Some thoughts and questions

Hi. I’m fairly new to 3D, but I’ve been reading tutorials, wikis,and documentation for a while, trying to learn everything I can. I’ve been mostly playing around and testing various features, all the while trying to wrap my mind around this incredibly complex world of polygons, topology, armatures, shapekeys, and all the rest. It’s challenging, but I love every moment of it.
Blender has been a savior to me in all of this, being free as it is. This is quite refreshing compared to the big bucks I would have had to shell out for Maya, or something similar, which is not possible for me. But despite this, trying to use and understand Blender has been a bit of an ordeal. After thinking about it for a while, I’ve come to some interesting conclusions.
First of all, I don’t know how to use Blender efficiently to come up with great images. Whenever I use it, I feel like I’m fighting with the interface the whole time. I used the Personal Learning Edition of Maya for a while, before I found Blender, and it was somewhat different. The learning curve was, of course, ridiculously steep, but once I began to understand it, everything was smooth and relatively easy. I still didn’t make anything worth looking at, but I could use the interface efficiently. I think the reason for this is that Maya’s interface has a focus; everything is set up in a way that works with everything else really well, and it’s organized perfectly. It just makes sense. I have not had the same experience with Blender.
From this, I can conclude one of two things: either (1) Blender is terribly unorganized, and lacks any sort of strong focus, or (2) all the tutorials and documentation fall short of explaining Blender’s method of organization effectively. As for number one, I find it just a bit unlikely, considering all the people who love it the way they do; apparently, there’s something about Blender (beyond its being free) that makes people choose to use it for professional work. But whatever that something is, I don’t know, and I can only think it’s because no one has told me. This brings me to number two: this something, whatever it is, is missing from the tutorials and documentation. This, I think, is the the more likely. Please don’t think that I’m bashing all the wonderful people who make tutorials for the rest of us. What I’m trying to say, is that they miss this one thing, the thing that makes Blender great.
So basically, I want to issue a challenge to those of you who are more experienced than myself: tell me, what is it about Blender that makes you love it, that every time you think of it makes you love it more, that inspires this loyalty to it, and confidence in what it can do? What is Blender’s most endearing element? What is its Genius? What makes Blender great?

one hand on the keyboard, the other on the mouse.
hotkeys. memorize them.

press space alot. everything you need is in those little menus.

Yes Blender is very much hotkey based and you can become extremely fast at modeling because of this . And I believe most tutorials cover that aspect of Blender …

As for the UI organization … Once you get the basics down you’ll find that it is organized enough … the various buttons windows have panels that apply to the various context for an object type . So for the mesh object you have the edit/object/materials context while for an empty object you only get panels for edit/object context since empties are just a point in space and so cannot have a material applied to them . And so on for the various other object types …The materials and object contexts also have subcontexts that apply to some objects and not to others .
And then there are the "meta"context buttons like logic/scripts/scene which apply to the entire file .
And the various modes do what they describe …

The 3D view and the buttons window are the 2 basic spaces that you need to make anything . Once you get used to the hotkey combos and what modifiers and constraints do making something is so very easy in Blender .

I have never tried using Maya so I can’t give a proper opinion as to its organization as compared to Blender . I did try Max a long time ago for a very short period and can say that Blender’s interface is just as organized if not more .
I’m not sure what you mean by : “Maya’s interface has a focus; everything is set up in a way that works with everything else really well, and it’s organized perfectly”… but I think once you get used to Blender’s setup you will begin to feel that way about Blender too …
I will say this though, I once saw a guy on Youtube give a tutorial on how to set up a muscle deformation setup in Maya … the video was about an hour long ! and the setup was just a basic upper arm/bicep sort of thing and the steps needed to get there seemed so convoluted to me … I mean it would take me five minutes to do a setup like that in Blender …

Also just something you might want to do to better understand CG in general is to read up on the programming side of things … “take a tour of the sausage factory” as it were … get a grip on the math/ programming side of things helped me a great deal in understanding how to make stuff in CG . That’s another aspect of Blender that I appreciate … the fact that you can interact with the developers and look at the source code if you’re so inclined .

