Future of Blender as an industry tool

I host a weekly CG Meetup in Canada, and one topic that comes up frequently from non-Blender users is they are very impressed with it (particularly that it “does it all”, since they have to use separate programs for sculpting, particles, etc) but they choose the industry standards because they are afraid they won’t get work with studios. As a solely Blender user myself, this is of particular interest to me because I am always curious where other users find work and how the industry is looking at Blender. What are some of your insights on how it’s currently being used in the CG industry, where and why?


There’s still the racial memory in the industry of a time when Blender’s UI could justifiably be said to suck rocks. This kind of first impression is almost impossible to eliminate, and it’s just something we will have to live with. The fact that it’s not true anymore certainly helps :slight_smile:

In the long term I think Blender is going to win. People refer to open source as a “bazaar” etc., but what it really is is a “co-op”. It’s like a bunch of farmers getting together to buy one combine harvester that they share. They each contribute something and all reap the rewards. An important point is that none of the farmers are in the business of making and selling combine-harvesters, so no conflicts result. Blender is and example of this kind of pure co-op development.

As more and more people use Blender, the number of people who want Blender to improve and succeed increases towards a critical mass. We have now transitioned form the point where Blender was developed by a few on again off again volunteers who did their own thing, to where much of Blender’s development is being funded by outside entities (animation studios, video card manufacturers) who have a vested interest in seeing Blender compete on the highest levels with commercial products.

Industry adoption is a slow process, but it’s happening, and each company that adopts Blender is a powerful potential source of development support, likely far beyond what individual users might provide (financially at least). I think Ton tweeted recently that corporate support is now the main source of funds. This is a process that will just continue to snowball, and I think all the other commercial 3d tools are quite afraid of what Blender might become.

I fully expect Blender’s development and adoption to continue increasing at an ever accelerating exponential rate.

I agree. Without intending to sound like a fanboy, I believe Blender is unique in it’s cooperative mentality. Open source is a hit or miss sometimes, but there will always be those programs that really take off and snowball into powerful programs that give the commercial software a run for it’s money. I didn’t know it was funded by studios though; that is a good sign for the future of Blender adoption. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using Blender as a hobby, but it is my hope that more and more users will be attracted to it as a career tool as the industry becomes more accepting.

It wasn’t just the UI that drew complaints from pros, several sore points (such as slow viewport/editing speed, lack of multi-object mesh editing, limited particle functionality, and lack of support for commercial plugins) still apply to Blender today.

Most of them are fixable (and a few are being tackled for 2.8), but the issue with commercial plugins is permanent because of the GPL (and will no doubt be an anchor in Blender’s adoption rate no matter how good it gets out of the box). Yes, Blender is being adopted by more studios, but you can probably just forget about ever seeing it used by the big VFX houses (the commercial plugin issue combined with the expectation of not just being good, but the best).

Oddly enough one of the biggest complaints I get from “full pipeline” types is that reactor particles are nowhere to be seen since 2.5. Most people are generally thrilled with the modeling speed of Blender, are generally happy with Cycles as a rendering option and sculpt tools, are okay with the rigging pipeline, are not too thrilled about linking and versioning in its current state, and can’t believe some people make due with the simulation, hair, and particle tools.

With the actual GPL license is hard to think that blender will be bring in big companies in the final steps of production. But for first steps, modeling,… is a good software with future.

There is a reason that 3D industry is called “3D Industry”. Because it’s like a factory job, except you make virtual objects in a virtualized 3D space called computer. It’s a huge complex machine that keeps making virtual objects and fuels the creation of entertainment or other industry.

This is why companies want people to use Maya, because most companies use Maya as their pipeline tool, every problem, they solve it in Maya. And when things go wrong, they have customer service at Autodesk to sort it out. And when they need extra tools, they have a healthy commercial plugin community to supply them with what they need. And every school about 3D VFX teaches Maya.

From education, to experience, Maya has the most ground in NA. And that’s not something to be easily shaken.

When I worked with a indie team for a small project based on the west coast, the project lead heavily suggested I learn Maya. My answer is “Fuck Maya”. And I went back to use Blender. Using Maya is not about how good you are at it, or how good Maya is. They want people to use maya because their pipelines and their multi-user network system is already well-implemented with Maya. Having a different software in the pipeline is just going to cost money and cause problems.

