This is my own reference for a series of similar Blender renders that will be brought into a Flash environment. It may help you, too!

Prep work:

Blender setup:

  • Set up your windows.
  • Set up camera.
  • Set up lighting.
  • Reserve a set of layers as working layers. These should be inactive in all RenderLayers.
  • Reserve a set of layers as production layers. These should be active in the appropriate RenderLayers.
  • Put cam/lights on a single layer, somewhere out of the way. These should be active in the appropriate RenderLayers.
  • Make sure you have the correct animation frames being output (a single frame for still images)
  • Set the aspect ratio for final output.
  • Optional: set up additional cameras for different perspectives. They might need their own lighting setup, too. Each additional cam/lights sets should be on a separate layer. These layers should be inactive in all RenderLayers.
  • Create the ground plane. Put this on it’s own layer. Set up a RenderLayer for this plane, since you may need to call it out in the compositor.
  • Create any additional global objects. Layer these appropriately, and determine if they need their own RenderLayer.
  • Set up the renderer, RenderLayers, and all the various render setting.
  • Set up the compositor. Make sure that each of the RenderLayers has a specific compositor functionality path, even if that path is not connected or used immediately. If you can’t figure out why you would need a separate functionality path for some RenderLayer, consider merging the unused RenderLayer with some other one.
  • File output is best handled in the compositor. Use the File Output node. If you are unfamiliar, search for “Blender File Output node”. There can be multiple File Output nodes in one compositor setup, so you can output alpha channels, various rendering layers (specular, etc.). Point all your outputs to a relative directory, so that you can take your Blender file with you.
  • NOTE: Use good file naming convention at this point. These names will be used for layers in Photoshop, and for image names in Flash. For me, they will also be used in Actionscript 3.0 to access the images. Manage naming with care at this point, since you will have to change a lot if you want to change the name at all. See this naming convention that I use at work.
  • Use the Split Viewer node rather than just Viewer node, since it is probably more useful in development.
  • Do some test renders, and verify the results!

Once this is done, you can use this as a template. It might help to set the “read only” flag on the file, to not accidentally edit it.

Photoshop setup:

  • NOTE: This step is not necessary. It’s easier to use the automated method. But if you want to make a template by hand, then create an empty document. Make the dimensions exactly match your Blender output. Import all your images into this doc on different layers.

Flash setup:

  • Bring sample/initial image files into the Flash Library.
  • At import, you can choose to bring them in as symbols. You can also create the symbols yourself. In my case, I will be using them in Actionscript; I make the images MovieClips, and make them available for Actionscript.
  • Place an instance on the stage, and position it where it needs to be.
  • Remember to give the instance a name!
  • NOTE: There may be a way to position these files automatically. I will have to look into the JSFL for this, and see if Photoshop can store info about individually selected regions.

Production work:

Blender processing:

  • Blender can import many file formats. Wavefront OBJ is probably the most common non-Blender format. 3DS Max relies on Max-specific function stack to load the files correctly, so will never load correctly in Blender.
  • Place objects on the working layers. Fix them as needed.
  • When objects are correct, bring them onto the production layers, and render.
  • Switch over to your graphics program (I use Photoshop). Bring the various renders into Photoshop.

Photoshop CS4 processing:

  • Go to menu item: File | Scripts | “Load Files into Stack” (this is a CS4 specific script, I think).
  • Create whatever images you need. If you need multiple images that have to be created, then put them on multiple layers. Since I need to make regions into buttons, I cut-and-paste the Blender compositor-generated alpha mask and make layers with one button per layer.
    NOTE: There may be a way to automate this with a script. Have to look into it.
  • Name each layer appropriately. If you are able to get by without renaming a layer, that is probably for the best.
  • Go to menu item: File | Scripts | “Export Layers to Files . . . “ (this is a CS4 specific script, I think). I have to use PNG-24 and select “Trim Layers” in order to export the series of buttons that Blender has created.

Flash processing:

  • Flash should already have reference to these files, so just select them in the Library.
  • Click the right-mouse menu item “Update”.
  • Select all the images in the popup, and hit “Update”.
  • Review the results.

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