Yeah, I was thinking about this just today in fact. Trying to put a number on it. Like how much percentage of time and effort to become a great artist compared to mastering the technical side of the tools. Of course they go hand in hand. But looking at it from the view of having to learn a new software, really it is such a small percentage of the overall effort.
I think you have to look at it this way. Being competitive in the market place is not just about having cheap software, in fact that could be a drawback. Being competitive means turning out effects that look better, are done faster and cheaper overall compared to the quality.
The faster part of the equation is something that Autodesk is right on top of. With ICE and Face Robot, they are moving into the realm of the 3D generalist more and more and embracing the idea of great effects at a fraction of the time and in the hands of more users who are not required to also code.
You have to be very realistic about Blender. I don’t think it will ever compete with companies that are now doing the top of the line special effects. There is a reason they are on top. And there is a reason artists use these tools. It is not entirely out of ignorance. Sure there is some and you can make that case. But where the rubber hits the road is in overall functionality and performance. When you want to make special effects that are competitive you have to have great artists and the best tools. Blender is not the best tool yet and it really only comes close in some areas. In some areas better, but over all not there yet. So a larger competitive company would rather spend the money to do it right now. So they buy software that does what they need now. There are not many companies that would put up with what the Durian team put up with to produce Sintel.
With Blender it is going to be a relatively slow road. The BF does not really have enough people developing Blender. It is growing at leaps and bounds and it is a great tool. But these other guys already have head start. Just try and not worry about the tool so much. Just become a great artist.
Personally I look forward to using high end software if I can get my hands on it. I think it would be great to have fantastic tool set at my disposal.
So I would look at the bright side. If you find yourself in a position to use some of these other tools, likely you are doing something right.
One day Blender will reach the summit. But you have to look at your own career path and make the right choices as you go along. With or without Blender you have to move up at your own pace. If you want to work at a company that is being competitive now and in the immediate future, chances are you’ll have to make a switch.
None of this is to take away from how absolutely fantastic Blender is as a tool. I am just trying to put it into some kind of perspective.
Blender will continue to grow and carve out a niche in the market place. If you want to gravitate toward that niche and you are happy with that then it there is plenty of bright future ahead either way.