When picking the software someone intend to learn, first ask this question. Does one want a job in the related field, or does one just want to make cool stuff and have it as a hobby, or even just to try 3D to see if one might have a bright future in such field.

Want a job, learn the industry standard that everyone in the field uses. In this case, Maya.

Have fun making stuff, pick the software that you feel the most comfortable using. In this case, whichever one feels like.

Want just to try and see, pick whichever is the easiest to learn and get results. In this case, probably Modo or Blender, even Silo or other mini 3D software.

I’m doing 3D only because I like doing it as an artist, and Blender has been the most comfortable to use, gives me most control over what I want to achieve, and have the most possibility for me to fiddle around making scripts. I don’t want a job working for people with a creative direction and listening to bullshit every 9 to 5. Fuck that. I don’t need a job that pays me 20 dollars an hour and I don’t even own the copyright for what I have designed/made. Fuck that.

I’d rather work at a factory then working with a piece of software that I’m not comfortable with but at the same time, doing what I loved doing. That essentially is turning love into hatred.

Be realistic. Turning interest into a job is not always a happy story.

probaply for graphics it becomes the most usable tool (with all the addons), people make blender as they want it.
But for wider adoption in industry, beyond CG; it might need double precision, though despite that some are allready using it.
If i remind correctly some indian car maker used Blender to model its cars. And lots of people use it with 3d printers as well

epic games used blender for the trailer of their new game Fornite, watch from 48min

Blender is already being used by some professional

small studios are adopting blender rapidly.

Exactly, not everyone wants/needs plugins, and there can always be a mixture of packages inside a pipeline, the bigger problem could be interoperability, and that started to be solved with the development of the FBX importer/exporter and the Alembic development, now we need more Alembic development and OpenVDB integration and all of a sudden you are capable of talking with other packages, like having some Houdini licenses in the FX department and working with Vanilla Blender in other departments, that is not strange, it’s just it is usually done with max/Maya instead of Blender.

Blender, as of today, is the best bet for a small studio, the best bet in evolution, in future and performance IMHO, while there are things better done in Maya or Max, I think they are marginal and not the main reasons why a package is picked by a small studio.

But just my opinion, others may differ, I respect them, but I’m pretty happy with Blender so far.


Without proper support and so much lacking capabilities Blender unfortunately never gonna make it.

Substances (Allegorithmic) become more and more popular, because they produce great results and you can save a lot of time. Unfortunately, it is currently not possible to create a plugin for it in Blender, because Python is not suitable for this and there are licensing restrictions. At this point, that is an issue that should be take seriously in my opinion.

There are parallels with the print industry, QuarkXpress was the dominant DTP software and industry standard until InDesign came along and gradually replaced Quark. Quark took the industry for granted.

Blender is a tool and it needs to be as good as or better to replace Maya/Substance/Modo/Xxx for any given task. Some areas, as m9105826 pointed out are not so strong in Blender.

Future is good.

Yeah… because Autodesk gives proper support to medium and small studios…

Yes… and a lot of studios don´t use it either, in fact a lot of studios use something like substance painter and export textures instead of having to deal with plugins or with shader parameters inside the final scene.

In any case, I understand what you say, and up to some point I agree, but there are simply some problems that will be solved IF the third party wants to solve it… or if something in the GPL is changed… or if the changes are tied to Cycles instead of Blender, wich is under the less restrictive Apache licensing scheme, but don´t ask me for details because I don´t know the details, so what I just said may have no sense at all.

Come one guys, we can talk about BIG companies and of course they have different requirements and standards… but do ALL the small and medium sutidios use the standards?

NO… can you explain to me why 3dsmax survived SO MANY years without Alembic? It is a theoretical standard but it lacked OpenVDB until this year I think, Alembic implementation was not good either, no particles at all for example, no prt support, it was lacking a lot of things, and even in that way, a lot of studios used it even without plugins.

