Peatland drainage animation – Blender 3D – plus the VR peatland experience

Peat bogs, eh? The thing is, they thrive on rain…

No posts for a while (though several Tweets) because I’ve been discovering the whole new world of 3D animation and VR – plus getting wet in Wales, the Pennines, Greater Manchester, Leicestershire….

Firstly 3D animation:

It really is a whole new world out there…! Blender is a free, open-source 3D modelling and animation package capable of producing the most extraordinary 3D images and animations – think Pixar, Blade Runner, The Matrix… you get the picture. For some months all it did was melt my brain. I was stunned by the possibilities it offered but was completely unable to achieve anything that looked like the things I was attempting to achieve. Fortunately there’s a fantastic community out there with people who really know what they are doing and, more importantly, are able to pass on that knowledge clearly and effectively through YouTube and their own training channels, so huge thanks to Zach Reinhardt at CG Boost, Grant Abbitt at Gabbitt Media, Andrew Price at Blender Guru, Derek Elliott at Derrk.com, Robby Branham at CG Fast Track and of course the fantastic Blender Foundation and its training videos.

After more than a little scratching of heads, frowning at the screen, watching and re-watching the above, followed by much stabbing hopefully (but sometimes rather randomly) at menus, I was finally able to produce my first Blender 3D animation – a short educational animation demonstrating the effects of peatland drainage, for the IUCN UK Peatland Programme:

Here’s a QR code for it too:

Then there’s VR…

Having taken a whole series of 360 degree 2D and 180 degree 3D images of peatland sites that I’m working on with Natural Resources Wales and their New LIFE for Welsh Raised Bogs project, plus the classic peatland long-term management experiment at Hard Hill, Moor House National Nature Reserve, these have been posted on my Google Photos collection:

Welsh Raised Bogs:

Hard Hill Monitoring Plots:

Having acquired a VR headset for use at the excellent IUCN UK Peatland Programme Annual Conference in Belfast we let people VR-immerse themselves in the raised bogs of Wales, and the first thing that everyone said once they put the headset on was: “Oh Wow!” It is just an extraordinary experience, floating above the bog surface and viewing it all around you. It’s possible to enjoy something of that experience with just a simple Google Cardboard VR viewer using your smartphone. Do try it. But I suggest you do it sitting down and don’t spin round too fast unless you want to feel a bit sea-sick… 🙂

As we say in our new citizen science ‘Eyes on the Bog‘ programme – this is the way to record our sites for future generations…. 🙂

Author: Richard Lindsay

Having worked for 20 years in the UK statutory nature conservation agencies as Peatland Specialist in the Chief Scientist Team, I then moved to the University of East London where I ran the nature conservation degrees for several years. Now I mainly undertake research and support peatland conservation activities, including the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, within UEL's Sustainability Research Institute. I also paint.

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