This is about why proprietary formats should be avoided in OSS. And this certainly isn’t a situation I am particularly happy about. It is a very strange situation I would be so grateful if someone could help me out of.
It goes like this.
Currently I am working on a personal project for my own satisfaction. It is a big project and I am quite serious about getting it done. When it is finished I will post it on blenderartists for all to see.
In this project NPR rendering will be used in a black and white style. Primarily this is because attempted photorealism would simply cost too much time for the shear volume of images I am attempting to create. Secondly, it means less time playing around with materials and shaders for colours etc. I know what I want to achieve in terms of style and I was convinced I could do it all with open source software.
I am a firm believer in Open Source. Once there was a time when I had all of those big, bulky programs you all know about (ripped and cracked) on my computer. 3DStudio, Lightwave, Maya and so on. It was kinda like an addiction - looking for the tool that turns ideas into my head into stunning images without any effort. A tool that doesn’t exist.
Since I discovered Blender, I came to the conclusion that anything you can do with proprietary software can be done (with a little extra effort) with free tools. Today that belief has been shaken.
As I said it this is a big project. I needed humanoid figures and I reluctantly downloaded a free copy of Poser when it was available hoping I wouldn’t have to use it. Thankfully the new version of Makehuman came out just in time to save me. It seemed all the content I was planning to make could be made with OSS only (all my content will be made public domain btw).
Then I discovered freestyle (http://freestyle.sourceforge.net/). Like many open projects it is unique and in an alpha stage of development. The more I looked at it, the more it became clear that it could enable me to create images of a style I wanted.
After generating a couple of images from freestyle using the provided example .3ds files, I wanted to see what I could do with my Blender models. At which point I discovered that Blender’s .3ds export (or freestyle’s .3ds import depending on your point of view) failed.
Confident I could get it working, I made a couple of posts and a new thread here on Blenderartists. There were tantalising clues that Blender export could work but no one could help me. The links to the builds that were supposed to work were long dead. I even PMed a couple of people. No success. Days passed and hope turned to frustration.
Perhaps I could use another program to generate .3ds? This would lengthen my workflow which seemed unfortunate but it could be a solution. Nothing worked. I tried Wings3D, OpenFX, Crossroads, Meshlab…you name it I tried it. Opening one of the provided .3ds files that worked with freestyle and immediately saving it out broke the functionality. Very strange.
Starting to think that freestyle was broken, I downloaded a couple of free .3ds models off the net. They worked! Something was very fishy was going on and I couldn’t understand it. It started to seem that freestyle would only work with .3ds files out of Max itself.
At which point a friend offered his computer to help. No luck there using Blender. He enthusiastically downloaded the demo of 3Dstudio 9 giving fake details on the download form. He installed it and hey presto! freestyle works again!
So now I have to use a 30-day demo of 3Dstudio to work on my project - using 3Dstudio as an over elaborate file convertor. This sucks!
Worse, I will need to format my computer and reinstall the demo as I progress once the 30-day trial expires. I’m not sure this is even legal and I certainly can no longer claim that my project was done using 100% OSS (except for windows).
Perhaps it is the “fault” of freestyle for using proprietary .3ds format (and being picky about it). Perhaps it is the fault of Blender for having an imperfect .3ds export. It doesn’t matter whose “fault it is” - all I know is now I have to use Max and that there wouldn’t be a problem if there was a popular, simple and open standard for 3D models. It beggars belief that a file format could behave so unpredictably!
Now I am hoping 3Dstudio doesn’t start luring me away from Blender. 3Dstudio file converter.
This has all been rather disappointing having used nothing but OSS for the past five years.
P.S> If someone can help me resolve this problem, I’ll gladly uninstall Max and get on with my work!