Not really a tutorial on my part, but then, I don’t really need to make the tutorial myself.
One of the things one can do in blender is create characters to animate in a plethora of ways, and make them look realistic in the process; this was, in fact, the goal of the changes in Blender to support the Sintel project. You can download the multi-gigabyte project from the site, but I don’t currently have drive space to do so.
So I went and looked about for some tutorial action on modeling, rigging, and skinning the human body, as well as using tracking to animate it. I’ve not found much on the tracking part just yet, but I found information on the rest.
The first thing you need is a way to make a mesh for the human body. Now, you can go onto Blender model websites and download pre-made meshes for your use, but as it turns out, there’s a program that can generate a human model, skin, and skeleton. I’m thinking to avoid the skinning and rigging in the program, as I found tutorials for much more effective methods to use. However, without having actually done so (yet), I can’t say for certain. The program is Makehuman.
The second step is rigging the body; you want to have a rig set up that will prevent the body from bending in any unrealistic way, while making the posing of the figure that much easier to accomplish. There is an incredible tutorial available that goes through the entire process, step by step, going so far as to automate several parts, and properly disassociating motions in such a way that the motion produced by the body is much more intuitive. This tutorial comes in 3 videos, found on the Blender Guru website. The first part covers the creation of the skeleton and properly linking it for whole-body motion. The second video covers properly constraining the hands to make hand-modeling much easier, and the third video covers the rigging of the legs and feet to excellent effect, as well as the final application of the rigging controls (watch the video to find out what I mean.) Another tutorial covers rigging the face and mouth for speech and expression.
There is also a process where a 3D animation program can watch a video of a person’s movements (while wearing clothing with strategically-placed “spots”), and then cause the model to move accordingly. I know that Blender 2.6 now has camera tracking (where the scene camera can follow the motion of a video’s camera), but I don’t think its tracking skills extend to actual objects just yet.
The third step is skinning the body. Blender has a feature, called “Subsurface Scattering,” that is instrumental in making realistic-looking skin, as the actual skin itself is the pale gray you associate with fright or death; the subsurface is where the actual red starts flavoring the skin. There’s a lot more to this, however, as I’m only providing what I’ve learned up until this point (I’m still learning as I go). However the 3D artist Ben Simonds attempts to provide an explanation of skin design enough to make skin look realistic, rather than plastic. I won’t say it’s make everything clear for me yet, but the flashlight is on, and hopefully, the sun will dawn soon.
The fourth step is hair. I don’t know enough yet to get into any details, although from what I understand, much of hair is handled by Blender’s particle system; the idea is that a particle is spawned by a surface. It can be of any length, any density, and, at the spawner’s request, either be let free, or stuck to the surface. This means that the particle spawning surfaces can be placed on the head, above the eyes, and so forth, and the particles they spawn will become the hair. Update: Ben Simonds’ blog seems to be pretty good for tutorials: It also includes a tutorial on creating hair.
Then, you want to create clothing for the character. I’ve not even begun looking into this process yet, although I assume that Blender’s physics engine (which I also have not yet looked into) can be of use here, simulating various forces that can give the clothing material the semblance of reality.
If anyone has more information to offer, I’d love to have it. In the meantime, back to the grindstone! Maybe something good will come of all this…