Blender finishes 5th in cg retrospective 2012


                                                     Blender 3D has been with us a few years and its great to  see the popularity of this open source, free 3D software isn't waning.  In fact, the features continue to pile up, with a new UI, full polygon  modeling, B-Spline curves, a full character rigging deck and its own  animation tools. The latest features include some pretty quality  rendering systems, a built-in ray tracer, UV unwrapping ability, a cool  physics engine and a real-time game engine installed.
                                                                                                          Blender 3D remains as a outsider though, mainly because  the larger studios use licensed products like 3ds Max, ZBrush or  CINEMA4D. If you're just starting out, Blender may be great for you to  become familiar with the concept of 3D and animation, but add a few  other skills before going to studio interviews.

Forget that UV unwrapping nonsense, but think about the last paragraph. I believe it deserves some discussion among Blender users, not the fan-one that will call Blender purely awesome but the one that would answer - how to change the current situation of Blender.

I don’t use any other software, so I couldn’t say if there was any other abilities - The thing that brought me to Blender was the fact that it was open source - I know Blender has been used commercially, and professionally (I think it was used in the movie Ted to do some UV Unwrapping for example) but I think it just needs more publicity. I’m not a professional, and I think I barely fall under the amateur user sometimes, but I like plodding along.

If you go out today, just pick up and flick through a copy of 3d World, or 3d Artist magazine - 99.9% of the articles are 3ds / Maya / Zbrush. Very, VERY rarely do they do anything about Blender - You do get the odd piece about compositing in Blender, or Rendering, or the odd wierd tutorial which is squeezed into the back (think a couple of months back they did a “build a lighter with blender” page. When Mango (Tears of Steel) was released - it got about 1/4 of a page. Seriously!??! A Quarter of a Page?!? When was the last time another open-source software made a VFX film, with little or no external support?

I’m not saying the Blender Foundation needs to start publishing a worldwide magazine based purely on Blender (Oh, if Only they could! :smiley: ), but maybe we should help ourselves by, instead of keeping Blender small and quiet, throw our artwork out into the world - submitting more articles and images to the “professional” magazines - Free publicity so to speak.

I’m not sure if that would help much, but it might start people noticing Blender a bit more, appreciating how good it is. The release of Project London might be a step in the write direction, again, if the professional magazines step up and write an article about it.

I guess all I’m saying is maybe we should help ourselves a bit? 3d World / 3d Artist magazines are always looking out for more articles, and there has been some written, and some of the more prominent members of BA have been asked to do articles (I recall Andrew Price did a piece on compositing a Spaceship flypast for a multi-platform short). Hell, some of the artwork on here is above what gets shown by the 3ds community.

Blender is maturing really fast; I think that nowadays the real showstopper for it to be adopted into mainstream commercial outfits is that it still lacks in term of interoperation with other products/file formats. Some of these problems can be fixed, others (e.g. anything connected with Blender license, see FBX or OpenSubDiv) will remain forever.

I think that Blender did really well in that poll (did you notice that it is in front of ZBrush?).

I think it’s a great thing that Blender is usually a first port of call for up and coming artists. It was for me when I first started, have played around with the others and have come back to using it as my main tool. This, to me, is a bit of a golden era for Blender. The software and it’s capabilities are brilliant, but just as important is the learning community that has grown around it. Websites like Blender Cookie, Blender Guru and GC Masters are giving the people the training they need, often for free, to get them up to speed. This is important for the software because the best advertising Blender could possibly get would be a slew of amazing work made using it.

I think I remember Ton talking about a future possibility for Blender funding, wrapped up in a step into production houses, being production houses funding a developer. A production house needs a particular tool for a job? They pay their developer to make it, they use it on their production and they release the feature for review to be added to trunk so everyone else can benefit from the new feature. Think this is a great idea and, to me, it’s a situation where everyone wins.

I think we need to just keep doing what we’re doing, make a lot of noise when we make something great. Production houses will start paying more attention soon enough.

As more people use it, and it improves it’s usability, I think Blender will show up in more studios just by default. If it’s what artists know, it’s what they’ll use. It’s a bit of the indoctrination effect: Right now a lot of kids are growing up learning Blender, some of them will go on to get jobs in the industry and bring Blender with them.

Especially in the smaller scale parts of the industry that are a little more nimble and can adapt easier. TV commercials, product illustrations, and even newer markets such as YouTube and Indie Games.

People have a tendency to assume that things like software are pretty set in stone, but historically it shifts quite a bit. I use a completely different set of software now than I did 10 years ago.