The industry standard is ok, but a small or medium independent studios don´t have to fit in the standards at all, what that studio needs is to do it´s job the best the studio can, and some times the standards are not needed at all, and there are TONS of small and medium studios out there that work to clients directly in their own productions, and there are times when those standards are not used at all, or are used in a different way.

I don´t care in Blender makes it or not, what I care is about the growth of Blender, about communicating the benefits of Blender over other platforms, and it has MANY benefits over Max and Maya, but you can keep saying “if this plugin is not compatible… I can´t use it” or “if all the standards are not on it it won´t make it”… ok keep saying that, meanwhile a lot of small and medium studios are embracing it, specially after the Autodesk´s madness.

Will Sony or Pixar use Blender? I don´t know… I don´t care…

Do Sony or Pixar have enough Developers of their own to maintain an internal secret Blender fork with their own customized tools? You can bet that…

Do Pixar use Substance in their movies? I don´t know… I doubt it… so what is the standard about and who uses that standard?

We can talk about standards in file formats, like Alembic, OpenEXR (wich BTW just a few softwares use the real standard with Deep information), OpenVDB, and a bunch of other standards that, what a curious thing, are OPEN standards and can be implemented in Blender.

Do you think all the studios using Maya do their FX inside Maya? Or maybe they use Houdini and mix both packages? Or maybe use RealFlow? Or maybe use any other thing?

A standard don´t mean “we use that and just that…”, a standard is something that is usually the picked tool by many people, but I don´t understand how Modo, or C4D or 3dCoat survive if they are not standards…

Come on, there are different standards, there are different industries, and there are different levels of production, a small studio won´t need the same as Sony or Pixar, and maybe the lack of substance as a plugin is not a problem because textures can be used.

Again, this is my opinion, and I think a lot of people is seeing the benefits of Blender, being a standard or not, for me Blender is now our standard and we will use it along side other packages like Houdini or Real Flow for example, and we can use it with Vray or Corona or we can use Cycles wich is awesome.


Autodesk not (for freelancers at least), but I haven’t had so much problem with Max… others give good support. But talking about ‘industry’ it is not about freelancers and small studios. It is about medium/big studios where the support matters far more than the license cost.

Blender becomes more and more the ultimate freelancer tool, that is a good thing.

“Don’t ask what you can do for the big vfx companies, instead ask what they can do for you.”
(Looking at the blender sponsor page)


As for industry standard: Yes it does exist, but its nothing wich the studios dictate, its has grown by the amount of users using it: The only reason vfx studios publically stated why they switched pipeline, was when they could not get enough users archiving a certain amount of quality (or type) of vfx work.
Since there are enough users using software X Y and Z, there is no incetive for the bigger studios to switch. But here is the thing for the OP: Tell those people that they can learn blender besides their tool of choice at their own pace (you still have the money to afford your pricy software), making not only yourself more employeable in non vfx work, but also provide you with additional tools wich might become handy in your daily routine. …this should be communicated to those people. Smaller shops will open their pipeline, since it has become more and more affordeable to build a multi-application pipeline. Also Blender is still in search of finding its niche, wich I do expect to happen in the next 5 years

What companies are understandably loathe to do is to change. If they’ve got one way to do it, they probably aren’t interested in a different way: the business risks are high, and the return-on-investment isn’t there. So, if you hire on a Pixar, you should expect to “do it the Pixar way.” They’ve got hundreds of millions of dollars invested in “the Pixar way,” and contracts waiting to be fulfilled. They know how to fulfill those contracts, “the Pixar way.”

However – there are a lot(!) of companies out there doing CG work, and you can be sure that plenty of them do use Blender, because it is a very powerful tool in addition to being free. Their own internal pipeline could quite easily be standardized on Blender … after all, Blender had its origins as the tool-of-use in a small graphics production company.

In the end, we shouldn’t ever expect to displace “the Pixar way” with something else. We should focus on making Blender the very best tool that it can be – for the professional customers and the professional pipelines that it(!) right-now serves. Blender is no longer an unknown toy: it is “a tool for the job,” and it’s out there right now doing those jobs. Let the various segments of the industry make the choices that they may – bearing in mind that many of them chose … Blender.

Blender is “an industry tool.” If you’re wondering “when Blender will arrive” … it already did, quite a long time ago now.

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