor over the location values.

Keyframe Color Of Value

When you do add your keyframe the values that your keyframe will appear as a yellow color, to indicate that on this frame a keyframe has been set.

But adding a single keyframe by itself does nothing, and a second one is required. In the timeline beneath your viewport, you can change the active frame by clicking on a new frame. For example, click on frame 30 to jump to that frame.

Once you are on the new frame you can create the second keyframe for your animation. To do this make a change to a value that already has a keyframe. By the way, these should now appear green as you are on a different frame from where it was added.

For the location of the cube in our example, we adjust the Z value of the location to 3. The color of this channel in the side panel will now appear orange.

Adjusted Z Value

This demonstrates that the value is currently different from the value set at the original keyframe, but does not mean the change is confirmed. Moving to another frame here will reset the location of the cube back to its default, an easy mistake to make.

Instead, press the I key again like before to add another keyframe, in our case at frame 30. The location values now appear yellow again as a keyframe has been added at this point.

Second Keyframe

Now go back to the 1st frame of your animation and press the play button in your timeline. You will see the animation, however simple, play out in the 3D viewport. And that’s it, the fundamental skills needed to animate a models positioning in Blender.

Everything else in Blender regards to animation follows the same basic workflow of creating at least two keyframes for a specific attribute. But of course, this is just the very tip of the iceberg, and we can go much in terms of both what we can animate as well as how.

What Can We Animate In Blender?

In addition to being able to animate the transforms of our object, there are other elements that we can animate as well, in fact, just about every element or property in Blender that can be changed can also be animated.

What does this include? Well, you can animate the strength of the light source for example or the focus level of your camera.

Even modifier attributes can be animated, and in the properties panel, there is even a small white dot next to each attribute that is available to animate so that it becomes easier to add keyframes to them.

Materials and textures also possess many attributes that can be changed depending on the nodes used. For example, you can change the base color of a model, or adjust the scale of a texture. The possibilities are endless when it comes to animating.

How Else Can We Animate In Blender?

For the most part, keyframes are used to create animations by assigning start and end frames th=o the changing of an attribute, but it goes far being just creating keyframes.

The timeline is used primarily to position initial markers and keyframes to create an overview of the animation structure and to preview it in the viewport.

The dope sheet is an editor used to edit the positioning of the created keyframes in the animation. Here you can perform actions like duplicate keyframes and reposition them, acting as an extension to the timeline.

The graph editor is yet another toolset that allows us to control the relationship between keyframes, altering how animation behaves.

How Hard Is It To Create Animations Using Blender 3D?

Blender has for a while garnered a reputation of having a steep learning curve, and even though it has become a much simpler application to use in recent years this is still the case when learning specific skill sets such as 3D animation. It is relatively easy to begin creating basic animations using keyframes and the timeline when you limit yourself to manipulating object transforms.

However, the further that you dive into animating in Blender the more complex things can get, and this is in large part due to the fact that most changeable properties can be animated in Blender, and there are many ways in which these animated properties can be controlled and many ways in which they can interact with each other.

It is no doubt a challenge to learn a skill like 3D animation regardless of the software that you are using but most truly worthwhile skills are a challenge anyway.

Another key factor to consider is the sheer scale of resources that are available to you as an animator in the form of youtube tutorials, online courses, manuals, and blog posts that hold all the information that you could need to learn 3D animation in Blender.

You have everything you need to learn animation on the internet, readily available to access. So while it can be a challenge to learn good animation, it’s never really been easier.

How Long Does It Take To Render An Animation?

The short answer is that animations take a lot longer to render normally than rendered images. This is because Blender has to render each frame of an animation as an image one by one. So if you render an image of a scene and it takes one minute to complete the render, then that is the length of the render.

However, if you then render that scene as a four-second animation for a 60fps frame rate, then you have to wait approximately one minute to render each frame. In other words, you have to wait four hours for the animation to finish.

There are many ways though in which you can reduce your render times, the most obvious of these is the choice of the render engine. Eevee is much faster at rendering at the expense of less realism, so it can produce animations much faster.

That same animation that took four hours to render in the Cycles engine may take only 10 minutes if Eevee was used, or less. Of course, unless you are a wizard at the Eevee settings the final result will not be as impressive.

If you are a beginner at animation and rendering, then it is highly recommended that you use the Eevee engine for your early projects. It is also recommended to use Eevee if your hardware is not to a high enough standard.

If you go with Eevee then you are pretty much set as your frames will render in a matter of seconds rather than minutes and there is little need to do much else.

However, if you need to use cycles then you will want to research the many ways that you can reduce render times. Fortunately with Blender version 3.0 the cycles X render engine is faster and more efficient than ever before, but will never be able to offer the sheer speed that you get with Eevee.

Aside from the choice of render engine, the settings that you choose at the start of your project will also impact your render time. Choosing to go with a 30fps cap instead of 60fps at the start of your project will pay dividends when it halves your render time as only half the number of frames need to be rendered.

Resolution plays an even greater role in render times, with the total time larger depending on the pixel density of the image. A 1080p resolution is just a quarter of a 4K image, and so the render time of a 1080p animation is only 25% that of a 4K one.

You will quickly learn in rendering that it is always going to be a choice between speed or quality for every setting that affects your render times.

Where Are Animations Saved When They Are Rendered?

If you have ever rendered an image then you may have come across a particularly annoying quirk that Blender has, which is that images are not saved with the file. So if you close the project without saving the render, you lose that image when you return to Blender.

This makes sense as your image should be its own file, like a JPG or a PNG file, which then can be used we almost any purpose outside of Blender.

The same principle applies to animations, as the rendered animation itself is not saved with the project, but needs to be saved separately in its own file.

Now the animation is actually saved somewhere when it is rendered, and that is your computer’s temp folder. But this is not a location that we visit often, and the temp folder empties when you shut down your machine. So we need to define where the animation is going to be sent to.

To define where your animations are going to be saved, go to the output tab in the properties panel and then go to the output section. Here you are able to define two key factors of the process, where you are going to save your animation to, and in what file format you are going to save it as.

To define the location of the animated render, click on the folder icon to open up the file browser in a separate window. Either locate a folder where to store the animation or create a new folder to store the animation in. It is recommended to have a folder exclusive to the animation.

Is Blender Good For 2D Animation?

Not only can Blender be used to create full 3D animations but it can also be used to create 2D animations as well, and does so with a very different set of tools.

In Blender, we now have a tool known as the grease pencil, which allows us to draw two-dimensional shapes in a similar manner to more traditional creative applications like adobe photoshop.

Many of the tools from those applications are also present here with the grease pencil, such as the ability to adjust stroke colors, weight, and a layering system.

We even have the ability of created 2.5D animation styles by combing our 2D grease pencil tools with the 3D environment.

Is Blender a good choice for 2D animation? It would be fair to say that it should be considered a good alternative, but there are still more dedicated programs that perhaps have a set of tools for the job at this point.

Thanks For Reading The Article

We thank you for taking the time to read through the article and hope that you acquired the information that you were looking for. A list has been gathered below displaying some additional topics that you may be interested in reading.

  • Node-Based Compositing in Blender

    Exploring the power of node-based compositing in Blender.

    Continue Reading

  • Compositing Masks in Blender Explained

    Demystifying compositing masks for creative control in Blender.

    Continue Reading

  • Blender Post-Processing: Effects Guide

    Advanced post-processing effects for artistic expression in Blender.

    Continue Reading