Blender vs the World: Sports Graphics and Fast Paced Environments

Hello all!

I am a professional in the sports graphics industry, and I have worked on high profile graphics packages that have been broadcast on Fox Sports and other networks. My 3D background is in Blender, and was an obvious choice for my personal workflow in such an environment. However, Blender is simply not feasible to use in such an environment, and I would like to briefly discuss the reasons why. (Spoiler: it’s not the interface. )

The environment I work in is super fast paced. The packages we deliver have very short production times, sometimes just over a week. With turnarounds like this, render effects are dropped if they aren’t fast. AO, for example, is often dropped, in favor of a drop shadow or painting a shadow in photoshop. Thesis, therefore: Blender doesn’t save for compositing very well, and isn’t easy to work with in such an environment.

Cinema 4D is the industry standard for graphic packages like these, and for a good reason. Cinema is quick and flexible with it’s rendering, and saves files easily read by compositing programs, such as photoshop and after effects.

In rendering, Cinema can save a file with all the render passes laid out for easy access. The file it saves includes each pass already set to it’s proper layer mode (ie, shadow layer is set to multiply, specular is set to add, so on). This makes it easy to drop the render into photoshop for quick compositing, or after-effects for quick motion sketching. Additionally it allows for saving object buffers (basically a black and white matte soloing a object) and other simple tricks that make compositing simple.

Blender, on the other hand, does not make external compositing so easy. In a blender to photoshop workflow, there is no simple way to export all of the render layers at once, let alone as a single file. Rendering out movies of separate passes is impossible in a single render, as far as I know. If you want to composite within Blender, that’s fine… blender makes it easy to access render passes in the compositing panel for it’s own internal use. But saving out each render pass separately is a pain.

Obviously, photoshop and after effects are industry standard programs; working with them is necessary. Blender’s compositing systems, while surprisingly robust, offer little advantage and are decidedly less flexible than those programs. Not to say blender shouldn’t be proud of it’s compositing system, but it also should not expect users to stay within the program. I realize that blender probably can’t access the photoshop file format, but just some development in this area would be awesome. Doesn’t the tif file format allow layers?

In conclusion, Cinema makes it easy to work with other programs, while Blender does not. Now Cinema is not a perfect program by any means… honestly, I like interacting with blender way more. Cinema’s interface is clunky to say the least. However, it knows where it is strong and has created workflows for easy interaction with external programs, while Blender doesn’t necessarily make it quick or easy.

So yes. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your discussion on this topic.

tl;dr nice: Cinema 4D has some cool things that Blender should get.
tl;dr not so nice: Blender doesn’t play well with other programs and needs to be more flexible if it wants to be used as part of a production workflow.

Agreed on Blender playing nice, but it also needs to be the mindset on the development end… which sadly they exist in their own little “blender bubble” as I like to call it. Theres a bigger focus on personal film projects where as the broader field of CG kind of gets the second class citizen treatment. The excuse you hear often is “develop it yourself” especially if its with a professional environment in mind.

Its this reason why I see it being unreliable from a development management standpoint. Regarding Cinema 4D, honestly not much faith in Maxon either, but they were smart. They picked a segment of the market with little competition and owned it…specifically Motion Graphics.

My personal favorite at the moment is Modo. Its reliable both on the development end and on the software side, its perhaps the most modern of the major applications out there atm. Viewport performance can be an issue though, but for the most part its fantastic. They are building bridges between Nuke and Mari so its all fitting together nicely. Modo carved the product design niche out but they have been focusing on vfx and some other areas including games.


I had 2 years fulltime run with c4d and totally understand all the love and appreciation it gets by people who used it. It simply excels at day to day tasks offering great quality and extremely productive workflow. Blender on the other hand is a bit more lower level. I do not think it’s a flaw, it is brilliant design that targets many users and allows them to conform it to their individual needs. It is magnitudes more flexible in that aspect. You just need to streamline it around your workflow.

Attempting to answer:

  • Cyles outputs multichannel EXR beautifully. In AE make sure you use Extractor node. If you need to have file_sequence per PASS/AOV/ELEMENT then you can automate that by running it through Blenders compositor where you split passes up into their individual file_sequences. // AE chokes on EXRs a bit, PNGs are lighter to work with.
  • I cannot comment on making AE link with Blender, there appears to be plugin for that! I do know it was seamless to send 3d data to AE with C4D + you also got Cineware. Regardless rendering in c4D is slower than Cycles with modern GPU + Cycles offers more flexibility with materials (- shadowcatcher which needs workaround ). We always struggled with render times and relied on teamrender and noisy render slaves. There’s no need for it. If you find a way to link AE and Blender you can also use Element3D that should solve any deadline issues.
  • Python will help you customize your workflow and batch process many of the tasks that consume your time. Best career advice anyone will give you is - LEARN PYTHON! It will help you in any application.

Lastly, knowing and using another 3d software can only enrich your knowledge/abilities as well as employment value. This is not to say Blender is not fit for the task. Quite frankly it can either slow you down greatly or offer tremendous benefits in customized, smart workflow. It is mostly up to you, not developers, to make that happen.

It was interesting reading your post, I’ve used AE and PS for many years and really wish Blender could “play” better with them. I fully agree with your comments on compositing, while the compositor is pretty robust, it’s very cumbersome in many ways, and things can be done so much quicker in AE.

Try getting in touch with the developers (I’m not sure what mailing list is most appropriate, but this is their main one). One of the goals of 2.8 Ton mentioned at BConf was better interoperability with other programs so Blender more easily fits in established pipelines. To get it right, they’ll need input from people like yourself, as Blender Developers have probably never used Cinema4D, and probably aren’t familiar with the workflows you’re using.

See around the 42-43min mark:

Several nice punch lines, what are “high profile packages” ?
And having a week to create something fast, isn’t that a contradiction ?. I sometimes have a day or less :)) well never mind.

But I’m not realy getting the point of your writing, I think you use Blender, but do like other programs as well.
You mis layers i think because you redo things in photoshop or cinema 4d
I wonder for what kind of effects one might do that, well i guess some movie-effect-filter .

But anyway are you aware that you CAN work with layers ?
If you go to compositor , select use nodes, the first node allows you to specify the layer.
(for example in the BMW test scene, car lights are on another layer).

You might from there for each layer export the fram to a jpg (or better png or exr) per layer.
Take note a jpg or mp4 or avi dont understand transparancy, but png and EXR can!.
Then you might combine that, with other tools there are several tools, i asume image stripes are suported by photoshop/gimp
Another option for you might be Avisynth to create such a stream reader

I never render from Blender straight to AVI, i always take PNG or EXR in betweer; just to be safe for computer hickups.
I’m using less other software these days, i agree some effects are not in Blender, but in a creative sense i think i like it to be not spoiled there and create something in different ways. I do also think though if Blender had support for virtual dub filters, and VST DAB audio filters, Blender would make an enourmous huge jump as video editor.

Don’t forget that Blender also has pretty good realtime materials and effects via OpenGL, if you need to blast out clean quick graphics.

Also how did you determine that Blender’s compositor is less robust or less flexible than other image editing software? I haven’t needed to use After effects for TV production for 10 years now, all #b3d