I think a lot of the stigma is just in peoples’ heads these days. Even the quoted paragraph above shows that whoever wrote it didn’t really understand what Blender can do. Every comment above makes it sound like a toy (i.e. “cool physics engine” despite it being Bullet, the same engine used in many professional packages, and referring to Cycles simply as “a built-in ray tracer” even as it inches closer to competing with Arnold, one of the biggest names in CG at the moment.) Having used most other large packages extensively I can say two things about Blender:

1.) Once you know your way around the shortcuts, Blender is “best-in-class” for modeling. Especially with b-mesh and now a proper bevel tool. To get the same functionality in other packages you have to buy expensive addons and plugins. Short of something huge, I will never use another package for modeling as long as I can avoid it. BSurfaces for retopology is just icing on the cake.

2.) UV tools are, again, “best-in-class”. Having them mentioned as a new feature is pretty foolish, considering that when Blender IS used professionally, it’s more often than not for its outstanding UV tools. When I interned at EA they were all using Blender for UVing. That’s a big deal.

The only things that i wish Blender had were better hair collision (or any hair collision), a muscle system, a system like ICE in SoftImage, and a particle mesher. I also wouldn’t mind increased interoperability with other packages like RealFlow, Naiad, and others. Aside from that, I can’t think of a single thing off of the top of my head that I can’t do in Blender that I could in another package. I even find myself using ZBrush less often since DynaTopo has become more stable.

Now, I’m not here to say Blender is perfect. It’s not. But neither is any other tool. Blender is a VERY powerful piece of kit that doesn’t get nearly as much credit as it deserves.

How can we fix this? Honestly, for some people, we never will. Blender will forever be viewed as a toy because some refuse to believe that something free can compete with something expensive. And in some ways, they’re right. Blender will never be able to offer the official support of the big names. But I think it more than makes up for it with its community.

We need to be more vigilant about spreading the word on professional work done in Blender. We need artists who blossom out of the ‘amateur art’ stage and let people know that, yes, good work can be done in Blender just as easily as in commercial packages. But we also need people who aren’t morally opposed to software that you pay for. Some software IS better than Blender in many ways. The same goes for people who refuse to admit that Photoshop is better than GIMP. You not only make the yourself look foolish, but it reflects just as badly on our community as someone in the Autodesk community who says “Blender will never be worth anything”.

Mookie, you’re a great example of an artist who makes stunning pieces of work in Blender. What are your feelings on the matter, and what have your experiences been with other artists when Blender comes up?

m9105826 - I agree with everything you’ve just written. In my opinion there are 4 reasons why Blender is still an outsider in CG world:

  1. it’s hard to fit it in company’s pipeline; ofcourse it can be hacked eventually but there are no real exporters/plugins for (and from) big commercial applications (render/physic engines)
  2. it’s still much easier to learn 3ds Max than Blender; now before you’ll start throwing stones at me - I think Blender has a great shortcuts, it’s really well designed and when you get to know it you’ll appreciate all its features and won’t even try another applications. However the first steps in 3d world are much more intuitive to make in other, “window-OS-like” applications.
  3. people still believe that having something for free means having something for an amateur use; it’s nonsense but that’s truth. Buying ridiculously expensive licence for 3ds Max means buying yourself into a 3d industry, being able to use other commercial products with it (the same that proffessionals use) and being able to sell .max files (which is actually a real benefit).
  4. there’s a bunch of really superb works done in Blender and quite a lot of poor, amateur renders that are overflooding the net; some of them are really embarassing, I mean they are really bad; unfortunatelly seeing Blender artworks at the biggest CG sites is still not that common; most of the works are more like tests of features and they don’t come anywhere near nowadays standards. I’m also afraid that all the movies that were done by BF after BBB did not make that big impact in CG world… As a showreels of Blender features they were quite dissapointing (I mean you can squeeze even more from Blender).

From what I read, this almost gives an impression of various features that have been around since the initial open-source release being new to 2.65.

I mean the game engine for example has been a part of Blender since it was a commercial app. I mean how hard would it have been to just summarize what’s been mentioned in the release logs since the last retrospective (which there are logs on the Blender website for every version back to 2.30)?

Blender can be a part of a chain. As a UV editor, as a modeler, now it can become a powerful sculpting tool, a retopo tool. And more. Maybe a fine renderer, one day, who knows…
What is this nonsense mentioning zbrush? What it really does there except of being a part of a chain?
Inputs and outputs. This is the key for a fine computing. Let’s concentrate on this subject now.

