The Ditko University in Second Life

Update: Ditko University’s in-world location closed May 28, 2014.

Somewhere in the information flowing past me I came across The Ditko University and the classes they teach. Their class schedule is here: Ditko Class Schedule. This item caught my eye: Blender Avastar Animations 101 by Haven Ditko.

I’ve done animations, but my animations (about 6) were done before I got Avastar. While I did a lot of work figuring out animation retargeting last year, I was having a tough time of it. Blender had problems at the time and I am a novice when it comes to animating. So, I wanted to check out this class and make sure I have a good understanding of the basics. 

The class was present in Second Life at the Ditko auditorium (URL to SL Destination page). The class ran about an hour and half. Haven was using Blender 2.69 and Avastar 1.1-1021. She says she gave up trying to keep up with the Avastar RC update cycle. I understand her feeling. Every couple of days I check for a new release and fine I am already 2 or 3 behind.

Haven uses voice. She speaks well and knows the subject well enough there is no stuttering. The ‘and…. ummmm… er…” some people fill their speech with can drive me nuts. Haven does NOT have that mannerism. Her delivery is moderately paced with few false starts so she is easy to understand.

She did have a problem with Blender misbehaving, but I suspect we all do from time to time. We can see her Blender screen via TeamViewer. If you plan to take the class I suggest you get the installable version, it is free. There is a browser version. Those using it apparently had a problem with it stalling. Other than a few laggy spots mine worked well.

I was using Blender 2.70 and Avastar 1.1-1045. I had no problems from user interfaces differences. Most of the current changes have to do with Fitted Mesh. So, I think a wide range of Avastar versions will work for the class.

The first class (101) is about building a base Blender file use in building future animations. Haven describes what animations are and what Blender does  and the needed Avastar controls. She mentions but does not use Optimo’s animation templates, which are part of Avastar. She is teaching what those templates do. In essence you get to build your own template. The additional understanding reveals ways to do things more easily and quickly.

One of the interesting things is in how she sets up the Dope Sheet for animations. The benefits of in-order-selection of armature parts to organize the Dope Sheet is not something I’ve seen others mention. But, it makes the Dope Sheet much easier to work with.

Also when making key frames I never understood what the AVAILABLE choice in the Insert Key Frame Menu (i-key) was for. Understanding that will save me a load of time. And requires the Dope Sheet be setup well.

So, those two things alone made it worth my time.

Haven stops and helps when someone goes off track. She is also good at keeping things on topic. She avoids getting pulled into explaining Blender/Avastar tasks that should have been learned in earlier classes. She also avoided rushing ahead to subjects planned for the next classes.

You’ll gather I think this was a well taught class. I enjoyed it and picked up some basic parts of animating that I had missed in my rather random education process.

I know we have a number of great educational resources in SL. Getting the information about them to where people can find out about them is a challenge. So, add this resource to your list.

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