Inspirational Article - Emphasising Blenders Strongpoints

I wrote this a few months ago and it’s been rotting in my personal documents. I figured it should probably see the light of day and maybe inspire a few more folks to get involved.


Once, when I was a young child, my parents were friends with an extremely wealthy man named Eric. We spent long summers jumping on his trampoline and admiring his custom made bicycles. After knowing Eric for awhile we learned about how he attained his wealth. He was a self made man and who started his own business from the ground up. In the “flower power” age of the 1960’s, this man created bell-bottom like pants. They were actually a lot more like martial arts pants or yoga pants that you might see today. Anyway, after creating a large surplus of his product, he went out to try and sell it. He chose to sell the pants for $5 dollars a pair. Sadly, he could not sell them for his life. Nobody would buy the product. There was absolutely no interest. He tried to sell the product in department stores and at flea markets. He tried little local shops and big chains. Nobody was buying. Instead of chocking up the failure to being a bad product, Eric decided to do some economic research. He found that ‘perception of value’ has a lot more to do with selling a product then the actually quality or usefulness of the product itself. So, what Eric did to sell his product was very counter-intuitive. He raised the price.

The same pants, now at $50 a pair, could not be kept on the shelf. Eric, who initially had been making the pants by himself, had to buy a factory to keep up on production and even then he was swimming in orders. The only change to the product was the cost…and peoples perception of the value.

In Western society it is ingrained from birth that you have to pay for quality. This is evidenced by the existence of such phrases like, “You get what you pay for”. We all know that Blender is a solid product. But by giving it away for free, we are actually shutting many doors. We are fighting an ingrained from birth perception that free does not equal quality.

My fiancé works in Market Research and works for giants of many industries. ATT, Harley, and Corona are among her clients. I had a chat with her the other day, and she confirmed the knowledge that I had learned all those years ago from Eric. She claimed that this concept is called the Price Sensitivity Meter and there are actually 4 categories of pricing. The categories are: too cheap(aka crap), moderately cheap(good bargain), expensive(but within range to consider buying), and too expensive(luxury product). Product quality aside, for maximum sales you should be shooting for dead center. Somewhere between moderately cheap and expensive will yield the greatest amount of customers. At the current point in time, Blender is sitting at the too cheap perception level. I once again want to re-iterate, that I do not view Blender as crap, only that the first gut perception of the product is going to be viewed that way by most people in the western world. It makes for a hard sale right off the bat. It’s harder to give a quality product away then it is to sell it for a moderate price. Strange Indeed. If you want to learn more on this concept, Wikipedia is a good place to start.

Now, many of you may now be saying…Man, this guy is all doom and gloom!  And he wants Blender to charge for their product!  No way!  I want my free Blender!  Don’t take it away from me!  I don’t have that money to spend!!!  

Point Taken.

What I have attempted to do, in the paragraphs above, is to define one of the key problems standing in the way of Blender being adopted into main stream industry, whether it be movies, print media, or commercials. Now, it is also not lost on me the underlying philosophy of Blender is: It is made for Blender Users. It does not cater to Hollywood. It caters to its own user base. I think that that user-base, though wonderful and vibrant now, has to potential to explode into one of the largest Open user-bases that exists, possibly able to rival that of Linux itself. (If you shoot for moon, at worst you will land among the stars)

Now Blender has one often overlooked yet overly stated feature that I do not think has been exploited to its full potential. None of the other high end commercial 3d graphics programs possess this feature. And the feature has the potential to be a real big shebang for Blender. Blender…is Open Source. Okay, perhaps my point has been lost on this crowd. Most of you know have long known that Blender is an open source product. You say, “duh, whats your point?” I say, “We have not been exploiting this fact to its full potential!”

Part II

Early last week I pulled myself away from Blender to see what else has been happening in the graphics world. I found a lot of neat stuff. Most of the stuff I found is very cutting edge and pulled that, “ooh and ahh” feeling out of me. I was perusing the world of graphics research that lies in the hands of students all around the world.

The Berkley Computer Animation and Modeling Group has a lot of eye candy in their papers section. They also happen to give away all the secrets to how they are accomplishing their tasks in the included papers. Some of the projects that I personally found interesting where: Cartoon Style Rendering of Liquid, Real-Time Ambient Occlusion for Dynamic Character Skins, Generating Surface Crack Patterns, and Pushing People Around. There are tons of other Gems there too.

Carnegie Mellon has a number of very interesting papers also with fun videos to watch. Some of the cool research being done here includes: Face Poser: Interactive Modeling of 3D Facial Expressions Using Model Priors, Capturing and Animating Skin Deformation in Human Motion, and Physically Based Grasping Control from Example.
Of course this cool stuff is just the tip of the iceberg.

Cornell and MIT also have quite large library of Graphics related projects and papers as well. Also, if you want to dig, there are probably tons of gems that could be found through this listing of Graphics Schools.

Now, back to the point that I was trying to make earlier. Open Source. All these developers working on these cool new things in the graphics world need an open source framework to do their research. Often times they are probably creating the environments that they are working in from scratch. This is both wasted time and effort. They spend a ton of time re-inventing the wheel, and we don’t see any usable code. An awesome open source framework exists out there already, and it is called Blender! They benefit from having an environment pre-created for them, we benefit from having all this research done within the Blender Framework.(And hopefully released back to the community) In addition, if we successfully get Blender integrated we will essentially benefit from paid developers assuming that grant money pays for the research and pay the Grad Students.

Now, back to my first argument involving the Price Sensitivity Meter. There is one demographic of people who can not afford very expensive goods, yet wants the best product. Students will look into products deeper then other consumers because they have time, a lack of money, and are willing to go for the best deal. I believe that this is the group that Blender should court aggressively. These people are going to be the developers of the future. Additionally schools are notoriously underfunded. What better program then Blender to introduce to their Art Programs as an introduction to 3d modeling? We will benefit from more artists and a larger user base and more potential developers then any of the other big 3d packages. I have often heard that the one thing that Macintosh did right with marketing through the 80’s was that they got ingrained into the school systems. We might as well try and get Blender integrated into the school systems as well.

Advertising, Advertising, Advertising. It’s hard to get your product noticed when you have no money to promote it. I’ve heard rumors that the company I am currently with spends 60% of the product budget on advertising alone. How could Blender get the word out about themselves better? Pick up any 3d magazine. They are littered with ads showing off cool works of all the other Big Boys…and some little upstarts too. Where is Blender? I would love to see a Blender Ad. I’m no expert in the world of Advertising but perhaps we as a community could get some of the big 3d magazines to donate ad space. They may be able to write it off as a donation to a non-profit. Get sponsors of of events like BWC to feature Blender on their next big ad.

With no budget, we may have to resort to a grassroots advertising campaign. Even if we can’t get ad space, we can draw eyes from articles, so write and submit articles to the magazines. Write in to the letters sections about cool new features. We all benefit from the exposure. Most of all, don’t be quiet about your hobby. Introduce Blender to your teacher. If they see the power, they will spread the knowledge to 100’s or thousands of others.

I have become addicted to Blender and it’s breakneck development speed. I eagerly wake up every morning and check the commits from the night before. It is this addiction that is pushing me to push the community to spread the word more about what a great product we have here.