Commercial applications tend to adopt a “house style” for their literature and because they usually commission authors to produce the documentation etc, it tends to follow the same style. This gives some consistency across the available materials.

Blender documentation is created from free contributions from the Blender community. The Blender-Wiki writers are doing a good job at providing a consistent reference, but the vast majority of tutorials and guides are written in the style of those contributing the information. Some go into a great deal of detail and others assume you already have the basic Blender knowledge. Add to this the fact that you can take many different routs within blender to achieve the same outcome and the task of a new user finding a clear way to get started with blender can become overwhelming.

Once the hot-keys have become second nature and you are familiar with Blenders way of doing things, you will realise what a great and powerful application Blender is. Just stick at it because the reward of understanding Blender is well worth the effort.

one of the best “magic” things in blender is"shift+space" to quick-maximize windows. that’s a so very powerful, time-saving shortcut that i find it’s a shame that no other programs have it. and of course all the other hotkey-stuff that guarantee a high-speed workflow.
but i agree: blender lacks internal documentation: the space-bar menue does not have all functions inside. although the usage of shortcuts and hotkeys has to “grow into your hands” before you are able to use blender efficiantly, the space-bar-menue should have ALL functions inside. it took me 3 long years to discover the Shift-G in Edit-mode to select similar areas. and i think there will be ever more shortcuts yet to discover, which is, on the one hand, nice. but on the other hand it’s quite a drawback that the one menue doesn’t tell you all the stuff that you have to know. it makes no sense to have that sort of “central menu” that looks like it houses everything you can do, when there are so many important functions that you have to discover by accident or in small comment in brackets somewhere buried in the wiki. i think that’s where maya is stronger (although i didn’t like maya’s menue at all).

but you want to know the “most endearing element”?
i think blender is made with love. well, at least it feels like that. to be able to work with a software that is made with the passion and enthusiasm of people from all over the world is a privilege. blender is a wonderful, empowering, handcrafted gift, made by some really smart and enthusiastic people. working with a software like that makes me happy. Even more when i am seeing all the great stuff people are making with blender. (man, i am getting sentimental…)

regards to everyone and thanks to the devs!

try to learn things one by one, its probably not very good to try to learn it all at once.

What set of tutorials are you using? I really thought thad Noob to Pro (Wiki Books) was really helpful, to start with, because it is a little bit more organized than some (no offince). And start off small, do interface and WOW, I MADE A CUBE befor you do shape key. Don’t take this the rong way, you could be a lot more expireicned, but I now sometimes its easy to jump over the beggening tuts, I did, acidentally.

Thank you everyone for replying. You’ve made some interesting points, and I’ll have to ponder them for a while. But here are my first impressions:

StompinTom: That’s not really what I meant. Every other 3D program worth its salt has that same basic system of hot keys and mouse usage, and the like. And Maya has custom keys, which I think ought to be an obvious feature; I can’t imagine why Blender doesn’t have them. Anyhow, I’m quite familiar with Blender’s hot keys. My trouble has more to do with understanding the paradigm behind Blender’s work flow, not with basic interfacing.

Vertex Pusher: Basically the same…

Maybe “focus” wasn’t the right word. Maybe I should have said “archetype.” Anyway, what I mean is, Maya has a certain way of being structured that I like. It’s node-based, which means that everything in the scene is an object with a specific set of attributes, any of which can be used to drive the value of another attribute, whether of the same node, or another. It’s easy to understand, but very powerful. Now, I’m not saying I want Blender to be like Maya. In fact, I dislike the idea of Blender being “just as good” as Maya. I don’t want it to be just as good. I want a program that has its own individual genius, not one that borrows from another’s.

robbur: That’s part of what I’m trying to say here. The tutorials, while generally good, aren’t really made to explain the most basic concepts. I’ve had the same difficulties with Linux at times. They give step-by-step instructions to end up with a particular product, but fail to give the reader any real substance which they can apply to their own ideas. It’s all method, and no concept.

sebastian_k: That’s another thing I find annoying. Why aren’t all the possible options and functions available in menus? Couldn’t that be done pretty easily? Why wouldn’t it be that way?