Hi there, I’m new in blender, I’ve using 3ds max and maya for some years, and I’m trying to move my company to new fields, but something worries me, I often hear about the powerfull uv and modeling capabilities of blender, but not about the animation, rigging and animation capabilities, is not blender enough good in these areas?

I don’t understand how so many people are using Maya and 3DMax when they cost about $3000 for a license. I don’t know anyone who can afford something that expensive. That’s insane! Pirating them is unreliable and difficult, so how are so many people using them? Are they getting free copies from work or school? Why are those programs so popular when they apparently cost you a years worth of groceries to acquire? As far as I see it, if a piece of software costs more than $50 it might as well not exist.

Are they getting free copies from work or school?

From what i remember if you’re still a student, you can get a free and full version of every autodesk products on their website, though limited in 3 years time and without being allowed to do any commercial work with it.

I don’t know Maya and 3ds Max so don’t know how it compares, but Blender has pretty good animation tools, and decent rigging tools (should get better this year). It’s probably best to just check it out yourself and see if it fills your requirements. Here are some resources to maybe help out in that:

Here is a 3ds Max users take on Blender’s animation
Humane Rigging goes over rigging
CGCookie’s animation section

you can get a free licence if your in full time education, (school/uni whatever)

As far as I see it, if a piece of software costs more than $50 it might as well not exist.

$50? Not even $1000?
I could buy blender for $1000. Fair enough.
Anyway, there is a donation system around.
I gave ~$700 for zbrush and never regret it, though I don’t use it much these days. ~$300 for 3dcoat and I don’t use it either. But I learned a lot.

First off, the idea that programs shouldn’t be worth more than 50 would be a direct criticism towards perhaps 90 percent of all the creativity software out there. Second, there’s a lot of software worth 100 USD or more that has a company behind which uses the revenue to listen to the community and flood the new versions with features. Thirdly, the cost of maintaining servers, support structures, marketing, developer salaries, and R&D can be extremely expensive, so you need to price your software high enough to make a profit. And finally, a number of companies like Autodesk don’t even try to attract hobbyists and most of the small studios to their big software lines, instead, they target professionals and large Vfx companies, in other words, those type of customers that have a lot of cash on hand and thus keep prices high as well as do other things like offer the software on subscription that must be renewed each year (much to the dislike of those who aren’t swimming in cash).

But when it comes to the perceived issue of people paying that much for software, let’s face it, there are a number of markets where the FOSS solutions just don’t cut it, they either lack a lot of functionality or have developers who run according to a sort of software ideology instead of listening to the community. Personally, I would love to see other programs like the GIMP, Neo Texture edit, and LMMS become serious alternatives to their commercial counterparts, but they currently have a bit less in the way of financial and developer resources compared to Blender (which for Blender you can credit the fact that the foundation is somewhat more ‘corporate’ in terms of how it approaches and funds development, not to mention the fact that the userbase has invested thousands of dollars in various features over the years).

Blender rigging and animation is fine… as long as you want to do the rest of your project in Blender as well. I still haven’t found a reliable way to use animations created in Blender in other packages, and I’d absolutely love if someone could show me how. Additionally, as I said above, a muscle system would be fantastic if it were easier to set up than the current shape-key -> shrinkwrap method that often causes big projection problems in my current tests. Again, someone who has found a better way, I’d love to hear it. There are some problems with the depsgraph in rigging that require some confusing workarounds as well, but you rarely butt up against those. It’s a fairly powerful system, and the use of quaternions is much appreciated. If you’re using Blender as your main tool, I’d say that in 90% of cases you’re well covered for animation.

That is an excellent summary.

I do intend a direct criticism towards most of the expensive creative software out there. Simply the fact that I couldn’t afford to try it early meant that I never learned it, and probably never will, even If some organization is willing to give me a copy. I’ve already become proficient with the free and open source alternatives to every creative application, and found them to be good enough for most things. How can the CG industry hope to hire proficient artists when establishing a broad skill set requires a large upfront investment, or already being in college or having a job? All of the commercial software users are practically guaranteed to get a late start.

I’ve been a Blender user off and on for almost a decade and I think this is the most active and enthusiastic the community has ever been. There’s obviously still a long way to go and development will be ceaseless, but we’re really moving on up.

Maybe, one of the blender issues is that it is being developed slowly, and the features we want to see on blender are features that already exist in other software, don’t misunderstand me, I really love the open source, I hate how the industry is. Autodesk is a monopoly just because it has software that is already good enough for a production, have you seen how the new versions are released?, they have poor improvements and a lot of bugs, blender has a beautiful future but it needs to be improved quicker…