It’s great to see that blender is attracting lot of artists and developers from all corners; specially in the modeling segment, thanks to bMesh and bSurfaces (they have been for a while though, its getting lot of attention in recent time).
But in case of Character Animation, it’s not a vivid picture. There are several reasons that effecting us, but mainly it seems due to lack of quality and appealing character free rigs that so easily available for Maya alone (via Creative Crash). We have animation tools inside Blender that’s almost par with Maya or Softimage XSI and in some cases we have better options than others (ex: Quaternion to avoid Gimbal Lock, much better Graph Editor and Dopesheet) but very limited people to take advantage of it.
If I have to make points what’s holding us back, they would be
Definitely, not enough quality generic rigs to practice with. (This may change a bit after Nathan’s awesome Humane Rigging series)
Ignorant of the basic fundamentals and principals of animation. Not taking enough time to strengthen the foundation.
Blender userbase (mostly who’ve started off as hobbyist) don’t care much about taking the LONG SHORT-CUT, hence improving their basic drawing and acting skills is a far away afterthought.
A large chunk of Blender userbase, who’re interested in animation are into cool stuff; creating simulations and effects, would likely not interested or appreciate the art of CA.
Time consuming and tedious work (so is a serious modeling session), but they forget how gratifying it is to a bring a LIFE to a character/props.
Most institutes/universities/online schools are Maya based classes; and people accustomed with other 3D software packages will give millions reasons why Blender is not used in most popular studios or adopted in their pipeline as an animation tool and it would be foolish to pick Blender if one needs to make a living out of it.
Few users might be dependent on using technology (read: Motion Capture and other automated plugins) to assist them on animation. If a mocap data is not cleaned enough, it looks flat and lifeless (there’s always an Uncanny Valley of death).
Why I am writing all these? A serious or professional animator could give a better answer.
I strongly feel, it’s high time to upgrade our userbase (i.e. Character Animator specifically, it’s a specialized skills which need to be nurture and brew for long time before we can deliver ‘feature-film quality’ animations). We have some great animators in Blender community, who are mostly self-taught or other seeking those raw knowledge and skills from masters and legends who have ruled animation industry for long time. So, I would request them to showcase their talents (outside their NDA; could be personal work but high quality) more often to encourage new enthusiasts. We need to have a talent pool of animators for future requirement in large productions environment, which I foresee that such skill-full artists will be in high demand, at the same time bringing Blender’s strengths to people and recognized by professionals in large.
Remember: With serious and more talented artist’s work, encourages more devs/coders to work for better tomorrow. ‘Requirements and necessities are the mother of all great inventions and innovation’.
I hope, I am not being overambitious on this. Would love to hear what our community have.