As for your second point, you’re right: you are getting sentimental. But you’re also getting closer to what I’m getting at.

to be able to work with a software that is made with the passion and enthusiasm of people from all over the world is a privilege

I know that it’s made with passion and enthusiasm, and even love. What I don’t know is what drives that passion. What makes some people love blender the way they do?

iliketosayblah: That’s typically what I do. Let me be clear by saying that my trouble is not with basic understanding of 3D in general; my trouble is with understanding Blender.

Abc: I’ve read (and watched) just about every tutorial I could find. I’ve almost run out, actually. But you are so right about the temptation to skip ahead to the more difficult (and frankly, more interesting) stuff: hair, character modeling, character animation, etc. I have to fight with that all the time. But I think I’ve learned most of the basics, and if I forget anything, I can always look it up in the wiki.

I came to blender with absolutely no knowledge of mesh modelling, though I had done some 3D CAD work. It took me between 12 to 18 months before Blenders modelling concepts became clear to me. Fortunately I am fairly persistent and kept at it, a lot of people have a quick look at blender and give up long before they find the way. I completed many tutorials and the tools are covered in detail but the processes and thoughts of the person doing the tutorials weren’t. It’s much easier to learn if you have an explanation of why you are doing something, rather than just being shown how to do it.

I have put together some tutorials that also try to explain the design processes that are being used rather than just showing how to use the tools. The problem is to write in this sort of depth gets very involved and time consuming, not something that many people can commit to. The style of my tutorials won’t suit everybody, but hopefully what I have done will help some reach that Eureka moment when you GET what Blender is about.

One of the things that helped me understand the genius behind blender (and that drove me crazy before I learned it) is the data-block concept for holding information. One of the devs wrote an article about understanding data-blocks, and the outliner window (OOps view) shows them in action.

Since then I’ve always got an outline view window open whenever I use Blender. (It’s useful for other things, too.)

Blender isn’t designed to be easy to learn. It’s designed to be easy to use, once you’ve learned it. Think of Blender as a high-maintenance, slightly neurotic, absolutely gorgeous girlfriend :eyebrowlift: . Seemingly unapproachable, requires a lot of attention, prone to cutting you off for weeks if you say or do the wrong thing… but once you get to know what she likes (and what she doesn’t like) you’re the envy of everyone around. :wink:

I don’t know where are you coming from, but you sounds like some very sophisticated troll… Yes and you know what you are talking about!

I would not be surprised if you coming direct from Autodesk pro world with a mission to swap some new 3D users who want to try and live with this fun…

Every user count…

… a few thousand buck$, right? :rolleyes:

Oh, there you have ‘free’ personal learning edition of Maya? You know what, no thank you, I need to finish my current projects without watermarks, now I’m enough comfortable with Blenders UI that I can make it faster than in Maya, for sure. Yes, and I will spend my money to support this amazing piece of art - Blender, which was lucky enough to escape in the real free world where anyone can freely enjoy this elite graphics field which was before available only for a rare people with a huge amount of money.


If I can’t find the answer about the latest Blender feature in the manuals, I still have a huge amount of on-line tutorials, forums, videos, pdf’s, you name it…

… or IRC, where I can talk with one of the best software developers in the world.

No, there is no other software which can give so warm and god-like feeling as Blender! I can do anything with it!

Sorry, I must to go - practicing Blender’s Game Engine…

I think that’s the best blender quote I’ve ever heard. :smiley:

also, if the right-mouse button system gives you trouble, pretend you’re playing an RTS game.

one hand on the keyboard, the other on the mouse.

Aye! Years ago I tried Blender many times and failed. That was the phrase that made it all clear for me.

At red hat university, Bassam gave a Blender crash course to folks who never was in contact with 3D. It seems they did more than all right.

Please don’t be rude.

If you don’t have anything intelligent to say, just don’t.


Blender takes a little getting used to - I was quite flustered msyself - but now I wouldn’t trade it for anything!


