Using static textures in your Blender 3D animations is all well and good, but what about adding video instead of a still single image? This means your textures would move and animate with your frames of animation. Adding video to objects as textures allows you to feature videos within your animations.
In this article we show you how to make virtual video screens. A plane in Blender is just a square polygon until you put a texture on it. Usually this is just a still image, so it can be a wall or a floor tile or a piece of carpet. But has it ever occurred to you that instead of a still image you could attach a video file to the surface instead? We’ll go into potential uses for this in a moment, but how do you turn a video to into a 3D object?
Turn a Plane Into a Video Screen
Open up Blender. (Obviously if you don’t own a copy of Blender, go to www.blender.org and download a free copy.)
Delete the default cube by selecting it with the right mouse button and pressing the “Delete” key. Click OK or press Return.
If you haven’t already chosen “Cycles Render” from the rendering engine choices at the top of the screen, do so now.
Now make a plane by pressing “Shift + A” and choosing “Mesh -> Plane” from the popup menu.
Select the plane and choose the material properties from the Properties bar. Click New and change the default “Diffuse BSDF” to an Emission surface with the popup because video screens emit light, even virtual ones.
Choose the colour of the surface which is going to be the video. From the popup choose Image Texture.
This is normally where you would choose the still image for the texture, but instead we are going to add an MP4 file, in this instance a music video. Click Open and choose your video file from the file chooser.
Change viewport shading to Rendered, and you will see that nothing is showing on the plane yet. We need to alter the mapping to get it to show.
Before we do that, let’s make the plane the right shape for a video screen. Click the plus symbol in the top right of the viewport to expand the Tool drawer.
Scroll down to where it says dimensions and add the following:
This loosely gives you the same 16:9 aspect ratio as a TV or video monitor. Now scale it up a little so it’s bigger by pressing S and moving the mouse until it’s the right size. Then click the left mouse button to accept (or press the right mouse button to reject).
Select node editor from the popup menu on the bottom left.
You will then see the nodes for the current material.
Add a Mapping node with “Vector -> Mapping.” Position it to the left of the Image Texture node, and connect the vector output noodle to the vector input on the image texture node.
Add a Texture Coordinates node with “Input-> Texture Coordinate.” Connect the Generated output noodle to the Vector input noodle on the Mapping node.
Then you’re done with mapping, and you can go back to 3D View.
The video is now on the plane, but it’s not correctly oriented. Open the Mapping node of the material by clicking the tiny plus symbol in the white dot next to the word Mapping. Rotate the image around the Z axis (up and down) by typing -90 into Z axis rotation.
Now the image is on the “screen,” but it’s lying flat, so we need to rotate it upright.
Select the screen plane with the right mouse button, and rotate it by pressing R and moving the mouse. Constrain the rotation to the Y axis by pressing Y. Rotate it to 90 degrees (look at the numbers changing at the bottom left of the screen as you rotate), and accept the rotation by pressing the left mouse button.
If the rotation is not fully correct, you can type 90 into the field that pops up bottom left after you complete your rotation.
The last step is the playback parameters listed in the Material properties. There is a trio of fields to fill in marked Frames, Start Frame and Offset. Frames is the amount of frames from the video you want to show. Set the frames to 250 so we only show 250 frames from the video. Set the start frame to frame 1 (where the movie starts in your animation) and the offset to 400, that is to say the video will start at the beginning of your animation at frame 400 of the embedded video and continue for 250 frames.
Set up a scene with a reflective floor, and remove all other lights from the scene. Even if you wish to duplicate your virtual video screen and have multiple instances of it around the scene, put a few objects in the scene which will reflect or refract the light from the screens.
When you render the scene the videos will play.
Why Would You Do This?
The main reason for virtual video screens in 3D is that they can interact with 3D elements as in the example video where we placed a glass bauble in front of the screen on the left for the light and image to refract through.
It’s a great way to make new and original video treatments by obscuring your videos in a variety of interesting ways, through glass, reflected in planes like a hall of mirrors or playing on 3D models of classic TV sets in 1950s rooms all built out of 3D objects.
But you can use video screens in your animations and movies for a variety of other visual effect uses too. You can replace the windows of a spaceship with video screens, or even place a video screen behind the glass, to simulate live action taking place inside the ship. This mimics an old movie technique.
You can also have a huge video screen behind a 3D scene to put a moving real world background to a scene involving a huge dinosaur or animated skeletons, as in the old Ray Harryhausen movies, to make 3D animation interact with live action.
You can even make 3D holographic screens by adjusting the opacity when you composite the screen into your live footage. Using the camera mapping feature of Blender, you can even make the movement of the 3D camera follow the movement of the live background video. (We covered this in a recent tutorial.)
There are a great many tricks you can use virtual video screens for; experiment and see what you can come up with.
If you have enjoyed this tutorial or have any questions, please let us know in the comments below.
Video Credit: “Unliking Stuff Frug” and “Chosen” by Bloomin’ Nora, used with permission.