Animating a stock photo with Blender

Video transcript

What’s going on everybody, it’s Rick again from Studio Speets. Today I’m gonna take you into a little compilation of a client project I did recently. I was approached by a web design company in Rotterdam. I was asked to animate a couple of pictures they want to use on their – on the design of their new website. The point was to subtly animate the pictures so it won’t be too big of a distraction when visitors check out the website.

So as per usual i’ve recorded the whole process and i’ve made a short little compilation for you for you to enjoy.

So I was asked to animate two photographs of a chameleon. I thought it would be a cool idea to animate the eyes of the chameleons, since they have a quite unique set of eyes. And this way I could still subtly animate the pictures, because it’s only one small part of the photograph that gets animated.

So I started off by searching for some reference material on the internet, which was similar to the original two stock photos that were sent to me.

And I loaded these reference images up in Blender with the image as plane plugin.It’s a plugin that comes with Blender, but you have to activate it yourself. So you can go to the preferences and just look for “image as plane” and check the checkbox next to it and you’ll have this plugin.

This way you can drag images into Blender into the viewport, and it’s a great way to have reference material next to the models you are modeling.

Once I loaded the reference images into the viewport, I started modeling the eye – which is of course quite an unusual shape.

I started off modeling the eye with a cylinder shape and I added a couple of loop cuts to that shape. Then I scaled one of the loop cuts down with proportional editing, so that everything scaled proportionally. It made the scaling of the top part of the eye gel nicely with the rest of the eye. And create this really organic natural cone shape, which is of course the chameleon’s eye. 

I then loaded up the original stock photo as a plane in Blender, again with the image as plane plugin, and I set the render resolution of the image to the size of the stock photograph. And then I put the eye over the location of the (3D) eye in the photograph, so that way when I render the image with an alpha channel (a transparent background), and put it on the photograph in composition software like after effects, the eye is in the correct position from the start. So yeah that makes everything just way easier. It looks correct, so that way the eye gets rendered from the correct camera angle, and it just looks more natural.

In order to animate the eye, I added a constraint to the eye model and had that constraint target an invisible object, like a circle path in this case. And I animated the circle path, so that way the eye always follows the circle path which I animated – which makes it just a lot easier and keeps the eye itself free of keyframes, in case you mess something up and have to edit the model.

in order to make the eye pop more – I know designers hate that word, but yeah i wanted to make it pop a little bit more. So I added an emissive material to the eye, that way it’s more noticeable, especially in one of the images in which the eye is quite small. That way viewers should be able to see it quite easily, without it being too too obtrusive for the user experience on the website.

Animating the eye is quite easy, I don’t know if you’ve ever really looked at a chameleon’s eye movements, but they’re quite staccato, very jumpy and choppy. My guess is that all predators – cause even though chameleons seem quite slow they’re still predating flies and other bugs – my guess is all predators have fast eye movement (In order to focus on the prey of course). But chameleons are quite special, since a lot of their eye and eyelids are situated outside of their skulls, or to a bigger degree than humans for example. So it’s really noticeable that they have

This choppy eye movement, almost quantized in a way. So that’s what you want your keyframes to look like; no easing, just really choppy fast movements. So that’s quite easy to animate!

I also animated the iris, this I did with the Animate All plugin for Blender. I think – I’m not sure – but I think that also comes with Blender, but it’s also not activated. So just go to Preferences and look for Animate All and that way you can keyframe more objects in Blender. In this case I animated the vertices of the inner circle of the iris, to kind of correspond with the direction of the light from which the HDRI shines light upon the eye of the chameleon. So when he’s directly looking at a bright light the iris gets smaller, and when he’s looking away from the bright light his iris gets bigger. And then I just copied the eye to the other stock photograph. I was sent two photographs to animate, in this case two chameleon photographs at least. And I just copy the eye model and paste it and then replace the texture from the first stock photograph with the texture from the second stock photograph.

I painted the iris here and there, since in the second photograph not the entire iris is visible, but i have to model it that way. So I used the Blender Texture Paint for that, and I also used a bump map input by just using the stock photograph itself and then adding a ramp to the bump map strength. With a black-to-white ramp you can really dial in the bump mapping even though it’s not officially a bump map. It added this little extra layer of detail to the model which just made it a tad more realistic in my eye – pun intended!

Alright so that’s it, I hope you liked it, I hope you learned something if not ask me a question down below and I’ll make sure to answer it for you. Take care, don’t forget to subscribe, don’t forget to hit the like button and the notification bell, that really helps me out, and i’ll see you in the next video.

Take care!

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