Category Archives: Little Robots

Posts and materials about Little Robots

Simple IC Blender Model

It’s been a little while since I did stuff in Blender.  Here, I made a 16-pin IC.  I tried to make the model fairly generic so that I can easily do larger or smaller chips. If you want to check out the model, I have it checked into github:

Hello Seña dialog rough

I sat down with my friend Tomoko and did an initial reading of my script Hello Seña.

It’s been a while since I did anything related to Little Robots, so this was fun.  Naturally, this is not the final recording.  My Japanese is pretty obnoxious, but it’ll help a lot for storyboarding the scene.

Here’s a spliced together dialog.  You can hear a lot of background noise in this… I’ll have to figure out how to clean it up.  The recording itself was done on my iPhone4S.  Tomoko and I used Skype for the actual conversation.

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iPhone4 Blender Model – Still incomplete, but oh well..

Continuing my efforts to fill in all the models needed to render the first Little Robots Script, I started on modeling a phone… in this case, my iPhone4.

I thought incorrectly that the simple shape of the phone would make the modeling go by pretty quickly… but it turns out that there is some trickyness involved with how you get the little buttons and indentations into the body itself.  There’s also texturing complications.  You want the screen to be a single rectangular texture so that when you animate, you don’t have to worry about strange artifacts involving the screen content being stretched or otherwise transformed.

On this model, I still need to add the speaker holes and interface jack at the bottom as well as the buttons on the side.  I need to revisit the front surface though. I’d like to actually put a transparent layer over it just like the real thing… I’ll be able to easy texture that with smudges and blemishes.

Here’s what  I have rendered in-scene…

The metal texturing still isn’t quite right.  For some reason I’m getting strange textured reflections from the surface of the phone. You can see it toward the home button in the render.  It looks like it’s reflecting the wall, but the stucco pattern is way too emphasized.

Computer Setup in Scene

This drawing represents how the main computer in the animation will be arranged.  It’s loosely based on my actual computer layout.  Yes, voicing the Richard character from the script isn’t going to be a stretch for me!

In real life, my center display is an iMac and I have a my Mini set up to be a shell server.  I don’t think that the Richard in the animation would need a set up like this… instead he probably has a couple of home made linux servers under his desk.

So, what needs to happen next… I have to model a set of headphones, customize the monitors so that three distinct monitor models exist.  I have to model a mouse and my Griffin Powermate… and I need to start working on the videos that will make up the monitor content.  The latter will be the most challenging, I’m sure.  I honestly don’t know how video as a texture will render.

Workbench Concept Art

Over the weekend, I was having serious trouble modeling out what I thought the assembly area on the desk would look like.

Originally I had envisioned an aligator clip contraption, sets of tweezers, and a magnifier lamp.  That all seemed kind of boring though.  I then came up with a stepper motor kind of arm contraption that would be used in place of the aligator clips.   As it turns out, this is a hard thing to model without some kind of visual reference… and since it’s a fictional piece of equipment… well… I had to go back to the drawing board… literally.

The actual size of this armature would be pretty small as what it held would be the primary focal point of the magnifier lamp.  Since it’d be pretty small, it’s impractical to adjust the thing by hand, so I came up with a set of dials which will connect via wires to the robotic armature.

Here you see three knobs, which ostensibly control three axis of adjustment that the arm can move in.  The larger, shorter section of the knob is used for “course” movement and the smaller, longer inner knob is for “fine” movement.

My first stab at drawing this thing had all 3 knobs lined up in space, but it occurred to me that if I did that, the gearing of the knobs within the housing would all intersect.  Because of that, they’re all offset from each other slightly in the drawing… and will also be in the model.

Something to write with

Adding to the list of random things on my desk, we have a pen and a piece of paper.

The piece of paper is about as trivial to model as you might thing.  I decided to UV Map it so that I could have both a front and back side of the page (though you can’t see it here).  It also means that the stuff on the page itself will deform properly if I decide to wrinkle or otherwise mess with the page.

The pen was trickier to model than I thought.  There are some funny curves and you have to cinch the subdivision surfaces at the right places for them to look right.  For some reason the label that I applied to the pen refuses to show up in this rendering. I’ll have to dig into that later.


The way you model cables in Blender involves is summarized with this video: Making a Cable in Blender.

The thing is, that tutorial was created using the older interface… and it’s a bit tough to find in the new one.  After struggling with it a little bit… I came up with the cable you see to the right.

I can now begin to create lots and lots of cable… which is good because cables make the world go round!

Books and Book Covers

Creating book covers, particularly when you don’t really care about how well the book will actually sell… is a lot of fun.  For the first Little Robots animation, I need to come up with a *TON* of books…. here are the first two…

These are both hard cover books… I still have to build out a soft cover model as well as a Schaum’s outline style workbook model.  I’m sure that the softcover and workbooks will be more challenging than one might think… Sure, you could model it like just a box… but unlike hard cover books, the covers of their lighter weight counterparts tend to lift up on their own… plus there’s the possibility of the covers kinking and creasing.

If you’d like to use any of these book covers in your own models.. or are just curious what the images I built for them look like… here you go! Click for larger version.

I designed this one last night at like 1am.  It’s a pretty stoic design… and really was meant to be just the template image to use for future books.  I ended up liking the way it came out… so It’ll probably get used in the actual animation.

This second book I took a little more time with.  The image that you see on the front and back covers was taken with my iPhone.  I had a couple of old 1GB DIMMs from my Mac Mini.  I placed them side by side and snapped the image being careful not to have any company logos or names showing.

I need maybe 4 or 5 more tech related books to have laying around on my desk.  Any ideas?

New Desk Accessories

This weekend I went through and added a couple new models to my desk scene..

First off, I wanted to model out a computer.  This is my rendition of a mac mini (older model).  Right now it’s really just the basic shape and a little bit of texturing… but it’ll do.  The power light is always on, even if it’s not plugged in.  It occurred to me while I was modeling this, I have no real idea how to make lights switch on/off… this is probably something I need to look into.

Along with the computer, it seemed pretty obvious that I’d need a monitor of some kind.  This is a pretty generic looking monitor.  I took the basic shape/button layout from a Dell 17″ LCD but stretched it out a little to make it wide screen.  At the moment, the buttons are all blank, but at some point in the future, I’ll add the UV mapping for a power switch, +, -, and source.  The base isn’t very inspiring, but I didn’t really want to spend a great deal of time on it…


Here’s a real rendering with the new computer components.  I still need to add cables, but in proper lighting both of these models look pretty good… you should be able to click for the full sized image.

What’s on my desk..?

… stays on my desk…

This image is just me showing off the new desk model that I created in blender.  This is based on my actual desk layout at home… although the objects resting on the desk in this case are fictional.  This is the first of many models necessary to bring about the scene described in a previous blog post… essentially where my first little robot will be born.

You aught to be able to click to get the original rendering.  Probably the most complex bit of this rendering is the lighting.  There’s a mix of yellowish artificial light coming from spotlights located behind the turret… and then a slightly blueish “natural” light from behind.