Took me a while to get this posted because of the holidays. About a week ago I decided it was time to revisit my Blender 3D model “Dandelion”. For those of you unfamiliar with Blender, it’s a free 3D modeling program. The learning curve is fairly steep, but the creative possibilities abound. I first started working on this model in December of 2014, around the same time I met the girl who would become my wife. At that time, my nephew Austin was tiny. This project was meant to be part of a book for Austin I planned to call “Silly Sheep”. The project got pushed to the back burner, and in the past two years I’ve made very little progress on any aspect of the book. Austin is getting big fast and has a little brother called Björn now. I get the feeling that even if I stick with it, this book won’t be done before Austin and Bjorn are too big to enjoy it. Maybe it will be for my own kids or someone else’s.
I had a look at the model again about a week ago. I wasn’t very happy with the “wool” on Dandelion. It looked a whole lot more like rough fur, so I looked around on the internet to see if there were any new wool examples in the greater Blender Community. There wasn’t much to be found since the model of Franck, the suicidal sheep in the Blender Foundation’s short film, “Cosmos Laundromat”.
More recently, Disney’s Zootopia came out with a proprietary software plugin for the 3D program Maya, which allowed them to render highly complex fur and wool simulations as seen below.
Looking at the image I saw something my model was lacking. The image on the left gave me some ideas. You can see a black and white texture on the left. I realized they were using it to control the length and shape of the cracks between the tufts of wool. It’s a perlin noise texture. Perlin noise was created in 1983 to create more natural looking computer graphics. A close look at sheep’s wool also reveals the pattern of a voronoi diagram. Voronoi patterns are found all throughout nature, you probably look at them all the time without realizing it.
Interesting fact: In 1854 John Snow created a voronoi diagram from a map of a London neighborhood afflicted with cholera. He observed that the victims had been getting their water from the broad street pump; removing the pump’s handle halted the epidemic.
Now I’ve digressed. I played around with Blender’s hair physics for a while, but wasn’t happy with the results. I also discovered that my dandelion model was scaled in Blender units. Converting to imperial measurements I was working with a sheep about 250 feet tall. So I'm reworking my wool material and getting the scaling right before I move on. Here are some of my iterations. I used the final image for my nephew's third birthday card.
Hopefully they’ll be some more progress with the book in the new year!