It’s much easier to learn if you have an explanation of why you are doing something, rather than just being shown how to do it.
Exactly! There are so many tutorials that don’t teach fundamental concepts, but love to tell you how to make objects and animations exactly how the authors made them, so you end up just copying a bunch of settings you only half understand.
The tutorials on your site are really nice, by the way. Exactly the sort of thing I need. I’ll have to follow them sometime when I’m not swamped with stuff to do.

Orinoco: Thanks for the data-blocks link. I think this may be the key to really understanding Blender. Now all I have to do is understand the article. :confused: I don’t suppose there’s a glossary of terms, is there? I guess I’ll just have to reread it several times. But if you know of more articles like this, please tell me.

Think of Blender as a high-maintenance, slightly neurotic, absolutely gorgeous girlfriend :eyebrowlift: . Seemingly unapproachable, requires a lot of attention, prone to cutting you off for weeks if you say or do the wrong thing… but once you get to know what she likes (and what she doesn’t like) you’re the envy of everyone around. :wink:
Ha ha. That’s awesome. You might want to add that she speaks an exotic, little-known language, called Blenderish, that you have to learn if you want to be her boyfriend.:wink:

BlackBoe: That would probably be helpful if I played games. As it is, I rarely, if ever, play games, and when I do, they’re things like crossword puzzles and anagram games (ever heard of TextTwist?).


Blender takes a little getting used to - I was quite flustered msyself - but now I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
All right. So tell me why you wouldn’t trade it for anything. That’s what I’m really trying to understand.

I’d just like to point you to the best beginner tutorials available for blender. They don’t just show you how to do it. They explain why. They’re a perfect introduction. So far there are four installments, with number five on the way soon. Have a look.

I just love Blender for so many reasons.

  • I mean, which other piece of software has a monkey as a primitive?:RocknRoll:
  • There are new releases more than once a week
  • You can grab the source and have a go at compiling it to suit your needs
  • It’s portable, running on winblows, linux, solaris, macosx, blah, blah, blah.
  • The interface, whilst somewhat quirky on first impressions is great. Any window, anywhere on the screen. With as few as 2 clicks - Brilliant! Tear-off windows (ala maya style) will be such a treat.
  • The fact it has an integrated game engine
  • The a$$ kicking video sequencer and NLA
  • The multitude of import/export plugins that come with it, straight out of the box
  • The ease of developing sequencer or texture plugins. Possible with free, small and dialup friendly compilers.
  • The great community of users.
  • The ease of baking normal maps
  • The fact it’ll take mpeg2 video straight from my everio, which Media Player won’t even touch without codec updates.
  • The stompin’ UV mapping abilities. The ones that users of maya and max will export their models for…
  • The ridiculously small size when compared to similar packages. ~20MB fully loaded! Under 60mb if you want to include a full install of python. Great for usb use…
  • The sheer amount of screen real-estate available
  • The lightning-quick load times
  • The multi-language feature. I don’t need it - but it’s pretty damn neat.
  • The nodes compositor window with it’s spline connections - rather slicker than maya’s angular connections and outdated hypershade window.
  • The particles - while not affording one the same control that users of maya have, it’s still a very nice and fast system.

Plus the fact that Blender is developed for love, not for a paycheck at the end of the week, by employees of a company that will behave in a manner such as A******k do.
Not many maya or max developers are heros, but I think you’ll find that the vast majority of members here will be familiar with the name Cambo - the nickname of one of the blender devs, the one that committed some 33 changes to the svn in this past week.

I use it in preference to maya. So, so much of the time, using maya is like using an over-sized, over-weight industrial hammer drill, when all that’s needed is a quick, nimble and light dentist’s drill.

Yeah, there is.

Umm, no, she speaks English. I guess you’ve never had a slightly neurotic girlfriend? Sometimes what she says and what she means…

If you like puzzle games, you’ll like Blender. If you rarely play them, you may not understand the attraction. People fall in love with Blender because they have figured it out! and now Blender does what they want it to do.